Expat dilemmas: When Thailand excites you more than it does your Thai partner

Like most long-term expats in Thailand, I have a Thai wife. Other people have Thai husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, special friends, significant others’s’s, or whatever label you want to sling at it. Point is, a lot of expats are sharing their life in Thailand with a Thai partner, which is great. I’ve previously written about the challenges that inter-cultural relationships can bring, but I was talking to a friend the other day and managed to ‘formalize’ my thoughts on yet another challenge we face daily (using Bangkok as an example): the difference between what you’re getting out of Bangkok, and what your partner is getting out of Bangkok.

Me: Woo hoo! Wife: Ugh.

Part of the reason this here blog exists is because – despite being here for 17 years – I still love Bangkok. I’ve been up, down, left, right, in, and out of most places, but there’s always one more thing to see, or a different way to see something I’ve already seen. Of course, there are many things that drive me mad, but I love it, and every day is an adventure.

But an important part of living here with a Thai partner is that you must realize one thing – just because it’s an adventure for you, does not mean it’s an adventure for them.

Activities as mundane as riding a motorcycle taxi, buying street food, or going for a swim in my condo pool lined with palm trees are still crazy awesome to me.

Despite my familiarity with Bangkok and Thai culture, every time I step outside it’s a bit of an adventure. Activities as mundane as riding a motorcycle taxi, buying street food, or going for a swim in my condo pool lined with palm trees are still crazy awesome to me. A quick trip down to Ko Samet – arguably the laziest island vacation you can take from Bangkok – is a really cool excursion. Sure, been there, done that a million times, but where I grew up, the very idea of being that close to a tropical beach is what we dreamt of. Seeing monks wandering around, visiting a temple, going for a jungle hike, browsing a ‘not many foreigners come here’ market – each of those things is what makes living in Thailand an amazing experience.

At least, for most foreigners. But to your Thai partner, many of these things will likely elicit yawns and eye rolls.

via GIPHY

Booooooooooring

I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, living in Thailand satisfies the need I have for a bit of adventure. Even if my day job is not that much different than what I’d probably be doing if I’d stayed in Canada, it’s at least built on a base of exoticism and everyday adventure that I can easily tap into. My wife, however, cannot; at least not to the same extent.

For her, riding a motorcycle taxi, eating street food, or looking at palm trees is how she’s been doing it her whole life. There is no exoticism there, nothing unusual or adventurous. To be clear, she’s perfectly happy in Bangkok, but daily life doesn’t scratch the same itch for adventure that it does for me. It would be like me getting excited at the thought of attending a square dance at the Calgary Stampede. For my wife, it would be a very unique cultural experience. For me, it..I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Please just kill me before they ask me join in.

I don’t really have a grand thesis on this or anything, but it’s something to keep in mind when you move to a new culture and end up with a local. For a long time I assumed that any Thai partner I had loved living here as much as I did, but in reality, many of them were probably as bored as I was when I was in Canada.

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2017-07-07T03:50:18+00:00 Bangkok, Culture, Travel|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Uncle Tony July 2, 2017 at 8:05 am - Reply

    Good thought Greg. Glad you still find Thailand exciting and exotic after all the years you’ve sent here. I do too, but I’ve been here a lot less time than you. I’m hoping to take the family to Canada in the next couple of years. It will be interesting to see how exotic Anna finds British Columbia. Of course, for the children,Sara and John, everything is always exotic.

  2. Chris July 3, 2017 at 1:02 am - Reply

    I think Bangkok has more stuff to do than New York and London combined 🙂 and its cheap. People travel all the way to Bangkok from America just to make food review videos and try street foods..I hope the authorities realize how unique Bangkok is and not shut some of its vibrant street life for a more Sanitized Versions to appease the media.

    • Greg August 3, 2017 at 10:35 am - Reply

      Hey Chris, yeah, it’s a fine line to walk – you need to keep things under control and make sure the rules are followed (as much as they are in Bangkok, anyway) but not to the point where the local culture gets diluted.

    • Plum August 25, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      I can’t understand how Bangkok is better in food scene than NYC ? NYC is the capital of the world, you can get food from all corners of the world just going around one block. One thing is that I am not sure what language is spoken by those working at NYC food retail industry. Certainly not English.

  3. Arthur Longhurst August 2, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    “I think Bangkok has more stuff to do than New York and London combined” Really? Yes Bangkok _can_ be cheap and I have no idea about how exciting NY is (I’ve been there but wasn’t that enamoured with it) but London has lots to do, there’s so many things to see and it’s cool enough to actually walk around in comfort.

    I’ll be honest I’ve been to Bangkok lots of times and to my mind it’s not that amazing IMHO. The malls are just the same as everywhere else, anonymous and globally generic. The skyline is spectacular and takes my breath away. I’ve never bothered with the nightlife (the skybars are too expensive and the other nightlife doesn’t appeal, I’m no prude I’ve been to Walking Street a few times but professional affection isn’t my thing). The food can be great but sadly I’ve often been disappointed too. 🙁

    I wander around an overpriced shopping mall for a while getting bored, then stroll around a park getting too hot and then get stung by a taxi with a “malfunctioning” meter and before long I’m desperate to get back to the hotel room/condo for cool AC and a shower.

    • Greg August 3, 2017 at 10:34 am - Reply

      Hey Arthur, fair enough, it ain’t for everyone. One thing London and NY pulverize Bangkok on is historical and architectural sites – especially considering how quickly Bangkok is knocking down it’s old heritage buildings for new skyscrapers. But even after 16 years here, I still find new things to see and do all the time. I’m sure other big cities are similarly equipped, but what I can I say, Bangkok’s in my blood. 🙂

  4. Big C September 15, 2017 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    I’ve travelled a lot, for instance I am currently in LA for a 3 month stint with 2 side trips in that time.

    The difference with other places having lots to do like LA, there is Universal studios, Muscle Beach at Venice, Hollywwod, all the movie and TV show sets and locations, Star tours, etc

    But in Bangkok just going to the 7-11 can be an adventure that can be repeated daily. Not a one off tour.

    As to the food, BKK street food is affordable, yes NYC and othe cities have their gastronomical secion but how many dishes can you try for $100 – one. Bkk you could try 100 different dishes, side orders, special orders and generalised weirdness AND it’s not about being cheap it’s about the variety.

    I lived near a vibrant outdoor market with vendors doing ‘tours’ of the dozen or so markets in the area. My Thai girlfriend and I would go everyday to the market walk around and find something neither of us had eaten before – every day for over a year.

    • Greg September 18, 2017 at 8:44 am - Reply

      Thanks Big C, you nailed it, even the most boring thing – going to the 7-11 – can be a really fun adventure for a foreigner here.

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