Expat Interview With Kathy - US Expat In Thailand

Published: 27 Oct at 2 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Thailand
On New Year’s Day 2012, Kathy Drouin-Keith and her family left their suburban New York life for Bangkok after her husband was offered a job there. Leon works as a journalist and Joe, 7, is in an international school. Kathy runs the household and writes about life in Thailand. They’ve gotten used to the giant monitor lizards that live under their house and they’ve learned to say “Not too spicy!” in Thai. Kathy runs her expat blog 'Farang Mom' (see listing here).

Farang Mom

Here's the interview with Kathy...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from New York in the United States.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am now living in Bangkok with my husband and my son, who is 7.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We’ve lived here since January 2012 and are here indefinitely.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved here for my husband’s job. He’s an editor with the Asia-Pacific desk of The Associated Press. I am also a journalist.

Farang MomHow did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
It’s been tough to live so far from the rest of my family, although I do have a wonderful cousin who lives in Bangkok with his wife and baby. I saw my parents often, especially my mother. My husband and I both worked full time, and Mom was a huge help when it came to taking care of Joe. I also miss having a car! I took it for granted that I could run out for groceries or take Joe out to the park. But I love the vibe in Thailand. “The Land of Smiles” is almost a cliché, but it’s true. Farangs – foreigners – are accepted with friendliness and respect. It’s considered bad form in Thailand to yell or show anger, which meshes perfectly with my nonconfrontational nature. I had a harder time getting by as a nice person in New York. That Thai tolerance extends even to people who would be marginalized in the States, like the famous ladyboys. There’s a young man who works in the makeup section of a drugstore I go to – he wears a woman’s uniform and has beautiful hair and makeup. He makes a much better-looking woman than me, in fact. I saw another transvestite perform on the Thailand version of “The Voice.” These people could never be so visible in the U.S.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We’ve been lucky enough to make friends with many expats and Thais here. We’ve met a lot of great people through my son’s school, St. Andrews in Dusit, and my husband’s office, which I joke is the Tri-State Area East --half the people are from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. We’ve also met people through our church, Holy Redeemer, and parent groups like BAMBI.

Farang MomWhat are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
If you like to shop, Bangkok is terrific. There are a lot of gleaming, multistory malls where you can buy clothes, browse at bookstores, see a movie, pick up some groceries and then catch the BTS or a cab home. They’re great places to escape when it’s rainy or too hot to stay outside. There’s also street stalls and Chatuchak Weekend Market, an enormous flea market. The city has great restaurants, bars and nightlife, or so I’ve heard… we’ve had a pretty quiet family life since we moved here. Culturally, there are museums, beautiful Buddhist temples and historic sites like the Grand Palace and the Jim Thompson House. The beach community of Hua Hin is within a couple hours’ drive, as is Dolphin Bay, which is gorgeous, quiet and family-friendly. There’s also famous island destinations like Koh Samet, Koh Samui and Phuket, though that is several hours’ drive away. As anywhere, Westerners have to watch out for scammers. They will tell you an attraction is “closed” and offer to take you somewhere just as good, but you’ll end up at a jewelry store or suit shop and pressured to buy something.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I do not have to report for work every day and can be there for my son when he needs me. I never had time to volunteer at my son’s school before. I also love the warm weather, though my son misses snow. He’d miss it a lot less if he had ever had to dig out the car at 6 a.m. But I love being able to jump into the pool anytime.

Farang MomHow does the cost of living compare to home?
Many things do cost less here, like locally produced food and cooked meals you can buy off the street. We’ve given up our cars, which means no car payments or insurance to worry about. We rely on taxis and mass transit, which are cheap and plentiful, and my husband often bicycles to work or to get groceries. Our rent is less than what our mortgage payment costs in New York. And you don’t have to invest in winter clothes, which can get expensive, especially with growing children. People can also hire cheap help here and many expat families employ nannies, cooks, housekeepers and drivers. Certain goods, however, cost much more because of high import duties. Wine and liquor, for example, and the toys and clothes you can buy in those air-conditioned malls. The “American” food my son likes, like granola bars, cereal and cheese, also costs a fortune. And then there’s my son’s tuition bill!

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The high costs mentioned above. Sometimes it’s just too hot or too rainy. The horrible inner-city traffic. And the fact that it takes a long time for us to get back to the U.S. to see family.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Leave your sweaters at home!

Farang MomWhat has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
My son is tall and stocky for his age, and total strangers have commented on his size, even patting his belly. Cab drivers squeeze his legs. They are temptingly plump -- I like squeezing them myself. Luckily my son has an excellent sense of humor about it all. Thai politeness also sometimes means they will not tell you “No” or “That’s not available.” We’ve had to read between the lines in some situations to figure out what was really going on.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
- Be prepared to sweat.
- Make sure your kids like rice.
- Stock up on toys and clothes for your children before you come.
- Use Ebay liberally – we’ve gotten good prices on stuff shipped here from Bakugan toys to printer cartridges.
- Invest in a Slingbox to watch TV from back home, or figure out how to hide your computer’s location so you don’t get blocked from watching shows on Hulu or Netflix.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It’s a collection of observations on being a stay-at-home mom in Thailand, raising a unique and amazing boy, being a partner to my fabulous husband, and this adventure we’re all on together.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be emailed at kathy.drouinkeith{at}gmail-dot-com, or leave a comment below.

Kathy runs her expat blog called Farang Mom http://www.farangmom.com which is very worthy of a visit. Kathy can be found on Twitter @cinnabuster, her Facebook profile and he has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here which would appreciate a nice review if you can spare a quick moment! If you liked this interview with Kathy, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments

Jeanie wrote 11 years ago:

Light and informative from a real expat! Where is the Like button?

M Drouin wrote 11 years ago:

Great article! Great family!

Gary Z wrote 11 years ago:

Very informative article. It tells it like it is from a Farang(foreigner) perspective. I have lived in Thailand for 8 years and she didnt miss a thing. I especially like the picture of the awesome pool with the ocean in the background! Keep us informed Kathy

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