Culture shock: leaving made me want to go back

By: Anna Power

I recently read an article which described expat culture shock as being short lived. That was not my experience. I had been so caught up with the idea of moving to Bangkok that the reality of actually living there had not occurred to me.

And at first life was exciting. We were eating out every night, trying new foods, expressing amazement at how much was literally on our doorstep. It was so different to life in the UK. We had a swimming pool and we seemed to be the only residents using it. The fabulous BTS could have us to the other side of Bangkok in just 30 minutes. The weather was fantastic – for some reason life just seems better in the sunshine.

It was only after a few weeks I had the realisation that there was no return ticket home.

And that’s when culture shock hit me in the face full force. The honeymoon period was over. Bangkok was now home. This was not a holiday. This was now life.

But life was just so different. I had gone from working in a high powered, stressful job to having no daily structure. Weather had gone from one extreme to another. My busy social circle had turned into living in a country where I had no friends and no idea how to make any. I won’t even mention my naïve foolery of thinking I would be fluent in Thai after a week!

And the worse thing of it was, I couldn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. How ungrateful to moan about having no job when my friends were still in the stressed position I had been in myself. Who in their right mind would be unhappy about living in the metropolis of Bangkok. I felt selfish and spoilt for feeling how I did.

Seven weeks after moving to Bangkok, I had to unexpectedly return to the UK for three weeks and what initially caused me to worry would I even want to return to Bangkok turned out being the best thing I could do. After about a week, when the excitement of having a car back and being able to drive to a fully stocked supermarket instead of trekking home in the humidity with heavy bags of water and cat litter, I began to realise I did actually miss Bangkok. I wanted to go back. In fact as time went on I couldn’t wait to get back.

Bangkok was home now.

It was sad saying goodbye again, but when I got back to the Big Mango, I was now prepared for how life was there. I was determined to keep busy, to get out and meet people, and to start living.

Even though I now feel I have slowly adjusted to life in Bangkok, I suspect culture shock is something that will remain with me, tapping me on the shoulder to say hello when I am not expecting it too. But that’s OK too. For I now look on culture shock as experience: it creeps up on me when I remember I am an out of place farang, but the more I learn from mistakes of living in Bangkok, the more culturally rich I become.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingAnna Power is a British expat living in Thailand. Blog description: My expat life: eating,drinking and exploring my way around Bangkok
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Contest Comments » There are 10 comments

David S wrote 10 years ago:

A super article, really well written, punchy and enjoyable.

Annie wrote 10 years ago:

Great example of 'grass is greener' - Moving to a new country is exhilarating and consumes you in the beginning. And then reality creeps in and your support network doesn't understand why your shiny new lifestyle could be so hard. It's great that you had a trip back to help you realize that you were soaking in Bangkok more than you knew! Good luck!

Claire wrote 10 years ago:

Such a great truthful account of the reality of moving to the other side of the world. A great piece of honest writing!

Anne Kimberley wrote 10 years ago:

Really interesting to see the different aspects of moving. Really enjoyed it

Christine Ellis wrote 10 years ago:

An insightful peice in to the reality of moving half way across the world. Very interesting!

Alison wrote 10 years ago:

Such an interesting and truthful account of what it is like to make the move and live abroad. great piece of writing

May Jenkinson wrote 10 years ago:

Excellent article. Well written and truthful, showing there are downs as well as ups when starting a new life abroad but that it's worth it when you consider the amazing experiences you have. Well done.

Moretonboyatbirth wrote 10 years ago:

Sounds great,let the lows be low but the highs gargantuan.well written and insightful.thanks and keep on writing we all seem to enjoy

Saskia wrote 10 years ago:

A very moving account of an exciting but frightening move! An inspiring read!

Tom Griffiths wrote 10 years ago:

This is the sort of inspiration anyone can use to have a fresh start. You can leave the security of your job at home and flourish in a place such as Bangkok. I would love to experience a culture shock like this!

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