As I wrote in my last post about culture shock, I am pushing myself to adapt and hopefully embrace the cultural differences between Thailand and America. Thailand, after all, does have a lot to offer. I brainstormed and figured out ways to help myself adapt to my situation. It really boils down to 2 things.
1. Get a Routine
As much as I try to fight having a routine, I know it is good to provide myself some stability. It is healthy to have a few things that I do consistently, considering the majority of my life is lived in the unfamiliar. Back in the States, I worked out at Iron Tribe (a different brand of cross fit) 3-4 times a week and the other 1-2 times a week my friend and I went running/walking. Since being in Thailand, I fell out of my workout routine.
Now that I am settled in to my new city, I decided it was time to start working out again. I really wish I could go to Iron Tribe, but it isn’t possible. So the next best thing to Iron Tribe is doing the Iron Tribe traveler workouts. These workouts are perfect because I can literally do them anywhere from my bedroom to the park. They are fairly intense and I don’t need to have any weights or equipment to do them. It is impossible to come up with an excuse to not do one every day. I also try to go to the park and shoot basketball or kick around the soccer ball 1-2 times a week. It is fun to see my students there and I love playing sports.
2. Learn Thai
Considering I have only lived in Thailand for 2 months, (one of them being in a Western bubble) I know a decent amount of Thai. I have definitely put forth a lot of effort in picking up phrases to get me by my day-to-day life. I can order food, ask how much something is and negotiate prices, and am able to hold very basic conversations (what is your name, how are you, etc.). However, learning more Thai means that I will be able to have conversations with a little more depth. I finally bought a book to teach me the basics. I think it is important to have at least a little structure when learning a new language. I still want to focus on learning words and phrases that are completely relevant to me, but it will not hurt to get a better understanding of the grammar and tonal aspect of the language. Nothing is more frustrating than saying the correct word, but still not being able to communicate because I am saying the word wrong. Thais are definitely not known for their context clue skills!
I think these two things will provide some much-needed normalcy and familiarity to my life. I don’t think I ever realized how important it is to balance the amount of familiarity and unfamiliarity that I allow in my life. This is just one of the several things I have learned since living in Thailand.
Going with the Flow
I have also learned to just go with it. I was never the type of person who needed a plan or structure to begin with. In Thailand, they have a whole other level of “go with the flow” that I didn’t even know was possible to achieve! For example, I might show up to school one day and for whatever reason we won’t have it. Now because I work at an organized school, I actually found out on Wednesday that we weren’t having class the following Monday. That kind of notice is the equivalent of a months notice in the States!
Thais do not like making decisions for fear it will cause conflict or disrupt the harmony. This leads to no one telling anybody anything until the last possible minute. I will never fully understand the idea of being this indirect or indecisive because I was born and raised in a very direct culture. All you can really say is Mai Pen Rai.
Since moving to Thailand I have become a much more patient person. No one is in a rush here. It doesn’t matter if what I need or want is ‘urgent’, I will just have to be patient and wait. The concept of needing something and just simply finding and buying it can’t happen here for me because the language barrier is too high. Usually I have to walk around until I find a shop that
looks like it should have what I need. Then the easiest thing to do is to pull up a picture on my phone. Best case scenario they will have it and show me where it is. Worst case is they simply shake their head no and do nothing else. When that happens it’s pretty safe to assume that no one in Khonburi has what I’m looking for! A lot of the time, they will point in the direction of where another shop is that has what I need. I know directions in Thai, so that helps tremendously! Once I get there, I have to start back at the picture thing again and go from there. Like I said, it’s a process. I would only be hurting myself it I got worked up over situations like this. You have to make a conscious decision to stay calm and be patient or you will be miserable.
Living in the Moment
Living in the moment is something that I have always struggled with. I am a future oriented person and I spend a lot of time thinking about what is next. Part of having that mindset comes from my personality, but the American culture is also a strong factor. America is all about becoming better, making more money, and in a sense, never being 100% satisfied with what you have because you can always have more. This can be both positive and negative. One of the negative aspects of this mindset is that it hinders me from fully appreciating and being happy with what is currently going on in my life.
When I first met all of the people in my TESOL group, I was a little surprised that the majority of us had bought a one-way ticket to Thailand and didn’t have any real plan of when we were going home or what we were going to do when we returned to America. It is refreshing to be surrounded by so many people who have this mindset. When I told my family and friends that I was moving to Thailand, their first 2 questions were often, “How long are you going to live there?” and “What are you going to do when you come back?” Looking back, it is a little absurd that people expected me to have a plan for what I am going to do after I get back from Thailand when I hadn’t even left to go to Thailand.
Right now I am living in Thailand. I know that I will not live here forever, so I want to make the most of this experience by living in the now.