Over the past decade and a half I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with many expats, not just in Thailand, but in other countries as well. I’ve had many discussions about what causes people to leave their homeland to live in a foreign and sometimes unknown country and seen firsthand the psychology that often goes into the decision making process. It seems as if there are two groups of expats out there; those who made calculated and planned decisions to move and those who let emotion drive their decision making.
The second group are the ones who have fallen in love, are suffering some type of anxiety about their current country, have had a major life event, are looking for adventure or simply think the grass must be greener after one or two visits. In some cases these guys (and to a lesser extent gals) react to their emotional upheavals by packing up and heading off to Thailand literally overnight. Often they expect things to be similar to their homeland or at least similar to their vacation memories of the place.
In almost every case the unrealistic expectations of the emotionally driven expat doesn’t come close to the reality. They encounter many differences they didn’t expect, they have little or no support network and quite quickly frustration sets in. Some can get through this, but for the majority their adventure to “paradise” quickly ends and they find themselves either off to another possible “paradise” or back in their homeland, shaking themselves off and wondering WTF happened.
The other group of Thailand expats are the ones who may initially get bitten by an emotional trigger, but they hold back and make a rational, logical and calculated decision. They take several trips to Thailand to get the lay of the land and make a solid determination if they could realistically live there. They set their expectations at a lower level and are typically pretty flexible about their experiences and dealing with the unknown and unexpected. They plan for the best, and the worst, case scenarios and have backup plans in case things go pear shaped on them. In almost every case these types of calculated expats end up pleased with their decision, even though it may take them longer to initially get to Thailand.
And unsurprisingly, many of these expats find that for them the grass really is greener. Life becomes more exciting and fulfilling once they remove themselves from the day to day grind and open up to the unexpected possibilities of life in Thailand. Having a plan certainly won’t account for all possibilities and contingencies, but it helps to get rid of the “noise” and allows one to think more clearly about their needs and desires. It can also allow the new expat the opportunity to easily follow a new path if one presents itself.
Personally I have been planning my Thailand move for several years and as it draws near I can say I’ve missed out on the time that I might have been enjoying in Thailand, but conversely I believe I will have far less stress and uncertainty once the move is made. It may not apply to all people, but I believe that peace of mind is a good thing to have, especially when starting out on a new venture.
I know a lot of you have already made the move to Thailand and I would love to hear about your experience; whether you planned before leaving or simply dropped everything and headed off into the relatively unknown. It would also be great to hear what things met your expectations, what surprises you encountered and what frustrations you may have dealt with or are still dealing with today.