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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Bangkok, Thailand

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Bangkok

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No, but I had lived in or visited a number of other countries before I came here the first time.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

In Thailand they speak Thai, with more and more people speaking English all the time. I speak, read, and write Thai, which I learned here in Thailand.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No, but I had been in many countries before my first time here.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

I have never had culture shock, because I did not expect another country to be the same as my native culture.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

No, I don't feel like that at all. If anything I have been in a learning stage since I first came here 38 years ago.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I did more drinking, but not from culture shock, rather it was the way of life where I was living and working. I have never felt any of the other items mentioned. Rather, I learned to be more patient by studying the culture and adapting to a certain extent.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

There are few Thai who go running around telling other people what they should do, unlike the USA. The Thai do not interfere in the lives of others without a very good reason. The Thai are patient, fun loving, and tolerant, show respect for other people and especially for elders, and love their freedom.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Learning to write was challenging, because I had to get a tutor to get me started.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

I don't remember the details, but I quickly learned to laugh along.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Yes I do. Don't expect that either Thailand will be like home. Don't expect the Thai to do as you do. Don't expect much of anything...just learn from what you see and experience. If you can learn at least how to speak Thai you will enjoy Thailand a lot more.

Word of caution: Thailand is currently in the throes of political turbulence. Having been here through many coups, protests and other related activities, the best advice is for foreigners to stay away from the areas where the protesters are. If that cannot be avoided, at least stay in the background and keep a low profile. Foreigners have never been targeted but if you get in the way, you could suffer. I also recommend staying away from the southernmost three Thai provinces, because of Muslim terrorists, murderers and bandits. Keep tabs on the political situation, because if you are coming to live/work in Bangkok or some other areas, you will need to know which areas to avoid.

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