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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?

Yes, But I wasn't prepared!

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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?

I speak English only. Had to learn Thai, I know enough to get by.

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

No.

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

It was like I stepped into the twilight zone. RACISM was BLATANT!!! I felt like an outcast (I am South African, female ~4th generation Indian). Often when I sat in public transport, people sitting next to me would change seats, I'd be refused accommodation and employment because of my skin colour.

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?

I think I went through these stages... I moved to a village in the North of Thailand, the people there were initially weary of me, but soon they all got to know me and accepted me even though I was "different".

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.

anger, depression, frustration, homesick! I began rejecting the culture, and the people. Even though I have made a few really good Thai friends, my general view of Thai people character is that they are narrow minded and racist.

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

I liked the fact that they respected each other.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Keeping my head up high, knowing that everyone judges me purely on my appearances, and knowing that just because I am dark skinned, they truly believe that I am not good enough and I am insignificant.

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

The Thai National anthem is sang twice a day throughout the country. When I first arrived in Bangkok I did not know that when the anthem is being sung everyone has to stop what they are doing, and stay still, like even if you riding your bike, or walking on the street, you need to stop and stand like a statue. So the one day I am busy minding my own business wondering why everyone has suddenly froze, only to be shouted at (in Thai) by a biker... Initially I thought that he was shouting cos I'm ... well, brown... but he was just trying to tell me to stop walking.

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

Make sure you have thick skin if you are a Black or brown person heading off there. It can get tough and the weak go home!

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