Having been an expat for a few years now in the vibrant, culture-rich city of Chiang Mai, there’s a few things I can tell you about expat life. One is that making the decision to live or retire overseas is far more difficult than actually moving and doing it.
The thinking and planning ahead of time can be stressful but the actual act of moving to another country is nothing short of enthralling. Of course, the road is not necessarily a silky-smooth highway and there’s bound to be a few surprise bends and potholes along the way but, just like any road trip, you adjust to the changing terrain and enjoy the journey.
In saying that, there are a few things I wish I’d known before I moved to Thailand. They are not biggies but they would have been good to know ahead of time, which is why I want to share them with you…
1. The Expat Community Love To Help.
There are all kinds of silly little things that you need to sort out when you move overseas. You will have all sorts of questions that back home you would have instantly had the answer to. Little things like, ‘Who is the best internet provider?’ and ‘What is the cheapest way to transfer money overseas?’
When I first moved to Chiang Mai I was lucky enough to meet some expats, Anne and Steve, who had been living in Thailand for 10 years. They were so kind, knowledgeable and generous with their time. They ended up moving back to Australia and I could never really pay them back so instead I decided to ‘pay it forward’ and help other new expats when the opportunity arises. We are all on the same side and it will be okay. In fact, it’ll be great.
2. Moving Will Do Wonders For You.
I was aware that a move to Thailand would make my life easier. The food is wonderful and cheap, I have cleaners come in once a week and my husband, teenage son and I take small trips to explore the country all the time. But to be honest, I didn’t realise how good it would be for my health.
My life now has so little stress and with less stress comes a healthier lifestyle. I recently got my Thai driver’s licence renewed after two years and was absolutely gobsmacked to see that I looked older in my first licence than the one I got two years later. I have no complaints there.
3. Living In A ‘Developing Nation’ Doesn’t Mean You Miss Out On Quality.
Labels and generalisations can be very misleading. Being a realist, I thought that I would have to make some lifestyle sacrifices when I moved to Thailand. What a fallacy that was. My internet is better here than in Australia and I only pay $35 per month. The specialist at my local hospital is managing a chronic health issue perfectly, in fact, I have never felt better. I have an app on my phone that can get meals from all my favourite restaurants delivered for a $2 fee. I am living my best life here.
4. Time Is Precious.
When we are stuck in the demands of working, paying bills and overladen with the day-to-day running of our lives, we know how precious time is. We are desperate for more time. We never have enough time. This sounds crazy but, as an expat, I value time even more, even though I have lots of it.
At the risk of sounding corny, I can say that I wake up with joy every single morning. I am so excited about what the day will bring. I have so many options here in Chiang Mai. These days I spend my time exploring, eating out with friends, doing courses like ceramics and sketching and just simply enjoying every second. My days are full. I am on the flip-side, because now, time is my friend, not my enemy.
5. Sheets In Australia Are Fabulous!
I know this sounds ridiculous but I wish I had known that sheets in Thailand are quite expensive and not quite as soft as the ones back home. Thai sheet sets only come with a bottom, gathered sheet and two pillow cases. I mean, I get it… It is hot. Locals don’t need a top sheet. But I do.
Thank goodness I have friends that come over and visit. They are always happy to pick up a set of sheets from Spotlight and bring them over. Like I said, not a biggie and easily fixed. There is always a solution to any issue here in “The Land of Smiles”.