First of all, don’t worry. It is a totally debunked myth that all expats are outgoing, flamboyant extroverts. So much of the reading around moving to other countries suggest that it is only for the bold and the brave and the outgoing.
The truth is that introverts can be bold and brave too. And the best news is that expats can live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, very happily even if they are leaning towards a more introverted lifestyle.
Mainly this is because Chiang Mai offers such a diversity of experiences and lifestyles.
Here are five tips on how to get the most out of living in Chiang Mai as an introvert…
1. Discover Beautiful Nooks and Crannies
Even though Chiang Mai is a large city, it’s not overwhelming. There is a feeling of space, including personal space. There are some fabulous spaces to enjoy and soak up the atmosphere which are relatively unknown. One such place is The Chiang Mai Centre. This has a library in a lovely setting close to the old city. It was built by the French School of Asian Studies and has thousands of books about Thai and Southeast Asian culture and history.
But don’t forget about the temples. I recently visited Wat Umong which is nestled in the foothills of Suthep Mountain. Stroll around large grounds and ancient ruins and feel tranquil. Not bustling with tourists, you will be welcome to learn about meditation or just sit by the pond to feed the fish.
2. Seek out Small Group Activities
Walking into the Chiang Mai Expat Club general meeting can be a little bit daunting when you see 150 expats all chatting amongst themselves like they are all best friends.
Yet it just takes a little bit of lurking within the Chiang Mai Facebook groups to work out which communities you may wish to join. There are plenty of activities and events that are on a much smaller scale.
There are numerous book clubs, board game groups, informal hiking events and interest groups like the I.T Club and Travel Club.
Let’s face it, it is so much easier to meet like-minded people in small group activities….and you have nothing to lose by trying them out!
3. The Early Bird Gets the Worm
There is no doubt that the morning provides lots of lovely experiences here in Chiang Mai. Generally, places like shopping centres don’t wake up to 10 a.m. So the early morning is a perfect time to explore and avoid the hustle and bustle of people and the peak hour traffic.
You can learn so much about Thai culture by getting out early. You will see monks taking alms (this is where people offer food to the monks in the streets), Thais sweeping their footpaths and eating rice porridge for breakfast as well as local market stalls setting up randomly with fresh produce. It is here that you can grab five tomatoes for as little as 40 cents.
Spend the morning with the locals and you will truly see the genuine smiles that Thais are so famous for.
4. Eat Out Solo YOLO (You Only Live Once)
There are literally thousands of lovely little cafes and restaurants in Chiang Mai. The best news is that it is pretty normal to see people eating solo at a table. It may feel a bit weird at first, but no-one else is looking, trust me.
Interestingly, eating out is another great way to meet people as many of the cafes and restaurants are small and cosy. It is a totally relaxed atmosphere and conversations spark easily if you are open to it.
5. Challenge Yourself
Okay, this may just be for the extreme introverts, but you do need to find ways to get yourself out there. Living in another country is a way to harness more excitement into your life. So take the challenge, get out there and try something new. Buy a bicycle and get lost in the outer districts, take a tango lesson, start your own sci-fi book club, learn to cook traditional Thai food. There are limitless opportunities here as this city attracts such a diverse group of expats.
Probably the most important thing to remember is that there are many other introverted expats just waiting to meet you and catch up now and then.
You have totally got this!