Expat Life in Chiang Mai

A passion fruit and mango smoothie was always a favourite for breakfast when I was holidaying in Chiang Mai. It was called a “Smoothie Blue” and it was sweet and cool in the gorgeous tropical weather. My teenage son would order a stack of pancakes, my husband would enjoy bacon and eggs and I would go for a seasonal fruit muesli with Greek yogurt.

We would sit under big blue umbrellas and watch Chiang Mai wake up and get busy. We would watch buckets of eggs being balanced upon motorbikes and little fresh coffee stalls heat up for the staff at the bank across the road. Our bill would be around $16 and we were set up for a big day of adventure.

In my pre-expat days, living the expat life was almost unfathomable. But if you imagine your best holiday, all the freedom, all the adventure and discovery—that’s pretty much it. That’s exactly what expat life is for me, here in Chiang Mai.

A few years back I recall working at my computer at home, while also cooking the dinner. It doesn’t seem fair that the busiest part of the day actually hits after official working hours. It was exhausting to come home for “the second shift”, as I used to call it. My house was cluttered with odd jobs, neglected due to being so ridiculously time poor.

Here in Chiang Mai, Moi and Noi, my lovely cleaners, come once a week. They are the sweetest Thai couple who clean all my windows, vacuum, mop and sort any other bits that need doing. This may include hanging the washing out or changing linen.

I found this a bit challenging at first because I am a “worker”, not a “queen”. In the early days I actually used to jump up and help them! Then I learned that each time I did that, I was making them “lose face”. I have my head around it now, so I leave them in charge and my husband Mick and I go out for lunch to give them space.

They take great pride in their work and I pay them $18 to clean my three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse. I also buy them gifts from time to time and give them a $40 bonus at Christmas. They are a part of expat life that is a true blessing and I openly embrace it.

Another interesting facet of embracing expat life is finding your “tribe” within the expat community. I first went to an expat meet-up with a little bit of trepidation. I arrived to see a room full of more than 100 expats all chattering and mingling with a connectedness I thought may be difficult to break into. But once the welcoming committee introduced my husband Mick and I to fellow newcomers and experienced expats, we soon felt part of the club.

Making connections with fellow expats has been something that has enriched our lives greatly and now I volunteer at the fortnightly Friday morning meet-ups, hosting my own table and welcoming newcomers to Chiang Mai. They say that volunteering makes you live longer and I can understand that as I really look forward to meeting new people and helping out.

A new country can be a little challenging to navigate, but in Chiang Mai, you’ll soon make friends.

There are so many other expat opportunities to be involved in here. One of my recent favourites was a historical tour of Lamphun with the Payap University Lifelong Learning Program (for expats). I discovered so much about the religious, cultural and political influences that have impacted Northern Thailand’s history. This whole day tour, including transport and lunch, was only $30.

As an expat in Chiang Mai, or indeed anywhere, you need to be flexible as you will have boundless opportunities to explore, discover, learn and eat. All you have to be willing to say is, “I’m in!”

The best surprise was to learn that expat life is alive and stimulating and bursting with opportunities, friendships and soulful experiences. Expat life is simply delicious. Take a bite!

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