The grass is always greener. Oh, the age old quote (is it a quote?) will always ring true. Regardless of where in the world I am.
Well … even as an expat, there are times I long for some of the things I miss from my American life.
I felt the need for privacy more so when I lived in an apartment and everyone could see my comings and goings. But, even now, privacy is difficult to achieve in my life as an expat in Chiang Mai. Walking down the street, more times than not, I see someone I know. It’s always nice to see people, but sometimes I just don’t want to be bothered. Sometimes, I want to have a bad day, or not smile, without everyone knowing about it.
Living in Vegas, it was easy to hide out. To escape from people. To be intensely private when necessary. Sure, Vegas is a small enough town where heading out to Town Square likely means running into someone, but it is far easier to avoid people there than it is here.
Granted, I am not a cook, but I do miss the ease of being able to run to the grocery store, know exactly what I need and find it, then go home and pop it in the oven. Here? Well, if I know by photo what I want and use my translate app, I can sometimes find what I need. But, more often than not, I get frustrated and head out for street food instead. Oh, and while we are talking about food — dammit, I miss real chips and salsa. And Papa John’s garlic sauce. Don’t judge.
This goes without saying, but I dream about Mom Hugs. The family I have created here is wonderful and supportive, but nothing can ground me more than time with my real family. Nothing can erase Sad or Lonely more than my family can. And, with them so far away, it can get difficult. Often times, I find myself losing perspective and only an e-mail from my mom can make that dissipate. Friendships as an expat are not always easy, and there are definitely moments when I just miss comfort only my family can provide.
The ease of communication
Language barriers aside, there are communication issues that make life here interesting at best and a struggle at worst. It is important to keep in mind my Western ideas and ways of communicating are not the same as the Thai way. I haven’t had huge problems with it, but there are moments when I wish I could express myself better … or at all. A smile goes a long way here, but even that can be misinterpreted.
Shopping/buying what I need
There is nothing worse than knowing I want to go and buy, say, a cleaning agent to wipe my counters with, and knowing what it is called in America, knowing what is should look like, and then hitting a store here and being totally unsure of what it is I am actually buying. Here, what I would imagine to be in a pretty little plastic spray bottle comes in a squishy cardboard container with a screw-off top. It’s got a photo on it — sometimes — but hell if I know what is actually is I am buying. Case-in-point: I purchased a bottle of shampoo, thinking it was deodorant. Yeah. No. Clue.
Clothing that fits
And, while we are on the topic of shopping, let’s talk style. Clothing. Good grief, it is hard being a not rail thin woman to get any sort of cute clothing here. Or being super size-shamed. In America, I’m a medium, in Chiang Mai? Oh, 2XL. I can’t shop at department stores because my legs cannot squeeze through pant legs. Shirts? Ha ha. Not with these American boobs.
Sometimes, I find myself longing for a Dillard’s. Sweet, normal-sized clothing-filled Dillard’s.
Thankfully, I have Thai friends who can help me navigate the flowery Thai writing to determine some items I need. Others? Well, that’s when I enlist my friends and family to bring stuff over like Febreeze or a pair of size 10 Old Navy jeans.
A car … sometimes
When I sold my Prius back in 2012, it was freeing. And, in true D form, a bit dramatic. Living in Chiang Mai, I don’t need a car. I often don’t even get in cars as most of my friends simply have little motorbikes to zip down sois with. But, seeing as I am far too chicken/know myself well enough, I don’t drive bikes, and since the traffic here scares the crap out of me, I won’t ride a bicycle either. Every now and then I long to be able to just grab keys and hop in a car and go explore.
There are so many little towns and villages and places around Chiang Mai that I have yet to tackle largely because transportation isn’t easy. Sure, I could take a songthaew, but I love to look out the windows and see life whirl by.
A good haircut
I was a hair snob in my former life. Hair. Snob. Every six weeks, I’d go and get my split ends trimmed, my roots touched up. Here? No. Way. I’ve gotten my hair cut four times since I became an expat. The first was a simple bang job, which resulted in a thick splay of bangs running parallel across my face. The second in Cambodia where I chopped it off and ended up with a mushroom head; the third was to fix that; the fourth was at an expensive more Western salon in Bangkok, which took off inches (at my request). However, when I returned to the States in September, my go-to stylist wanted to take a “before” photo to show me just how wrecked the cut actually was.
Living in a jungle climate has it advantages. The weather (except in the winter for a few brief weeks) is always warm/hot which means most days make me smile. It’s all wonderful — except my feet. My poor, poor feet. Because of the heat, wearing shoes and socks is normally a big, fat no. Therefore, I wear Crocs (yes, Crocs) or flip flops. The result? A constant layer of black on my feet. Dirty feet, that even a pedicure cannot fix. Although, trust me, I try.
I live in the jungle. We get cold (on occasion), hot and rainy. When I get to wear long sleeves here, I relish it. I look on Facebook at feeds of those living in America or Europe and get a tinge of homesickness when I see people bundled up in the winter … wearing light airy clothing in the spring …
Being a western girl in an Asian world is not easy. The Asian men normally don’t look twice, the western men are interested in the Asian women. Where does that leave me? Perpetually single and most likely, rolling my eyes at the ridiculous antics I am witness here on a daily basis. More about this coming soon. So, for now you’ve got a teaser.
Are you an expat? What do you miss about life as a non-expat? Be sure to leave your comment below!