Being Jaded in Thailand and Dealing with it

It’s official: I’m a jaded Bangkok expat.

It’s impossible to live in a city like Bangkok and not become jaded at some point.

This year I have been blogging more about the negatives of living in Bangkok. I am not doing this because I hate Thailand (it’s my #1 favorite country).

I am doing it because it’s therapeutic for me to write down my experiences, and this blog is my personal diary.

I hope my rambling can act as signposts for others in Thailand and those of who you’re considering the move to the continent, as much of what I write can translate to other Asian cities.

A small percentage of my audience reject the negative experiences I write about saying I’m talking rubbish and it’s only because I’m a washed up sexpat.

Before I talk about my story of being jaded in Thailand, let me tell you a little about the man behind the keyboard.

I have the best long-stay visa in Thailand.

I work 3-4 hours per day (optional). I work because I enjoy what I do, the money I earn is a secondary benefit because luckily I have enough of that for now.

I’ve not been drunk once this year. And I don’t sleep with hookers.

I’m in healthy shape and most nights I’m in bed before 11:30 pm.

I have a fairly okay social life in Thailand and have super close relationships with my friends and family back home.

You could sum up my life as mundane or standard, and with the rap sheet above I could easily be mistaken for a normal human being.

If I can get jaded in Bangkok, and I believe I am living an incredibly healthy and privileged lifestyle compared to most western men, anyone can get jaded.

With that in your mind, here’s my story of becoming jaded in Bangkok and how I’m dealing with it.

The high

I was a happy-go-lucky person when I came to Thailand at 23.

Let’s move to Thailand with no money I said to myself…

When I got off the plane I was bear-hugging taxi drivers because they were so cheap and awesome.

Is there a more exciting experience than getting on the back of a motorbike for the first time and watching them whizz through traffic almost killing you in the process?

Admin stuff (banking, visa renewals, condo finding) during the honeymoon years was done with a big smile on my face.

Not once did I question why it took 1 hour to get a bank statement at a branch, or why Bangkok realtors never showed me the rooms they listed on their website.

Watching people drive was intense, whoever has the biggest car has right of way.

I have to pay 10x as much as a Thai person to enter any historical site or park, I’m cool with that.

Unless you’re a miserable person in general, most things you experience in Bangkok when you get here are fucking awesome.

Everything is seen with the glass half-full.

My Bangkok experience in the first two years was very similar to taking LSD for the first time.

I was on the biggest come up of my life.

Food can taste that good?

Thai massages are REALLY that cheap?

Thai girls actually want to talk to me?

I can rent an apartment in Bangkok on the 42nd floor with skyline views for next to nothing?

My body’s five senses hearing, taste, smell, touch, and sight were firing at 110% at all times in Bangkok. The city is so intense it’s hard not to enjoy every second.

I never understood why some people disliked Bangkok, they would come to Thailand and skip Bangkok totally for the smaller cities like Chaing Mai or Phuket. Now I realize it’s because these people don’t want to run at 110% all the time, so opt for the smaller locations where it’s not as crazy.

It’s common for older expats to move outside of Bangkok where it’s quieter or to places like Hua Hin or Issan if they get married after living in Bangkok for many years.

The low

If you’ve ever done drugs, you know what comes after the high.

You cannot run at 110% all the time, well I can’t.

7 years in and Bangkok taxis are considered annoying for asking for 6x the rate at popular locations or when it’s raining.

It’s no longer exciting when I’m walking down a narrow pavement and several motorbike drivers are beeping at me to move.

It’s exhausting when I need a simple task done at the local bank and it takes 45 minutes.

When they do any type of construction it seems their main goal is to start as early as possible (7am) and to make as much noise as possible.

Now I’m triggered that I have to pay 10x than Thai for entry to parks.

These things didn’t bother me when I first moved here.

It didn’t make any sense to me why I’m was getting annoyed/feeling entitled/jaded all of a sudden, as I live a healthy-ish lifestyle and have money to do what I want.

Turns out being healthy and having money doesn’t help when it comes to mental problems.

So I asked myself the following questions:

“Why am I feeling like this? And am I the only one who feels like this?”

After a few days of thinking, it hit me.

I feel like this is because I am not correctly adjusting my mindset to live in Bangkok.

My entire life I’ve been bought up with western values, ideas and social norms. I was schooled in the west for a good 15 years where they taught me right from wrong.

My mind is operating on the Western World operating system, I need to install a patch to make it compatible with Thailand.

Culture Clash

There is a massive culture clash with Thailand over any first world country.

These clashes if looked at in the wrong way (which I and others do), can lead you to become jaded, if your financial and social situation is not in order, can lead into depression or worse

Let me give you several examples of clashes of culture you can experience in daily Thailand life.

There are zebra crossings all over Bangkok but nobody will ever stop for you, and Thai bystanders never get upset. If they are brave they will walk while putting up their hand telling the car to slow down. The driver of the car NEVER gets angry when this is done to them, they act like that’s a normal thing to do.

In England if you drive through a zebra crossing when someone is waiting, you will receive a fine and even fail your driving test. On one occasion I’ve seen an actual fight break out because the car did not stop and the person threw a rock through the car window.

Fights in the west for this type of thing are common and all over YouTube because we as westerns feel entitled:

Why do I get frustrated when I need to do any type of paperwork in Thailand? Because in England everything is done online, or takes only a few minutes in person and is straightforward.

In Thailand, the rules depend on who is working that day, how they feel and whether they like you or not.

There are bars in Thailand that only allow Japanese guests, and the doormen will tell you to your face you’re not allowed in because you’re a farang.

Thais don’t get upset at not being allowed in, only westerners.

If a bar in the US didn’t allow black people in, you’d have 500 social justice warriors leaving fake Yelp reviews and protesting outside it.

Commence in Thailand is free, businesses can refuse to serve anyone without reason, many of us aren’t used to that type of rejection.

When you visit a restaurant in America, the waiters make you feel special and important.

Walk into a street food restaurant in Bangkok and you’re of so little importance that often the vendor won’t even acknowledge you as you walk in. And when it’s time to order the only words they say are “what do you want?” in a mean voice. They are not being rude, that’s just how some vendors are.

In the western world, meals come out all at once so the group can enjoy the dinner together. In Thailand, they bring out the meal individually. If you order a complicated dish it’s common for your meal to come out 20 minutes after everyone else has eaten, sometimes even longer and they won’t apologize or give you a discount.

Songkran is a Thai national holiday where you’re getting water thrown in your face no matter what clothes you’re wearing or where you’re going.  You could be dressed in a suit with a laptop bag and plead with Thais not to soak you, and you’ll still get soaked.

Imagine if that were the rules for a water holiday in your hometown, there would be a fight every 12 seconds.

Try getting a relaxing massage when the masseur is talking to her colleague on and off throughout the hour. To any westerner, this is terrible service and you’d be within your right for a full refund in your home country.

In Thailand this is just how things are at cheaper massages (250b or less per hour), they are having an open conversation in Thai and you’re more than welcome to join in.

Thailand is the complete opposite to the west on so many levels for just about everything. If you don’t acknowledge this and practice awareness in daily Bangkok life, it can drive you up the wall and leave you jaded like me and others.

The most popular forum in Thailand Thai Visa is widely known for expats bickering.

Join any Thailand Facebook group and not a day goes by where expats aren’t blasting Thai landlords for high rent, or being outraged at something else. They are usually upset about things they that would not happen in their home country.

I’m not going to lie, living in Bangkok can be tough when you realize how different the culture is to what you or I have been used to for over 2 and a half decades.

Just like you can become jaded with a workout routine, a job, the same breakfast every morning or a music CD – you can with a city.

I think I have it easier than most as the younger you’re the easier it is to adjust to a new culture. If you’re over 40 and have never come to Thailand, you have 4 decades of western programming and it will be harder adjust (you can, but you’ll need to put in the work).

Nowadays when I get annoyed or frustrated at the Thai way of things (i.e a culture clash), I compare how its handled in my home country to Thailand, and instead of deciding which way is right and which is wrong, I’m just glad I get to experience and learn from both cultures which very few people get to see.

That’s the real value.

It’s a real eye-opener how laid back and relaxed but totally in-efficient and un-optimized Thais are, to how optimized and efficient the UK is but totally uptight and rigged at the same time.

Does everyone get jaded?

I was born in a very small town where one language was spoken and you’d always meet someone you know when you went out. There was no traffic, madness or chaos (which is what Bangkok is).

I’m not used to big city life, so the culture clash for anyone with a similar background will be harder to deal with than someone else who was bought up a city like Bangkok which has several million people.

Nobody ever wants to admit they are jaded of Bangkok because it sounds like you’re a failure. A few years ago I thought I’d never become jaded as admitting that would mean the bubble I was living it could pop.

The bubble has popped and I’m glad because there’s so much more I can see now.

there’s not a lot of documentation about this stuff online, and it’s why I want to talk about it. If I knew all this when I first got off the plane in 2012, I could have prepared for it a lot better.

Are you jaded in Bangkok?

I’ve said it in many blog posts that I make it a point to leave Asia once a year and visit in a first world continent (usually Europe/UK) for 1-3 months.

I call this a soft reset and lets me rebalance my mind, consider a new way of thinking and keep in touch with both realities.

Each time I go to the West I start to appreciate everything Bangkok can give me.

Each time I spend too much time in Bangkok I start to appreciate everything the West can give me.

For the long-timers who read my blog, what tips and strategies do you use to avoid being jaded in Bangkok or Asia and to keep your mental mind in check? Are you even aware you’re jaded?

If you agree or disagree with any statements about being jaded in Thailand, please leave a comment below.

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