The choice to move abroad was a simple one for me: I was graduating university with a degree in a field I didn’t see myself in; I was filled with wanderlust and a want of adventure; I had no distinct career path; and I had enough money to justify it. So just before my graduation, I applied to become a teacher in Thailand through Greenheart Travel. Within four months of applying I was buckling under the weight of my 40L backpack and en route to the airport.
My first experience with Thais took place on the Helsinki-Bangkok leg of my flight, and it was not a positive one. On the plane I was surrounded by about 80 boisterous Thai men in orange shirts who kept gesturing at me and laughing while I pretended to ignore them. To this day, I have no idea whether it was a huge bachelor’s party or a sports team—all I know is that I didn’t like them. The thoughts running through my head at that point were a constant loop of "What the hell am I doing? Is this what all Thai men are like? Am I moving to a country where I’m destined to be leered at for a whole year? I never should’ve left Winnipeg."
The thoughts running through my head were a constant loop of "What the hell am I doing? I never should’ve left Winnipeg."
However, that is one of the only negative interactions (if you can call it that) that I’ve had with Thais. Once I left the boys in orange behind, my perception of Thai people changed for the better. You may have heard Thailand referred to as the “Land of Smiles,” and not without good reason. I mean, how could you not be happy here? The food is phenomenal, the sky is generally blue and sunny, and that's not even mentioning the beaches!
Even in Phuket, which is supposed to be unauthentic thanks to the booming tourism industry, every lady selling banana shakes on the side of the road will invite you into a Tinglish conversation if you greet her with a grin. This country lives and breathes their unofficial motto of “mai bpen rai,” which is basically the Asian version of hakuna matata.
These days I ride my motorbike to work and am greeted by 30 smiling munchkins and rounds of “Teeeechaaa Jennaaaa!” My kids and I do crafts, colour and dance to weird Thai music videos. In the evenings I watch the sunset at the beach, and then make my way to the local market.
My point is this: if you had asked me whether I was happy to be moving to Thailand in the middle of that flight, I probably would’ve answered you with “no,” with a few expletives. Now, 10 months later, I can say with confidence that this is exactly where I’m meant to be.
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