Moving to Thailand will be an exciting experience. It will encourage you to explore new perspectives, increase your cultural curiosity and you will learn about a new language. You can see the world through different eyes, and meet incredible people. However, it may also induce a feeling of dismay and unease.
Culture shock is something you might not think will affect you, but even the most seasoned travellers can experience this common phenomenon and it might hit you at the most unexpected time. Even once the initial shock of leaving a place you are comfortable in, and settling in a whole new one has worn off, a person can experience a range of emotions and moods. Everyone experiences culture shock differently and to varying degrees, and some might even miss the signs or dismiss them.
Travellers initially become infatuated with Thailand. The Thai language, Thai people and —of course— Thai food are all wonderful and new. At this stage, everything exotic in their environment seems so exciting and interesting, and people feel that the move was the greatest decision they could have made. This honeymoon stage will eventually fade and wear off as once fascinating things become routine.
Tip for this stage: Don’t burn yourself out too quickly. Take your time getting settled and try to find pieces of normalcy that make you happy. Try all the new things, but also establish healthy routines.
As the romantic glow of your new home begins to wane, frustration or distress may creep in. This is likely familiar to anyone who has lived abroad. The everyday annoyance of not understanding the Thai people begins to set in, and problems arise through misunderstandings. Dealing with daily miscommunication and struggling to adapt to various aspects of life in Thailand can induce some amount of rage in many expats. This feeling will come and go, but it is a challenge to overcome the negativity and fight through to begin to really start feeling at home.
Tip for this stage: Stay calm. Remember that anything making you mad will go away or can be solved. Your anger is only temporary and the next tropical holiday is just around the corner. Enrol in a language class to give you some control over your communications.
As expats in Thailand begin to feel more familiar and comfortable with the things around them, frustrations may ease and regularity provides a type of new comfort. As you build communities and support groups are established, you find people with the same problems, people who can give advice, and everything just seems a bit simpler. Navigation becomes easier, and parts of the language begin to click into place as you find you can now direct a taxi to your condo exclusively in Thai and even might find yourself with a favourite local pub or a restaurant where everyone knows your order.
Tip for this stage: Enjoy yourself. Things feel good when you know what you are doing and have people to talk to. Use this time to work on your career and study Thai.
After battling through all of the emotional stages of culture shock, finally, we can reach a level of acceptance. This does not mean that everything is perfect and that we feel completely at home, it just means that we are thriving and confident. We are not surprised by much that Thailand throws at us anymore and we know that while complete understanding may never happen, that is also not necessary to live here in Thailand and have a great life.
Tip for this stage: Don’t become too complacent. As we settle, we can find the desire to explore disappears a little. Try joining some groups, do something new, try an art class, or travel with some friends.