Living in Bangkok, Thailand
Working and living abroad is a hard opportunity to pass up when offered. It sounds crazy, out-of-the-ordinary, or intriguing to sacrifice comfort and familiarity to move to a foreign country, not knowing the local language and entering as an incoming freshman. Relocating abroad is risky. Being alone in another country forces us to step outside of our comfort zone, into the unknown, stretching our boundaries. Most of us will embrace the internal and external chaos of living overseas, others will thrive, and some will call it quits. Certain individuals are attracted and curious about the idea of gaining international experience or having the flexibility to work remotely and live anywhere in the world. Blogs and social media do a good job of framing life in another country as exciting and life-changing. Are these so-called “influencers” right, or are their motives only to increase followers, subscribers, and website traffic, or all the above? Everyone is different; I can only speak for myself, and I try hard not to fall into the trap of fads and what bloggers rave about. My decisions for working abroad have been mainly career-related. Back home, I couldn’t get an internship and professional marketing job for years in California despite having two degrees under my belt. I’m from Silicon Valley, an area known as a gold mine of job opportunities for people of the right caliber. When we search for opportunities in a different continent, not all of us envision adventure or escaping the boring routines and harsh realities of life back home. Some of us need more years of experience in our specialty to have bigger and better opportunities down the road. Nobody wants to live life barely making ends meet. Unfortunately, the job market isn’t fair; everyone must deal with the hand they are dealt. If a company offered you a new gig or promotion overseas, would you take it? If the question is making you think, that’s a good thing. There are different criteria to consider, and the list is longer when we are in the thirty-year-old-and-over club. Let’s imagine you say yes to a lucrative job offer abroad like what I did in October 2019. You start 2020 in another country in a city with close to eleven million people. Your mind is going in different directions, trying to digest everything and dealing with the outside noise congestion. Excitement, anxiety, stimulation, and maybe a certain amount of culture shock are also flowing. The language barrier is one of many hurdles. Two months later, something happens out of the blue. An unexpected global virus manifests, flipping everyone’s lives upside down. It’s something we thought would only exist in a movie or comic books. Now the world is on shut-down mode, and office employees work from home (WFH), many for the first time. You’re living alone in Thailand. WFH has prevented you from establishing solid in-person connections with co-workers and foreigners. It’s tough not having a circle of friends and no support group of expats who speak English and live nearby to vent about how you’re really feeling. You don’t know the ins and out of your role either. Before your ninety-day evaluation at work, the company announces a round of layoffs. It’s also happening worldwide as new cases and deaths magnify due to COVID-19. People are filing for unemployment, losing their business, flocking to new companies, or doing a side hustle. At your work, during an all-staff meeting via Zoom, a senior leader states that another layoff might occur in July 2020. Wait, there’s more. You must take a fifteen percent pay cut and a fifty percent reduction in your employee allowance, which covers healthcare expenses. To add salt to the wound, the promised salary raises every six months along with the year-end bonus are out of the equation this year. You’re sweating every day, not just from Thailand’s year-round tropical weather, but from the heat of too many changes happening at once. The months progress; things aren’t panning out at work even though you want them to. The day before Thanksgiving, something happens that puts you in a tailspin. You’re unemployed and keep it a secret from close family members so they don’t get worried. One month later, your job offer with a new company falls in between the cracks a few days before Santa Claus comes to town. Meanwhile, the coronavirus in the States, especially California, is out of control. Just when things seem to be going south, a gamechanger happens on Christmas Day that doesn’t result in returning home after a career disappointment. Sixty days later, the Christmas gift you wanted turns out to be another big life change. In "Sweating in the Land of Smiles," I unveil living in Thailand during COVID-19, the year of radical change. We’ll discover the Bangkok way of doing things through my observations and conversations with some Thai locals. You'll get an honest account of my experience living in a city with ten and a half million people. In this book, I don’t advocate for people to pack their bags and leave everything behind. The grass isn’t always greener. We must endure hardships different from the ones back home. Keep in mind that the chapters aren't research-based or a how-to manual to get by. I don't know the nuts and bolts about Thai culture or the Bangkok lifestyle either. If you’re open-minded and want to swim in a book that’s not the usual stuff in Amazon’s library, then this read might do the job. You’ll at least learn some interesting things about Bangkok and Thai culture that you won’t get in textbooks. Who doesn’t like to stimulate their mind and broaden their horizons? Without further ado, let’s briefly go through how I made my way to Bangkok, Thailand.