When you’re not a tourist
I always find it slightly amusing when people seem to think that I live an exotic life full of weekly elephant rides, hanging out at the beach (the closest which is around a 10-hour drive away), and soaking up the tropical sun. Sorry to disappoint folks, but I live here. I’m not a tourist. Imagine your daily life. My life is probably fairly similar to yours in many ways; it’s just that I happen to be in Thailand. Granted, that in and of itself introduces some huge nuances to how I live life, but the point is that living somewhere is very different from being a tourist in that same place.
In that vein, I thought it would be fun to share ten things that set me apart from a tourist:
- I do not walk around wearing a large backpack on my back … or my front (seen a lot).
- My “to-do” list for the week does not (usually) include visiting Doi Suthep, the Elephant Conservatory, exploring the Old City, or taking a Thai cooking class.
- I do not have a return ticket to the country I came from. That is no small thing. It is much easier to say, “Well, I can deal with anything for 5 weeks,” than to deal with difficulties due to the move that will last an undetermined amount of time.
- I am not only in Thailand between the months of October and January (cool season).
- I do not walk around the streets of Chiang Mai with an opened Lonely Planet: Thailand book.
- I know how to say more than “sawatdee kah” (hello – feminine) and “khap khun kah” (thank you – feminine). Not much more, mind you; I speak Thai at around a 2 year-old level (if that), but I do know a few additional phrases and words.
- I do not ride around in a tuk tuk with my feet propped up in the air. To put it simply, “feet are regarded as unclean and symbolically (as well as physically) the lowest part of the body” (source) in Thailand. The “raised foot in the tuk tuk”maneuver is a cultural faux pas and I (now) realize that.
- I am not amazed on a daily basis at how cheap everything here seems. Granted, the cost of living here is lower than in America and I am not complaining about that one bit. However, I realize that some things (ie. a car/truck) can actually be more expensive than in my home country. I also have come to expect lower prices for many things and balk at times when certain things here have American price tags.
- I know that Thailand is more than simply “The Land of Smiles.” Like any culture, it has its dark areas, ways of doing things that can drive one mad, and is not all that it may initially seem.
- Although Chiang Mai has been ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, our family leaves Chiang Mai to vacation.
No, I don’t think I’m better than the tourists who come through Chiang Mai. However, I am different. And now my perspective has been forever been changed about living in other countries … if Shun-Luoi and I ever talk about different places we’d like to visit and they seem so romantic and perfect, I now think, “Yeah, but what would it be like to live there?” Chances are, everyday life wouldn’t be as romantic and perfect as you imagine it would be.
Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble about living overseas or about our life here. I do hope that we get to ride elephants sooner than later and we are currently in the beginning stages of planning a beach trip. I am acutely aware that these (among many other experiences) are amazing opportunities that most will never have and I’m really grateful for even the prospect of experiencing them. But for now, I’ll head back to my grocery shopping and laundry-folding.
Because I live here.
* photo credit: mrkt (sxc.hu)