Living in Thailand: 6 Months Later

It’s hard to believe it’s been 6 months already. 6 months since we’ve seen our family face to face. 6 months since we’ve spent an afternoon on the boat, lounging at the springs with a Publix sub, country music and a Bud Light. 6 months since Brittany left the shackles of her cubicle for this new found freedom. While 6 months is merely half a year, in some ways it feels like centuries. We’ve zip lined through the jungles of Northern Thailand. We’ve swam in the stunning turquoise waterfalls in Laos. Brittany was robbed in Khon Kaen. Our lives have changed so much in so many ways yet, in other ways, it really hasn’t changed at all. You see our pictures on Instagram. You read about our adventures on our blog. You see our status updates on Facebook about what we are eating or where we are going. But what we haven’t shared with you is the complete story, the day-to-day living in Thailand. So, for our 6 month update on living in Thailand, allow us to enlighten you.

Life as an Expat in Thailand

Connecting with Friends & Family

We dearly miss our friends and family and can’t wait to see them again. But to be honest, it’s not nearly as difficult as we expected it to be. With Facetime and Skype at our fingertips and the stellar internet in Thailand, we get to actually see their lovely faces quite often. And when we aren’t Facetiming, we are chatting with them almost daily through IM or text message. Obviously, its not the same as sharing a meal together or an afternoon on the boat, but it helps to get us through the times when we are really feeling homesick. We find that we are actually in contact with some more now than when we were living in the same timezone.

Our Relationship

Living together, working together, traveling together, eating every meal together…you are probably wondering how we haven’t killed each other yet. Especially since we went from seeing each other only on weekends to never having a break from each other. Actually, we find that we now fight less than we did before we left. Not to say we don’t bicker ever, because we do, but it can be said that we are much happier and stronger as a couple. So what’s our secret? No, we aren’t going to couples therapy. We have just eliminated the stressors from our lives that used to strain our relationship – long commutes in terrible traffic, stressful days of work dealing with not-so-friendly people, worrying about finances and paying the bills. By the time the weekends came, instead of making the most of our time together, we would be exhausted and grumpy and already dreading having to face the “real world” again on Monday. While our lives are not completely free of stressors now, we work through them together and we are living the lifestyle we desire. We may argue, get mad, throw a tantrum – but within a few hours, if not 10 minutes, we are laughing about it. We may not be married, but we have a closeness that many married couples may never understand. We are not perfect by any means, but overcoming the obstacles of traveling and living abroad together creates a bond like no other. And there is no better therapy than witnessing the most magnificent sunset after a disastrous day in a foreign country.

luang prabang mekong sunset

Health

Shall we start with the bad? Thailand is infamously known for its poor air quality resulting from pollution from vehicles, factories, hazardous waste, etc. Sometimes it feels we are taking years off our lives with the amount of fumes we inhale just driving to dinner. To make matters worse, we are now approaching “hazy season” when the air pollution is exponentially worse. Hazy season is a result of farmers burning their fields during dry season that inevitably fills the city with a thick smog making it a bad time to visit Thailand. This causes serious respiratory problems for numerous residents and has been an on-going issue for years.

Thailand Smoky Season

Aside from the environmental factors that may be affecting our health, we still feel our quality of life has improved significantly. Now that we have a house in Chiang Mai, we have been able to get into a routine. We signed up for the gym right before Christmas and have been going religiously for two months now. We have no excuses not to now! Additionally, we are being more health conscious with the foods and amount of alcohol we consume. We are already feeling a lot better after spending the first 4 months on somewhat of an extended holiday – indulging in a lot of junk food and drinking every night without even a slight increase of our heart rate. Committing to the gym, making smarter food decisions, and eliminating much of the stress from our lives has lead us to an overall healthier lifestyle.

Work

It may appear that we left all work and worries behind when we left the US and that we do nothing more than plan our next adventure (or write about our previous one), but in actuality we are still working…every day. Yes, we said goodbye to the corporate world, but that doesn’t mean we opted for early retirement. We wish! The difference between then and now is that we are doing something we are interested in, more passionate about, and eager to learn. We traded our monotonous careers and the feeling that we were never really working towards something for a career path that keeps us motivated and inspired. We are now working more diligently than ever as we continue to seek financial freedom and this location independent lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to. We don’t want to go back to that life that deprived us of happiness and only encouraged us to spend more money on things we didn’t need with every dollar earned. We don’t have to commute to work. We don’t have a dress code. We don’t have a set schedule and we can take a lunch whenever we’d like. But we do still work long hours, if not even longer hours than before, with less monetary payout. But we love it. We never go to bed with feelings of dread for the following work day. Every day is a new adventure. We are happy.

chiang mai ziplining

What else has changed and what have we learned after 6 months in Thailand?

  • We no longer expect ice with our drinks – that’s an extra expense.
  • Brittany has significantly improved her pee-holding skills to avoid use of public bathrooms (aka squatters). She has also learned to ALWAYS use the restroom before leaving the house.
  • We have not cooked a meal since we left the US, even though we now have a kitchen. It’s just cheaper and more convenient to eat out.
  • Brittany has not driven since she left the US and now depends on Charlie for almost everything, including eating.
  • Road signs and traffic lights are merely a suggestion.
  • If a roach scurries over your table in a restaurant, that is no reason to scream, make a big fuss and leave a bad review on TripAdvisor. It’s pretty normal actually.
  • Sometimes you have to pay to use a public bathroom or for parking when going to the grocery store.
  • We no longer pump our own gas. There are gas attendants for that.
  • We drink way more coffee than we used to. Thais love their cafes and so do we!
  • 1 beer is often more expensive than our entire meal.
  • We have become pretty skilled at cutting our food with a fork and a spoon. We still miss knives.
  • Toilet paper is rarely found in restrooms, but always at the dinner table (a substitute for napkins).
  • Toilet paper does not go in the toilet
  • Many things don’t make sense. Don’t question them. Just shrug your shoulders and carry on.

Anything else you want to know about being an expat in Thailand? Leave your question in the comments below or send us an email! 

 

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  1. Toilet paper on your table instead of napkins? The good thing about that is at least if you have to go to the bathroom you can carry the roll in with you?! Things that make you go hmmmm…

  2. I can relate to most of this post. I just moved to Chiang Mai about 2 weeks ago and love it here. And yes, it’s been a challenge creating a routine for myself to work on my blog or other ventures. But I do like the fact it’s cheaper to eat out than cook! Cheers and happy travels!

    • Charlie and Brittany May 11, 2015 at 7:26 am · ·

      And not only is it cheaper but you have so many options here which is great! Love the food! Glad you are enjoying Chiang Mai 🙂

  3. How do you get a place in Thailand, we have bent there several times and I did not know you could you own place, I thought own Thai’s could buy a place to live?

    • Charlie and Brittany June 4, 2015 at 12:32 pm · ·

      Hey Robert,

      We never bought a place in Thailand, rather rented for 6 months at a time. However, foreigners can own a condo in Thailand, they just cannot own land. Although, I think it is best to rent. This is way less hassle.

  4. I backpacked through Thailand a few years ago and will be going back to Chiang Mai later this year for an extended stay. Brittany you and I are in the same boat with the toilet situation! I had never even heard of the bum gun before I got to Thailand. I’m much more used to it now but I still haven’t accepted it. I still walk around with tissues in my pocket just in case. My boyfriend will be joining me this time, so it will be a whole new experience. I’m excited to show him some of my favorite spots. Hearing your experience working and traveling together and how it has worked out is very uplifting. Thanks for the great post!

    • Charlie and Brittany June 18, 2015 at 12:07 pm · ·

      Haha even after 2 years there I can’t accept it!! That’s funny! Thanks so much for the sweet words though. And enjoy your time in Thailand with your bf!! 😉

  5. Squatting is how *oo* is meant to be, and toilet papers devastate the environment. I think you have all the good reasons to try and adopt an old-new lifestyle 😉

    • Charlie and Brittany July 18, 2015 at 7:51 pm · ·

      Yep – it was a learning process but definitely not a bad thing by any means! 😉

  6. Being charged for ice seems odd 🙁 Are you in a touristy area?

    • Charlie and Brittany July 27, 2015 at 8:02 am · ·

      We found it was pretty normal to be charged for buckets of ice in some of the more upscale bars, especially when they have their beer promos. We also learned you can often get it removed the bill if you speak up 🙂

  7. Patrick & Patchara February 5, 2016 at 3:47 am · ·

    My wife and I are from California, retired now in are 60’s, and we find the pollution & traffic to be some of the worst problems in Thailand. Open sewers is not great either. I have been trying to find a place in Thailand that I can be happy to live, away from the traffic & noise. We own a 2bdm 2bath condo in Nonthburi , not many foreigners living in this area. I rarely find any Americans in Thailand, I don’t get hardly any chance to speak English except to my wife. We have been here 3 years, and i have figured that in order for me to find a balance, we are going to return to the US for 6 months out of the year, and because it is so expensive to live in California we will be renting a room from are friends. Do you plan on visiting your family & friends in the future? So nice to talk to some Americans, good luck to you & your future. Patrick

  8. michelle April 23, 2016 at 3:00 am · ·

    Wanted to know if you have any info about Chanthaburi? My Hubby is thinking of maybe taking a job there and relocating the whole family. We have two little ones 11 months and 3 years old. Concerns are safety, medical, air pollution for kidos, and schooling. We are from Miami and have not found much info on this area.

    • Charlie and Brittany April 27, 2016 at 12:36 pm · ·

      Hi Michelle, that sounds like an exciting opportunity for your family! I’m sure a little scary as well 😉 Unfortunately we never made it to that area in Thailand but I can tell you this…Thailand is a pretty safe place in general. Honestly, I feel safer there than most places in the States (Miami included!). I have some posts on the healthcare as I had to visit the hospital a few times while living there. Although, I’m not sure what the options are in Chanthaburi, I found it pretty good (and so affordable) in Chiang Mai. Air pollution is definitely an issue and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. In the north it gets really bad in the months of March and April so many expats in Chiang Mai migrate south to the beaches for those few months. So I don’t think it will be as bad where you will be, but overall its not great. Schooling I don’t know much about there either, but I know there were many expat families in Chiang Mai that had kids in the international schools there and I heard nothing but good things. Hope this helps a bit! Thailand is truly a wonderful place and the people are so welcoming. It will be a fantastic experience. 🙂

  9. Hi guys!! I really like your website.. I think that you took the right decision moving in thailand I’m thinking about travel to Thailand next November and I have a question for you.. Do you think that it’s safe enough for a girl (21) to travel solo in Thailand for a couple of week? Thanks and good luck with your journey! (If there is any mistake with my english, soryy ^.^)

    • Charlie and Brittany July 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm · ·

      Hi Elena! Thank you for you comment. Very exciting about your travels to Thailand! I can honestly say that Thailand is one of the safest places we have traveled. We never felt unsafe or threatened. That being said, you should still use your street smarts like you would anywhere else in the world. Petty theft can be a problem so keep your personal items close. Do not roam by yourself late hours of the night. Do your research about the scams that are prevalent in Thailand so you are not taken advantage of (although it really happens to all of us at some point!). Other than that, just enjoy yourself and soak up as much as you can. Its an amazing place! 🙂

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