For quite some time, I’ve wanted to start a regular expat interview feature. If you’re already an expat, or you’re considering becoming one, this series will hopefully offer some helpful tips. If you’re not an expat or wannabe expat, you’ll simply get a glimpse of some of the other crazies who live in this steamy metropolis. I can’t lie, though: conducting interviews is not a purely altruistic endeavour – next to food and crocodiles, I love nothing more than asking invasive questions and psychoanalyzing people. We all win!
Without further ado, I present Kim J., my first interviewee. Kim was a logical choice for my first interview – she’s the perfect alliterative combo of feisty freckled fabulousness, and she lives next door. One evening last week, T-bone and I invited her over for our favourite fish feast, and a few probing questions. As soon as I opened the door, I knew it would be a fun night, because she was dressed like this:
I was flattered that she was taking the interview so seriously, but she finally admitted that it was a joke, and put on a t-shirt instead.
Here’s our interview:
Me: So, Kim, tell us a little bit about yourself:
Kim: I’m originally from Iowa, and I teach primary school and yearbook at Todd’s international school. In my spare time, I play Gaelic football (me: her team has dominated the sport in SE Asia).
Me: Originally from Iowa? Had you ever left the cornfields before you moved to Thailand?
Kim: Actually, yes. After I finished university in Iowa, I taught in Chicago for four years. After that, I spent two years in Greece teaching art at an international school.
Me: What made you choose to move to Thailand after Greece?
Kim: I’d always wanted to live in either South East Asia or South America, and while I was in Greece, I started looking at international schools in those two regions. When a job opportunity arose in Thailand, I decided to go for it.
Me: So it wasn’t the amazing dating opportunities for expat women that lured you over here?
Kim: Can’t say that it was.
Me: Well, then, what has been your highlight of life in Thailand thus far?
Kim: I have a couple of highlights. The first is the job. I feel like I get a lot of respect as an art teacher. In some of my previous jobs, art has been treated as an afterthought, or as being synonymous with craft time. At this school, though, I feel that my role as an art teacher receives respect both from my colleagues and the administration.
The second highlight has been the food and culture of Thailand. I love the food! Especially anything with red chillies. It’s also been really great to explore different cultural sites, and to just spend time hanging out with the Thai staff from the school.
Me: What has been the toughest part of life in Thailand?
Kim: The language barrier has been really tough. I’ve been shocked at how few people speak English. This made adjusting to local life tough – for example, not knowing if I could get home in a taxi. While I can speak a few phrases in Thai now, languages are not one of my strengths. Given the short duration of my contract, I’ve decided not to invest a lot of time learning Thai. I know that this means that I probably won’t build close relationships with Thais outside of work, which is disappointing.
Me: So, is there anything you’d do differently if you could start your Thailand expat adventure all over again?
Kim: There’s really not that much that I would change. If I could, I would spend longer at home between international placements – I had less than two weeks in the US between Greece and Thailand, which made the initial transition into Thailand life difficult. But I don’t regret the randomness of my international placements – it’s been an exciting ride, and Thailand is great.
Me: What has been the most surprising part of life in Thailand?
Kim: Other than the language barrier, I’ve been blown away by the sheer number of Western man – Thai woman couples. I knew that this dynamic was common before I arrived, but I didn’t realize that it occurred on such a huge scale.
Me: I’ve also found it surprising. It’s definitely a cultural phenomenon. On that note, Kim, do you have any advice for people who are considering a move to Thailand?
Kim: Do it! I’m not sure what it would be like in a different occupation, but as a teacher, it has been a great experience. I would definitely recommend it. One word of caution, though – if you’re a Western woman looking for a romantic relationship, you probably won’t have much luck in Thailand. If you’re a Western man, you’ll probably never have better luck.
Me: One last question for you: Do you have any party tricks that you’d like to show us?
Kim: Why yes, I do. Funny that you should ask. I’d like to demonstrate how to turn yourself into a human paintbrush. This is useful for art teachers and Halloween. You’ll need a lot of hair, and an empty bottle. Here goes:
Thanks so much for the interview and the handy party trick, Kim!
Are you an expat in Bangkok? Have some advice or stories that you’d like to share with the blog world? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org