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Thailand is a multifaceted, beautiful country with over 60 million inhabitants, of which nearly 4 million areforeign nationals. However, even in places where expats congregate, newcomers to the country may find their new way of life more difficult than expected. They can easily fall into a state of confusion or even full-blown culture shock.
Forewarned is forearmed. The best way to combat the effects of culture shock is to start learning about your new place of residence before you leave home. The easiest way to do this is to use the internet, particularly expat websites such as Expat Briefing. These can help you to deal with the difficulties you may face in Thailand. This will then lessen the culture shock you experience when arriving in the country.
There are many websites aimed at expats in Thailand. These include expat forums, whose Thailand-based expats can give you do’s and don’ts, survival tips and general information. This can help to forestall possible problems and maybe help you to make friends before you arrive in Thailand.
One way to pursue a particular interest or meet some of your compatriots is to look for online expat groups. These can offer you the opportunity to join regular social gatherings, meeting compatriots in a relaxed setting with the chance to pick up some valuable tips. There are also more general online groups. Comprehensive expat group listings for Thailand can be found on our Expat Groups page.
There is a comprehensive list of forums and activities open to everyone living in Thailand on the Meetup website, which covers Bangkok and several other cities and areas in the country. Subjects include dance, meditation classes, language, culture and photography. There are also events for more specific groups such as volunteers, singles and vegetarians. Similarly, InterNations facilitates regular expat events in various places in Thailand, enabling individuals to meet and exchange views and information about life in the country.
Other expat websites are designed for individuals from a particular country. Many expat groups are open to accepting expats from other countries but will usually require the individual to speak their mother tongue and to have experience of living in that country.
Undoubtedly, the internet is a massive boon when it comes making new friends and staying in touch with friends and family back home. However, there comes a point when messaging, Skype and emails are no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Indeed, if overused, they may even add to your sense of alienation.
Most expats living in Thailand can be found in Bangkok, Pattaya and the southern islands. If you are bound for one of these areas, finding other expats will be easy – a simple matter of walking into a bar, club, restaurant, sporting venue or other public place. Like at home, this will always be something of a lucky dip. There might be a real sense of camaraderie in the place that makes it easy to meet people. If there isn’t, you may need to shop around a little.
Real contact with other expats should help in two ways. If you are in a themed pub (one of the many Irish pubs, for example), the surroundings and clientele may make you feel more are home. This should help to reduce the effects of culture shock. Then again, staying too long in the expat bubble may be counterproductive and accentuate culture shock. It is important to keep a balance between staying with the familiar and, at times, venturing out of this safety zone.
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