I have lived in Bangkok now for 18 months. Prior to this I lived in Leeds, in the North of England and worked for a medium sized city centre law firm, specialising as an employment lawyer. My core hours were 9-5 but the more senior my position became, the longer I found myself staying at the work, and the more I woke up in the middle of the night worrying about things that realistically I had no control over.
Working in Bangkok is a completely different kettle of fish.
I still work for a law firm, but I now work as a writer/media specialist. I write the content for their websites, journals and blogs, edit legal documents, run their social media channels and film videos and interviews for their you tube channel.
Instead of arriving at work wet and cold, my days now mostly start with sunny weather (even in rainy season, we tend to only get rain later in the day). Although I still go to work wearing a smart dress or skirt and top, I have swapped my thick tights and heels for bare legs and flip flops (even all of the lawyers wear flip flops in the office!).
My core working hours are longer – 8.30-6 – but much less stressful. I have noticed Thai people are much happier to stay in the office for longer, and work at a slower pace, making their day more relaxed.
My lunch hour (and yes I get a full hour every day) is not spent at my desk, sandwich in one hand, typing an email with the other. Instead we all go out and buy food together from the street and sit in the boardroom together. It’s much more social and makes for a pleasant working atmosphere. There are of course days when a chicken’s foot unexpectedly floats to the top of my curry that makes me miss having at Greggs bakery a stones throw away from my office, but it is little things like this that are all adding to my Thai experience.
I could only say hello and goodbye in Thai when I first began work. Except for my American boss, who speaks fluent Thai, my colleagues are all Thai with varying levels of English. Although still far from an expert, my Thai has now really started to come along. Due to the language barrier, I felt very lonely for my first few months at work. I live on my own in Bangkok, and sometimes it could be early afternoon before I had a proper conversation with anyone. As a result I relied very heavily on social media, and thanks to the power of twitter, I now know more people in Bangkok than I ever expected and enjoy a very good social life here.
Working abroad has changed and challenged me more than I ever could have imagined it would. Days can sometimes be frustrating and difficult, and there have been many times that I have been ready to pack it in and return to the UK, but then something amazing happens or I look back on what I have achieved since being here and I am grateful for the experience. It sounds cliché, but it has been life changing.