I am not quite officially retired in Thailand just yet, but ‘soon’ will be. I have lived in Chiang Mai almost 30 yrs and I have worked most all of that time and I would have to say I have seen and done it all. I have attended big Thai funerals, weddings, house warming’s and early on I was a Buddhist monk for several months [now that was hard!]
Twenty-eight years ago I arrived via Bangkok from Seattle. It was a cool day in November and as I got off the plane I felt at home because it was drizzling lightly. I could have been in Seattle.
I know how hard it was for me to get settled. I was homesick after 6 months and the only thing keeping me here was a commitment I made to myself to stay at least one year. I did that and never looked back. After living here for a couple of years and supporting myself teaching I realized that I avoided Thai temples. I did so because of fear of looking stupid. I did not want to go into a temple and do the wrong thing so I went to a local temple [Wat Lampung along the canal road before there was much of a road there] and talked with the abbot there about becoming a monk. A few months later I was ordained and stayed in that temple for 4 months and disrobed. In Thailand it is common for sons to enter the monkhood for as few as 3 days. Most monks I met were not intending to stay in the temple beyond a few weeks or months.
I used to think a different culture was limited to a different language or strange food. I can now say, in the case of Thailand, the differences were far beyond that. Thai thinking is different. Time: seldom have they ever been on time. By that I mean 30 minutes late is totally acceptable. 1-2 hours late is a possibility. My car is in the shop now. It is supposed to be finished in a week. Could it still be in the shop for 10 days or more? Of course! Another area that has always confused me is when I ask a Thai friend to go somewhere or meet me later, they always say yes, but don’t show up. Or the opposite when you ask them to go and out of politeness they say no and I just carry on to learn later that they really want to go but were waiting for me to ask 3 times. ??
Thailand has been for me very exotic and interesting. A word of advice. Do not get caught up in the politics of Thailand. It is beyond ignorance. Look for the good in the people which is not hard and enjoy your time here.