Expectations are normal and unavoidable. While, I tried my best to not have any going into this experience I did and have needed to recognize what they were and are. Recognizing my expectations has been so helpful in those hard living abroad moments.
I’m a millennial so I will just go ahead and say it, I thought Thailand would be a daily Instagram post; elephants, groups of smiling children, frolicking on a long tail boat, etc, etc. etc. I definitely have those moments and they are amazing and make this whole experience so incredibly worth it; however, they are not every day.
When thinking about living in Thailand I didn’t really think about daily life. In your "normal" (not abroad) life not every meal is a feast, not every day is notable, and not everyone is your best friend. This is the same as life abroad. You are working and some days are just normal, regular, everyday life and that is ok. We need regular days to appreciate the extraordinary days.
I expected instant friends and community. The reality of my social life Thailand has been both better and worse than my expected reality. While, I don’t have the same number of friends and level of social life I had in America I value and cherish the relationships I have made here and they make each shared event so special. I have learned to be more open and appreciate friendships that may only last for a bus ride or coffee shop morning.
I expected language difficulties in the classroom but the reality is they are in every aspect of my day. I am in Northeastern Thailand which is untouched by tourism and thus has little need for English. The signage is all in Thai, menus are all in Thai, and store attendants and wait staff most often have no English skills. This has pushed me to learn to Thai, which has turned into a great friendship with my Thai teacher and her family. Needing help in new areas of daily living (ie: obtaining food) has been humbling but also led to relationships; for example, asking a coworker to go to lunch with me and show me how to order at the surrounding school restaurants.
I didn’t expect the amount of down time I would have in Thailand and that has been the hardest part for me. In America I was working full time as a teacher, working at a yoga studio, privately tutoring, and babysitting. On top of that I had a full social life, volunteered, and was a workout class junkie. All that to say, I was not home very much and was always running to the next thing. In Thailand some days I do not have anything to do and that is new for me. Thai culture isn’t the hectic American busyness that I am used to and Thai people know how to embrace rest and waiting. I have read A LOT of books, watched so much Netflix, and hopefully have learned to be a little more present and at peace just being.
My Thai reality is celebrating small victories like successfully getting a haircut, laughing with my students who have a persistence in learning unlike anything I’ve ever seen, making fast friends from all over the world then continuing our separate world travels, learning about who I am and what is important to me, and so much more.