British woman in Bangkok: living, writing and drinking tea. We moved to Bangkok in July 2005. I make hats and costumes; I’ve written articles, a novel and a non-fiction book is underway… I've held a variety of volunteer positions within the expat ...
My name is Jenny Beattie. I’ve been in Bangkok, Thailand since 2005. I’ve lived in the East Riding of Yorkshire, Dorset and Buckinghamshire but when I come ‘home’ from Bangkok, I come to Kent, the ‘garden of England’. This is the place that I grew up and where my parents and my sister still live.
When and how did you decide to move to Bangkok? Is it complicated to settle down there?
I don’t know if ‘decide’ really came into the matter; my husband’s employers had an opportunity for him and it was a kind of dream job so I really wanted to enable him to take it.
Because the company supported our move it was less complicated than someone doing it on their own. We had a lot of assistance: a period of time with a relocation person who showed us the schools and places to rent. The company arranges work permits and visas; I think that would be stressful, but not impossible, to do on your own.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
No but we did have a lot of friends who had lived overseas. One local friend had lived for many years in South East Asia and she was the first phone call I made following my husband’s text message: ‘I’ve been offered a promotion in Bangkok’.
I don’t have the travel bug – at least not the kind with all your worldly goods on your back and sleeping in flea infested beds. I’ve seen quite a lot of Europe and made a couple of trips to the US but I’d never been anywhere in Asia before.
What do you like the most about Thailand/Bangkok?
The food. I don’t think there’s a better place for food that we could have come (Mediterranean perhaps?).
Thai people are lovely too; I admire their innovation and resilience.
The shopping; call me shallow but I love that the shops are open into the evening. When I first got here I couldn’t get used to the fact that most didn’t open until 10am. I make costumes and hats so I love Chinatown, Pratunam and Platinum for materials.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with England, your home country?
I moved to Thailand with an open mind, knowing that it would be utterly foreign. I think that helped me to settle but the first eighteen months were hard. Preconceptions can be dangerous because then you have to change them, which is harder work than being open in the first place.
I joined the British Women’s Group when I arrived but I didn’t go along to any meetings. I made a good friend from my apartment in my first year and we pottered about discovering Bangkok. However that was a bit of a folly because she and her family went home at the end of the year and I found myself without any friends. I started going to events with the BWG after that so that I had a wider social group.
What are the main differences between Thailand and England? Lots of people find my blog by googling ‘making friends in Bangkok’ and I think that’s the biggest circumstantial difference between being in your homeland and being overseas. Expats have to find the communities to offer friends. One good way to find friends is through interest groups. I’ve worked as a volunteer at the Neilson Hays Library, an English Language library in Bangkok. A lot of my closest friends have come out of the book club I’m involved in. Books, reading and writing are a passion so it comes as no surprise to me that those are where I’ve found good friends.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
I always said at the beginning of this adventure that if I had enough books to read and my family was with me, I could live anywhere. That’s a bit glib though. It boils down to relationships again; I miss my extended family and friends and we’ve missed our nieces and nephews growing up.
We can get most products we want in Bangkok but they are often expensive. There are a few food items that I just buy without looking at the price because we just want them in our lives (Branston Pickle, Marmite). I bring PG Tips from home because I drink them at too high a rate to be cost effective.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
Friends often email us telling us that their boss’ wife’s cousin (or some such tenuous relationship) is travelling to Thailand. They ask if they could give them our email address in case anything goes wrong. We usually invite them to lodge with us and we’ve had the best times with near strangers. Most travelers are on their way to the beach and a bit reluctant to spend time in Bangkok but we love showing them our adopted city and they nearly always end up loving it too. Last year we invited total strangers to join us on Christmas day; we’ve made life long friends there.
Speaking of experiences, how do/did you live the recent floods in Bangkok?
As I type, I’m sitting in the kitchen of my parents’ home in Kent because the children and I were sent home from Thailand at the end of October. The flooding has devastated much of the country but the threat to Bangkok is relatively recent. It has been stressful because so much of the information is in Thai and the information that reaches us is susceptible to Chinese whispers. People were panic buying so there were shortages of drinking water and food. So far the water hasn’t reached our part of town but it still may come. As expats we have alternatives but so many Thai people haven’t been so lucky.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
Actually I didn’t start my blog because I wanted to share the amazing experience of living in Thailand. I began Tea Stains because I joined a writing community called the Novel Racers. We were all writers, published and unpublished, who were writing novels and wanted the support and camaraderie from people in the same position. I soon worked out that my USP was that I lived in Thailand so it became more to do with a writer living in Bangkok (and drinking copious cups of tea).
Did you make new friends with your blog?
Yes absolutely. People have made contact with me through Tea Stains for all sorts of reasons: to tell me they’ve seen Branston Pickle locally or to ask advice about situations occurring in the city. And cyber friends have turned into real life friends.
When did you register on expat.com? Any particular reasons?
I’m not sure how long I’ve been a member: three years or so. I joined Expat Blog because I’m interested in connecting with other expats. There’s a great deal of strength to be had from knowing that others have experienced the same things that trouble me.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Bangkok?
I’d advise people to get out and join groups even if, like me, you aren’t much of a joiner. Other expats become your support network. Keep making friends because expats move on so regularly and because then you’ll always know someone who knows the answer to your question.