Nothing to Complain About

June 1, 2012

I try not to complain. Lots of expats living in lots of different countries spend a great deal of time and energy complaining about their current plight. Although I try to avoid this useless activity I do have a complaint to make. It is about Expats in Thailand who are always complaining.

I am retired in Thailand and I feel that being retired here is like being invited to hang out at a friend’s beautiful summer estate, with great food, tropical weather, and smiling people surrounding me. It’s not paradise, but pretty close. So I’m not going to waste my time complaining about things that aren’t perfect here and that I have no control over. That would be fruitless and, to continue the metaphor, it would be rude to my Thai hosts.

If you have lived here for a while then I am sure you have met the complaining Expat I am referring to. Your initial conversation might go something like this:

Expat: Hi. &*%$#  it’s hot today! And the traffic coming here was terrible. The Thais have to learn how to drive. At least I am glad I wasn’t stopped by one of those corrupt policemen. The beer here is overpriced and pretty much tastes like water. And the food is too spicy. And they are always trying to overcharge me. Everyone here is trying to cheat you. And the ignorant waiters can’t speak a word of English and when I speak Thai to them they pretend that they don’t understand a word I say. Later today I have to go to immigration. Why do they make it so hard to get a dammed visa? You’d think with all the money we spend here they would treat us better. By the way, my name is George.

Complaining about the state of things in Thailand seems to be many Expats’ main occupation. Here are two published complaints that I actually recently read online from Expats talking about their “difficult” life in Thailand.

1. “The women at the market tie the rubber bands too tight around the plastic bags. I can never get them off.”

Wow! That must be a hardship. To solve the problem simply grow your thumb nail a little longer and see how easy the rubber bands come off if you pick at them a little. Hey, when I first came to Thailand, when you bought food in the market it was wrapped in banana leaves that were closed up using a bamboo toothpick. Today’s Expats would have probably complained that it was too hard to pull the toothpicks out.

2. Thai writing has no spaces between words. Why can’t they put spaces in? It would make it easier for everyone.

Well, for the complaining Expat maybe. If you are learning to read Thai and have a complaint about there not being any spaces between the words then maybe it’s time you grew up. I mean, most Thais begin reading when they are 3 and 4 years old. I don’t think your complaining is going to change the language. (BTW, Cuneiform Sumerian, considered the world’s first written language, didn’t have any spaces either. And, I’m guessing here, the Sumerians learned how to read okay.)

Complaining is more than a waste of time. It is depressing. I learned to stop complaining when I moved to Seattle. I would complain and be depressed about the rain. Talk about complaining about things you can’t change. I wasn’t going to change the weather. I could complain and be depressed most of the year or I could learn to change myself. Changing myself was going to be a little easier. I decided to begin to like the rain – just like most Seattleites do. That changed everything. I love Seattle now; even during the gloomy eight months of the year when it rains.

I am not saying one should be a Pollyanna. There are lots of things I would want different here. I wish they would get rid of the hot season, and the mango and sticky rice season should last all year, and if durian just didn’t smell so bad, and if the rivers just wouldn’t flood, and if the Thai language didn’t have those stupid tones.

But until I have control over these things that I cannot change, I might as well change myself. I have always felt that if 51% of your days are happy then you’re a winner. For me, living in Thailand, it is more like 98%.

I really have nothing to complain about.

Note: A 44 year old American that I know who was living here and who was setting up a factory suddenly died of a massive heart attack. He had invested closed to $1 million in equipment and buildings. He died leaving no will in Thailand. He did have a will in the U.S. which may or may not be valid here.

Of course at 44 no one thinks that the worst can happen but because no instructions were given about the estate, here is what is up in the air now: Who takes ownership of the company? What happens to the expensive equipment? Who pays the outstanding bills? How do the workers get paid what is owed them? Who owns his house, his condo, and his vehicle? What is to be done with his remains? Who pays for that and the hospital bills?

I was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing but, thinking in Buddhists terms, his troubles are now over. But without leaving a will, boy has he caused lots of troubles for those he left behind. Condolences to his friends and family and I am hoping that all these legal problems eventually get worked out.


5 Responses to “Nothing to Complain About”

  1. David Cooke said

    well if I really worked on it I could get a great list of things to complain about in Thailand. On some of the expat forums here almost every topic ends up with bitter comments about Thailand, + other expats while they’re at it. I think that these guys have never been content in life, maybe they managed to make a lot of money because they were incapable of having any human feelings or seeing anything else in life but money. Their life at home was really bad so they leave for paradise, two months later they are complaining about evil bar girls that are expensive/steal all their money (oh ha ha ha, good for them), that Thailand is expensive (meaning Bangkok and Pattaya, not Thailand) and so on. They will never be happy anywhere, and Thailand seems to have a tendency to attract these types.
    Any one can get me into a joking converstaion about Thai driving habits (not always funny I must admit) but few people are interested in going into the possible origins of this attitude – historical, education, even politics – they just want to have a drunken moan Unfortunately these guys make the most noise and are the most noticeable in an fish bowl environment like ours.
    I love Thailand and want to die here!

  2. Frank said

    Funny about the space between words, I felt the same way when I started to study Thai, a few weeks into the class and the teacher gave us a simple reading assignment and had spaces between the words and that confused me even more than no spaces.

  3. Richard said

    Interesting post. I discovered your blog today and it will be very useful as I am planning to live in South East Asia in two years. I have visited Chiang Mai and I would like to live there but I am concerned about air quality when fields are burned. I have heard it is very bad. Is it that bad? Have you considered other places to live in South East Asia before choosing Chiang Mai?


    • The Chiang Mai smog really is a problem. It usually comes in March. It can last for a few weeks to many weeks. Some years it is really bad, with visibility less than 1K. Other years it isn’t a problem at all. Last year the rains came early so there was no smog problem. This year the smog was moderate and lasted a few weeks.

      Now that is not going to make me move from CM. 10 months out of the year it is quite pleasant and for about 4 or 5 of those months it is wonderful. Today the temp is 85F (29C) at 2pm as I write. No problem. Air is good and it will probably rain within the next 2 hours.

      But…we may take off next hot/smog season. We are considering Kunming China, or Dalat Vietnam, or Bali Indonesia, some real hardship places, to run from the smog. I am leaning towards Kunming – directly north of us as the crow flies. I’ll write about when the time comes of course.

      • Richard said

        I would like to stay in China for a while too. Is it easy to get a visa there? I will be 55 when I retire in two years. I wonder if they have retirement visa as in Thailand. Why do you want to go to Kunming instead of other city in China?

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