I am 33 years old, and had a successful career in the UK as a lawyer for ten years prior to relocating, but living in Bangkok for eighteen months has pushed and challenged me in ways I never thought possible.
It was initially tough working with eight Thai girls who spoke only limited English, and I remember texting a friend one lunchtime after I had been working for my company for about a month or so, saying how isolated I felt and that I would never fit in or belong.
I’m not quite sure when it happened, but one day the barrier broke, and I now have eight of the nicest, sweetest, funniest girls as friends. Need to know about the hottest Thai celebs, the latest stickers on Line or how to progress on heyday? I’m your girl!
I have had no choice but to try food I would otherwise have avoided. Admittedly, it didn’t taken a genius to realise that chicken’s feet were never going to be a winner, but I don’t know how I have reached 33 years of age without having tried som tam, laab moo or khao man gai.
More often than not, I feel out of my comfort zone, but that is usually as a result of setting myself challenges.
I had a lot of spare time on my hands when I first moved to Bangkok, and spent a lot of it reading every book about Thailand on my kindle that I could find. Most of the books are written either by bar girls, or foreigners who have been locked up in the notorious Bangkok Hilton.
Putting to one side the crime committed, I became more and more intrigued about how it must feel to be locked up in such allegedly horrendous conditions. I therefore decided to go and visit a British prisoner in Khlong Phlem one day. Sitting outside the prison, my heart pounding in the baking heat, gazing wide eyed at the barbed wire, and buses carrying prisoners and guards with machine guns, I have never been more terrified in my life.
For security reasons, I didn’t actually end up being able to see the guy I had been intending on visiting, but I wrote a blog post about it, which attracted a fair bit of interest, and I am currently now emailing a girl whose friend has just been locked up – I never thought I would find myself advising someone on how to visit a prisoner in Thailand.
I can be lacking in confidence, but by moving to a city where I knew no one, being shy just wasn’t an option. Besides – no one knew me here; I didn’t need to be the same person I was in the UK.
By putting myself out there, predominantly through social networking, I have met people and made friends for life that I otherwise would never have met.
Whilst I have a busy and hectic social life in the Big Mango, I have also taken holidays in Phuket, Koh Si Chang and Koh Samui and eat in restaurants regularly on my own without a second thought.
Living abroad forces you to confront the person you truly are. A friend once said to me that being an expat has a habit of bringing out a person's worst and best side, and my eighteen months here has shown me how very accurate that statement is.
But the great thing about having a light bulb moment is that it offers a chance to either accept and acknowledge yourself or make changes. Living in Bangkok has given me such strength, but I have recently come to realise that Bangkok hasn’t made me a strong person: it’s made me realise how strong I already was.