Monday, November 26, 2012

Psychological Issues of Starting a New Life

Wrapping your head around a new culture, new life, and a new way of thinking can really play tricks with you mind.  What one must realize is that even though starting a new life can be exhilarating and exotic, there will inevitably be times of questionable sanity in making such a huge move.

As I research and read the blogs of others who have done this before me, I discover several things.  There seems to be a wall that expats face when they haven't made personal connections, learned the language and generally planned out their move.  Apparently at about the 3 year mark, the newness and exoticness has warn off and they become bored and depressed and either leave the country or become alcoholics and wallow in everything that's wrong with the country.

What I do know is that I'll have bouts of culture shock, maybe some depression, and self-questioning along the lines of "what have I done?"  Knowing this ahead of time is key to being able to get past these feelings until friends are made, joining groups is accomplished and interest in volunteering opportunities becomes apparent.

There are large numbers of expats in Chiang Mai, mostly English and American followed by Australians, Germans and other Europeans and Asians.  The Chiang Mai American Embassy lists over 8,000 expat Americans registered with them and there is most likely the same number who have not registered, since it is not required.  The Chiang Mai Expat Club has monthly meetings where more than 100 attend and as an offshoot of that club, there are many sub-groups of special interest like tennis club, gay expats, theater group, arts enthusiasts, and travel club.  I don't think I'll lack for contact with English speakers!

My intention is to join group Thai language classes immediately, although one can function without knowing Thai, personal experience deepens when you are able to converse with market sellers and folks outside the city.  I'll also be looking for yoga classes to continue my practice.  As for volunteering, I have to see what's available.  One choice of interest is working for one of the several non-governmental organizations who find and destroy unexploded ordinance (cluster bombs) that have been dropped on Cambodia and even more extensively in Myanmar during the Viet Nam war.  We put them there, so I believe we should clean them up.

One final thing to remind myself of is that I will be a guest in their country and I intend to revere and honor their culture, their way of thinking, and wholeheartedly participate in their historic festivals.

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