After spending the majority of the past four years in Southeast Asia, I sometimes forget what my “normal” habits, beliefs and routines were like before. I’m still madly in love with Thailand and I appreciate every single day that I get to spend in the country – the temples haven’t lost their charm and the little day to day encounters haven’t ceased to amuse me – but I also am not shocked or surprised by things as much as I was before.
Families of five on a motorbike? Normal. Flying cockroaches? I barely notice them anymore.
Sometimes I have to take a step back and notice the wonderfully crazy things going on around me. All of these instances have happened within the past couple weeks as I was getting ready to head stateside for a while and I took them as signs it was time for a little change. You know you’ve been living in Thailand too long…
When you put on a sweater as soon as it drops to 75°
I did this. I come from a place where people bust out their shorts and tank tops when it reaches the low 60s in the spring. What is happening to me??
When you think traveling with your dog in a plastic bag is a good idea
To get around town with my pup, I simply put her in my motorbike basket and off we go. Last week it was raining when we had to go somewhere and she’s a princess when it comes to getting wet – she’s not a fan. I tried to dry off the basket as best I could before putting her in and then, instead of just waiting until the rain stopped or thinking how ridiculous it is to even drive with my dog in the first place, I thought that it would be a good idea to have her sit in a plastic bag in the basket. Last year during the rainy season we would loop her legs through bag handles so the bag would billow out around her like a poncho or cape and it worked relatively well.
She didn’t really appreciate my attempts to keep her dry and instead stood up in the basket facing me while I was driving until I pulled over. I ended up riding with her balancing between the seat and the steering.
When you see a mouse run across your floor and don’t even flinch
One night last week I saw a long, thin tail snake out from under the fridge. The dog saw it at the same time and, naturally, we both freaked the @%!$ out. I always envision rats like the big, nasty one from Lady and the Tramp and, by the looks of the long tail, in my head I was picturing a giant rodent under the refrigerator. Turns out, it was just a normal-sized mouse with an abnormally long tail. We caught it overnight and set it free the next day.
Three days later, the dog and I were in the living room as another mouse decide to run from one corner of the room making a beeline to the kitchen before realizing we were right there staring at it and turning around. It didn’t even make us jump and the dog just looked at me with a sigh like, “This again…?”.
When you try to eat everything with a spoon and fork
After ordering a burrito I immediately picked up a spoon and fork to eat it. A burrito. For most Thai dishes, you eat with your spoon in one hand and fork in the other using the fork to gently push food onto the spoon then into your mouth. Doesn’t work so well with a burrito…
When you jump on your motorbike without a helmet
Let me first say that I wear a helmet 99.5% of the time while on a motorbike. So, when I hop on my bike to go grab food around the corner and make it all the way down the street before realizing I hadn’t even thought to grab my helmet, I know I’ve been in Thailand a little too long.
When unbelievable stories don’t faze you
I recently met a woman living with her Burmese partner in the jungle outside of Chiang Mai who told me a story about her partner having a tumor in his foot. The growth was painful and really irritating him so he decided to take matters into his own hands and cut it out himself. Part way through hearing this I thought how if I had heard this four years ago I would have been shocked, but now I’ve seen and heard so many different things that would never happen at home that not much fazes me.
Have you lived in another country? What things did you notice becoming more normal that you would have though of as crazy before?
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
Enter your email for a taste of different worlds, must-read posts, and special offers.
(Don't worry, I'll never spam you — just send the good stuff.)