From Angthong, Thailand to Innsbruck, Austria
Author: Trevor Bide
Introduction of Today’s Guest on Thai Women Living Abroad
From Angthong, Thailand to Innsbruck, Austria. Today’s guest was born in Bangkok, but raised in Angthong, Thailand. After masters graduation in London, she returned to Bangkok briefly before moving to Innsbruck in Austria. From the beautiful location of Innsbruck in Austria, Khun Sea gives us her insights and her story about life in Austria.
From Angthong, Thailand to Innsbruck, Austria
Introducing Khun Sea
All Photographs on this post are taken by or courtesy of Khun Sea
Could you tell us where you were born in Thailand and what life was like growing up there as a child.
I was born in Bangkok, but during my childhood I grew up in a province called Angthong, about 200 plus kilometres from Bangkok. The reason for that was because this was my Mothers place of work. My mother was a single mother, but she provided everything for me and my brother. She is indeed a super mother!
However, she worked as a Chemist full-time, so I grew up in two private boarding schools in Bangkok. My mother drove to Bangkok to visit me every weekend, and I never wanted for anything else. My mother gave me more than any of my friends received and they had both parents. So when I grew up I felt like I was so blessed and happy, but I always liked to explore new things and to explore further afield.
What first took you overseas? Which places have you lived in and where do you live now?
After I finished my bachelor degree in Bangkok, I wanted to go abroad and improve my English language. I was considering the USA and the UK, however as I was naive the idea that people were allowed to carry guns everywhere in the USA scared me, so I decided to go to Cambridge in England and study English in a pre-master course. December 2006 was the time I first started living abroad. My thoughts of Europe before I came to London were that every European was superior, honest, and kind, but after my first day in Cambridge, I was proven wrong. After Cambridge, I studied my master in London. I graduated my master a little bit later than my classmates, and then went back to Thailand to live and work in Bangkok. I changed jobs a few times before deciding to move to Innsbruck in Austria for a new career and also for love which began in Cambridge, England. However after a year in Innsbruck love was gone, but I decided to continue to stay alone in Innsbruck.
Did you speak English very well before going to Cambridge and studying? Did you find English difficult to learn? For Austria, I’m assuming it’s German language that’s more of a requirement?
When I was in Thailand, I thought my English was really good, but when I was in Cambridge I realised that it was not easy to get 6.5 score in IELTS, when I needed it for master study application. Nonetheless within one month of hard work, I managed to improve my score in all fields (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) from 5.5 to 6.5. The difficulty in using English language actually became obvious when I studied master degree in London. It was indeed a tough year to excel my understanding of English in academic study. German, on the other hand, seems to be really difficult to learn, but living in Austria means knowing some German language is essential. However it is not so crucial for me since I work in English and travel abroad a lot for business. So I don’t spend all my time in Austria and also I don’t have many locals to speak the language with.
How difficult was it adjusting to the life and the culture of Europe after growing up and living in Thailand? What were the most difficult things to adjust to? You said earlier that your thoughts of Europeans before arriving here were that everyone was superior, honest, but your first day proved that wrong. What did you mean by this? What changed your mind so quickly? Were there actually different adjustment challenges staying in the different countries. I mean it must have been quite different living in England to living in Austria. What were the main differences that you found, coming from Thailand though?
To be honest I didn’t find a big difference or challenge, but rather disappointing and impressive at the same time, because it makes my life much easier in fact.
In Thailand, we are so modest, respectful, obedient, and conformable. Thai culture is about respecting the seniors and following the strong / powerful one, always say yes, and make ourselves unnoticeable. However the way my mother raised me was not strict at all. She allowed me to think and choose for myself all the time, so I gained good confidence in going against the flow when I needed to.
When I first arrived in Cambridge, it was on a short day light in December 2006. I knew nobody and I needed food, so I walked to the city centre to find a supermarket. While I was walking in the dark, I met a local, so I asked him for directions. He said he couldn’t think of any place nearby to buy anything that I wanted. We were in the square of a city centre in a dark misty cold afternoon and he was holding an ASDA plastic bag. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until afterwards that I learnt the name on his bag was a supermarket. In short, this man made me realise that Europeans were not a better race. This man lied, was unkind and proved to me that Europeans were certainly just another human (being).
In London, I had to adapt my study style. Because in Thailand the teachers or lecturers always gave us directions and guidance to exams. However, when I studied in London, most of the lecturers just talked about everything, and we had to study the subjects for exams by ourselves. Well at least that was how it looked like to me.
However living in London was similar to living in Bangkok and we are nobody in big cities. The cities never sleep. Everything moves and happens. There are always choices and a lot to do. In contrast, Innsbruck is a small city. I have been adapting quite a lot living here.
What sort of adapting have you had to make whilst living in Innsbruck? Is it because it is a smaller city?
Innsbruck is a strange place, but nice. It’s a town with a big university and small colleges like in Cambridge, but the people are super active at sports, for example. Running, mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and climbing. Many students/employees here, stay just for mountaineering.
Nobody wears nice office clothes, beautiful dresses, or high-end brand names. For example, at the place I work, people go to work with clothes and shoes for hiking almost everyday, so this is an easy adjustment for me. It means I don’t have to wake up early and put on makeup etc for work and I get to wear T-Shirt and jeans instead. When I go night clubbing, there is still a dance floor with the disco ball in the clubs, and people still smoke everywhere. The music they like is electronic, techno, or reggae, but not dance music on billboard like in big cities. When I go clubbing, no attractive men approaches me, but the creepy ones sometimes do. People are not that open-minded here, and so it is hard to make friends. It’s really, really lonely to live here alone as a foreigner.
Is there much of a Thai community in Innsbruck? Are you in contact with many Thai women as friends and do they all seem to adapt well to life in Innsbruck / Austrian life? What in your view are the main problems that they encounter?
There is a Thai and Asian community here, but I am only in contact with a selected few. The problem is, that not many Thais and Asians like sporting activity , but I’m pretty active.
The problem that Thai people here have is to find a good job or to be a part with local community in Austria. It must be hard for people who dislike movements of the body to live in a region where active people who love mountains wish to live.
Most Thai girls I know are here because of marriage, and they are dependent on their partner a lot. I also understand their situations quite well, and that’s why it’s easy for me to say that I’d rather be alone. My work is demanding enough and I don’t need to try to pretend to fit in anywhere, because foreign countries allow me to show my independence fully.
Occasionally, you hear some Thai women say that they don’t always make big friendships with other fellow country women because they can be inclined to gossiping. Have you ever found this?
Yes, I have. However, what I like about the Thai or Asian community is that if they like someone, then we become family. We will share everything, and that might be the reason for gossiping, because people like to know about the others. However, instead of asking that person directly, we think and worry too much, so asking other people instead of the person directly, is easier. In any case, I never find any European who would take you into their families as friends, except when one is a girlfriend or boyfriend of their family member.
Although this is a massive generalisation: What are Austrian people like? Could you give me an opinion on family life, Austrian men, Austrian women through the eye’s of a Thai national? What they enjoy doing, personality etc.
Austrians in general are different from region to region. However, most people say that the Austrians from the region close to Vienna are critical and negative, but very honest and kind at the same time. The Tyrolean are sportive and usually close-minded most likely because of the mountains. It just means that it’s harder to get in to their circle, but once we (foreigners) are in and the door is open, then the rest is up to us.
The German and the Austrian like to travel to the same family owned hotel/apartment regularly in which we, Asians, don’t do in general, probably either because we get bored too easily or just prefer to see new things all the time since the world is so big.
If you think of the Thai culture
1. We always help each other, but most likely because of Buddhism’s influence (action and reaction)
2. We work around the laws, because we know that our system is too corrupted, and so nothing works or move when you are too strict to the laws
3. The connection is important, and seniority is a big influence in our society
4. We are polite and modest to the unknown, so we don’t often say what we actually think. In a negative context, people might describe this as fake.
5. If we love someone, e.g. Friends or Family, we can be blinded and take sides even when they are wrong (over protective)
6. We follow trends and it changes every year or even almost all the time… Well this is really extreme for some people
On the other hand
The Austrian is not as flexible as the Thai, but also not as strict as the German…
1. They help and give to the other, but this is because they have a lot and so they can give as long as it doesn’t hurt them (probably from Christianity)
2. Austrians love to work around the rules (because of connection), but the German whom I work with always like to work according to the rules.
However, the Austrians respect the laws and feel interested in politics and world news a lot.
3. Connection is a key of opportunity, we are alike in this case
4. Austrians are direct, honest, and blunt. Sometimes I feel as if they don’t have respect for each other, but I actually like it much more, because it helps me think less
5. Since they are direct, they don’t take sides, but rather strict to the fact and there’s usually neither a right or wrong person
6. The Tyrolean especially don’t follow any trends. However, mountaineering helps me save money with shopping, for clothes, makeup and also my time to get dressed for work, but actually I have to spend a lot of money on mountaineering gear instead.
You talk about the personality and culture of Thais, Austrians and even Germans a bit. I am now intrigued. You spent time in England, so how did you find the English / British in terms of personality and culture. Did you find them a lot different compared to Austrians and Germans.
In England, I find people are really nice and polite, but sometimes it can also be superficial too. However I can feel that people are more thoughtful compared to the Austrian and the German. Unfortunately I don’t have any friends from the UK, so I don’t know the Brits enough to comment. During my time there I made so many friends, but they were from every where, and that is the beauty of the UK that most of the people are open-minded. One of the things I liked the most is the way the British speak. It sounds sweet and kind, but also somehow distant. I feel I should not take what they say or promise seriously though, unlike with the German and the Austrian.
Have you ever felt unsafe in Innsbruck / Austria in general or is it quite a safe place to live. Did you ever feel unsafe in England or any other countries that you’ve stayed in for either business or pleasure?
I feel very safe when I am in Europe. I also feel very safe everywhere else too. However, I feel unsafe just thinking about the US, even though I’ve never been there. This is because I hate the idea of violence and that anyone can have a gun. I have to say though that I have many friends from the US and they are all very sweet and nice. Once again though, I have never been there, but I am looking forward to visiting this beautiful country.
Concerning safety, I just try to find out in advance where it’s probably not safe. There is no good reason to put myself at risk for anything, so I try to make hopefully good choices that prevent me from feeling unsafe. Maybe this explains why I always feel safe.
Could you give me three things that in your opinion are great about living in Innsbruck / Austria? Could you then give me three things that are not so good?
1) The slow life style
3) Being in the middle of Europe is good for travelling around by train.
The not so good….
1) Because of the good quality of life, the Austrians feel they are superior and can appear to act racist toward other nations.
2) The narrow tall mountains can easily cause depression if staying for a long while.
3) It’s really expensive to live here.
Actually I would like to add one more point. Austria is a small country and everyone almost knows everyone. This means that it’s impossible to escape to have time being nobody when other people who might know me are always around.
Which have been your 3 favourite places to visit in Europe and they can include other places in Austria if you want to?
I like far too many places, but I would say London, Munich, and Salzburg, but mainly because I have good memories associated with the places.
What is the cost of living like in Austria? Which in your opinion are the expensive things and which are the things of good value?
A sandwich or a salad box costs from about 3 euros, and the apartment rental cost in Innsbruck is minimum 12 Euros per square meter excluding furniture, electricity, and water (just the space).The good value but expensive things are skiing and mountain sports in general, because we have to buy passes and equipment, but it is worth it.
Do you still have family living in Thailand and do you miss them? Do you manage to get back to Thailand for a visit now and again? Which are your 3 favourite places to visit in Thailand?
My mother and my brother live in Thailand, and of course I miss them a lot, that is why I go back home 1-2 times every year. In fact, I also miss my friends, the food, the fruits and the convenient life in Bangkok too.
Favourite places: I’ve lived most of my life in Bangkok, and apart from traffic jam problems, I still love it the most. Aside from Bangkok, I love Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi and Phuket.
What would you say were the main problems in a Thai woman / Austrian man romantic relationship? Are there any similar problems or misunderstandings that relationships have? I’m talking more to do with cultural differences really.
I don’t have much time to socialise with the other Thai friends, but I always hear the news about Thai women from my Austrian friends.
The usual problem I hear is either the Thai girl leaves her old husband and takes the fortune with her or the husband dies and the Thai girl gets nothing due to the marriage contract. For me, I consider this to be the main problem that causes racism towards Thai ladies around the world.
In my opinion, the situation is clear and it’s easy to see the repetitive pattern when an old Caucasian man comes to Thailand and falls in love. This is the first problem, misunderstanding. What I realised and experienced with myself is that our culture taught us to be nice to everyone and many people misunderstand and misinterpret this.
So, the young Thai woman either likes the man or loves the man, this already tells the end of the story. For instance if the woman just likes the man, because he is a nice guy, and he asks her to marry, she will marry him, but if the man has fears, he will ask her to sign a contract that the woman won’t receive anything if he dies for example. If the man doesn’t make any contract, because he thinks they are in love, then this is simply going to end badly, because once the young woman grows up and knows more people, she will leave, because she can be independent or maybe with someone else. She will more than likely want to have a chance to have her fun time, because most of these girls will want to live her youth life, such as get dressed up, go out dancing and make sure that she is still beautiful. It’s then quite possible that she will meet and fall in love with a younger man.
It is like a flowchart, because if the young woman is in love with the man, and they go through hard times together, the love story is happy ending. She will still have difficulty acquiring good jobs, but she will certainly be a happy housewife as long as her husband treats her with love and kindness.
Nonetheless it is always hard to know if someone is truly in love, or just likes somebody and sees him as an opportunity to a better life or not. Of course there are many successful relationships out there, and it is simply beyond love, but I believe the word friendships or dependency defines the problem of the relationships in the long-term.
I’ve had a few young foreign boyfriends, and the problem that I’ve faced in general, is respect. I know I have some ego as I consider myself well-educated and somehow successful with my life, having created it all by myself. However, I couldn’t overcome the fact that they didn’t respect me as another person, because they couldn’t get over the stereo-typical stories about Thai women that remain in the back of their heads.
There’s another thing that I’ve noticed as well. In my family and with most Thai people we are taught to give to others, and more often than not, people will return the favour. This will be in the form of food, money or whatever, but it never has to be an equal favour. I mean there is no counting up process of one having given more than the other. With European men though, it seems like they are counting every penny or cent. I suppose it’s because they have to earn their own money and take care of themselves quite early in life compared with Asians. As for me, I worked for the first time after I finished my master degree education and I did my own laundry, wash the dishes etc for the first time, when I was in Cambridge. I know that we are too spoilt, but we also don’t all turn out to be bad and selfish people.
Some Thai women think that moving to America or Europe means a better life instantly. What advice would you give Thai women that were thinking of living in Austria? What would you advise them to beware of? Could you give me 3 things for them to think about before moving overseas?
Well, that is definitely a difficult question to answer because I believe that everyone knows moving is difficult, and changes are always difficult, but it’s always worth it.
Everyone’s life is different and of course the need each person has is different, but I was told by all my friends how lucky I am to be in Europe, even when I was diagnosed with depression and given medication by a psychiatrist because of living in this beautiful Innsbruck.
The fact is everyone in Thailand thinks living abroad is the best thing ever, and they are right under some circumstances.
For me, living in Austria is the loneliest experience I have ever overcome in my life. Nobody will understand that if they live with someone, but of course they will have to face different problems instead. Because if they move to live with someone, they will depend on that person, they will have to obey that person’s rules, and their freedom is limited. However I guess not everyone needs the same type of freedom.
My mother raised me to be independent, so it is important for me, but I believe most of the people, especially Thai girls, they don’t care about this. For them, they need to have a social community, such as a Thai temple, or Thai neighbours, the people who have similar backgrounds and speak the same language, because without good friends I really don’t know anyone who can be happy abroad.
Usually my advice to myself is always to make sure that I have a job and be able to take care of myself before moving somewhere, but if I have to advise some young girls who are moving for marriage, I will say to be faithful, be nice, because you are representing a Thai lady, and if you are loved by others, you will never be alone.
If I have to advise another Thai lady, I will say that the quality of life here is definitely better, but it will be tough, but again I am sure we can do it, because life is tough sometimes anyway.
If I have to advise my friends, I will say that I know they know what they are doing, but I will be around and if they need help, I will be there, so they will never be alone wherever they move to.
Three things to think about before moving overseas
1. Do you really believe that it is worth it? If the answer is yes, make sure you remember that when life gets hard, and remind yourself why you are here.
2. If life doesn’t go as you planned, do you have a second plan? If the answer is no, remember you have a home to go back to and don’t feel ashamed if you didn’t succeed and you have to go back.
3. Learn the language, study if you have the time and opportunity, only education brings you more opportunities. This is if you don’t want to be dependent on anyone else for the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean that you have to be alone, but it means once you can provide things for yourself, you can share and give to others better.
Most Thai and all Asian girls I’ve met always said they were jealous that I have good work and speak English really well. These girls were all far more proficient in the German language than me but they could never get a better job than working in Thai restaurants, Supermarkets or retail stores.
However, I believe that they could definitely get a better job, but they first have to believe it themselves, believe they are good enough and that they can do anything they apply themselves to. Thai women including me were taught by society that we are not good enough. It was the men that were always regarded as superior with regard to physical strength, power, respect, pride, job, emotional stability, etc. We do believe it is true somehow, but to be able to reach something better than we are today, I believe we have to break through the shell. Often it is friends who will influence how you will become also.
In Thai language there is a saying ‘be friends with wrong people, they will take you to trouble, be friends with wise person, they will bring you to success’ = คบคนพาล พาลพาไปหาผิด คบบัณฑิต บัณฑิตพาไปหาผล.
There is a tendency for some Thai people I’ve known to be prone to gossiping, dressing up, going clubbing and drinking alcohol, and if they stay together, what more can there be…
I’ve known good Thai communities in the past, they practise Buddhism, meditation, and make merits together. It’s then a great community, but the negative part is that if you are not involved enough or don’t contribute regularly, then you are not a part any longer… Just like the Sunday church I guess.
There must be many Thai or Asian people who are like me, but I don’t know them because we know it’s a good way to be with ourselves to grow our ways, and minimise the influence from others as much as possible.
What are your passions, what do you love to do in your free time?
What made me fall in love with Austria is skiing on the snowy mountains, but the sporty life style is also inspiring. In fact, having a two kilometre high mountain in your backyard is pretty amazing. In the summer, I can just walk up the mountain as soon as I’ve finished work. It’s fantastic to walk up the mountain, watch the sunset and then walk back down again.
You have 24 hours to do exactly what you want with. Where would you spend your day and what would you do? You can be in Thailand, Austria or wherever. What would an ideal day be for Sea?
It’s funny that you should ask this question as tomorrow I have a nice plan already. The ideal day is here in Innsbruck providing the weather is nice. In the morning I will walk alone up to Rauschbrunnen hut on the middle level of the mountain behind where I live. Afterwards, I will go mountain biking with my boyfriend.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Khun Sea very much for taking time out of her busy schedule to do this interview on Thai Women Living Abroad. Khun Sea has created a wonderful life in a very beautiful and natural location. There have been some terrific points made during this interview, however, it doesn’t stop there. To hear more stories from Khun Sea on a continued basis about work and life abroad, then please click on the link directly below.
Work and Live Abroad: Stories of a Thai Lady
Finally, I asked Khun Sea if there was anything else at all that she would like to promote. This was her reply.
Thank you Mum
The one great thing / person I always want to promote in my life is my mother, she is the one who created me and I owe it to her for all my success. Her endless support to me and my brother is indescribable. I would always like her to know that she has been doing everything perfectly for us, although it must have been hard at the time for a divorced single mother. Now though, she should spend her life celebrating her success the way she wants to, because she deserves all the best things in this world.
More stories from Khun Sea about Life Abroad
From Angthong, Thailand to Innsbruck, Austria