A Retiring Attitude

 |  May 27, 2009

June, 2009.
We currently have a guest from the U.S. a Thai, married to an American. She, like so many Thais of her generation, has been living abroad for decades. She first left Thailand to study in the U.S., fell in love, got married, had children, became an American citizen, had grandchildren, and eventually grew older. Joint pain that her American doctors have not been able to help her with brought her to a traditional Thai massage therapist here. For the first time in years she is pain free. After seeing how much has changed in Thailand since she left, it is her dream to return to retire.

Hers is just one of the many stories I have been hearing from older expat Thais. Maybe it’s the homesickness that they have been repressing for years. Maybe it’s the economy that has turned their retirement savings into a fraction of what they need to retire in their homes abroad. Maybe they just want to escape those long cold winters. Whatever the reasons, the Thai baby boom generation that left for ‘muang nok’, the outside world has started a reverse exodus. They are coming home.

But coming home for many will have its difficulties. There are Thais married to farang who have never lived here, Thais who are married to Thai spouses who want to remain abroad, or with grandchildren still overseas. A number of retired Thai friends who have recently returned are still trying to deal with the symptoms of reverse culture shock, the heat, the insects, the differently paced lifestyle, the lack of amenities they have grown used to, like sidewalks, traffic rules, dogs on leashes, and members of their families here who think of them as the rich relatives from abroad and expecting financial help that they may or may not be able to provide.

Expats retiring to Thailand need to learn to adjust to life here. So will retiring Thais. They will need to remember the adapting skills that they used long ago when they first went to live abroad. They will need those same skills once again to readapt to living in Thailand.