Now that all the thanking is done, I shall continue with part 3 of my series of survival tips, and this is an important one. I call it the 2 capital Ps, namely Patience and Perseverance.
The Stranger in Bangkok's survival tips in a foreign land part 3: Patience and Perserverance
Visiting a foreign country without a tour guide is already a headache. You need to plan your own route, book your own hotels, arrange your own transport etc. It is enough work to discourage many from travelling. What about trying to live long-term in a foreign country? The challenges cannot be underestimated.
First and foremost, in order to successfully settle down on foreign soil, patience is a key virtue. Coming from Singapore, at least when I was living there, it was a country known for its obvious efficiency. The subway comes on time with minimal breakdowns (this might no longer be the case), there are few traffic jams and people are generally programmed to be highly efficient, be it in government organisations or private sectors. You could renew your passport online, register a company in a matter of minutes and get internet wired in your home within a week of moving in. These are things we take for granted until the day we leave.
Not many countries are half as efficient as Singapore, and I do not only mean comparatively lesser developed countries. I had an ex-colleague from the Netherlands telling me it takes weeks to get his internet hooked up back home and another friend complaining about needing to queue for a week to see the doctor in Ireland to get a cure for her flu. Not fun isn't it?
In Thailand, I have learnt to expect delays for everything. Things do not get done the first time. Be it making curtains at home, getting your visa extended at the government office or getting forms submitted at the port to clear your company's goods etc., it would be some sort of a miracle if it's completed at first try. Because of the severity of traffic congestion here, it is also unreasonable to expect people to be punctual for their appointments. If you are not patient enough and cannot tolerate inefficiency, your life will be miserable day-in day-out, and I can assure you that you will not be here for long.
This virtue is closely related to the previous one, because perseverance in abundance helps you to be more patient. You might say, " Isn't patience and perseverance important virtues even if I am back home?" Certainly! But you will need much bigger serving of each in order to thrive in a foreign environment.
Remember, you are not home anymore. If you have not read my previous tips and have not set up a proper local social network nor brought your family here, you have virtually no help. Do you think you could get your brother to pack dinner for you, your mum to post a letter for you, or your grandmother to help babysit your child for you while you watch a movie? Throw all that out of the window please. Every single thing needs to be done by you, you and yourself. There is no longer any help from close ones, in fact, you need to be even more motivated to settle all problems quietly as you do not want the folks at home to worry about you. Even if you are badly ill, you will have to crawl your own way to the clinic to get yourself a remedy. You will feel lonelier than ever.
At the office, do you think you could get away with passing a job to a colleague while things go wrong? The very person who put you there most likely did it so that you could clear all the shit in the company. Don't even try to do it, you HAVE to do it, that's what you are there for.
All these challenges means that you must persevere. If you fail, try again, and again, and again, by yourself, until you find a solution. Focus on the result, on what you want to achieve and work towards it, not letting anything sway you or get you down. This gutsy single-mindedness will get you very far.
In 2009, I came to Bangkok with 2 bare hands and managed to create something out of nothing. Many more obstacles lie ahead of me, but with a lot of patience, stubborn perseverance and God's infinite grace, I am confident I can eventually overcome them. You can do it too.