Expanding Your Social Circles
By Brian Stewart
Living abroad often seems like just the ticket to brighten up one’s hum-drum life. That is until you find yourself in a strange new land entirely bereft of friends and void of any acquaintances. Let’s face it; unless your name is Mr. Personality or Ms. Congeniality, the sober reality of finding folks that you can one day call your friend in a nation full of unfamiliar faces can be nothing less than daunting. In any environment it’s important to have friends in order to avoid becoming the neighbourhood “cat lady” or the “troubled loner” known for only conversing with his or her socks. Aside from saving one’s sanity having a friend or two will also go a long way to prevent any of these less than flattering labels from being uttered in the same sentence along with your name: aloof, arrogant, distant, surly, unfriendly, or worse … a misanthrope
Since the dart you threw at the map landed on Amazing Thailand, you now find yourself situated deep in the Land of Smiles and way outside of your comfort zone. In Thailand the pool of potential future friends runs the gambit from local Thais to foreign expatriates from every corner of the globe. It’s an established fact that birds of a feather flock together. However, in respect to making new friends it’s always best to keep an open mind. Don’t rule out any individual whose culture is entirely different from yours or one whose language doesn’t exactly roll right off of your tongue. No matter what, always keep your options open and look beyond the horizons of only those who hail only from your home country. Remember that every nation and culture is made up of a broad spectrum of personalities comprised of both the best and worst of what humanity has to offer.
With the above in mind, meeting people in general is not all that difficult. However finding an individual with whom you truly have something in common with is a bit more complicated. So we’ll start with meeting the folks in your new neighbourhood.
Learn the local language
After all this is Thailand, so no matter where you live you’re bound to be surrounded by Thai people, many of whom can make great friends. To help integrate amongst the locals learn a few Thai words or phrases. The Thai people always appreciate any foreigner who makes the effort, no matter how poor, to speak their language. Start with simple words such as “please” and “thank you” and then graduate to short phrases like “how much is this” and “what is your name.”
Travel Thai style
Wherever you hang your hat in Thailand, get in the habit of using the same public transportation as the Thais. In Pattaya, that means riding a baht bus or song taew in the Thai language. The song taew or “two rows” in English, is so named because of the vehicles two bench seats which face one another. While riding on a baht bus, you’re sure to encounter Thais of every stripe and persuasion. This makes it the perfect place to road test your newly acquired Thai language skills. You never know when the random stranger you strike up a conversation with will become your new best friend.
Shop and dine in your neighbourhood
Wherever you base yourself, ensure that you frequent the shops, restaurants, barber/hair salons, bars, and convenience stores in your neighbourhood as often as possible. As the Thais are generally a very gregarious and very curious crowd, as soon as you become a familiar face or a regular customer the staff, and or proprietor will be quizzing you on every detail about your life. Don’t be surprised or offended when they ask such things as where you’re from, your age, what you do, or how much money you make. After just a few visits to any one establishment, you’ll find that it’s impossible to pass by without the staff hailing you by name and further satisfy their curiosity by engaging in idle banter or at the very least inquiring, “where you go.”
Know thy neighbour
A large number of the Thais who live in apartment blocks or condominium complexes came from rural regions of the nation. Most grew up in small farming and fishing villages where they knew every member of the community as if they were family. Many of them brought this communal spirit with them to Pattaya and are eager to learn more about you, the newest tenant. Greet them with a smile and never hesitate to ask their name or question them on such things as where is the best place to have your motorbike serviced or order a pizza. In no time at all, they’ll be popping around at all hours hoping to share a sack full of fried insects and inquiring if you have any desire to meet their unmarried cousin who’s only just arrived from Issan!
No not that kind of clubbing! I’m talking about the numerous organizations in Pattaya City such as the Expats Club, and the Cricket, Rotary, Archery, Women’s, Yacht, Bridge, Chess, Backgammon, and Lion’s Clubs to name but a few, all of which are eager to meet and great new members. Then there’s a number of softball, football, rugby, pool, bowling, and darts leagues, all of which are seeking new players. For those who aren’t intellectually challenged a number of pubs feature a weekly quiz night, all of which are searching for brilliant minds. Then of course for those who enjoy a sip or two of an adult beverage, Pattaya City has no shortage of bars, saloons, and gin joints where all one has to do is ask, “where are you from” to whomever occupies the adjacent stool.
Every nation and culture is made up of a broad spectrum of personalities comprised of both the best and worst of what humanity has to offer