The fact that happiness and contentment are associated with good health and longevity while stress and worry contribute to ailments such as stroke, heart disease and depression has become widely accepted over recent years.
We’ve all seen the miserable expat who complains all the time, drowning in his own frustration and lack of ability to communicate his needs or be understood by those around him. Do you think this guy is happy and contented with his Victor Meldrew lifestyle? Is this why he came to Thailand? Probably not, would be my guess.
Don’t get me wrong there will always be people who complain about everything and everyone, everywhere that they go. But, setting your heart on Thailand being the same as your home country is like ordering fried rice and expecting fish and chips; you will end up feeling disappointed and frustrated.
Try to prioritise the things that are really important to you and concentrate on getting them right, then the little matters which go wrong won’t seem like such a big deal.
Ask yourself ‘is it a matter of life and death?’ ‘Is something terrible going to happen because the tiles in my bathroom aren’t lined up quite evenly or my girlfriend has changed her mind three times about where she wants to go tomorrow?’
Overlooking these little issues will give you more energy to focus your attention on significant matters. If something in particular really is important to you, make this extremely clear and try to explain why it must be done in a specific manner, instead of just dictating. Your partner/friends/labourers will be more inclined to go out of their way for you if they understand the method behind the madness and this will give you a great sense of achievement when your plan works out.
In the Western world, arguing is commonplace and raising your voice to get things done isn’t seen as taboo. But in Thailand, not only will it make you extremely unpopular you will lose respect, making it even more difficult for you to achieve your goals. Being unpopular with colleagues or even staff at the 7-11 can lower your self esteem as everywhere you turn it seems that nothing goes your way and no-one seems to make things easy for you. Even if something or someone is trying your patience, try to grin and bear it. Smile, count to 10 and say ‘mei ben rai’ - considerate farangs get a lot further than conceited farangs.
Once you’ve got the hang of waiting around for hours on the promise of just five minutes, or switching the fridge back on every morning as your mother-in-law turns it off to save electricity; your confidence will increase. You’ll begin to think: ‘hey, I can do this. I can live with all these strange rules and I can get things done which need to be done.’
Being the kind of farang that Thai people and other expats like having around, will help you to forge some important bonds. In turn, these bonds will aid in relieving the occasional pang of loneliness, homesickness and ‘I’m in this on my own’ kind of feeling which every expat experiences from time to time. We all need to know that there is someone who will help us if we are in trouble.
Sometimes ‘mei ben rai’ can be taken a little too far though and it’s important to remember that certain values are important for a reason and should still be applied here in Thailand. Don’t let a mei ben rai attitude mean you take unnecessary risks or put yourself in danger. I once saw a highly intoxicated guy be helped to his motorbike by his ‘friends’, pointed in the right direction and told ‘mei ben rai’.
You can’t change the world, you can only change yourself. Stay happy, stay safe and stay sane