Before you move to Southeast Asia

Ever since I published the first article on the subject covering career advancements in southeast Asia, I have been thinking about important topics that were left out. Therefore, in this post, I would like to go more into detail about some topics that need to be considered before making a choice of moving your life to Southeast Asia. For those first-time readers, I would strongly suggest that you go through the original post before starting with this. (http://globalasiablog.com/2018/02/28/advance-your-career-in-southeast-asia/) Anyways, as I was starting to say, due to the fact that Thailand, especially Bangkok is considered to be the next “big thing”, some chapters will mainly focus only on this area. Despite that, I hope you are ready to take on yet another journey through Southeast Asia, so you better buckle up and let’s start moving.

Word of advice

As you might have guessed, there are many expats living in Bangkok, and luckily for us, they have shared their experiences, tips, and tricks for easier adjustment to Thai environment. Within the following chapter, we’ll discuss a couple of popular opinions and ideas expressed in interviews with expats based in the great city of Bangkok.

One of the most important tips that is mentioned all the time is: Do your research! Before moving to Thailand, you should obtain general knowledge about culture and people so you could avoid offending anyone or getting yourself into trouble. Some idea of how much everything costs would be beneficial for planning your finances and expenditure.

Smile as much as you can! Almost every person who has visited Thailand will tell you this. Thai people are very welcoming and if you simply smile, you’ll receive the same in return. Anyways, do not mistake their hospitality and pleasant public appearance for granted. As told by many, you don’t want to upset a Thai person and experience the aggressive side of their behavior. One thing to always keep in mind: Respect the monarchy of Thailand. Thai people love their King and under no circumstances, should you criticize the Royal family.

Social life is such an important aspect of our everyday lives, therefore I believe it’s necessary to reflect on some opinions that teaches you how to make friends in Bangkok. If you are new in town and do not yet feel comfortable enough to interact and make friends within your local community, try one of many expat groups. As most bigger cities, Bangkok as well have some well-developed expat communities with many social and networking events happening almost every day. Within these groups you get to learn so much more about living here, then you would for example from the internet. People are always eager to share their stories and experiences, and since all of you have moved to Bangkok, despite different backgrounds you’ll find many things in common.

Although, if you decided or are still deciding on whether to move to Southeast Asia, I would encourage every single one of you to seek interactions with locals. As soon as you express a common interest or just share a pleasant conversation, you will notice the welcoming attitude from any local of Bangkok. There is a basic principle that applies in Thailand, if you are social, you’ll make friends easily. Apart from workplace interactions, some of the best ways to meet new people would be joining a class or an activity where you are presented with an opportunity to mingle with locals.  Anyhow, one thing I would like you to remember from all this would be: Do not hesitate or postpone starting a conversation with a stranger. Go in for it and you’ll see that 90% of the time they are as eager to make a new friend as you.

Just to be sure you are well informed about cultural customs of Thailand, whether you are just visiting or moving here, this great video will quickly introduce you to Do’s and Don’ts of Thai culture.

Job Culture

We have all been thought that every person is different and that this is something to be proud of. Apart from differences on a personal level, there are those that directly correlates with the culture and community we are living in. Despite the fact that we all pursue the same basic needs, there are numerous differences in ways we go through our everyday lives. Even the most insignificant aspects of our ordinary life can be viewed as something abnormal to others. I hope you see where I am trying to go with this. As I previously talked about many opportunities expat workers can come across in Southeast Asia, there are some aspects we should not neglect going into this subject. You might already guest that I am about to talk and highlight the importance of cultural differences and cultural intelligence.

Reflecting on insights given by Mr. N M Castro, Director of a digital media company operating in ASEAN region, the most difficult part of the work is managing the diversity within the company. Don’t take me wrong, we are not talking about the stereotypical gender and race diversity, but more of those human qualities and beliefs we all possess. We all have seen that what most of us do is insisting upon our own cultural environment and independence. Sadly, if you choose to follow this path it will most likely lead to cultural disconnect and loss of productivity within the workplace. I personally believe that all these dimensions of different cultures can only improve one’s social skills and global awareness.

As told by expat workers as well as experts, it is imperative to understand people and culture around you if you wish to succeed in a new environment. When talking about Southeast Asia, it is a great example of an environment filled with different cultures and international work environments.

To truly understand the differences, I am trying to highlight I will provide some examples of how Western and Eastern cultures differ. Some of these examples might be stereotypical but that’s for the sake of making my point clear.

Working in a group  

As a person coming from a more Western culture, I can surely recognize the difference between Western and Asian people when it comes to group behavior. People coming from more Western cultures tend to be more individualistic and independent. We often tend to make decisions without consulting others and being just fine working with no extra support.

In contrast, most of the Asian cultures feel better being a part of a group. This applies to both professional and everyday activities. The feeling of belonging is of more importance than in Western cultures. When talking about working environment, Asian people tend to seek feedback and assistance whenever they have this opportunity.

Emotions  

For Western cultures, emotions are part of our communication manner. We often express strong emotions in order to communicate our feelings about the topic or issue at hand. In addition, we are likely to change these emotions multiple times during a conversation, therefore possibly confusing people from different cultural backgrounds. Another characteristic of the way Western cultures express their emotions is a quick transition to loud and sometimes aggressive verbal communication. When someone gets irritated or angry we are not afraid to show it. Despite this, most of the Western people can calm down quickly and once again transition their emotions to normal or even positive.

Now, this is where we have to understand the emotional intelligence of Asian people. Most of the Asian cultures are not as expressive as Westerners, and you won’t see them changing their facial expressions multiple times during a conversation. It seems that Asian cultures are more harmonious in the way emotions are expressed. Appearing angry in public is considered to be rude and you won’t see that happening without a proper reason.

Relationships

For Asian cultures relationships are of much higher importance than for Western cultures. If Western people are mostly fine with casual relationships whether they are professional, romantic or friendly, for Asian cultures it is not common. Where we see value in creating many trivial relationships for different purposes, Asian people wish to achieve meaningful and lasting relations.

With all comparisons made above, I was trying to highlight the importance of common respect for other cultures. I surely hope that this knowledge can come in handy in any situation you are given the chance to interact with people from a different cultural background. After all, it doesn’t even matter where each of us is coming from as long as we seek to understand each other to create a harmony in our lives. There will always be differences in people, even from similar backgrounds, and it is not necessary a bad thing. Everyone’s unique in some way and that is the beauty of human beings. The main takeaway from everything I tried to say should be that with the respect for others and small adjustments that fit the culture we are living in, we all can live and work in unity.

 

Reference list:

N Mark Castro, (August 29,2014). How Does Cultural Difference Impact Your Business in Southeast Asia? [https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140829065418-3822607-how-does-cultural-difference-impact-your-business-in-southeast-asia/]

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