Pearl-white beaches, Buddha-filled temples and cheap street food markets as far as the eye can see: Thailand is not only the dream destination of many tourists, but also a popular country for emigrants. Three Luxembourgers reveal what it's really like to live permanently in Southeast Asia as a European.
"When you come here, you learn everything anew. You can't refer to any preknown values, because many things are different here than in Europe." Ralph (name changed by the editors) has been living in Thailand for four years and enjoys the simple lifestyle that prevails in many places in Southeast Asia. Like many foreigners, the retired Luxembourger followed his wife to Thailand, whom he met while on a diving holiday among friends there. "She was helping out at the diving station at the time and we arranged to meet for a drink. From then on, I was hooked, " the pensioner recalls.
About ten kilometres from the sea, in east-central Thailand, he has set up a new life with his small family and describes himself as a "lucky person", because recently all the paperwork has been done and Ralph can finally start making his home the way he wants it to be. "I've always liked a simple everyday life rather than a glamorous one. In Luxembourg you have to buy a new shirt every fortnight, otherwise people start to talk. Here, nobody cares, " says the 64-year-old.
The necessary bit of patience
With a relatively basic knowledge of English, acquired through his work for an international company and numerous work trips to Arab countries, Ralph has been communicating with his wife and her daughter since his arrival in his adopted country. He does not speak Thai. "I know a few individual words, but I can't form complete sentences. The other day I found myself looking for courses online, but the language is really complex, " he confesses.
Living far away is described by Ralph as simpler, "easy peasy", as he says himself. "I would have grown old happily in Luxembourg, too, but since my business was already practically sold and my wife lived here, I thought: why not? I can always return to Luxembourg if I no longer feel comfortable here, " says the pensioner. The weather in Thailand is definitely a plus, as is the informality of the people. However, it is precisely this that often causes Europeans to marvel in disbelief, and many a cultural difference makes Ralph's blood pressure soar, because you have to be patient with many things – especially as a "farang", the Thai word for foreigner.
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