You Know You’re An Expat When…

Posted February 19, 2013 by Lauren Manuel in Expat Life
Relaxing on the beach, photo by Lauren Manuel

Photo by Lauren Manuel

This is the first contribution by our columnist Lauren Manuel who specializes in expat life. She is currently teaching at an international school in Koh Samui, Thailand and loving island life. Read more about her on The Travel Manuel.

When moving to a new country, there’s an invisible line drawn between the time you were a tourist on vacation and the moment you become an expat. One minute you’re lazing on the beach, expending all your energy sightseeing and spending your converted currency frivolously, and next you’re house hunting, searching for a job, and not spending half as much time in a bikini.

For my husband and I, living on the island of Koh Samui, these were the tell-tale signs that we had morphed into expats.


It’s time to find a house with a kitchen.

Whilst living in a bungalow on the beach is blissful, romantic and cheap, this carefree shacking up cannot endure forever.  You could take the route of the lazy and eat out every night which some would argue is cheaper, but at some point you’d probably like to make your own coffee, breakfast and a home-cooked meal – all of which requires a kitchen with a stove and fridge.  We stayed in the dreamiest of bungalows which was perfect for our holiday and honeymoon. Once we decided to live here, we needed to find a more cost-effective place to call home and thus began house hunting.



You need to get a day job.

Because swimming in the ocean and sun tanning didn’t pay the rent, we had to begin looking for work.  We came to Thailand with the intention of teaching English and once we arrived on an island with many schools, we decided we couldn’t bear to live and work inland.   So we searched all the schools, sent out dozens of our CV’s and went knocking on many a door – mainly English language institutions and some international schools.  The freelance teaching hours came by fairly swiftly before I landed a job at the British School on the island.



You no longer dress like a tourist.

Even though Samui is a tropical island with sweltering heat and humidity to boot, you’ll only catch tourists riding on scooters in bikinis and wearing next to nothing to keep cool. Thai people pride themselves in what they love to describe as ‘polite’ dress code, especially in the workplace i.e  ladies have covered shoulders and skirts until the knee. Also, wearing tiny shorts and vests after 4pm is fine if you’re ok to with being eaten alive by mosquitoes.



You can’t remember when last you had a Thai massage.

One of the many joys of Thailand, are the cheap hour-long massages. After an ‘exhausting’ day of touring islands and hiking up to waterfalls, I was only 300 baht away from a release of muscular tension right on the beach if I so desired.  Now that the honeymoon stage is over and we’ve mad this home, we really can’t afford to be splurging on massages when we need groceries, rent money and petrol.



 You can avoid getting ripped off.

When we first landed in Thailand, our naivety got us royally ripped off by a tuk-tuk driver and we paid way more to eat at not-so-clean places with average food.  After two months, we’ve found a local restaurant with hands-down the best Thai food we’ve ever tasted for an average of 70 baht (US$2,50) per meal.   I also use the slow, haphazard local songthaew ( passenger van) to get around.  You never know when it’s coming, but it’s only 50 baht (us$1.70) for foreigners as opposed to 100-300 baht on a taxi scooter and way more in a taxi.

Are you planning to live abroad or have you already made the move? Share with us your experience in the comments field below.

About the Author

Lauren Manuel

Six continents later, Lauren still has itchy feet and wanderlust for adventure in all corners of the earth. Together with her husband, she is traveling the world pausing only to find work, take photos and write. She is currently mentoring English teachers in rural Malaysia and sharing everything about her expat life on WildJunket. Follow her wanderings on The Travel Manuel .

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