Nothing to Complain About

Originally posted on June 1, 2012


I try not to complain. Lots of expats living in lots of different countries spend a great deal of time and energy complaining about their current plight. Although I try to avoid this useless activity I do have a complaint to make. It is about Expats in Thailand who are always complaining.

I am retired in Thailand and I feel that being retired here is like being invited to hang out at a friend’s beautiful summer estate, with great food, tropical weather, and smiling people surrounding me. It’s not paradise, but pretty close. So I’m not going to waste my time complaining about things that aren’t perfect here and that I have no control over. That would be fruitless and, to continue the metaphor, it would be rude to my Thai hosts.

If you have lived here for a while then I am sure you have met the complaining Expat I am referring to. Your initial conversation might go something like this:

Expat: Hi. &*%$#  it’s hot today! And the traffic coming here was terrible. The Thais have to learn how to drive. At least I am glad I wasn’t stopped by one of those corrupt policemen. The beer here is overpriced and pretty much tastes like water. And the food is too spicy. And they are always trying to overcharge me. Everyone here is trying to cheat you. And the ignorant waiters can’t speak a word of English and when I speak Thai to them they pretend that they don’t understand a word I say. Later today I have to go to immigration. Why do they make it so hard to get a dammed visa? You’d think with all the money we spend here they would treat us better. By the way, my name is George.

Complaining about the state of things in Thailand seems to be many Expats’ main occupation. Here are two published complaints that I actually recently read online from Expats talking about their “difficult” life in Thailand.

1. “The women at the market tie the rubber bands too tight around the plastic bags. I can never get them off.”

Wow! That must be a hardship. To solve the problem simply grow your thumb nail a little longer and see how easy the rubber bands come off if you pick at them a little. Hey, when I first came to Thailand, when you bought food in the market it was wrapped in banana leaves that were closed up using a bamboo toothpick. Today’s Expats would have probably complained that it was too hard to pull the toothpicks out.

2. Thai writing has no spaces between words. Why can’t they put spaces in? It would make it easier for everyone.

Well, for the complaining Expat maybe. If you are learning to read Thai and have a complaint about there not being any spaces between the words then maybe it’s time you grew up. I mean, most Thais begin reading when they are 3 and 4 years old. I don’t think your complaining is going to change the language. (BTW, Cuneiform Sumerian, considered the world’s first written language, didn’t have any spaces either. And, I’m guessing here, the Sumerians learned how to read okay.)

Complaining is more than a waste of time. It is depressing. I learned to stop complaining when I moved to Seattle. I would complain and be depressed about the rain. Talk about complaining about things you can’t change. I wasn’t going to change the weather. I could complain and be depressed most of the year or I could learn to change myself. Changing myself was going to be a little easier. I decided to begin to like the rain – just like most Seattleites do. That changed everything. I love Seattle now; even during the gloomy eight months of the year when it rains.

I am not saying one should be a Pollyanna. There are lots of things I would want different here. I wish they would get rid of the hot season, and the mango and sticky rice season should last all year, and if durian just didn’t smell so bad, and if the rivers just wouldn’t flood, and if the Thai language didn’t have those stupid tones.

But until I have control over these things that I cannot change, I might as well change myself. I have always felt that if 51% of your days are happy then you’re a winner. For me, living in Thailand, it is more like 98%.

I really have nothing to complain about.