One thing that many of my friends and family keep telling me ever since I moved to Thailand is that I am more ‘relaxed’ now. Less stressed. And smile more.
Now one could say: Of course. It’s the Land Of Smile. You gotta be all happy and smiley. Plus you’re a foreigner there. So you earn more and have a better live than the locals anyways.
Wrong! First I don’t earn more than Thais in the same position and secondly I live a simple, ‘normal’ life here and don’t take part in the typical ‘expat’ lifestyle that has nothing to do with the ‘real’ Thailand. Moreover, and more importantly, lots of those ‘rich expats’ don’t seem to be that happy here. If you meet one of them by chance and happen to talk to them you will find out that they will complain most of the time by comparing how bad things are here compared to home.
So how does one then stay happier and more mindful in Thailand? Let’s see.
1.) Mai pen rai
This is one saying that is super famous here in Thailand. And you will hear it all the time. Sometimes, or to be honest, quite often, you will think it is not appropriate. And I agree. Mai pen rai means ‘don’t worry’ or ‘don’t care / let it be’ and pisses foreign expats of when quoted all the time at the work place or in private communications with the girl of ones
When taking the whole mai pen rai approach to a different level though it does make complete sense. Problems that come your way are what they are and getting all pissed and angry about it won’t change it. It is what it is. Mai pen rai. Now stop whining and deal with it.
2.) Don’t expect too much
This sounds like a sad approach, it’s not meant like that though. In this case expecting something means That we shouldn’t expect that everything goes the way we, ha, expected it to go. Things never (barely) go as expected in Thailand. The best thing to do when things don’t go as expected? See point number one on this list. Adjust, deal with it. And in order to avoid being completely off the track by minor (or major) detours simply don’t expect to never hit a bumps. The world is a bumpy road, so is life. Mai pen rai.
I’ve gotten so calm here in Thailand. It sometimes amazes myself (haven’t gotten humble though). I had my bag stolen. On university campus. With lots of security guards and cameras around. My bag contained my whole life. Passport, Work Permit, Credit Cards, Laptop, Tablet, Phone, Keys, Money, even my suit (I was doing sports at the time of the incident). I lost everything at once. I didn’t get angry though. I quickly shifted into the ‘Let’s replace the lost stuff’ mode. Even when the police didn’t want to help (that was quite obvious) I didn’t get mad. It wouldn’t help. They wouldn’t change their behavior and I would only get stressed and mad. No need for that. Staying calm saves you from getting to many grey hairs.
Another example is the trip to the immigration. As we all know government offices are often a place where ‘customers’ pay under the hand to get what they want. Since I’m super legal here in Thailand I don’t do that. Therefore I have to wait quite a while to have all my documents processed while others, who choose to pay, get a faster treatment. Again, mai pen rai. Getting mad wouldn’t change anything. I’ve seen many people getting mad about things like that. Never helps. Just makes them look bad and mad and angry. Stay calm. You will feel better.
4.) Material World
We love to buy things, right? Cool phones, cars, etc. Everybody has something he likes to have and show off. I’m writing on a damn expensive MacBook Pro right now for example. However, when living I Thailand, I realized one thing more than before. Things don’t last forever. In a country that is that hot and dirty, dusty etc. your stuff won’t last as long as back home in a highly cleaned and temperature regulated environment. Sure I could leave my stuff at home when I go out. But that’s not what I bought it for, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s tech gadget or clothes. Nothing lasts forever. In fact nothing even lasts that long. So when something breaks (I just had to replace my phone screen for the 2nd time in 3 months. Without me breaking it.) take it the way it is. Something is broken, fix or replace it. Done. No need to get all mad about it.
So no one told you life was gonna be that way? Problem is, no one told you how friends gonna be either. There are good friends, and bad friends. And bad friends aren’t friends. As easy as that. If you have friends who only want to be friends with you because of your job, skin color or when they need someone to crap on, but are never there for you, then they are no friends and don’t deserve to be thought and worried about. I cam across a lot of ‘false friends’ here in Thailand and therefore learnt how to let go if people that I considered ‘friends’ but who turned out weren’t. Not holding on to those people who influence you and your mind in a bad way helps to stay calm and relaxed.
6.) Loneliness ain’t killing you
In contrary to modern day poet’s highly acclaimed publication loneliness isn’t killing you (“My loneliness is killing me” out of the inspiring “Hit me Baby one more time” by B. Spears, 2003). When you’re in Thailand you will face loneliness. Inevitably. There’s the language barrier both in spoken and written form. Then there’s the cultural barrier and then there’s the fact that you’re a foreigner and ‘strange’ by default. So there will be a time when you will be alone. But that’s not a bad thing. Being alone, especially when being abroad, helps you to understand yourself, your behavior in foreign situations and the overall, bigger picture, of what is happening in your life at the time being.
7.) No time for fear
Everybody is scared of something. When living abroad in a country with a completely foreign language, culture and all by yourself does not give you much room for fear though. Either you go ahead and make a fool of yourself, ask and talk to stranger and simply ‘do’ things instead of waiting for them to happen. If you always go for the ‘safe’ way, wait for others to come to you and for opportunities to present themselves you might end up waiting forever. This is true in all situations and countries of course, more though however in a country far away from home and and the culture that you’re used to. Be fearless. Go for it. You are the master of your soul and the captain of your fate!
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I hate gossip. I do. I think it is stupid and a waste of time. And that is the exact reason why I don’t give shit about who talks what about me. People talk. Jealous people talk even more. We all know that, we can’t change it. In Thailand gossip is such a huge part of every day life. You won’t believe it. But hey. Mai pen rai. One of my all time favorite authors once said: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. (Oscar Wilde).
Gossip starts from a place of insecurity and uncertainty. People who gossip are stressed. Then they get angry. However it is their stress and their anger. Don’t engage in it and you’ll be fine.
Very often I stand out of the crowd here in Thailand. Even more than back home. Not because of accomplishments though but rather because of my behavior. While I do understand Thai culture quite well I still refuse to completely blend in when I consider it ‘wrong’. I value honesty over anything and therefore am and always will be honest with everyone. That’s a tough task in Thailand (all over Asia) since you don’t want anyone to ‘lose face’ and many people will consider it impolite. But in the end you have to be able to look into the mirror and be happy with the way you live. Same goes for compassion. Show compassion whenever possible. Don’t think about your direct benefit all the time. Be compassionate, fight for it, make others show more compassion. Those are things that matter. Making some more money doesn’t. Having principles and living for them let’s you go to bed with a good feeling and a calm mind.
So now what does that have to do with mindfulness? There are around 6.7 million definitions for mindfulness out there (I just guessed, don’t google it!). I like the one that says that mindfulness is simply awareness of who you are and what you are doing. Therefore, when you care about the few points mentioned above you will become more mindful about yourself, your behavior, your life. And a person who is mindful is a person who is free of stress – and of anger.
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