Until now, I’ve given mostly generalities based on personal experience and reflection. But there are a few other tradeoffs that I’ve made moving to Chiang Mai that’s purely circumstantial. So if you don’t mind, I’ll describe those as well.
In Pattaya, I loved the neighborhood I lived in. It was nestled in a mostly Thai neighborhood, conveniently located next to a market, two 7-Elevens, and a plethora of cheap Thai restaurants and food stalls. It was far from quiet, and finding Western food when I craved it meant venturing outside our neighborhood. But overall, I loved the apartment and the neighborhood, and greatly miss it.
In Chiang Mai, I live in a chicly decorated condo on the sixth floor of a building tucked in one of the quietest areas of the city. But it’s also one of the deadest areas. There is very little within walking distance in the way of food, and the only places to buy convenience items are from the dimly lit living rooms of humble neighbors. And any venture out on foot means braving the stray dogs that roam our little soi. Even on a motorbike, finding decent food is a 10-minute drive, minimum.
One the flipside, my job is way better. I left a school that served as a tax shelter for an alcohol importer/distributor—a woman who had no business putting her fingers in anything related to education. She had no compassion, and that trickled down through the whole school. It was a unique organization in that despite the many well-meaning teachers who went above their pay grade to improve the systems that ran that school, the systems always self-destructed and discouraged the teachers into hiding in their little holes and keeping their heads down in their trenches.
I now work for a school that really seems to care about education. It may have its administrative failures and irritating policies and paperwork, but I can honestly say they mean well overall. Moreover, the bureaucratic bullshit that stains an otherwise decent job is probably a natural characteristic of an organization of their size. With 6,500 students and 450 teachers, it’s not surprising that you’ll get a few pigheaded administrators and loads of obnoxious paperwork. The spirit of dedication to excellent education, however faulty in practice, is what keeps me going. The openness to ideas is a refreshing departure from a place where ideas were either shit on or exaggerated into a nightmare.
Honestly, it’s hard to articulate in so few words exactly how much better my new job is compared to my old one. I think one day I’ll have to write a book about it so that people can really appreciate it.
Simply put, in Pattaya I had no peers and in Chiang Mai I do. To be clear, I think of a peer as someone who is roughly the same age as me and can speak the same language.
That’s not to say I didn’t make acquaintances or even a couple friends in Pattaya. I had colleagues that I grew to really enjoy talking to, and occasionally met outside of work for dinner and casual conversation. I’ve come to value their friendship. They may be at a different stage in life, which can sometimes make a difference in our abilities to understand each other’s humor, but in a city so full of weirdos it was nice to befriend some honest, good people.
Similarly, my girlfriend had friends there. They were my age, but couldn’t really speak my language. So although we have a lot of fun partying together and using body language to make each other laugh, we can never really go to the depth that I need a friendship to go.
In Chiang Mai, there are hundreds of young foreigners living here. Their sense of humor is more closely aligned with mine, their cultural references are more familiar, and I can use 20-dollar words—hell, I can even use 2-dollar words—and they don’t need me to stop and explain. Nearly every weekend we socialize over drinks. It can make a huge difference if one has a robust social life, and mine has completely grown thanks to the move.
It should be patently clear by now why I’m happier in Chiang Mai than I ever was in Pattaya. You should be so bowled over with my enthusiasm that you booked your next flight to Chiang Mai before you could even finish this very sentence. Anyway, thanks for reading.