Home CommunityCommunity Features Home Away From Home

Home Away From Home

by Ashima

Four young Indians have said goodbye to their mother country to seek their fortune in the Land of Smiles.

By Krishna Mawani

There is a strong urge that resides in many of us. A strong urge to go beyond Thailand, to explore another city, another country and another continent. The fast-paced lifestyle and prestigious schools of the West tempts many to have a bite of The Big Apple, while increased opportunity and more relaxed lifestyles have attracted many to the East. Thanks to its growing technology sector, many opportunities and leisurely lifestyle, Thailand has been attracting its own share of expats, many of them Indians from all over the world.

We sit down with four Indian expats under the age of 35 to learn about how they adapted to the Thai working culture, cultural differences and language barriers — several issues we Bangkokians often overlook.

VINOL JOY D’SOUZA, 26, Head of Business Intelligence at Eatigo

Mangalore, Karnataka → Jakarta, Indonesia → Bangkok, Thailand

How did you find your job in Bangkok?

The move to Bangkok was completely unplanned. I came to Bangkok around six months ago to renew my work visa for Jakarta. I read that TripAdvisor had just fed Eatigo Series B funding, and I instantly fell for the idea they were executing. I found their address and walked in to speak to the founders. And guess what? I was asked to join them! It was a complete coincidence. To all the folks trying to find a job overseas, keep trying as you never know where help shows up and it usually comes from the place we least expect.

Do you think the language barrier is an issue?

India is such a diverse country, which is why we can understand the complexity in a language. A north Indian travelling to Tamil Nadu will have issues of communication too. I believe as long as you are humane and well-mannered, communication is rarely an issue. I myself speak five languages and have started to learn Thai from my colleagues. I am able to manage directions, food and money matters. The hard part for me is to master the Thai accent. But Mai Pen Rai can get you a long way.

Were there any cultural shocks you experienced?

No, it was more of a welcome change actually! India is mostly a patriarchal society, but when you are in Thailand you see women running the show, be it as street vendors, bus drivers or as white-collar professionals. They work hard, party till late, take care of their families, and return to work the next day. Seeing women empowered and being safe in their natural habitat is welcoming. The biggest change I see in myself is how I started being able to accept people with different gender orientations and feeling ashamed about my previous misconceptions.

What are some new experiences you have had here, which you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced in India?

The way Thais respect every religion and pray to everyone has astonished me in every aspect. You’ll see them praying to Buddha, Shiva, Brahma and Ganesha with equal respect. Thais have been living in great harmony. They are very forgiving people and will always deal with problems in a non-confrontational way. Their relaxed attitude is perhaps the best and worst of Thai culture.

Would you recommend your friends to move to Bangkok?

Of course, Bangkok is heaven in Southeast Asia and very close to India. You can always fly back home in three to five hours. But it’s easy to get lazy and lose focus. You don’t have family and friends around to motivate you. It may get lonely at times. You’ll meet some great and not-so-great expats in Thailand — many of those who end up moving back home or to another country. I’m still figuring out my plan as I go along. The one thing I know for sure is that moving to Thailand has been one of the best adventures of my life. I recommend anybody who wants to see the world to challenge what they believe, to test themselves, to cross new boundaries, to open new doors, or to break free of monotony, to move to another country that vastly contrasts with what they’ve grown up with. It is a good opportunity to clear your head.

DHARAM CHADHA, 26, Associate Manager, PPC Modeling at Agoda

Kobe, Japan → New York City, New York → Bangkok, Thailand

What are some new experiences you have had here, which you wouldn’t otherwise have experienced in Japan?

Although my home country is Japan, I’ve lived in the US for the vast majority of my adult life. The main benefit of being in Thailand is the convenience of getting to a place in a short amount of time. Here you can hop on to a bike or the BTS and MRT and get to your location within 30 minutes. The first few times I rode on these motorbike taxis were definite Snapchat moments. Another cool experience is that my office is located in a shopping mall. I doubt very many corporate employees in the world work in a mall, but I really enjoy it. You get a vast amount of restaurants in an air-conditioned environment, and there are bars right outside the elevators!

Were there any cultural shocks you experienced?

The insistence on mispronunciation, especially with the letter “L” was a cultural shock for me. Somehow, Google is pronounced “Goo-gun” and apple is pronounced “aah-pun”. The stalls on Khaosan Road that sell fried insects was another one. That’s just a no-go. People’s nicknames seem like they are chosen from a lottery of common English words! For example, First, Golf, Honda, Mind, Smile, Friend, Time and Arm are nicknames of individuals I have met at work.

What differences do you see in the Thai style of working compared to your own?

I’d say the main difference is the general lack of initiative. The individuals are just not as proactive as they can be, and don’t push forward new ideas and methodologies. At the same time, there’s an abundance of talent coming out of the top universities here. Their resumes are better than mine, even though they’re still students! I’m used to a generally laidback culture, and the Thai culture also embraces that. We come and go from work as we please, whether it’s coming in late or going for a break at 3pm to buy fruit; there’s plenty of flexibility.

Have you been enjoying an active role in the Thai-Indian community?

I am not necessarily active, but I have assimilated to a certain degree. I have been fortunate enough to have wonderful friends who have been inclusive and welcoming to those not from here. Just like I did in Japan and the US, I go to the Gurudwara and try to go to any events hosted by the community. The Thai-Indian Sports Day, futsal tournament, and the marathons are some events that I attend.

Any tips for people who move to Bangkok?

  • Thailand is a cash society; carry cash at all times, even the THB 20 notes and those pesky coins.
  • Don’t take bikes in the rain, even if it does seem like a good idea at the time.
  • Always opt for the meter in cabs and avoid tuk-tuks.
  • Stay at a location that’s convenient for both work and leisure.
  • The locals understand many English words, but sometimes you have to experiment with the pronunciation. Try Too-naaaah instead of tuna and Tah-bas-koooouh instead of tabasco.
  • Avoid driving in the evenings on weekends as traffic can be maddening. In fact, avoid four-wheel vehicles whenever possible and take the reliable trains.

SAHIL GUMBER, 25, Growth Hacker & Business Expansion (Global) at GetLinks

Chandigarh, India → Bangkok, Thailand

How did you find your job?

Up until five months ago, I was working for Xerox Corporation in Noida, India and freelancing on the side for digital marketing projects. I was asked to travel to Vietnam for a project, which is where I first came face to face with the start up world of Southeast Asia. There, I met Djoann Fal — CEO and co-founder of GetLinks — at a networking event. He saw my passion for working in the startup ecosystem, and offered me a three-month contract job in his company. After a successful three months, I started a full-time job in GetLinks and have been in Bangkok ever since.

What do you like about the Thai lifestyle?

A big draw to the Thai lifestyle for me is the tropical climate and exotic culture. I love to experiment with Thai dishes, learn about the culture and meet new people here. I am also able to fulfil my love for travelling and often explore northern Thailand with my friends.

What differences do you see in the Thai style of working compared to India’s?

With regards to the working environment, the mornings here are quite slow and less efficient compared to in India. In India, we would typically start our mornings by waking up early and spending time on personal development, fitness or studies. As for technology and products, I would say India is more advanced. But I like that the Thai start-up industry is more open to mingling and networking with other local and international companies.

Do you see the start-up industry growing in Thailand?

Definitely, the start-up ecosystem has just started here, and it is growing rapidly with the support of the government. To work in such a positive and motivating environment is great. We want to build useful products that will help mankind in the future, and with the aid of local and global markets, the end goal is to make a unicorn (billion-dollar start-up).

Any tips for people who move to Bangkok?

  • Be cool-hearted.
  • Don’t neglect your responsibilities.
  • Enjoy every moment — remember to have fun!

CHAITANYA CHERUKUMILLI, 31, Head of Operations in Thailand at ANZ Bangkok Group Limited

India → New Zealand → Melbourne, Australia → Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea → Bangkok, Thailand

Has the language difference ever been an issue for you?

Not particularly. I have been here for 18 months so far, and throughout my stay, the Thai people have been very friendly. Eventually, you get your message across to them. Though, I have to admit, I did use Google Translate a lot in my first few weeks.

What major lifestyle change did you face?

The Bangkok traffic! I use public transport a lot more now. Thankfully, the BTS and MRT system is well organised, and the motorbike taxi gets you to short distances quickly. I don’t feel the need to visit a theme park any longer, when I can just hop on the back of a bike.

Do you see the banking industry growing in Thailand in the next 10 years?

Banking, ultimately, is a leveraged play on an economy. I am ultimately optimistic about the growth prospects of both Thailand and Australia. As two major trading economies, they are well positioned to take advantage of a more interconnected world — notwithstanding any bumps we may have along the way.

Are there any benefits to working in a bank in Thailand, compared to other parts of the world?

Bangkok in particular is growing in to a world village. It’s hard to understate how ‘cool’ that is, especially with its grand old culture. There are not many parts of the world that allow you to immerse yourself in a deep culture and be a citizen of the world at the same time.

Would you recommend your friends to move to Bangkok?

Absolutely! I’ve had the fortune of living in eight cities across emerging and developed economies — and Bangkok is among one of the most incredible places I’ve had the privilege of living in. My suggestion is to be a ‘yes’ person. Bangkok has lots going on, no matter your scene. The trick is to find out the local way to indulge in your passions. You can only do that by saying ‘yes’ to absolutely everything that comes your way in the first few weeks, until you figure out how you would like to spend your time.

Related Articles