Zydrune (Toma to her friends) is one of thousands of expats living in Bangkok. 4 years ago for the first time she arrived at Suvarnabhumi airport from Lithuania. In this article, she shares her story on how does it feel to be expat from Lithuania in Bangkok.
I came from a small country, located in the centre of the European continent – Lithuania. A country, that isn’t recognised or even heard by many people in Thailand. Those that do, consider it to be a part of Russia or even located somewhere outside of Europe. Perhaps it’s due to our population of just 3 million (not even half that of Bangkok!) which makes us almost non existent. Maybe the name ‘Lithuania’ itself is quite hard to pronounce and remember. When I introduce myself, I know I’ll have to repeat my country’s name two or three times and still see blank faces, people digesting what I’ve said.
However, being a Lithuanian in Thailand is quite unique. No one knows about my origin, has stereotypes about me or understands the language that I speak. I don’t know how many other Lithuanians live in Bangkok but, so far, I haven’t met any. It’s an honour to me to hear people say I am the first Lithuanian they have ever met (I try hard to leave a good impression!) and fascinating to observe them Googling information about my country. But later I became upset. Almost no one, that I met or talked to, knew anything about my country. Whilst travelling around Thailand, people regarded me as just ‘being Russian’. Well, I’m not. I am a Lithuanian and I am proud to be so.
I often felt strange, offended, sometimes even angry and … well, lonely. Here with no family or friends – no one that I could converse in my own language with. ’Didn’t they study geography?!’ I frequently asked myself.
Nevertheless, my life in Thailand has never been depressing. The Thais have always been kind and Bangkok has become my (lovely) second home which I don’t want to leave. Even on my ‘pyjama days’ people smiled and called me beautiful. I’ve never received so many compliments in my life! Living in such a positive environment, and being different (tall and blonde hair), has boosted my self-esteem like never before. I’ve become more confident about my presence and now wear less makeup. People here are more open minded and judge less about, for instance, fashion style and hair colour then back home.
Thais and in particular Bangkokians (as they are who I’ve mainly experienced) truly welcome everyone with warmth. There have been situations when a motorbike taxi driver has offered me fresh mango, local food vendors give an extra topping for free or a generous discount. I’ve lived countless beautiful moments, which made me a better person. The capital city of Thailand is the city where east meets west and there is no issues about it. It’s well named as ‘the city of angels’. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you are going. If you’re a nice person, the locals will treat you the same.
However, I frequently find myself missing nature and the seasonal changes. Autumn, winter, spring, summer… All cities in Lithuania are spacious and filled with constantly changing greenery. We’re huge nature lovers too. It’s only during the cold seasons that we end up hanging out in shopping malls, otherwise it’s berry picking, cycling, camping, swimming in a river and gardening that are the favourite activities of the Lithuanians. People, who visit it, often remark that our cities are the greenest that they have ever seen. We don’t have many warm days like Thailand and it rains often; therefore when the sun does shine we make the most of it.
In Bangkok the lifestyle is different too. Here people are more likely to spend days indoors as outside is very hot. And when it rains it only lasts for a short while. Sure, Bangkok has many large and well maintained parks filled with exotic birds, turtles, fish, and even monitor lizards freely walking around, however the ambience of nature isn’t the same. Tropical flora and fauna proliferates everywhere in the humid heat.
No matter how much I enjoy my life here, I often find myself longing for long breezy summer nights, eating homegrown strawberries, and swimming in a river. That’s how it feels to be Lithuanian in Bangkok: very happy but yearning for the fresh and green nature back home. Well, at least these are my feelings. I hope that some of you’ll visit my country one day and experience the difference it has to offer.