Introduction of Today’s Guest
Today’s guest was born and raised in Minburi, which is one of the 50 districts of Bangkok, Thailand. After moving to America 10 years ago, she has since lived in the States of Texas, California, Delaware and New Jersey. Mother and wife Khun Faridar gives us her insights and story about life in America. Khun Faridar still lives in the United States of America.
Introducing Khun Faridar
All Photographs on this post are courtesy of Khun Faridar
Could you tell us a bit about your upbringing and in Thailand, where you live in America and what first took you there?
I was born and raised in a town called Minburi, it’s in the country side of Bangkok and it’s a Muslim town. Growing up, I had to attend two schools from Monday – Friday until I was 12 years old. I attended elementary school in the mornings and Muslim school in the afternoons. Yes, it was exhausting, but I did pretty good in both schools.
When I went to middle school, I couldn’t come back in time to attend the Muslim school in my neighbourhood, so I had to stop, yay… laughter. More time to hang out with friends. Even though I was raised like a Muslim, I was always curious and sometimes asked myself why I’m not allowed to do this and that. Some things that I was taught in the Muslim school just didn’t make sense to me, and when I got older, I realised that it was too much for me. I wanted the freedom to do things my way, so I left my neighbourhood and move to downtown Bangkok and only went back to visit family once or twice a month.
I came to America with my then fiance, we met in Bangkok while he was working on a contract for a software company. His contract was running out, and we decided to move to America in 2007. So, I’ve now been living here for almost 10 years and am currently living in New Jersey, but I’ve also lived in Texas, Los Angeles and Delaware.
What do you do for a living in America
I’m a full-time mother at the moment, but I’d like to find a part-time job, once I get my driver license. I’ve been living in America for nearly 10 years and I still don’t drive….laughter. My first job was in San Antonio, Texas, I worked in a nearby Thai restaurant as a cook. I couldn’t cook, but they trained me. I actually didn’t like cooking, but I did it so that I wouldn’t be bored and lonely in a foreign land.
My second job was also at a nearby restaurant, but this time I was a waitress in a Vietnamese restaurant. I liked this better as there was no cooking…. laughter. I worked there for a couple of months, but then my husband at the time received a job offer in Austin. It was a 4 hour drive to Austin by car, so we moved there.
In Austin I continued along the waitress path and got a job in the Hyatt Regency, a very nice hotel by the river in down-town Austin. My marriage went south, and I didn’t feel safe around my husband, so I left Austin and moved to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles I moved in with a friend and she helped me get a job where she worked. I became a masseuse at a spa, although I didn’t like touching other people’s bodies, the money was really good…laughter. Especially, as I was now single and had no husband to share my hard-earned money with. This spa was where I met my current husband, and it was my last place to work. I got pregnant and quit my job. My son is now 6 years old.
What are your passions, what do you love to do in your free time?
In my free time, right now, I love working out. I work out at home though, not in a gym and use videos from YouTube. I also love to read posts from my family and friends on Facebook. That’s how I manage to in stay contact with them because they are all in Thailand.
Did you speak English before going to America or did you have to learn when you got there? Was the language and communication a problem?
Yes, I did speak English before I came to America, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I was probably at about 4, so it wasn’t that good. I had to take a class, it’s called ESL (English as a Second Language) and this class is offered pretty much everywhere in America. Most of my classmates were Mexicans, because I was in Texas during that time.
The language was a problem, definitely. When I first came to America, I found that English speakers here speak faster than English Speakers that were living / travelling in Thailand and they used vocabulary that I’d never heard of before. I found that foreigners in Thailand tend to use easy and common vocabulary to communicate with Thai people and often adding the Thai accent as well.
Listening to English on the television was very hard, I couldn’t understand what they were saying most of the time, so I had to turn the caption on, I still do, actually, I don’t really need it but I always turn it on. Oh and listening to English on the telephone was super hard for me too, and there’s no caption for me to turn on either….laughter. I had to ask the person on the other line to repeat what they were saying so many times. There were times when I would run off to my room when the phone rang and pretend not to hear it.
How difficult was it adjusting to life and the culture of America after growing up and living in Thailand? What were the most difficult things to adjust to? Were there actually adjustment challenges living in the different states of America as well? I mean it must be quite different living in Los Angeles to Austin and then New Jersey. What were the main differences coming from Thailand though?
It was pretty hard, I was living in Texas when I first got here and Texas is very big. Everything seemed so far apart and it was way too quiet for me. After 10 pm, the streets would be dark and quiet, people go to bed early here….laughter.
The most difficult thing to adjust to for me would be the transportation, you have to drive to get around, and I didn’t drive. If you want taxis you have to call, buses run on schedule, which is good, but sometimes the next bus could come 2 hours later. There’s no subway or sky train like in Bangkok, I’m complaining about it, but I still don’t drive, after nearly 10 years.
The biggest challenges from living in different states of America would be Weather and Thai food.
Austin : I actually did like the weather there, it’s hot and kind of like Thailand, so I didn’t mind that. Thai food at the restaurants in Austin was tailored to a Western taste and not authentic, so I had to cook Thai food at home most the time.
Los Angeles : Loved the weather in Los Angeles, not as hot as Austin and it doesn’t rain a lot there. Los Angeles was actually my home away from home, there’s Thai Town and the markets, Thai people and restaurants everywhere, it’s so easy and convenient, and the flavour was much more authentic. The first time I went to the Thai market there, I was like yeah, I will survive….laughter. There were all kinds of Thai food ready for me to take home, there were even Thai dessert shops, it felt like home every time I went there. Thai food here is the cheapest of all the places I’ve lived in.
New Jersey : I’ve moved here because my husband’s family are here, it’s the best thing for my son. Let’s talk about the weather, I do not like snow. It’s too cold for me, plus, I have really bad congestion every time that the temperature drops. Summer doesn’t bother me, but people here hate the humidity that comes with it. It rains a lot in the Spring and Fall is just nice and cool, I love the leaf changing colours. Thai food at restaurants here is again tailored to Western taste, so I mostly cook at home.
I have to add another state that I’ve also lived in, Delaware : Delaware is a state next to New Jersey, it’s very small. The weather is just the same as in New Jersey and there weren’t a lot of Thai restaurants at all, so I cooked at home. I still had to go all the way to Philadelphia though to find Asian markets, it was almost a 2 hour drive. I did not like it in Delaware at all, it was way, way, way too slow for a Bangkok girl like me….laughter.
Have you come across many other Thai women married or in relationships with American men. This can be in Austin, Los Angeles or New Jersey. Do they all seem to adapt well to American life. What are the main problems they encounter if any at all.
Most of the Thai women that I’ve met were based in Los Angeles, there is a big Thai population there. The majority were married to Americans, but some were just in a relationship. They seemed to have adapted to American life pretty well, I think this has something to do with them living in Los Angeles, this city is so easy to adapt to. Los Angeles is like a sanctuary for foreigners, it’s easy to find Thai food, easy to meet other Thai faces and easy to get around. The main problem is still the need to drive if you live further away, but it’s easy to get around if you’re in the city.
Although this is a massive generalisation: What are American people like? Could you give me an opinion on family life, American men, women and children through the eye’s of a Thai national? What they enjoy doing, personality etc. This question is a bit harder as you have lived in 4 different states. I should imagine there are quite big differences between Texas men / women and Californian men / women for instance.
In my opinion, I think people in Texas and California are more open minded to foreigners. I believe this is because both states are right on the Mexican border, so when I was living in Texas, people thought I was Mexican, and when I was living in Los Angeles, people thought I was Filipino….laughter. Both states have plenty of sunshine all the year round, so people love doing outdoor stuff. People love taking their kids to the park, jogging and going for picnics. When we lived in California I used to take my son on a stroller to the park all the time. He didn’t need to go to preschool at all, because there were plenty of other kids to play with at the park.
In Jersey, people love going outdoors when the weather permits. People love American football and baseball here, so even in the winter when people can’t enjoy activities outside, they’ll still get together for the games. I think people here are kind of divided in terms of area, for example, I think I might be the only Thai living in my town. Most people here are Caucasian, I guess I’m bringing something new to my neighbourhood. There are other towns nearby that are just filled with African-American, too.
As for Delaware, there’s not much to talk about at all, I wasn’t there for long and I barely talked to anyone…. laughter. It was too slow, so I moved. By the way, Delaware has a nickname. it’s slower – lower Delaware…. laughter. I still enjoy going there to visit my in laws for weekends and holidays, but not to live there, too slow.
Have you ever felt unsafe in America at all or do you have to just be careful about where you go. I imagine that there were some differences between the places that you lived in.
Yes, there were definitely times when I felt unsafe and it’s funny that I felt that way at home, around my ex husband. Let’s just say, that he wasn’t a very nice man. It’s the reason that I moved from Austin to Los Angeles.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I had to select carefully where I went, especially if it was just me and my son. There are some rough areas in Los Angeles. On one occasion, a person got shot and killed right behind my apartment building, I didn’t feel safe any more, so we moved to a much nicer area.
And in Jersey, there’s this town called Camden, it’s only a 15 minute drive by car from my town, this is a very rough town. One day, my husband went to a public speaking event at the city hall over there whilst me and my son waited outside in the yard area. I felt very uncomfortable. I kept watching my back and kept my son very close to me, the people in the yard that I saw that day definitely looked drunk or high from drugs. I never went back there again. It’s pretty sad to me that my town is very safe, but only 15 minutes away is a town that’s so dangerous. Camden has a bad reputation.
Could you give me three things that in your opinion are great about living in America? Could you then give me three things that are not so good about living in America?
Three good things about living in America in my opinion are number one Schools : There are plenty of great public schools here, unlike in Thailand, great schools in Thailand are mostly private, and they cost a fortune each year.
Number two would be the laws for immigrants : If you’ve been living here for a period of time, you can apply for a citizenship, which will make your life in America much easier, no need to keep applying for a visa, plus other benefits too.
Number three would be Medical : Doctors are pretty good at what they do here, very attentive. I can’t really say that about doctors and nurses in Thailand, some of them are kind of mean.
The three not so good things about living in America in my opinion are
Number one,Transportation : If you don’t live in New York, you need to drive…. laughter ahhh… I’m complaining about this again.
Number two, Taxes : They’re so high, especially in Jersey, the property tax is crazy here, some houses are like $12,000 a year, whoa!!!
Number three, Insurance : This is very expensive too, a lot of people can’t afford to have health insurance.
Do you have any family still living in Thailand? Do you miss Thailand at all? Do you manage to get back to Thailand for a visit now and again?
Yes, everyone in my family lives in Thailand, I’m the only one here. I definitely miss Thailand, like all the time… laughter. I miss my family and friends, I miss the street food and I miss the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Everything is just so convenient in Thailand. I’m actually going back there in two weeks time and I’m really excited. However, after this trip, I’m not sure when I will be able to go back again. I’m planning on getting a drivers license – it’s about time… laughter, then get a job, so I don’t know what my schedule will be.
Which are your 3 favourite places to visit in Thailand?
My first favourite place to visit in Thailand is definitely Bangkok: It’s my home town and it never gets boring there. Bangkok is so vibrant, so alive both day and night. I love my home town.
Number two would be the beaches down south: Phuket, Krabi, Samui are so pretty. I’d love to visit other places in the south as well. I might well be visiting Trang when I go back to Thailand on this occasion.
Number three would be Pattaya, so close to Bangkok and so convenient.
Which have been your 3 favourite places that you’ve visited in America? They can include places that you have lived in – if you want.
My 3 favourite places that I’ve visited in America: The first place is Thai town in Los Angeles. Of course, I love Thai food and I’d go there a lot.
The second place is New York, it’s kind of like Bangkok to me, easy to get around. I love seeing all the skyscrapers.
The Third place is Philadelphia. I love seeing old buildings, there’s a lot of history in this city, Liberty Bell is there too. There are lots of good restaurants and a couple of Asian markets. Philly is where I get my Thai ingredients from, it’s not far from where I live at all. There are some rough areas in Philadelphia, but since I pretty much only go there to get groceries and eat at restaurants, I’m not too worried about it. Anyway, I always go to Philly with my husband.
What is the cost of living like in America? Which in your opinion are the expensive things and which are the things of good value?
It very much depends on where you live, the cost of living can be super high. I remember one time having to pay $50 to park in New York after we drove there. I have no idea how people can afford to live there…. laughter. It can also be super low, if you live in a place where no one wants to live, like in Detroit.
For all the places I’ve lived in, Los Angeles was the most expensive. I think I was paying for the nice weather, lifestyle and the vibe…. laughter. The lowest cost of living was definitely Delaware.
The things I think that are expensive are
Insurance : Health insurance can cost over one thousand dollars a month, it’s crazy expensive.
Rent : This depends on where you live, I’ve paid the highest rent in Los Angeles.
Medical : Even if you have insurance, it could still cost you a lot.
Taxes : Ahh…they take so much from your pay-checks…. laughter.
Good value things in my opinion: I really can’t think of any, perhaps electronics and clothes.
What would you say were the main problems in a Thai woman / American man romantic relationship? Are there any similar problems or misunderstandings that relationships have? I’m talking more to do with cultural differences really.
In my opinion, the main problem in most of the Thai woman / foreign men relationships or marriages is financial. From what I’ve seen, it could happen to any couple. Thai people have always been taught to take care of their families. This is not just physically, but financially as well. Thai girls that live abroad will send money home to support their families. Often this can cause trouble between couples as their spouses don’t understand this.
Another thing is the dowry, this one to me is kind of funny…. laughter. I was born and raised in Thailand, but I’m going to have to agree on this with lots of foreign men that want to marry Thai girls. The dowry is silly, it’s like selling your daughters and this also causes trouble for many couples. Some of them even had to say goodbye to each other, it’s not right, love, trust and respect should be enough for them to get married.
Another problem is Thai food, this is very silly… laughter. Some foreign husbands out there won’t let their Thai wives cook Thai food at home because of the smells. Oh my god, can we ask you to stop cooking the food that you grew up eating at home, as well ? That’s so unfair. If you love the girl, let her eat and cook whatever she wants. She is so far away from home and the food is like her Thai friend in a foreign land. Your girl will miss home a lot less if you let her cook what she wants.
Some Thai women think that moving to America or Europe means a better life instantly. What advice would you give Thai women that were thinking of living in America? What would you advise them to beware of? Could you give me 3 things for them to think about before moving overseas?
I’d say be prepared. It’s a new country, new faces, new culture, new laws and things might not turn out the way you want. Maybe you’ll have a better life and better finances, but you won’t get to see your family very often and that causes stress. I’d say just prepare yourself in all aspects. Beware of people who try take to advantage of you, just because you are new to their country. Choose your friends wisely, sometimes, even your spouse can take advantage of you, so make sure you know your legal rights and learn the language.
3 things I’d like to point out to any Thais who want to move to another country would be
Reason to move : Think about why you’re moving, is it worth leaving everything you know in Thailand? Because you will miss it, so be prepared as you will miss home.
Plans : What if you get there and things don’t turn out how you thought, what are you going to do, then? I’d say always have a plan B, and even a plan C, as anything could happen anywhere.
Lifestyle : Get ideas about the country you are moving to and ask yourself if you can adjust to the lifestyle. There are some people that have moved back to Thailand, after just a couple of months of living abroad.
You have 24 hours to do exactly what you want with. Money is no object and is not a restriction. Where would you spend your day and what would you do? You can be in Thailand, America or wherever you like. There are no restrictions. Where and what would you do with your morning, where and what would you do with your afternoon and where and what would you do with your evening? What’s your ideal day?
I would hop on a private jet in the morning and go to Bangkok. I’d go on a condo shopping spree in the afternoon and purchase a nice 2+ bedroom condo on Sukhumvit road. The location must be perfect, very close to the BTS sky train and preferably from Thong Lor to Chid Lom.
This would be more like an investment actually as my family can stay in this condo when we visit Bangkok, or we could rent it to someone when we’re not there. Then, when evening comes, I’ll be opening a bottle of champagne and celebrating with my family. Ahh…I hope this comes true one day…. laughter.
A very big thank you to Khun Faridar for taking the time to share her experiences and insights on living in America. There has been much change and adapting to do in the 10 year period of her living in the States. The first part did not go as hoped and she could have just said ” hell, I’m going back home to Thailand.” I am sure there were times when she wanted to. However, she came up with a plan B, moved to Los Angeles, found work, re-married and is now a very happy wife and mother living in New Jersey. I’ve enjoyed the interview with Khun Faridar and thank her immensely.