Thais Abroad: Living in Edinburgh, Scotland (Part 2)

For today’s interview on Thai Women Living Abroad, we continue the interview with my guest Khun Sittha. This is part two of a three part interview that starts in the northeast of Thailand, and arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland after stopping off in Bangkok and Malta. Nowadays and since 2003 my guests home has been in Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband. These are the views, insights and experiences of Khun Sittha.

Introducing Khun Sittha

Scotland Photographs courtesy of Khun Sittha

Is there a big Thai community in your area? Are you in contact with many Thai women as friends and do they tend to stick together? Do they all seem to adapt well to life in Scotland.

In Edinburgh and the surrounding area there are quite a few Thai people, but they are fairly scattered around.

Often they will meet up at annual events. The temple arranges various activities every year especially during the month of April for Songkran. Aside from the normal annual festival, the temple also hosts many other merit making activities as well. These activities consist of praying, performances, children performances, food tasting plus lots of other food and products for sale within the grounds.

When there’s no annual festival, Thai people live with their families or follow their normal daily routines. For instance, people that have work to do consequently go to work. The type of work that Thai people do here are mainly things like restaurant work, traditional massage, cleaning and working in hotels. For those with children, well they mostly stay home and look after the children. They may take the children out to a public park or take the children to school and go to collect them at the end of the school day. Mostly, people here look after the children by themselves. The charges here for hiring someone to look after the children are terribly expensive. So, the Thai people here that I know with children look after them by themselves, and don’t have time to work.

I got to know quite a few Thai people whilst I was working as a translator. So far as friends go though, there were only about 6 Thai people that were really close friends, and would come to my home. We’ve been meeting together for a long time now, but each scheduled meeting needs to be arranged for months in advance. This is due to each person having their own various responsibilities. Some people have to work, look after the home, prepare food, look after the children as well as other things.

Life here in the main involves being self-reliant, this basically means doing everything by yourself. You must have responsibility for duty, punctuality and use the time available to the maximum benefit. You should use your free time to further develop yourself. The cost of living here is quite high, so if you don’t want to have problems then you need to do everything for yourselves.

This is a massive generalisation, but what are the Scottish people like? What do they enjoy doing and what are the personalities and character traits of the Scottish people?

In my opinion people in general here enjoy solitude, they live together in small families consisting of the mother, father and children. At age 18 when the children grow up and go to university, they move out of the family home and live independently. If the children do not go on to further studies then they will go and look for work. They will save a sum of money for the freedom of renting a property. The people here do not interfere too much in personal matters, but they are friendly, polite and kind. If you were to ask for help though, it’s a case of if they can help, they will. In the early day’s when I arrived here, I used to stray off the beaten path occasionally. I would smile in a friendly manner and asked them to put me back on the right path again. A smile is always a good thing, as when I smiled the majority would smile back to me.

In addition, the people here are big on punctuality, rules and regulations. For example following the rules of the road and things like waiting for bus and other services. When it’s time to work though they certainly work. On Friday and Saturday nights, people like to hang out with their friends in restaurants, nightclubs and other entertainment venues. Scotland produces excellent quality brands of whisky and exports these to overseas markets. With the quality produced, it’s not uncommon for men to drink and socialise. On Sunday’s Scottish people usually spend time with their families.

I think that Scotland is like any country with both good and bad people. The families here are very much the same and sometimes there are problems. Sometimes there are serious violent arguments, some couples get married and then get divorced. There are poor people, homeless people and beggars. Most men here are very responsible and are ready to have a family. Most of the women here work and will share the living costs with the man. Here the cost of living is very high and most people spend wisely and carefully. Living together as a family comes with shared duties in the home. Things like doing the house work, looking after the children if they have children, putting the children to bed, waking the children up, preparing breakfast and so on. One will make the food, and the partner will do the dishes.

What is the cost of living like in Scotland ? Which in your opinion are the expensive things and which are the things of good value? Could you give me three things of each, please?

Living in Scotland is fairly similar to living in any of the European countries, whereby there are a lot of expenses. For example, there’s the paying of income tax, National Insurance deductions, the mortgage / rent, council fees, the gas, electricity, food, clothing, travel expenses, various insurance fees and the television license fee that has to be paid by law. There are many more costs besides these, but I don’t want to mention them. Some of the costs are very expensive and some are reasonable, but this depends on one’s personal opinion. For me though I think it borders on the expensive side in Scotland.

1) Income tax starts at the rate of 20% from your earnings and increases steadily up to 40%. It can go to as high as 45% to the high wage earners. These tariffs do not include the National Insurance rate of 12% that’s paid alongside income tax.

2) I think accommodation costs / rent in Scotland are really expensive, especially the houses in a good location of the city. Every month people here pay approximately 30 – 40% of their income on accommodation costs / rent.

3) I think the prices of fresh fruit and vegetables that are imported from Thailand are very expensive. For example, rambutan is sold in Thailand at a price of 30 – 40 baht per kilo, but when they are imported here, I have to pay 250 – 300 baht per kilo.

A few examples of stuff that’s not that expensive or at least reasonable

1) Things that I use like clothes, shoes, bags etc I think are quite reasonable and even cheap. Especially when these are at discounted rates of 50 – 75 %. I tend to wait until these items are at a discounted rate.

2) The price of cars produced in Europe are quite reasonable. For example, the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque in Scotland sells new vehicles starting at approximately 1.33 million baht. However, when the same cars are imported into Thailand the starting price are approximately 3.99 million baht.

3) Drinks like wine, champagne and whisky are not expensive. The water here is free. People here can drink free tap water until the cows come home.

Could you give me three things that in your opinion are great about living in Scotland? Could you then give me three things that are not so good about living in Scotland?

No matter where you live there will be advantages and disadvantages. That means there’s no place that’s a 100 percent perfect or no place that’s 100 percent terrible. I believe that if I look for the good, then I will meet good things and my life will be happy. In my opinion, I think the advantages of living in Scotland are as follows ……

1) The atmosphere here is really excellent, the country as a whole is beautiful and the weather is nice. The environment is uncrowded and in the city there are some beautiful parks that I enjoy taking walks in. Scotland has superb natural beauty for those who enjoy nature. Just outside the city a little there are mountains, rivers, lakes and also wildlife. For example, there’s wild deer, long necked herons, eagles, teal, squirrels, wild rabbits and many other wild animals. When I have free time I like to go out and admire the nature by walking in the forest and the hills which is so peaceful. I am always very happy when I see wildlife and nature here and Scotland has wildlife protection laws in place. The majority of people respect and comply with the laws. If anyone wants to go fishing, then you require a license. If anyone wants to hunt deer, then you also require a license. Further more, you can only hunt for the time that the law permits. This is why Scotland is still full with wildlife and beautiful nature.

2) The welfare of the people here is inclined to be good. The obvious examples are medical benefits, educational benefits and aside from this people also have the opportunity to visit museums in Scotland without any charges at all.

3) Traveling and using the road in Scotland is reasonably convenient and most motorists respect the traffic laws. When people stand and wait to cross the road, the cars will always give way and wait for the pedestrians to cross the road. On the buses there’s wheelchair space for people with disabilities and there is enough space for strollers. When there are elderly people that enter the bus at a slower pace, the driver will wait until they are seated before continuing with the journey. The pavements are smooth and all in order, there are no holes or obstructions anywhere.

After discussing the advantages of living in Scotland, I will now talk about a few of the disadvantages of living here.

1. There are some days during the winter time when you don’t see any sunshine at all and it’s really cold. You have to contend with wind heavy rain and some years there’s heavy snow fall as well. This causes the temperatures to drop below freezing and it’s just so cold.

2. The daily cost of living here is very high and as a result of that the labour costs are high also. Like paint, repairing the boiler in the house and other things. I therefore have to pay to have trades people come in and do the work. It’s very expensive.

3. Whilst staying in Scotland, it doesn’t matter how tired I am, I still have to make food for myself almost every day. There are no inexpensive roadside food stalls here like there are in Thailand. I miss Thailand so much now. Being in Scotland now, I miss the convenience of buying those delicious snacks.

What would you say were the main problems in a Thai woman / Scottish man romantic relationship? Are there any similar problems or misunderstandings that relationships have? I’m talking more to do with cultural differences really.

There are minor problems that I see with Thai people I know that are married with Scottish people. These problems are the causes of some divorces. Let me give you a few examples of some of the main problems. If these types of problems remain unresolved, it can lead to a couple going separate ways.

The first problem is that of language / culture, and that of communication in general. The people here use English, so Thai people that come to live here must learn and practice listening, speaking and reading in English. Then, they will be able to communicate with people here competently. For the majority of the time, people here that are not totally satisfied with something, will talk through a problem until they find a solution. The majority of Thai people will not speak when they are dissatisfied or angry about something. Further more, they will keep the dissatisfaction to themselves, become increasingly stressed and remain silent for a long time. Instead of talking things through together they abuse each other. In families here there are sometimes incidents of violence towards each other, and that can eventually lead to a couple separating.

Another problem that I think is a major problem is the difference of cultures within families. As a general rule, Thai people live in large families with grandparents, parents, children, uncles, aunts and other relatives. They all hope and wait for financial support to come from abroad. However, people here and families need financial support as well. There’s the husband, wife and the children that still have not moved out from the family home. Most people here don’t understand why Thai people send financial support back to relatives in Thailand. I see couples fight over this matter for years and finally it can lead to divorce in the end.

Khun Sittha


Thais Abroad: Living in Edinburgh, Scotland (Part 1)

Thai Language Version Full Interview / จากนครพนมสู่เอดินเบิร์กประเทศสก๊อตแลนด์

Part 3 Coming soon

We will be looking at ……

Missing Thailand, safety in Scotland, Places worth visiting in Scotland and advice to Thai women living in Scotland and abroad in general.

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