Culture Shock 101

I am an adventurous person by nature. I love seeing the world through new people, places and experiences. However, moving to a foreign country is completely different to actually visiting one. When I say foreign, I mean outside of the Western world. I know many people who have moved countries within the Western world and yes, its tough. However, moving to a country with a completely different culture, language, food and way of life has bee one of the most daunting yet worthwhile experiences I have ever been through, well still going through.

Language Barrier

When moving to Thailand, I knew that there would be a language barrier. However, I was shocked at how much of a barrier actually exists. In the city of Bangkok, most locals can speak simple English but where I have been placed, barely anyone can. Its been difficult and frustrating at times when I’m trying to get a simple message across, figuring out what it is that I are about to eat or just saying where I would like to go. Even with the basic Thai that I have learnt, I am often misunderstood as the language has five different tones that i haven’t mastered, yet. Additionally, I don’t think my accent helps the situation either.


If you thought you could move to Asia and carry on eating the way you always have, think again. Western food is much more expensive than the local Thai food and isn’t as easily accessible. The average street food meal will cost you between 40-60 baht, whereas a Western meal could be anything between 150-500 baht. However, sometimes the prices isn’t even enough to put you off! Sometimes the craving and familiarity of home just becomes too much and you will probably give in.

Thai food is delicious, honestly. However, sometimes the ingredients they use are so foreign to Westerners that it puts us off even trying the meal. I know its daunting, trust me, I’m going through it right now. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how delicious some of these ingredients are when developed in a meal the Thai way.

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Way of Living

The local way of living is vastly different from the Western way of living, which has been a major adjustment. I live in a big apartment block with 20 floors. My apartment is a big room with everything I need as a bachelor. However, as I walk through the corridors, there are full-on families living in most apartments, to which I have one to myself. I almost feel guilty every time someone sees me entering the apartment alone but it is simply a cultural difference that I have to get used to. Additionally, most houses/apartments don’t have a kitchen, which is totally foreign to me. Guess it’s Thai street food for me every night!

As I am living just outside of Bangkok, the local people don’t often see many Western foreigners (known as farangs but pronounced falangs). I’ll be casually walking around the local shopping center and look up to find a couple of people staring at me, and with no shame might I add! At first it was pretty intimidating but I’ve learnt just to take it in my stride.

There are so many differences between our ways of living but these are the things have stood out to be within my first two weeks in my new ‘permanent’ home. I’m sure plenty more will pop up once I start teaching.

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Reality hits…

Let me be real. Culture shock is hectic. You think, “Ah i’ll get used to this food” but that pizza craving just won’t go away and cheese is just so expensive. You practice your Thai and then someone says a short sentence to you. All of a sudden you are back to square one and don’t understand a single thing they just said. You think “I’ll just buy some pasta and sauce to make in my apartment”, then you realize you don’t have a kitchen and even the Western ingredients are expensive. You may feel like everything is counting against you and there might be a few tears involved but there is hope.


  1. In all fairness, you should really delve right into trying and testing the local food cause chances are, it’ll be really great. It will also allow you to interact with locals on a more personal level. This is especially the case in Thailand where food is something that brings people together. You will probably end up trying some weird but wonderful foods, that you would never have the opportunity to do so back home.
  2. Keep yourself busy – Go see all the attractions you want or even take a day trip somewhere just outside of your area. This way, there is always something to look forward to.
  3. Put some effort in and try to learn the local language.
  4. Do as much in your local community as possible – join the gym, buy their local produce or start Muay Thai.
  5. Treat yo’self! Be it that pizza, chocolate or cocktail – do it every now and then.
  6. Take in every experience and learn from it.
  7. Things aren’t always going to go your way but make sure you tackle every challenge with a positive mindset.
  8. Rather than simply consuming what is around you, create positive experiences.
  9. Work on a ‘passion project’ on the side (Mine is this blog and its been truly instrumental in keeping me up-to-date with what i’m doing but my emotions too).

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Kelsey x

Author: growingandglowingabroad

Hello & welcome to Growing & Glowing Abroad, Throughout my five years of studying in my home country South Africa. I never knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. However, a trip to Greece in 2015 gave me a renewed sense of enthusiasm.  A couple more trips (and a lot of waitressing) to various destinations made me realize how much growing and glowing occurred during those adventures. Although I thoroughly enjoyed what I studied, I just wasn't ready for that office life yet. This led me to apply to teach English in Thailand through XploreAsia, which will be my home for the next few months, maybe even more - who knows! This page will include past and future travel experiences, which I hope you will fine useful :) Kelsey x

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