Expats in Thailand are All Sex Mad
I suppose it is understandable that male expats in Thailand tend to be viewed cynically by people in the west. The media has done a superb job of hammering home the message that men go to Thailand to have sex, so those of us who decide to live here must have it particularly bad. The harshest critics must find it amazing that any of us have time to email friends and family back at home with all the sex that must be going on – never mind how we find time to update a blog.
I’m not going to claim that all the men who end up in Thailand have come to be celibate Buddhist monks (although some do, and that was sort of my original intention). There are certainly individuals who do fit the stereotype of the sex tourist, but these make up on a tiny minority of the expat community. In my experience the “sexpats” usually don’t last very long because their appetites mean that they burn out – they learn the hard way that you can’t bonk your way to a happy life. The claim that only sex addicts would go to live in Thailand is about as reasonable as saying that only drunks would go to live in Ireland, but it is difficult to get people to see beyond the media stereotype – why should they?
Desperation Drives People to Thailand
I don’t mind that people who don’t know me might assume that I’m some type of sexual reprobate because I live in Thailand. I’ve certainly done my fair share of jumping to conclusions about people based on limited information and stereotypes. The people who matter to me know the truth, so it’s no big deal and I’m not going to whine about the injustice of it all. I will say this though; the vast majority of expats that I know have not ended up living here because of sex. They mostly came because they were unhappy with life back in the west, and Thailand seemed to offer an escape from this. I’m not just talking here about people who were suffering from the Monday morning blues. I’m talking about real and persistent unhappiness that drains all the good out of life. Who knows? Maybe some of these guys might have decided on a more final escape from their miserable existence if they didn’t have Thailand to pin their hopes on. I’ve certainly had emails from people who sounded that desperate.
It was desperation that fueled my decision to move to Thailand back in 2001. I sort of ended up living here by accident really. At that time I was like a dog with shit on its fur who kept moving from place to place in the hope of escaping the smell – not realizing that I was taking the shitty smell with me. I came on holiday from Saudi Arabia where I was working as a nurse. I’d taken the job in Riyadh because a country where alcohol was illegal seemed like good choice for a nervous drunk. I’d hoped that living in the Kingdom of Sand would solve my alcoholism, but things only got worse during my stay there. I strongly suspected that if I returned I’d wind up dead, so as the end of my holiday drew near I began to panic. I decided that if I was going to drink myself to death, I might as well do it somewhere nice like Thailand. I also held onto a tiny bit of optimism that staying here would somehow save me. Maybe I would become a monk and dedicate the rest of my life to meditation.
My state of desperation was more extreme than most, but I’ve heard similar stories from other expats. For some it was just a general sense of dissatisfaction with their life that pulled them to Thailand. It is so easy to feel like a failure in the west and even the winners can end up feeling dissatisfied with their achievements – there is always this push for more, more, more, bigger, brighter, better. I suspect the recent financial woes have only increased these feelings of dissatisfaction with life. There is also the fact that divorce rates are sky rocketing and getting old can be a terribly lonely business – apparently men are far more likely to end up alone than women. It is hardly any surprise that people would fall in love with a culture where dying alone at home without anyone noticing for weeks is almost unheard of.
Thailand is No Magic Solution
The desperation that drove me to Thailand almost killed me. I ended up living in a village in the middle of nowhere, and by that time I’d completely lost hope that this change of scenery could save me. At the end of my drinking I might as well have been sitting in a bus shelter in Brixton for all the good the Thai culture was doing me. I somehow managed to extract myself from this mess, but there are plenty of expats who never manage this. The reality is that the solution that places like Thailand offer to the desperate only works when we face our problems – it doesn’t work if we come to escape them.
Most expats don’t move to Thailand for sex; they come for a fresh start. The ones who end up being successful are the ones who make it work for them. I’m talking here about people who gave up a possible future of loneliness and depression and created a new reality for themselves. Those of us who come to Thailand hoping that the country will somehow fix us are almost doomed to failure – we have to make it work. The irony is that by making this new future in Thailand we come to the realization that this is something we could have done anywhere; maybe even back at home.
I doubt that my description of desperate people ending up in Thailand is much fairer than the idea that we are all sex addicts. I’m sure that there are plenty of highly functioning expats who live here as well – they just don’t hang around in my circles. I’m just trying to show that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about expats in Thailand, and maybe a better understanding of what drives people to move to the other side of the world will be beneficial somehow.