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From Canada to Thailand: Thai Canuck

10 November, 2014 13:09  Erin Erin

Thai CanuckHi, I'm Steve and I am from Canada.  As a Canuck with a last name like LePoidevin and coming from the province of Quebec, most people would assume that I am French. But no, I was born into a totally English family in a totally French province with a name more Francais than that of most Quebecers!  Maybe that was the origin of my global psyche!

My background is in chemistry, mathematics and ceramic arts. Yes, you heard that right! I took a ten-year sabbatical early in my teaching career to work as a full-time production potter.  Over the years, I have also dabbled in magic, publishing, goat farming, writing, music and website development.  I love anything with two wheels and have toured extensively throughout North America with my wife, Nancy, on our 1500cc cruiser.  I have gone through several electric and gas scooters, two trikes and one motorcycles since I moved to Asia seven years ago. After thirty years of teaching several thousand students in three provinces and four countries, I am now retired in Thailand.  These days, I spend my time blogging, building websites and traveling in both real and virtual worlds.

Both my sons managed to finish university, which is great. One now owns a bar/deli in China; the other is a musician who periodically spends a lot of time on the road. So far, neither has used their university education to make a living. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing!

1. Why did you move abroad?
During the winter of 2008, I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in teaching Science at a large international school in China. I had taught Chemistry for one year in Scotland a decade earlier and had thought about teaching overseas again before I retired so I jumped at the chance. Within three weeks, my wife and I had left our perfectly good jobs, sold all our belongings and moved to Wuhan, China from a town of five thousand to a city of ten million. We were ready for a new adventure.  Six years later, after falling in love with Asia and all its idiosyncrasies, we retired to Thailand.

2. How do you make a living?
As an expat on a retirement visa, I am not allowed to work in Thailand. Therefore, I am living totally off my pension and savings at this point.  It is possible to work online for a little extra money, but whether this is legal or not is still a debatable issue here.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate via Skype every week or two. With today's technology, it is relatively easy to stay in touch with friends and family around the world.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Chiang Mai?

We love the year-round hot weather after being in a cold climate for so many years. It is really great to be able to live in a nice, comfortable condo, with a pool, in the center of a fairly large city with all the modern amenities on a total budget of less than $2000 per month.  Also, as avid motorcyclists, we love the fact that we can be riding along twisting mountain roads through incredible scenery within twenty minutes in any direction.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Chiang Mai?

I can't think of anything I really don't like about the place. I suppose it would be nice if the burning season didn't exist. For a month or two in the spring, the air can get a little smoky because of farmers burning their rice paddies. There is a lot of whining by local expats about this every year but after living in China for several years, we hardly notice it!

6. What do you miss most?
Cheap wine, cheese and maple syrup! All three are outrageously expensive here!

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?

It is actually very easy to meet people here. There is an active expat club that meets monthly and many interest groups that meet on a weekly basis. I also belong to one of the local gyms where I have met several locals and other expats. We go on weekly rides with a local motorcycle club that gives us another opportunity for lots of socializing.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Again, after living in China for six years, this country is pretty normal. I wouldn't call it strange but it is different that everyone here is so quiet, polite and respectful. It is a very laid back culture. Time is meaningless. Also, the Thai people are very accepting of everyone. Whether you are old or young, gay or straight, male or female or other, they couldn't care less. The national phrase is "It just doesn't matter" which has been my mantra for years.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
There are several, I guess. Here are a few truths to dispel some of the myths. Tourism is responsible for only about 7% of the GDP, which is substantial, but much less than the 60% from exports. Many Thais carry guns and it is not unusual to have shots fired during altercations. Buddhist monks love their iPads and iPhones and a good number are more than a little wealthy.  Although mostly Buddhist, Thais love meat so although it's not hard to find vegetarian fare, most Thai food contains meat of some kind.  Tourist scams abound throughout the kingdom, especially in the larger tourist meccas of the south. These days, there is a lot of talk about the oppression of living under military rule. We don't even notice it and most tourists will say the same thing.

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
As hard as it is to believe, the cost of living is even lower than China in some respects. Although much less expensive than western countries, prices are steadily increasing. It is still possible to have a good lifestyle for less than $2000 per month in Chiang Mai and for much less than that in rural areas. Of course, for those that frequent the bars all day, those monthly costs are going to increase exponentially.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
Try to learn a bit of the language wherever you are, preferably before you arrive. There is a lot of English spoken here but as soon as you leave the urban areas, knowing some Thai becomes necessary.  Don't get upset by the small stuff. People often want their adopted country to change to suit them but it is not going to happen. Don't rush into buying anything if you are planning to stay long term. Rent for awhile, do lots of research and then make some decisions.

12. When and why did you start your blog?
Thai Canuck
I have been blogging for a few years on several sites. I originally started to write about all our motorcycle trips throughout North America back in 2005 on my own website. I later moved on to travelblog.org, a great free travel blog site. Soon after moving to China, I started my own Wordpress site.  What began as chinacanuck.com has turned into http://thaicanuck.com.  All my writing began as a way to keep friends and family informed of our adventures but now I get visitors from all over the world.


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