Why: "I moved to Thailand after the death of my mother three years ago," Carl says. "I learned life could be cut short, and that 'working' should be secondary to 'living'. I felt I needed to do something bold to refresh my soul. I gave notice, told my friends and family, sold everything I owned, cashed out, and was gone in five months. I moved to Thailand with everything I owned in three suitcases."
Life before Thailand: Carl was living a fabulous life in New York City: in his words, "a dream job, awesome friends, expensive shoes, holidays in the Greek Islands -- and a lot of stress". "I needed pills to put me to sleep at night and coffee to keep me awake during the day," he says.
The life he has created in Thailand: Carl traveled and studied the Thai language for the first three years. He has recently begun working as a creative director for Bigz Entertainment – a production company that, among other things, makes television sitcoms (think Saved by the Bell meets Sesame Street) that assist with English language teaching and learning in Bangkok’s public schools.
Biggest culture shock:Every day is a culture shock, according to Carl, which is why he chose Thailand in the first place. "Westerners try to understand Thais by comparing cultures and customs and this leads to frustration and disappointment," he says. "One must 'suspend' preconceptions and expectations and then relax and go with the flow. The easiest example: no one is in a hurry here and people are often late without warning. If you understand that it’s not a lack of consideration but an acceptable norm, you’ll be ok."
Biggest challenge: "Learning to speak Thai."
Biggest reward: "When someone understands what I am trying to say."
Top Bangkok restaurants: "I keep it simple and I prefer 'real' Thai restaurants – out doors -- with lively customers, beer towers and buckets of ice, a live band, and muted (or not) football games on the big screen TVs," Carl says. "If they don’t speak English there, you’ve found one."
Best Bangkok spas for massage and pampering: "I’ve only had one Thai massage I didn’t like and that was at a place for tourists (I paid four times what I would pay at a store front massage shop on Silom Road)," Carl says. "I do splurge (that is, pay Western prices) for manis and pedis. I go to Nail & Spa at Q-House Lumphini. They have the facilities and equipment that promote proper hygiene."
How he spends his downtime: "I love exploring the Thai neighbourhoods and side sois scattered throughout Bangkok," Carl says. One of my favorites is Ban Kai, sandwiched between Sukhumvit and Rama 4 on what is, ironically, some of the most expensive real estate in Bangkok. It’s the real deal – it feels more like you’re walking through an upcountry village than a cosmopolitan capital."
His favourite Thai expression: Carl nominates a Thai word, rather than an expression: พี่ (in English, pronounced something like “pee”). "Thais are very formal with people they don’t know – especially foreigners – and tend to use titles when addressing you," Carl explains. "Typically, it is Khun Carl, which is like Mr Carl. But when a Thai person begins to call me Pee Carl (literally, older brother Carl) I know I have passed “the test” and secured a special place in their heart."