Our emigrants: a Russian woman spoke about the pros and cons of life in Thailand
Evgenia Sycheva has been living in Thailand for 10 years. Together with her Thai husband, she is raising three children: daughters, 8 and 10 years old, and a four-year-old son. Evgenia told how the local education system works, and whether a foreigner can become his own in Thailand, reports “Chalk".
once Eugene went on vacation to Thailand and fell in love with this country and people. On her next trip, she met a Thai. Friendly relations grew into romantic ones - the couple simply could not leave. They decided to try living together in Thailand. After 3 months, the lovers got married and have been living in Phuket ever since.
First impression is deceptive
“Thailand fascinated me with eternal summer, positive people, delicious food and a feeling of complete freedom. But these were first impressions, - says Evgenia. - Thai food quickly became monotonous for me, and I got tired of eating only it. As for “complete freedom”, everything also turned out to be not so simple.
A foreigner in Thailand can only work with a work permit, which is expensive and very difficult to obtain, and often employers themselves are not interested in this, as Yevgenia says. She notes that Thai laws are very strict, a foreigner can easily go to jail for illegal work as a guide, hairdresser, taxi driver. And, finally, eternal summer is not really summer. The Thais also have "winter" - the rainy season, which lasts from May to October. A tropical downpour is literally rain like a bucket. Walking down the street under it is unrealistic: in a few seconds you will get wet through, as the woman says.
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“It's cold and unpleasant. After the first time I got caught in the rain, I got very sick and realized that this would happen all the time: there were air conditioners in the shops, fans in the cafe. It is impossible to hide from them. At first, I was perplexed because it was impossible to dry things at this time of the year: the humidity went off scale,” says Evgenia.
Being pregnant in Thailand is an unforgettable experience
In 2013, Evgenia became pregnant. During her first pregnancy, she was scared: what language does the doctor speak? Suddenly something goes wrong? Therefore, Evgenia got registered in a private international hospital with a Russian-speaking translator. In Thailand, these are hospitals - huge multi-storey buildings combined into a hospital campus. “It is very convenient, because both the adult clinic and the children's clinic, as well as all the specialists, all the equipment and all the departments, including the maternity department, are located in one place,” Evgenia says.
She chose the doctor and the hospital based on the opinions of Russian mothers in the local community. She was surprised by the management of the pregnancy: despite the status of an international hospital, it was a typical “taystyle”.
“No tests, examinations and unnecessary questions and horror stories that I encountered in Russian clinics. No “old-timer” statuses (the first time I gave birth at 34) and the doctor’s absolutely confident attitude that everything will be fine, ”she says.
Evgenia was surprised that ultrasounds are done here every month. Due to the fact that in Thailand they do not do a general examination when registering for pregnancy, the gynecologist may not be aware of other problems of the pregnant woman.
“Personally, at that time I had myopia and VVD (vegetovascular dystonia - such a diagnosis does not exist in Thailand and many other countries). My first Thai gynecologist did not see indications for a caesarean section and strongly recommended natural childbirth, says Evgenia. “But at the 6th month of my first pregnancy, after falling off a motorbike (there is no public transport in Thailand), my retina was torn.”
At childbirth and in the postpartum period, the hospital offers services in the “birth package” system, according to Evgenia.
It includes the work of staff, an operating room, a separate ward for mother and child (usually the father is also located there), food and care. Plus a basic set for a newborn for the duration of the stay and for discharge.
10 years ago, a generic package cost less than $1300. Then the prices rose a little, as the woman says.
After the first birth, Evgenia was surprised that Thai friends of her husband came to the ward - so easily to look at the baby. “Everyone brought either envelopes with money or kits for newborns and took pictures with the baby in the background. Everyone was so happy, as if it was a new addition to their family. It was very nice to see and feel such an attitude towards yourself and the child, ”says Evgenia.
During her third pregnancy, she was diagnosed with which in Russia they would probably be forbidden to give birth, according to the woman. But the Thai gynecologist told Evgenia that there were no options: she must give birth, because abortion is prohibited in Thailand. They were allowed on February 7, 2021.
“That is why the third pregnancy became special for me and the third child, a son, is perceived by me as a miracle and a gift from above,” says Evgenia.
During all three pregnancies, she felt like a queen. On the street, they gave way to her, in establishments (even like a car service) they brought a high chair, everywhere they offered water, and absolutely everyone around was smiling, looking at the girl’s stomach. Evgenia says that it is an unforgettable feeling to be pregnant in Thailand.
“There are no own and other people's children, there are just children”
Every trip with a small child to the store or to the market is the inevitable tenderness and sweets from the Thais, as the woman says.
“You have to get used to it. Thais say: "There are no own and other people's children, there are just children." So my future husband said at the stage of dating and, I must admit, won me over with this phrase, - says Evgenia. “Then I heard these words from our Thai neighbor, mother of two children (who, by the way, were raised by their stepfather and considers them his own).” A neighbor began to help Evgenia with her first child and constantly taught her children that you need to love her baby as your sister. Now the neighbor's children are already teenagers, but they take care of Evgenia's children as if they were their own, and her children think that this family is their relatives.
“And I will not dissuade them of this. During these 10 years in Thailand, I seem to have realized that there are no other people's children, ”she says.
At first, Evgenia was incomprehensible and unusual for such an attitude towards children, but over time she realized its meaning. In Thailand, the elderly do not have pensions. Or rather, there is, but only among civil servants. In addition, in Thailand there is no concept of “maternity leave”. Old people without a pension live mainly with the support of children or relatives (if there are no children or if they do not yet earn money themselves).
A pregnant Thai woman has 2 months of maternity leave, which she can take both before and after giving birth, if she is officially employed and does not want to lose her job. After the birth of a child, as a rule, they are given to their parents or relatives in the village for upbringing for up to three years. Or the family, on the contrary, takes the parents from the village to their house in the city, so that they look after the child while mom and dad work.
Thus, everything is in business: the older generation raises grandchildren, young people work and support their parents, as the woman says.
Naturally, there are families where there are no children. These are, as a rule, single aunts and uncles, but their cousins also give them to raise their children, and also help with money, food, and housing.
“My husband's first wife just grew up in a family with 11 children, and one of these children (a childless aunt) raised all her nephews. Now her grandchildren live with her. She did not have her own house, her brothers built a house for her, and now she is the center of the whole clan. We also often go to her, because the granddaughters of my husband grow up in this family, ”says Evgenia.
In Thailand, breastfeeding is not common - children grow up with grandmothers, therefore, mainly on mixtures, as the woman said.
Evgenia considers the lack of communication between mother and child to be a minus, but the Thais themselves do not consider this a problem. Their children are surrounded by care and attention of other family members. For Thais, this is a natural model, and many young parents themselves grew up with grandmothers or among other relatives.
“It turns out that in the literal sense, a “glass of water” in old age here depends on the quality of raising children. They say that this model was invented by the recently deceased King Rama IX, who began his reign more than 60 years ago,” says Evgenia.
At school, children do not know which of them is an excellent student and which is a loser
Officially, the school curriculum in Thailand begins at the age of five, preparatory - at three. At first, Evgenia was perplexed: school from the age of three? But she had no choice. The Thais themselves are trying to send the child to school exactly at 3 years old, so that he joins society and does not lag behind, and also so that by 5 the basic program has already been mastered.
From the age of three, a Thai child wears a school uniform, learns the Thai alphabet, dances on the line, sings the Thai anthem, prays and meditates. In addition to the alphabet, young students learn the rules of conduct and absorb the values that are characteristic of the Thai nation: respect for elders, honoring parents, love for their country and king. Respect, as Eugenia says, for His Majesty and his family is the same rule as respect for the elderly and parents, but the royal family is rather even in the first place.
It is at the age of 3 to 5 years, with the active participation of school teachers, that the foundation is laid on which Thai society rests.
“In terms of homework, the load is small, but I think it all depends on the school. Our children go to private school, because the state discipline is much tougher and the workload is greater,” the woman says.
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Her children's school is one of the most budgetary private schools in Phuket. Firstly, because the school itself is Thai (not international), and secondly, the training program here is in Thai (in English it is 2 times more expensive).
There are 2 semesters in the academic year, you can pay them 2 times a year.
“Our program costs $760 a year. Lessons start at 8 am and end at 15-16 pm. The end of the day depends on the age. After this time, you can pay for an after-school program or an additional section (for example, taekwondo) at the same school - if the parents work until 18:00, the child will be supervised. The school has a swimming pool, sports and music halls: sports and music are included in the basic program, ”says Evgenia.
As such, there are no assessments here, the woman says, there are points and the concept of done / not done.
Perhaps the main difference from the Russian school, according to Evgenia, is that the Thai school does not discuss student performance in their presence. That is, the students themselves do not know who is behind them and who is the leader. They are all equal among themselves, the progress of each is reported only to parents. Evgenia considers this reasonable and effective in terms of stress prevention.
Her high school girls are now only 10 and 8 years old. So far, for them, school is primarily a place to communicate with friends, as the woman says. In the second - lessons, strict teachers and homework. Evgenia says that the schedule for children is in electronic form, from the age of 5–6 they go to classes on their own. There are parental chats, they are in Thai, so Evgenia's husband communicates there.
There are several religions in Thailand, most of the schools adhere to Buddhism, there are also Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox schools.
“The religious direction of my children's school is different from that of our family. However, this is not a problem. In general, the schools themselves are ordinary, not religious, just religion comes as a “format” within the framework of one of the disciplines and prayer included in the program of the line,” says Evgenia.
She says that Thai parents ask their children every day after school, “Was it fun?” She suggests that this will probably shock Russian parents.
“I'm not sure about public schools, in ours one line with dances already sets the mood. The teachers, by the way, also dance, ”says Evgenia.
Her husband has three children from his previous two marriages. They are 20, 23 and 36 years old. Using their example, Evgenia thinks that everything is the same with universities as in Russia. There are budget places: for example, one son of her husband is a football player and he was given a budget place and a hostel to play for the university team. And his other son is not an athlete - he had to enroll in paid education and rent an apartment in another city.
Grandparents are here in common
“The main feature and my shock is that a Thai wife is not obliged to cook and most often does not even know how,” says Evgenia. - In ordinary Thai houses there are no kitchens, because Thais do not cook in the way that is customary in Russia. Even if there is a room under the kitchen, then there are no kitchen sets and stoves with an oven, because in Thai cuisine there are no pastries and baked dishes.
In houses like villas, of course, there is a headset and a stove, but this is more for foreigners, as the woman says. She says that Thai housewives, even from rich houses, would still rather buy food in a restaurant than cook themselves. Because there is a lot of street food around, prices in cafes and restaurants are so affordable that it is really easier and faster than cooking at home, according to Evgenia.
Thailand has interesting traditions.
“For example, several hundred people can gather at the funeral of one Thai grandmother, who, in the understanding of the Thais, will be her relatives, and in the understanding of the Russians, they will be strangers,” says Evgenia. “A Thai employee may be asked to attend grandparents’ funerals several times a year, which causes confusion for foreign employers.”
Evgenia explains that the whole point is that among the Thais, everyone who bears the same surname is considered a family. And relatives are those families who have common children and grandchildren. Even those couples who have separated, but they have common children, unite their parents, grandparents, as well as their relatives and other relatives.
Thus, as the woman says, just as “there are no other people's children, there are common ones,” there are no other people's old people either.
“Grandmothers and grandfathers are also common here. And that, in my opinion, is very cool,” she says.
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“I was struck by the Thai attitude towards life, which should be “sabay” (pleasant). To people: you need to help everyone, and someday they will help you. For children: there are only common ones. To society: first do it for others, then for yourself, or just make sure that you don’t bother anyone. Attitude to time: the future is a mirage, there is only now. It turns out that what is taught all over the world at expensive trainings, Thai society teaches its children for free from the cradle, ”says Evgenia.
Strict laws for foreigners have separated the family
Now Evgenia was forced to be in Russia and separated from her family for a whole year. This happened due to the imperfection of the Thai visa law for foreigners, which she unwittingly violated due to the delay in the issuance of her new passport. In connection with this situation, Evgenia revised her attitude towards this country.
“I can say that a foreigner will never become one of his own there. Therefore, I cannot speak confidently about the future. Probably, I would like to live in 2 countries,” the woman says.
“Thailand is a beautiful country, which from the outside is seen as something fabulous and exotic, a kind of paradise on earth. This is partly true: summer all year round, calm environment, leisurely rhythm of life, friendly locals ... But the downside for a foreigner is tough laws in terms of visas and employment, because of which we will never become our own there, ”said Evgenia.
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