Has the Novelty Worn Off ?...

I read about a longterm resident of Thailand the other day, who finally gave it up and moved home.  Among other things, he said the novelty had worn off.  Sadly, he wasn’t clear whether he took his Thai wife with him or not, as that would alter ones view of what he said.

Anyway, it got me thinking about why people come here, why some stay and why some leave. Putting aside the obvious response, from many a midlife-crisis-male, there must be something other than girls.  Perhaps it is nothing more than a manifestation of the grass being greener. Maybe some are escaping or moving away from something, while others are seekers of something new. Of course each individual will claim that his circumstances are unique, and no doubt there is some justification for such beliefs, but surely there are some lessons to be learned by asking the question.

I have heard many elderly new arrivals to Thailand explain, how much better their new lives are compared to their old ones, back home.  They were ravaged both emotionally and financially by past relationships.  Their dating prospects were limited at best and their finances stretched.  Here they were spoiled for choice, with twenty-something year old girls expressing keen interest and stroking their egos.  In these cases the lack of communication and understanding is almost seductive.  Ones imagination can run rampant, projecting whatever motivation one wishes onto this exotic young creature draping herself over your revitalized body and spirit.

This could be no more than a novelty, and the comparisons being made are often to a perfect storm or a worst case scenario, in which any comparison is going to be favorable.  Grasping at anything better than the past, can lead to well documented problems in the future as that novelty wears off. True I have seen many of these desperate relationships last for a very long time, perhaps due to having children to support or an inability to imagine anything better.  Yes, I know that when it comes to affairs of the heart, all advice falls on deaf ears.  So even when we say nothing, it doesn’t mean there is no desire to say something.  We just think better of it.

Still, that word ‘novelty’ struck a cord with me.  It has been a long time since anything in Thailand struck me as particularly ‘novel.’  But, what must it be like for the newcomer?  Surely there must be some attraction to the novel, the new, the different, the fresh, the unusual and not just an economic fixation on the Baht exchange rate and how much further your pension will go.

Even if we all go through the ‘novelty’ phase, how long can one stay in a foreign land without moving on to something else?  I have been asked before, what it is about Thai culture that keeps me here.  That question struck me as odd and irrelevant at the time.  Now I can see how that might have been one of the novelty factors for that individual, going through the process of trying be more Thai or understand Thai ways.  Come to think of it I believe it was a woman asking that question.  Not exactly a question one would expect from a male reader, enveloped in a hormonal fog.

I liken this process of discovering Thailand, to entering a large cave where one sees a kaleidoscope of unique forms and textures that beckons one to venture further in.  Like a child looking up at the shapes in the clouds, individuals imagine different things in what they see.  As one ventures deeper into the cave, the light begins to fade, things can get very dark and it is easy to lose your way.  Some turn around and go back to whence they came.  Others venture on and perhaps find that the cave is not as dark and unknowable as they once thought, or it turns into a tunnel and one can venture out the other side.  On the other hand, we have all seen those poor souls who lost their way in the darkness, falling victim to the frailties and vulnerabilities of human nature, or those who gave up and went home completely defeated.

One novelty that I could see wearing off quickly would be the somewhat emasculating act of being securely tethered to the wife or girlfriend’s apron strings.  Being unable to navigate life here on your own must be stressful.  I used to wonder why foreign males would open themselves to scorn and ridicule on expat forums, by asking questions that showed how little they knew.  Of course it would be better to go to the source for information and not to depend on a forum, but what if you can’t speak the language or don’t know where to go?  What if your partner doesn’t have the skills or social graces to go get you the answer?  What if she gets the answer but doesn’t have the language skills to explain it to you?  What if, what if, what if...?

Okay, perhaps I am just rehashing an old topic here and should let it go.  It just struck me as odd that someone would use the novelty wearing off as an excuse to leave rather than as a reason to stay.  It doesn’t bode well for relationships or life in general, if we are stuck in the infatuation and novelty phase our whole lives.  It just seems to me, there is something more substantial on the other side of that first blush of newness and novelty.  Then again, maybe people really are that simple and that shallow.