We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. Nicoletta has lived in Bangkok for 9 years and is a primary teacher at an international school.
Could you introduce yourself (where are you from? how long have you lived in Thailand? and what do you do for a living?)
My name is Nicoletta and I’m Italian. I’ve lived in Bangkok for almost 9 years. Like many others, my husband and I came here with the intention of staying for a year only, but we got happily stuck. I’m a primary teacher at an international school.
In general, how do you think Thailand has handled the pandemic up to now?
If you had asked me this question two months ago, I would’ve said, ‘Great!’ But now, of course, my opinion has changed. I mean, I’m still very lucky that we’ve spent this time here and not in Italy and I feel absolutely blessed when I think of what my family and friends have gone through. However, I can’t stop thinking that maybe we’re going to experience something similar here too in the near future.
The most disappointing things of all are seeing how painfully slow the vaccine rollout is and the constant inundation of conflicting information. Regrettably, we have decided not to go back to Europe this summer because we aren’t vaccinated and, even if my school would be paying for it, I refuse to spend two weeks of my summer break in quarantine.
If you were put in charge of things right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?
Purchasing vaccines as soon as they came out and actually administering them, but for this, we would have to go back in time.
Let’s talk about you personally. What is the most regrettable thing that the pandemic has robbed you of or changed about your life?
Being able to go back home once a year and traveling to other countries. When I renewed my visa in January 2020, I bought a multi-entry stamp to get the most of my holidays. I’d also just paid for a multi-entry visa for India and Sri Lanka… hahaha
From a work point of view, how has your situation changed (if indeed it has) and has there been any significant financial impact?
Now, I’m coping with teaching online much better than I did last year because it’s already the third time. I try to be positive and make the best of being at home, but it’s very hard because I teach young learners. I feel demotivated at times, but I have to motivate my students... Financially speaking, nothing has changed for me but our family income is lower because my husband has lost part of his income. He has his own business and he’s working online, but he used to go back to Italy and he used to have jobs all around Asia and that’s all gone at the moment.
Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?
My husband and I have more time to spend together because he can’t travel outside the country. I switched almost completely to a plant-based diet and eat mostly what we cook. I gained more muscle mass because of working from home, I have more time to work out. Overall, my lifestyle is healthier because I keep a controlled and regular routine to maintain a healthy body so that I don’t lose my mind, if that makes sense to you.
When do you predict the world will return to some sort of normality and we will be able to travel abroad and maybe get to remove these damn face-masks, etc?
I want to be optimistic so I will say that in 2022 we will be able to go home and come back to Thailand without having to quarantine and we will be able to wear masks much less. However, I doubt that the tourism industry will ever go back to the way it was in 2019 and, in a way, I hope so. Influencers travelling to 100 countries in 3 months, people flying to another country to have a coffee and going back, taking dozens of domestic flights just because there’s a promo… these are some of the things that I hope we never go back to. People have had time to reflect on what travelling really means to them and on their carbon footprints. Have we learned anything? I hope so.
Things started to go pear-shaped in March 2020. Over the past year or so, has your enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased or decreased?
My enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased a lot in 2020 for obvious reasons. However, since my two-year contract with my current school was expiring in July and I didn’t wait to stay, I applied for jobs in Asia and in Europe. I did a lot of interviews and I was offered opportunities in both continents. Basically, we were ready to move anywhere for a good job, but ironically enough, I got the best offer here in Bangkok, so we’re going to stay here for two more years.
When we get to the light at the end of this long tunnel, have you promised yourself to make lifestyle changes or do some things differently?
Not really. I think that so far I’ve been quite good at keeping myself grounded and mentally sane (or at least, so I think!). What I miss the most is going to a concert and to the theater, so I’m really looking forward to that!
For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?
I’m not a doctor so my advice has no value to someone who suffers from depression, but I can tell you what works for me on a daily basis is to try not to lose my mind. I strive for routine and being a teacher helps with that because I always wake up at the same time and have regular meal times. I practise yoga every morning to help with my posture because I sit at the computer for 8-9 hours.
I do another workout session of 30-45 minutes after work (weights, HIITs) and I try to go running outside in the evening 3-4 times per week. Being outside really helps me. I live in a very leafly neighbourhood so I can jog or walk around without being run over. I try to make sure that I put in at least 10,000 steps every day including weekends. Many of my friends live in the same neighbourhood and they have gardens so we hang out outside as much as possible.
Eating healthily also helps me with my mental state. I love cooking and trying new recipes and I’m lucky because my husband is a good cook. I don’t drink any alcohol until Thursday evenings when I allow myself a glass of wine. We have aperitivo and play cards every Thursday and Friday with a couple of friends. On Saturday, we organise cooking contests with a group of friends and play board games together. On Sunday, my husband and I take our motorbike and we explore different parts of Bangkok.
Maybe it’s a boring routine. It isn’t thrilling and I’m not super excited all the time, but I haven't been unhappy. What I fear most is having to start the new academic year at a new school teaching online. I'm not sure how I would react to this.