Challenge: Overcoming Introversion in a New Place

Some people are capable of moving to a new place and immediately–before even exiting the plane–they have been invited to parties, had several marriage proposals, and have been made official members of foreign families.

I am not one of those people. I am rather in awe of those people, but I also think it sounds really exhausting. I mean, talking to all those new people? Exhausting. Reading a book quietly to yourself? Not exhausting.

In fact, it's rather relaxing.

Basically, I’m an introvert. I’m not shy, I’m not socially awkward (usually—shut up!), but I’m without a doubt an introvert. Given a choice, I will normally keep to a small group of friends who I’ve known for a long time.

This makes living abroad…difficult at times, as you don’t normally know a lot of people when you move to a new place. I knew a total of four people when I moved to Bangkok, which is better than when I first moved to France, Japan, or Maryland, anyway, when I knew zero people. In those other places, I ended up making a lot of BFFs (are the kids still saying that?). (And, YES, you can have more than one BFF, okay? Stop being so judgmental!) I just took it on faith that the same would happen eventually in BKK.

Blind faith and denial, people. It’s what’s gotten me this far, and I’m not giving up on it. It’s been good to me.

Sometimes it works out.

Still, I’m older now and becoming more introverted, lazy, and set in my ways. This was a typical conversation in my head when I first moved to Bangkok:

Me: Should I go out and make new friends and explore this amazing city with them or stay in and surf the internet?

Me: Um…is that really a debate?

Me: You’re right. Internet forever!

In my defense, I also read and watched TV sometimes. I’m not a total freak, sheesh.

This was the conversation in my head a week or two after moving here:

Me: Should I go out and make new friends or stay in and surf the internet?

Me: Do you want to be sad and lonely and have nobody show up at your funeral when you die? And also have a bunch of cats and be that weird lady on the block who everybody thinks is a witch?

Me: Good point…wait. If I’m that weird lady who everybody thinks is a witch, will all the annoying people leave me alone? No, no…that’s not cool. I don’t even like cats that much. I mean, they’re okay, but I don’t think I’d want a bunch of them. So, I’ll just surf the internet for friends! Compromise, self, that’s what life’s all about!

This is my neighbor’s cat from when I lived in Maryland. I really did grow fond of her, but she was cat non grata after she pooped in my living room and I didn’t find it until the next afternoon. Bad kitty!

I’ve made virtually (ha!) all of my new friends since moving to Thailand from the interwebs. These are people I’ve actually met in real life, thank you very much. Some of them. It’s not my fault if my internet friends live in other countries! Or live in the same country, but we’ve never met! These things happen, people! It’s the 21st century! It’s the future! Now where’s my jet pack? Or those flying skateboards from Back to the Future?

But I digress. (One more thing: A jet pack would be really handy to get around Bangkok traffic. Just saying.)

What is up with the traffic? Seriously!

My new friends in Thailand are awesome, for the record (as are my old friends in Thailand). In case you’re wondering, it’s not hard making friends when you move to a new place, but it’s like dating—it requires you to pretend to be somebody you’re not for a little bit until the person likes you. (“Oh, yeah, I mean, I love everything about Thailand! Thai food is the best! I could eat it for every meal for the rest of my life! Hooray! I’m always smiling!”) Then you can go back to being super pessimistic. (“Yeah, Thai food is great, but if I don’t get a decent pizza soon, I’m going to effing kill somebody. Like, real soon. This is not a drill, people, and I am NOT smiling.”)

For some people, making friends is not a major effort. For an introvert like myself, though, it’s an effort. It’s an effort that’s worth it, to be sure, but it’s an effort nonetheless.

My friends! They are the awesome.

Final Score:

Overcoming Introversion: 0   Megan: 1

I could do a little better and make more of an effort…but I’m kind of lazy. And seriously, I have a lot of books to read since I got a library card!

Oh yeah, and Pizza Mania actually has really decent pizza in Bangkok. Just FYI.

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32 Comments

Filed under Daily Challenge, Living Abroad, Thailand

32 responses to “Challenge: Overcoming Introversion in a New Place

  1. There is an excellent Pizza place, by any standard, on the path that leads to Starbucks on Kho Say Road. It is on the left about half way to Starbucks. Took some of my Thai friends there so they could taste good Pizza. I am an introvert also, and appreciate the post. Somebody once said that an introvert is one how gains energy from being alone, and extrovert gains energy from being with others. I think that is true.
    Steve

    • Sweet, I’m going to check it out. Pizza Mania is actually really good, too.

      Good quote about introverts/extroverts. Totally true, I think. Being alone gives me a lot of energy, but it saps it right out of me when I’m around other people.

  2. Hi Megan, I’m an introvert, and this used to worry me a lot. I’ve never felt comfortable around groups of people unless I’ve been drunk. These days I just accept that this was the way I was built; sometimes I surprise myself by being more sociable but not often. I get a lot of invites to meet up with people but 90% (I made that statistic up, but it sounds right) of the time I say no – I prefer to communicate online. The only people I really spent a lot of time with is my wife and son; I’m happy with that.

    • Hey Paul. I am fine being with a few friends, but I feel like I should meet more people…so I do. And it’s always great, but it’s exhausting! I’ve never felt comfortable around groups of people, really, either. If you look up “introvert” online, it’s like it’s a disease or something. I mean, I just like to be by myself sometimes!

  3. It’s like you’re in my head or something!

    My partner and I are both introverts, which can make it hard to meet people on the road. We live in an RV fulltime and don’t stay in any place for longer than a week or two, so there REALLY isn’t a lot of opportunity to make new friends. Next year we plan to do the expat thing and travel abroad by living in one city for a few months, and a big part of that is to hopefully stay put long enough to meet people and see them more than once. But who knows… we might still stay inside and play on our computers, or choose a tv show over going out. :P

    • Hey Christy–I don’t think it’s hard to make friends abroad, honestly. Everybody else is looking for friends, too. It just takes some effort. And there is NOTHING wrong with staying at home and playing on your computer! Really…

  4. Megan, I’m an introvert. I’m a wild women sometimes, so no, I’m not incapable of acting like an extrovert. But my preference? Staying quiet, with my two shorthairs and the man. Yeah, I’m the cat lady.

    There is an additional problem with being an introverted expat that you have not experienced yet.

    I cherish my friends.

    Expats generally stay in a country for 2-3 year tours and then move on. I usually stick around for much longer. This means that I’m always saying good-bye to dear friends.

    Getting loads of practice with saying good-bye doesn’t make it less difficult.

    Due to this, in the past 10 years I’ve reached the point where I hesitate before agreeing to meet someone. The internet has made it easier to keep in touch after they leave, but it’s not the same.

    • So true, Catherine! It’s even faster when you’re just teaching English. When I was in Japan, I went to a sayonara party about every week…I was always saying goodbye to friends. It was not fun.

      Internet helps a lot, but it doesn’t replace face-to-face, it’s true.

      • Yes! The good-bye parties can be endless. I’ve hosted many myself and then went through months worth when I left Borneo.

        I was so shagged out after all the late night festivities, I didn’t notice that my paperwork for a permanent move to the UK had been packed in the container.

        Arriving in Heathrow, immigration asked how long I was staying and I proudly piped up “I’ve come for good!”

        They were not impressed.

        And I found myself back in Borneo collecting new paperwork.

        • Oh my god, are you serious? That’s a nightmare!

          • It ended up being a hoot actually. With no responsibilities (except for pushing tedious paperwork through) I stepped off the plane in Borneo going PARTY TIME! Yeah!

            When I mentioned it to the British high commissioner and his wife, they were both unhappy with how their countrymen were treating people. But British friends who’d worked behind those desks were not as sympathetic. I imagine they’d seen and heard it all, so yes, there are two sides to the coin.

            Shortly after my experience, the foreign office took away those types of decisions from the chaps in arrivals. IMHO, the arrival hall guys had gone OTT power-hungy so it was a good decision. They were rude, overbearing, and out of control. A bit like giving someone a uniform and a whistle (and I’m sure you know what I mean). Only they couldn’t be ignored like is often done in Thailand.

  5. Yay! Congratulations on being nominated for Bloggie! That’s super awesome. And I tried to vote for you, but every time I clicked on the link with your blog name on it, it just took me to your site. Which means, either I didn’t vote… or I voted like 10 times for your blog. I hope it was the latter. Maybe I should go back and read the directions…

    You know, I never really thought I was an introvert until I started traveling. I’m pretty good at parties and stuff (read: when I’m drunk and have a reason to accost people), but I also need a lot of non-social time. When I was just living some place, it was totally cool to hole up in my apartment and watch DVD box sets and eat nothing but popcorn and Kit-Kats all weekend because, hey, I was living there, dammit, and I didn’t need to go see stuff. But then when I was traveling and meeting all these people who were going out all the freaking time (even though they had just went out YESTERDAY and don’t they know social activity requires a 2-day rest period afterwards?), I started to doubt myself. Who were these people who liked to be around people all the time? What was that about?

    Nice new spiffy design, by the way.

    • Wait. Nevermind. Figured it out.

    • Thanks, Sally!

      Yeah, I don’t understand how some people can go out all the time. I dated somebody like that for a long time, and we just did not understand each other. I’m of the mind that one or two–max–nights per week are enough for socializing. The problem is if you want to meet people because you’re in a new place. Ugh.

  6. Yeah I haven’t figured out how to vote either :P And I did notice your new look – nniiccee.

    It’s funny when I was in the States I found it hard to meet new people. I think it is a little easier abroad. I guess because you are in the minority and it is not weird AT ALL to exchange emails and phone numbers so quickly, but in the States if I had just met you and asked for your email, you’d be like uh, stalker!

    When I tell people I’m melancholic or I like to be alone they look at me strangely. I guess I give off the sanguine vibe. But they don’t understand how much I enjoy being away from people, reading a book, eating carbs, and writing in my journals.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to be alone. Sometimes living in another country can be more exhausting than living in your passport country.

    Anyway I heard it said that people who need time alone are more intuitive so maybe we are just intuitive people!

    I really do wish we lived in the same town, the more I learn about you Megan, the more I like you!

    • Oh yeah, sometimes living in another country is definitely more exhausting, no doubt about it.

      And I feel the same about you–we’d be awesome in the same town!

  7. Henriette

    Yey! I loved this post! Im just like you in making friends !! So making new friends in Thailand is something im kinda dreading .. Knowing you can do it gives me hope! Keep it up! :)

  8. Harumph! I voted for for you over there.

    Congrats on the nomination.

    Nice new look by the way.

    Thanks for this post. I sued to think I was a grouchy old guy. Now I can just say I’m an introvert. Cool.

  9. Jess

    Should I even say anything? Because you said everything I feel up there ^.
    I miss you! And I wish you could come over, drink wine, pass out while watching TV, and then rest up several days before we’d do that again…

  10. Christian

    Megan,
    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and this is your best post hands down. I am getting ready for a year in Thailand myself, starting in April. I love reading about all your cool and crazy experiences in the LOS!

    Keep up the good work.

  11. OMG I thought I was reading about myself! I am an introvert and love reading and going places by myself. No apologies. I have friends who can’t seem to anywhere without having someone with them and I think they are nuts!

    Loved the post. Its nice to know there are other people out there like me. . .

    • Oh yeah, I think there are a ton of introverted travelers out there. What’s funny is that I like traveling with people…I just like to be alone for much of the other time!

  12. Monica

    Hi Megan,

    I recently came across your blog and found it hilarious :) I also live in Thailand – since 2002 – and was starting to go through the “trailing spouse syndrome” feelings again and was looking online for ideas and happened to find your blog. I just voted for your blog too. Anyway – just wanted to say “hi” and let you know I appreciate your stories.

    • Hi Monica…since 2002? Wow! “Trailing spouse syndrome”–I’ve never heard anybody use those words, but I’ll bet it’s something a lot of women experience here.

      Thanks for the vote, “hello” back, and thanks for coming by! :)

  13. THE INTERNET IS AWESOME!!!

    Am I one of your BKK BFFs?

    If so, can I please get that on a button/badge to show off like a proud mama? x

  14. Andrew

    Again, funny stuff, but honestly, exhausting! I started reading through the comments and couldn’t bare it! Who really cares whether one is an introvert or extrovert, and why the need for a label? Just be who you are and stop obsessing about it……….and yourself! Even Woody Allen did, eventually.

    • Hmmm…I don’t think anybody was obsessing over who they are. I don’t obsess over the fact that I’m an introvert–and honestly, I need that label for myself because I used to feel bad and not understand why I didn’t want to go out and be crazy like my other friends. Once I realized that I just wasn’t that kind of person, I embraced it!

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