Hi, I am Kesini! I am 23 years old, and I am originally from Thailand. I moved to the Netherlands when I was 10 years old. I would love to share my experiences about moving abroad as a teenager.
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What to expect in this article
Why I moved to the Netherlands
Hello, I am Kesini and I am studying in the Netherlands currently. Next to my social work study, I also work in the restaurant of an old age home and I guide residents at a sleeping home.
Originally, I am from the northern part of Thailand, where I lived until I was 10 years old.
You might think, why would I leave beautiful Thailand to such a cold country like the Netherlands.
Well, the reason for that is because my mom married a Dutch man when I was 8 years old. For her it was a logical step to move to the Netherlands with my sisters.
I had a great childhood, both in Thailand and in the Netherlands. Playing outside with my friends whenever I could, having a great time at school. You can say that I was a happy kid!
Thailand and the Netherlands?
Thailand is a country located in the centre of mainland Southeast Asia. It is famous for its beautiful nature (mountains in the north and beaches in the south), but also because of its ancient temples and is often known as the ‘Land of Smiles’, because every inhabitant smiles at you.
The Netherlands on the other side is a country located in North-western Europe. Windmills, cheese, Amsterdam and bicycles are a few words that describe this tiny country.
Do I feel more Thai or Dutch?
Seyamaila asked me once (in %), how much I still feel Thai. I told her 85%, because I feel very Dutch.
The reason for this is also because I don’t have many Thai friends anymore. Nowadays I mostly have Dutch friends, due to the fact that I outgrew some of the friends that I had in Thailand.
At home I still talk Thai with my mom and I also try to visit Thailand once a year, so I haven’t lost the connection with Thailand.
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Biggest culture shock while moving to the Netherlands
Both, Thai and Dutch culture are very different in my opinion.
In Thailand an important part of the culture is respecting older people. One example of that is you can’t touch the head of someone older than you.
As I grew up in the Netherlands, I do touch the head of my mother and I love to play with her hair.
My older sisters both don’t dare to do this. I think this is one of the signs I feel more Dutch than Thai.
One of the biggest culture shocks when I moved to the Netherlands is experiencing the directness of Dutch people.
Dutchies always give their opinions, even when the person is older than you and tend to be very honest.
Just because I did not grow up with that cultural aspect in Thailand, I still struggle with giving my opinion when people ask for it. That part of Thai culture will always remain I believe.
While in Thailand we eat more rice and curries, in the Netherlands potatoes and fries are more a thing.
My mom is a good cook and I love her Dutch dishes like ‘stampot’, but I also love her Thai dishes. Especially ‘Hot Pot’ and different soups.
Luckily I am not so picky when it comes to food.
Funny fact: neither Thai nor Dutch food is my favourite cuisine, it is actually Italian. What I would do for a pizza or pasta carbonara right now…
What is it like to study as a teenager in Thailand?
For me, studying in Thailand was fun. I had a lot of friends and did well at school.
Now I live in the Netherlands, I do think the Thai school system is not the best. Maybe I did not join the right school, but I feel like Dutch education is better.
In Thailand we had to wear uniforms to our schools, while in the Netherlands you don’t. It is funny, because when you look at the uniform of Thai students, you directly know which class the student is in.
These days I see my nephews studying in Thailand, and I notice how digitalized Thailand has become. Not only do they use mobile phones while they are under 5 years old, but I feel like they also play outside less. Both countries are the same in that way, as I feel the same thing is going on in the Netherlands
What is it like to study as a ‘foreigner’ in the Netherlands?
When I arrived in the Netherlands I first had to learn Dutch, which I learned in approximately 2 years. During that time, I joined a language school.
After I learned the language I could go to a ‘normal’ school instead of a language school. Because of my Dutch language barrier I had to start from the bottom, but I did my best, so now I am studying for a associate degree, which I am very proud of. What would have happened if I had stayed in Thailand?
Luckily I managed to make (Dutch) friends very easily, which made me feel less like a ‘foreigner’ within a couple of years.
Advantages and disadvantages of living in the Netherlands
One thing that I realised now that I live in the Netherlands is how grateful I am for the opportunities I have and get.
I have more options for work and earn way more than I would if I still lived in Thailand.
The average salary in the Netherlands is around 2500 euros/dollars, while in Thailand this is around 700 euros/dollars.
One of the biggest disadvantages of living in the Netherlands is that I always have to miss my family.
My sister and her children moved back to Thailand and other family members, like my grandmother, also still live in Thailand. This is a reason why I try to go to Thailand at least every year.
My mom had to get a Dutch passport when we moved to the Netherlands, which is a reason my sisters and I also got a Dutch passport. I am not saying this is a bad thing, as it saved us from a lot of hassle and I am grateful to have it.
On the other hand, now that I am older I keep thinking of maybe getting a second Thai passport.
The reason for this is that I can go to Thailand whenever I want and stay longer than 1 month.
Now with a Dutch passport I can only stay for a month and otherwise I need to pay for an expensive visa.
In the future it would be really nice to go to Thailand and visit my family whenever and for how long as possible.
Finally, it is very common in Thailand to charge extra money for foreigners. So for any tourist site, like a temple, foreigners have to pay twice as much. If I could show my Thai identification, that would save me some money, which would be nice.
Tips for people that are moving to either Netherlands or Thailand
The biggest tip I have for people that are moving to one of the countries is to study the culture beforehand. Don’t be offended when someone is too honest in the Netherlands and don’t be rude to people older than you in Thailand.
Next to that, study the language beforehand. In the Netherlands many people can speak English, but in Thailand you might have a problem. So learn a couple of basic words, as Thai people will love that.
I know that the Netherlands have a lot of expats, but I don’t know what this is like in Thailand. Yet, I do know that many people start living in Thailand once they have visited it. Which I understand, as the country is very beautiful.
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In Thailand, prices depend on what you want to do and also where you stay. I always hear Dutch people say that Thailand is very cheap, but I don’t agree with that, that is a misconception.
The prices in Bangkok are almost the same as in Europe, which means it is not cheap.
If you would go to a small town or if you would eat street food often, yes then it might be cheaper compared to the Netherlands. But if you want to eat in a cafeteria or restaurant and go grocery shopping, prices are almost the same as in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands definitely is a bit more expensive than Thailand, but it also depends on what you want to do in Thailand for activities.
I met Seyamaila in Thailand and when we visited an elephant sanctuary and a waterfall together in Chiang Mai (north of Thailand), we paid 50 euros/dollars each.
This included transport and one meal, but we both felt this was a bit too expensive. In the Netherlands an activity could cost the same, zoos are normally around 25 euros.
In my opinion, the Netherlands is much safer than Thailand.
For example: In the Netherlands I can cycle to my home at night and feel fine. On the other hand, sometimes when I walk here alone in Thailand, I don’t feel safe.
The cliché or rumour about old men going to Thailand to marry a young girl is also very true, which is not something I feel comfortable with.
In the video you can see me at a temple in Chiang Rai.
Favorite destination in Thailand
My favorite destination in Thailand is definitely Krabi!
Ao Nang, which is located in the south, is so peaceful and beautiful. Nature in Krabi is amazing and you can swim in a clear blue sea while seeing the fish under your feet. I would love to visit more islands near Krabi.
This year I visited Phuket (close to Krabi) with Seyamaila and I was not as impressed as I was with Krabi, as it is pretty small. Phuket is also more known for parties, while Krabi is known for its nature.
Apps you can use in Netherlands and Thailand
My future plans
I want to finish my current study as a social worker.
Then, after graduating I want to travel in Asia for some time. That is my dream!
Next to that I hope to be an entrepreneur, I would like to motivate people to love their bodies and help them with losing weight. I have been working very hard on my own body for the last 3 years and I wish others to also achieve the same goals like I have.
Lastly, I would like to start my own sports clothing brand, as I love to do sports so much and I love fashion.
Planning to go back to Thailand?
This year is the first time in 3 years that I am going back to Thailand.
Covid prevented me from visiting my family for so long, so I miss them a lot.
In the future I might want to live again in Thailand, but I am not sure yet about that. Besides that, I would love to volunteer in Chiang Mai while I am travelling in Asia. I think I can help a lot of people once I graduated as a social worker.
I hope that you liked reading my story and that I could help you making the decision to move to another country, whether it is Thailand, the Netherlands or even a different country. If you have any questions, or if you want any help with accepting your body please send me a message on Instagram, I would love to help you out! -xoxo- Kesini
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