Pressure to conform to societal expectations is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Here are my thoughts and experiences.
I’m not going to lie, my job is really cool. I’m an English teacher and I live in Bangkok, Thailand. That’s pretty cool! How many other people have an outdoor pool in their apartment block? Or the ability to go to a beautiful beach just a couple of hours away? Or to eat street food every night? Admit it – it is a cool job.
However, sometimes I think the job is cooler than me. I have done so many cool things, and seen so many amazing places here in Thailand. Though despite this, I often find myself feeling pressured to be cooler and do more cool things; not by my friends at home, but by others here. Because, let’s face it, they’re cooler than me. And for the most part – I don’t care. I really don’t. I’d rather do what I enjoy than what is cool. But sometimes I let it get to me.
In Thailand, and Bangkok in particular, us farangs (foreigners in Thai) are often found drinking. Now I understand that for most westerners Bangkok is a holiday destination, and people want to get drunk and party when they’re on holiday. This image of drunk foreigners has, in many minds, become synonymous with farangs in Bangkok. Many of my western friends here enjoy this aspect of Bangkok, and why wouldn’t they? Everybody likes to party! But not everybody likes to party as much as others. I’ve found in Bangkok – what with all of the cheap alcohol and the lax age restrictions – it’s so easy to go on a cheap night out and get very, very drunk.
I don’t like it.
Of course I like to go out. And of course I like to drink sometimes. What I don’t like, is the constant pressure to take advantage of being in a country where alcohol is so cheap and readily available to foreigners. Many bars here run ‘ladies’ nights’ where women drink for free, or at a hugely discounted rate. As a woman, I’m finally the gender benefiting more from something – I get to drink a lot and save money. Though even despite this supposed benefit, I rarely feel like the ‘winner’. I just feel an enormous amount of pressure to drink until I can no longer stand. I often go to these events with both male and female friends and I often feel pressured by both. My girl friends are encouraging me to take advantage of the fact that, for once, we are the gender to be envied. My boy friends are laughing at me for drinking less than them when they have to pay. That’s pressure from both sides to drink more than I want to. And it’s not something I enjoy.
I admit, I do succumb to the pressure more often than I’d like. Though I don’t often get blind drunk, I do find myself drinking beer and wishing I had water. Other times, I find the strength to ignore the pressures and I enjoy whatever drink I want at whatever pace I am happy with. Though I am sometimes aware of being a little judged by it, I find that I feel much better about myself.
On a different note, I am a self-confessed nerd. In my spare time, I’m an avid reader, and I spend a lot of time reading about and watching videos about my favourite fandoms. (Quiz me on Harry Potter, I dare you.) I’m a history nerd too. You can often find me googling historical events or people, just because I’m interested. My favourite things to listen to on my way to work are podcasts of book reviews and different interpretations of historical events. I’m an outspoken feminist and rarely back down from a debate. These are things that I enjoy, and things I feel strongly about. They’re not the coolest hobbies, but I enjoy them. However, I sometimes find myself, not denying these things, but being selective in what I admit to. And I often ask myself, why? People don’t care as much as I sometimes think they do, and I know that. To be honest, the reason I’m writing this is because I’m much better at being myself now, rather than hiding parts that weren’t ‘cool’.
I really do enjoy being in Thailand and I have some great friends here. I have done and seen some amazing things in the last eight months and I’m excited for the next few too.
This is me saying I’m not the coolest person in the world. But I’m a happy one.