Dec 19

“Burnout in Thailand? Impossible!”

That’s probably what most of us would think. But symptoms of ‘burnout‘ are not always linked to high workload alone, they can also have other causes. I have identified 3 groups of people that are vulnerable to symptoms of burnout, even in a sunny, tropical country like ‘mai bpen rai’ (‘everything up to you’) Thailand, but of course also other tropical countries abroad:

First, there are the foreigners who try to make a living here and who are employed by foreign or local companies. Often, they have to face high amounts of work-related pressure and stress right from the beginning of their assignments, while having arrived completely unprepared for the cultural changes they would have to face. Many are surprised and overwhelmed by how hard it can be to ‘juggle’ giving up the old life, finding and adapting to a new home, new colleagues and their work ethics, and learning how to get around and at the same time, to meet all the expectations they put on themselves.

Then, there are foreigners who try to start their own business in an Asian country like Thailand. These expat entrepreneurs are completely on their own, having thought that their experiences as tourists should have prepared them well enough. Soon, however, they face all kinds of obstacles in building up a successful business venture here as foreigners. Many things don’t work out as they would have back home with the same effort and money put into the project. Many little annoyances might gradually not only take the fun out of their dream of working in an Asian country, but lead to outright frustration and the feeling of never reaching a point where everything runs smoothly. And I haven’t even mentioned dealing with governmental institutions and paperwork.

Finally and probably surprisingly, even retiring in Thailand (but just as well in any other tropical country) can lead to ‘burnout’. I already mentioned the huge changes a migration to another country involves, and even if everything started happy and smoothly, after some time, the excitement might gradually fade away, perforated by disturbing or even annoying little experiences, social isolation or conflicts with other people. Also, many Westerners suffer from a lack of challenge and communication: they are bored out by the daily routine that kicks in after a while and feel stuck between meals, drinks and hanging around without any kind of challenge. Even finding someone to talk to at a certain nouveau level might prove difficult. But being ‘bored out’ has many physical similarities to burnout and might gradually make us just as sick and depressive. So it is important to take these signs seriously and fight them at an early stage before one gets overwhelmed by his or her own negativity.

In an followup entry of my blog, I will write a bit more about typical symptoms of burnout and boreout, and also outline strategies on how to deal with them.

(This short article is the blog-adapted version of an article dealing with psychological expat problems and general mental health issues that was published in various newspapers and magazines in Thailand, 2011; image credit: Shiho Fukada, NYT)

22.03.20