Disclaimer: There are many different types of people living in Bangkok, it's a city where one can reinvent themselves and live a life that they possibly couldn't live back in their home country. So there are good and bad people here, like every city, but my focus is to highlight how Bangkok has allowed me to build my dreams :)
How your environment influences you
If you're a positive person, and you're around positive people, you will be positive. But if you're positive and around negative people, you'll eventually become negative. I'm not talking about pessimists and optimist characteristics as those have more to do with skepticism and hope. You can definitely be a optimist in a negative environment, because you have hope for something better. For me, I am a positive and optimistic person, but grew up in a negative environment. So, for the first 18 years of my life I was a negative optimist, until I left for university, and finally was able to create my own positive environment based on my friendships, social life, and classes. In university I was able to take leadership roles, engaged in hour-long conversation about life, religion, and politics, and met people from different backgrounds and cultures that I only saw on TV (I'm a small town girl). So, when I spent 5 weeks studying French abroad in Quebec, I knew I wanted to live abroad, travel the world, and settle in a place that would enabled me be positive and enthusiastic :)
Following my gut: China to Bangkok
Everyone I've met has an interesting story how they settled in Bangkok. However, my plan after I finished my studies in Israel was to teach English and build my startup in China. I only came to Thailand because I had to do some paperwork before I started teaching in Chongqing. What was supposed to be 2 weeks, filing and waiting for my visa to come through, turned into my decision that I wanted to teach and build my startup in Bangkok. Part of this abrupt decision was the fact I didn't like Chongqing when I was there for 3 days, I was not in the city centre, I was one of 4 foreign teachers so I got many stares, and I didn't speak or read any Mandarin, so my independence for travel was limited. When I arrived in Bangkok, it was so easy to travel around the city, find food and familiar restaurants, I found a yoga studio right near my hostel, and English was everywhere (well almost lol). So my 3rd week in and running low on funds, I started looking for teaching jobs. With advice from the hostel workers, I printed my resume, went directly to schools (emailing is useless), and one day walked into a Catholic school right near my hostel and bumped into one of the teachers (the Head Teacher) and asked if the school was hiring. Two weeks later, I got a job, a space on campus to live, and for the first time in my adult life lived in a city, centrally located with good food, nearby Skytrain, yoga studios, and co-working spaces.
Culture Shock: The Land of Smiles
All I knew about Thailand when I first moved here was that it was a Buddhist country, cheap place for holidays, and people loved the food. What was particularly hard in the first few months was "toning down" my straight-foward and chutzpa attitude, and understand that those characteristics only worked when I was living Israel. In Thailand, social hierarchy, non-confrontation, and soft-approach was how Thais and expats that did business with Thais operated. This took time for me to learn, and appreciate as it's good to know how to be a fox and a lion in a new environment. Doing business in Thailand (or Asia in general), I've learned the importance of building relationships, to be more patient and sympathetic, and most importantly marketing my business and personal brand on social media. In Thailand, one's personal brand and marketing is central to the success of a product, doesn't matter how good a product is, if people don't know you or like the brand, they won't buy. Hence, why I spend a lot of time and energy sharing and showing the progress of my startup on social media so customers, friends, strangers, possible investors can see what I'm doing, who I do business with, and how dedicated I am to my startup.
Bangkok Startup Community
Bangkok is the "gateway to ASEAN and the SE Asia" market because of it's strategic location, cheap cost of living, middle class status, and social mobility and business opportunities (with the right connections). Despite the English language challenges and bureaucracy/paperwork to start a business Bangkok is an excellent city for early stage entrepreneurs and startups keen to scaling and expanding to SE Asia. Yes, neighbouring startup communities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo are appealing given the proximity and support of investors and talent, but it's expensive to live in these cities and the maturity of the markets, makes creativity and innovation for change challenging because everything is built. Now, the best places to be are Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh/Hanoi, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Yangon, and other SE Asian cities that are growing and have untapped opportunities for the most adventurous entrepreneur that are not afraid of a challenge. I like Bangkok, because it's so easy to get around, it's the biggest market for organic and natural cosmetics in SE Asia, people here are friendly and open to foreigners, and the startup community is small but very helpful if you need an introduction or resources to build your startup.
Community and Support
I devote a lot of time to building Healthy Hair Asia but I make time for friends, being active in my community and meet up groups, and have a supportive partner. It's important to have a life and meaning outside of work. So living in Bangkok, its a city you can meet great people, be part of some cool (and weird) groups, and find a partner (Thai or foreign). Bangkok has given me all: opportunity, community, a partner, and the ability to be positive and optimistic about my future.
As always, thank you for reading!