Expat Q&A: The lighter side of life

In this series we talk to Cambodia expats about what they wish they had known when they first moved to Cambodia that they know now.

This week we talk to David T., an Australian who likes long walks around Samdach Hun Sen Park and slurping down some pho during a candlelit dinner. David grew up in Bundaberg, a town renowned for its progressive nature and cultural offerings, yet nine months of wholesome living in Phnom Penh and he now calls the Charming City home.

MTC: David (a.k.a ‘Dreamy Dave’) what do you know now that you wish you had known when you first moved to Cambodia?

DD: “Hi my name is David T. and I moved to Cambodia to make a difference!” Ok so perhaps that is not wholly true… throw in a touch of desire to abdicate from responsibility and having the time to work on my tan. Nevertheless, let the record show my intentions were admirable, regardless of how far I’ve fallen since my arrival almost a year ago.

In the famous words of Thomas Gray “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise,” I must concur. Part of the great joy I derive from Cambodia is in the unidentifiable foods I consume and seemingly irrational human behaviour witnessed on a daily basis. That being said, there are a couple of things that I do wish I knew then that I didn’t, and even a few tidbits of wisdom I can impart on you the reader.

Can I purchase everything I need to live a comfortable lifestyle in Phnom Penh? Yes. I can’t speak for those suffering a medical condition, but in terms of the normal consumables required to sustain life for the younger male species, I have never wanted for anything.  For full disclosure, being a well-built man (feel free to conjure images of Adonis), at times I have struggled to find fashionable threads for under two dollars off the rack. A few tears later I sucked it up, visited a reasonably priced tailor and moved on with my life.

Hot Tip – They’ve done studies, on Angry Bird jocks. 60% of the time, they work every time. No thanks necessary. [Ed note: Jocks are men’s underwear in Australian]

Can I drive a moto without a helmet? Not if you want me to call you a hero you can’t.

Do I need expat insurance? Yes, if you don’t want me to call you a bloody idiot. Granted there is a high risk for some this may occur anyhow. With the worst that has happened to me whilst in country being a mild case of dengue (discounting a few near death red wine hangovers) I really am not a poster boy for the insurance industry. That being said, Cambodia is not renowned for its medical system or capabilities, so the chances of requiring a medevac do increase significantly even for non-life threatening cases. Save yourself potentially having to service a lifelong debt and consider insurance options before your move to Cambodia.

Is it a fact that expats in Cambodia need to travel in packs? Trick question. You can fall into the comfort trap of moving to Cambodia and staying in a tight knit circle of fellow expats who hail from your home country. This works for some, and I won’t judge those that toe this line, as I myself have been guilty of the same.

Whilst it is a case of each to their own, I encourage all new expats to get involved with the Khmer community. These interactions have produced my most rewarding and memorable experiences to date. Personally though, I hope to spend more time in 2013 getting involved with the French community… consider my olive branch extended.

Also I can’t deny that the more you put yourself out there, the more you will be subjected to painful goodbyes, what can I say, toughen up princess love hurts. Fact.

Do I have to subject myself to bars in order to socialise? Look I am not going to lie, there are some world-class expat socialites (a.k.a. alcoholics) in Cambodia, but if drinking copious amounts of alcohol and losing all inhibitions is not your cup a tea, there are a plethora of other social avenues. For instance I would recommend a natural adrenaline high at Dream Land theme park as you contemplate the Cambodian safety standards, a quaint dinner at one of the thousand top quality restaurants, or perhaps indulge your cultural side by exploring the budding art scene developing in Phnom Penh.

Are there any towns outside of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap worth visiting? Time for your mind to be blown, there are towns where the predominate form of transport is not in a Lexus. Treat yourself (you do deserve it after all) and go see the real Cambodia, or if you are just looking for a weekender I like to put my feet up in Kampot and Battambang.

At the end of the day Cambodia has a lot to offer. If I knew then what I do now, I probably would have moved here a lot earlier.

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