I was born in Bangkok, Thailand, and grew up in a suburb called Samutprakarn.
My experiences living abroad… Well, I have traveled to different places but never stayed in one place for more than two months until I came to Carleton. Coming from a British International school in Bangkok, I had to adjust my language to fit with what most people at Carleton use, e.g. switching from the term “bin” to “trash can” or from “full stop” to “period.” The mannerisms and etiquette in a school setting is also different, for example the classroom atmosphere in Carleton is a lot more relaxed than that of a classroom in a British International school.
Arriving at London for the first time, I felt a sense of familiarity that I did not feel when I first arrived at Carleton. London is one of the most diverse and international cities that I have been to, and throughout the past six weeks here, I have sensed a hint of home. In some places I visited, I thought a lot about my identities and what they mean to me. There are the places in which I reflected on my identity more than in others, and here are the places:
Taste of Siam
I met up with one of my friends who studies in the UK, and he took me to his aunt’s Thai restaurant called Taste of Siam. I ordered my usual Pad Krapao Nua (Stir-fried beef with holy basil). Ah, it was the first authentic or “real” Thai food I have ever had in a restaurant outside of Thailand. The music playing was also music that I listened to in my teens. I felt like I was eating Pad Krapao in Thailand, and that feeling is home.
My ethinicity is Chinese, as all my grandparents are from China and immigrated to Thailand. I am half Cantonese and half Teochew and grew up in a household where my housekeeper and my grandma spoke Cantonese to each other. Every weekend our family would go out to have dim sum. The Chinatown here in London is very close to the Pickwick Hall, convenient for me to go to Chinatown frequently to have Cantonese food. I only know a few Cantonese words, and on many occasions the waitors in the restaurants speak Cantonese or Mandarin to me. I would always embarrassingly tell them I don’t understand, and would start speaking in English. In times like these, I feel guilty and regret not knowing a language I believe I should know.
Lao food is like Northeastern Thai food, called Isaan food. Isaan food is very spicy and intense, just the way I like it. Since a small child, I had Isaan food made by my caretaker and I can say that it is my favorite type of food. Every time I arrive back to Thailand for holidays, I would have to go eat Isaan food before anything else. If you like spicy and tasty food and live in London, I would really recommend starting at Lao Café.
Thailand has many beaches, and one of my favorite places in Thailand is the beach. The weather in Brighton is a lot cooler than in Thailand, but it still reminds me of my downtimes and soothes me with the view of sea, the touch of sand and the wind with a hint of salt.
I have been exposed to many cultures throughout my life. But ultimately, I am Thai. I will always consider Thailand my home and my identity. I am glad that London is a place where I can be reminded frequently of my home.
-Proud Chanarat ’19