It was a typical April day in Devon. The sky was a pallid grey and the smattering and continuous drizzle coated everything in a sheen of dreary water. The sea wind numbed our fingers; the cold earth numbed our toes.
This was doubly hard as we had flown in from Bangkok to arrange our wedding. Bangkok in April is obscene in its heat. The ground bakes and crumples as the sky prepares to rend itself apart with ferocious storms. We were glad to be away from that insufferably suffering heat, just wholly underprepared for the shock to tropically adjusted bodies.
We dived into the local supermarket, desperate to find gloves and a warming ale or two for that evening.
As is usual when we head home, we ended up loading the trolley high with stuff we struggle to buy in Thailand.
Multi-pack of Quavers?
Get in the trolley.
Buy them all.
Cuts of lamb that don’t cost the best part of the national debt?
At the check-out we stood watching the girl scan our items. Her large hooped earrings clattered against her overly applied make-up as she rocked sideways like an automaton, passing Twiglets in front of the laser.
With the steady pace of a glacier the items trundled towards us and slowly stacked like flotsam collecting at the high tide mark.
Our arms were folded against the cold. I spoke to my fiancee for a moment about some triviality I had recalled. I fell silent.
The pile of scanned shopping grew.
My significant other hummed a few bars of a tuneless song. The wet smack of the check-out girl’s chewing gum provided the beat.
The shopping was now threatening to pitch over the end of the checkout area.
The till girl looked up and huffed a sigh. “Do ya want me to pack your bags or sumfing?”
“Where’s the man?” said my wife.
My eyes widened as I looked at my future wife. Her eyes matched mine as her brain registered what her mouth had just said.
The check-out girl frowned in confusion. “What man?”
So used had we become to a little man coming out to pack our bags when we shop that we’d forgotten that England doesn’t have the service culture of Thailand. At all.
We rushed to apologise and pack our bags ourselves but in our heart of hearts we knew we’d become the very people we’d hoped we never would.
Expats who start every sentence with ‘well, in Thailand’.
And we hated ourselves for it.