Teaching Abroad – Convenience at your Doorstep
When you first leave your home to move to a place like Thailand, there are several challenges and obstacles that you’ll have to overcome. They’re not all about teaching abroad, they’re also about adapting to a new, fascinating, initially difficult to adjust to, culture. Last time I discussed some of these initial road bumps including the language barrier, eating the local cuisine, and readjusting your perception of cleanliness. However, once you’ve cleared these hurdles and the novelty of your new surroundings begins to normalize, you’ll need to start dealing with the real world problems that we all tried so hard to run away from. “But Austin, how will we pay our bills and set up a phone plan in this new foreign land?” you might ask. Well fear not friends, Thailand has an establishment that will solve literally all of your real world needs. This place will feed you, clothe you, help you pay your utilities, sell you plane tickets, and serve as an armory for the war against the mosquitoes. And they’re on every corner.
7/11. The stronghold of Western life in Thailand. And yes, that’s the same 7/11 that you knew from back home that sold you lottery tickets, slurpees, and gross hotdogs. While the gross hotdogs are still available, Thai 7/11s are so much more than that. As you adapt and get your bearings in your new home, the Seven will become a halfway house between your new life and your old habits. It truly epitomizes the meaning of what a convenience store should be. But before I get into the wonders that Sevs Elevs has to offer, the first thing it will provide? Air-conditioning. In a land of soul-crushing humidity and high Celsius temperatures, a momentary immersion into the crisp, arctic-like air will cleanse your soul and refresh your spirit. Just look at the street dogs who sleep in front of the automated sliding doors. They aren’t just there for the rush of almost being stepped on during a nap. That fleeting breeze from inside makes it all worth it.
Let’s talk about food again. Now while I encourage everyone to try to eat as many new things as possible, most of us take baby steps into this new style of cookery. For the first month or so as you eat your fried rice and learn the names of other dishes to order, you’re going to need something to sustain you. Don’t worry, the 7 is here to save the day. The beginner 7/11 meal is the Toasty sandwich. A Toasty is essentially the illegitimate love child of a Panini and a prison sandwich. The amateur Toasty is the Ham & Cheese, though you’ll have to decide between normal bread or to fork up the extra 2 baht for the croissant bread (pro tip: do it). After a while, once you’ve earned your Bachelor’s in Toasty studies, you’ll graduate to other flavors like carbonara or the chicken pizza one. But whatever you do, just don’t eat the tuna Toasty. Please. (Hey Austin..I like that one! – Jon). In time, as you complete your Toasty Masters, you’ll be ready to move onto the other instant meals they have like chicken fingers, garlic bread, or pork wontons. All of which will be cooked for you on the spot behind the register.
7/11 is also where you’ll put credit on your phone. Since phone contracts aren’t really a thing here, everything is pre-paid. Once you plug in the SIM card that XploreAsia gives you, you’ll need to top that bad-boy up before you can post that picture of a man, baby, and dog on a scooter up to Facebook. To top your phone up, gingerly approach the cashier, point to your phone with a sheepish smile and say, “TrueMove Online?” Tell them how many baht you want, type your number into the keypad, and you’re ready to rock and roll. Snapchat away my friends.
This all sounds pretty great right? Well to quote the late, great Billy Mays, “But wait, there’s more!” Say you wanted to book a plane ticket to Kuala Lumpur for your visa trip next month but don’t want to pay for it with your bank card from back home. Book it online through a cheap airline like NokAir and they’ll send you a code. Take that code into 7/11 and pay for it in cash right there. Convenient right? How about your electricity bill? Yup, the Sev-o will handle that too. It will also serve as a cheap haven for whichever of the 3 varieties of Thai beer you declare your allegiance to. It will however take a couple months and a few awkward encounters of trying to buy beer between 2pm-5pm until you finally remember that alcohol is illegal during those times.
The 7 will also sell you everything else necessary to sustain you until you have time to make your weekly trip to Tesco. You can pick up whiteboard pens for class, toothpaste, bottled water, toilet paper, mosquito spray, purple mosquito coils, cigarettes with a scary picture on the pack, or even a silly hat. I could keep going, but you get the point.
7/11 is a place that you will spend so much time that you abbreviate the name because you just can’t be bothered with all 5 syllables. Regardless of what you call it or how you feel about it, for better or worse, the 7 will be central to your Thailand experience. Embrace it, befriend the employees, and start establishing yourself as not just another backpacker. And if you feel a little embarrassed for going into the store for the third time that day, don’t worry, there’s always the other one across the street.
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