I am talking with an expat family living in Bangkok, Thailand, for this month’s global parenting interview series! How exciting! So, meet the lovely Chhan family- an American mom, a Cambodian dad, and two adorable children living in the land of smiles. In this inspiring interview, get a peek into their everyday life living in Bangkok as an expat family.
Remember to connect with the Chhan family on Instagram to follow their inspiring journey and get an inside look into the expat life in Thailand.
Please tell me a bit about you and your family members
Hi! We’re the Chhan family! I grew up in Upstate New York but have been living abroad since I graduated from University. My Cambodian husband grew up in the countryside outside of Siem Reap, but we met in Thailand on Koh Samet island. We have two sons, one is almost 3, and the other just turned 1!
How did you and your husband meet?
I was teaching in Pattaya, Thailand, and visited the island of Koh Samet with my mom for the weekend. I met my husband the first night there (he was working there at a hotel beach bar), and something just clicked for us. Over the next year, I lived in Malaysia but visited a few times, and we stayed connected. I then made the decision to move to Thailand, and the rest was history. Yes, yes, I did fall in love with a fire dancer!
Where were your children born, and what is it like raising them in Thailand?
Both of our children were born in Bangkok, Thailand. Raising them in Thailand has been great, although I don’t have anywhere else to compare it to. Although Bangkok is so busy, it’s filled with amazing opportunities. The hospitals are so well equipped, and our whole birth experience was so positive. There are so many families who live in Bangkok from around the world, so there’s a massive community of support with so many resources available. There really isn’t anything Bangkok doesn’t have. We have access to most things from back home.
What inspired you to move to Thailand, and why have you chosen Bangkok?
I originally moved to Thailand because it was familiar. My family lived here for some time when I was in college, and it just felt like a safe but exciting place to live. Deep down, my husband and I prefer the countryside or the beach. Still, we’ve chosen Bangkok because of my job opportunity at a wonderful international school. Thailand is a truly beautiful country with so much to see. By being in Bangkok, we’re close to an international airport, making it easy to travel around. For being such a big and busy city, it feels very safe. I would be comfortable walking around at night on my own.
Are there any activities or places in Bangkok that your family particularly enjoys visiting together?
So many! Our favorites would be: Benjakitti Forest Park, Benjasiri Park, the aquarium, walks on the Khlong, wandering fancy malls, and kids’ cafes (wonder woods, bumpsy daisy, fairy fox cafe, honey bear bistro). The list keeps growing for us as our kids get older and we can explore more.
Can you recommend any particular places, festivals, or activities for families visiting Thailand with kids?
I would highly recommend being here for Loy Krathong! It’s such a beautiful holiday, and the meaning behind it is also so special. People celebrate all across the country with lanterns, krathongs in the water, and beautiful traditional outfits. Another one is Songkran or the Thai New Year. It is essentially a country-wide water festival and something you really should do at least once in your life.
Please share some tips on making the most of a family trip to Thailand
To be honest, although we live here and love it, I’d say only spend a short time in Bangkok and the rest away! Get to the mountains (visit MonJam in Chiang Mai and all the coffee shops along the way), and also to the beach (our absolute favorite is Ko Samet, only 3 hours from Bangkok by car). When in Bangkok, choose a hotel close to the BTS, so it’s easy to get around without traffic.
How has the culture of Thailand influenced your family’s lifestyle?
I would say the food is one major influence! If our boys grew up in America, they’d probably love the comfort food of grilled cheese and tomato soup, but here my kids ask for pork and sticky rice! It’s a special place for them to grow up and will always be a part of them. When we first came to Bangkok, I was much more strict with deadlines and times to arrive at certain places. We have absolutely adapted to “Thai time,” which is much more leisurely — aligning perfectly with our kids.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced as an expat family in Bangkok?
I think the hardest part about being an expat in general, is just being far away from family. We miss the big events and the feeling of home. The hardest part of being an expat in Bangkok is pollution season (which we’re currently in). Some days we are stuck inside all day, and that can be really hard when you have little ones!
What language do you typically speak at home? Can you speak Thai?
At home, as a family, we speak English. However, when my husband is home with the kids, he speaks Khmer. And although I’m embarrassed to say I only speak very basic Thai phrases, my husband is fluent and can also read and write — which makes our life so much easier here!
Thank you so much for participating in this global parenting interview series and sharing your beautiful story. It is an inspiration to many. I look forward to seeing your upcoming family adventures in Bangkok and beyond. Wishing you all the very best!