When you’re surrounded by other people your own age and race, it gets clubby real fast. Assumed common values speed consensus and nobody thinks twice about offering an opinion. Here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I have as many expat friends as I did my fellow students at University of Missouri. We all despised the Vietnam war and dreaded being sent against our will to the very region I now inhabit voluntarily.
Instead of eating army rations, I eat Thai food in incredibly affordable restaurants. My social security pension allows me a life of leisure. Since this is a Buddhist country and theft is rare, I spend little time worrying about my personal safety, though every day finds me riding a motorcycle through insane traffic, a clear and present danger, but rampaging scooters don’t hold a candle to mortar rounds or sniper fire.
Like all grumpy retirees, we like to complain about how the locals run the show here. Since few Thais speak English and almost none of us speak Thai, our griping rarely puts us at odds with our hosts. Oddly enough, Vietnam is now more affordable and welcoming to expats than Thailand, and many of us are choosing to spend out golden years there. North or south of the old DMZ isn’t important. Cities we used to bomb with abandon now welcome us with open arms.