They were so right! All of our high ideals for language learning and getting out to meet Thai people were overridden by meeting basic survival needs for at least 1-3 months. (Even today, we are more limited than we would've imagined before moving here.)
Here's just one example.
How to Wash Your Clothes When You're Brand New to Thailand
In 20 Not-So-Easy Steps
1. When you first arrive, crash at your husband's aunt's house for a couple of days. She does your first, small load of laundry for you. ขอบคุณมากคะ่ ("Thank you very much!")
2. Move into your house. It has all the hookups but no washing machine.
3. Hear from a neighbor that there is a laundromat down the street.
4. Send husband out to use his couple hundred Thai words to figure out where said laundromat is.
5. Find out that "laundromat" is a generous word for the single washer in someone's shop. It seems to always be full with someone else's clothes.
6. Be so busy figuring out more important things like getting food and wifi that you get dangerously close to running out of clothing for your whole family.
7. Take a family trip via taxi to Big C (Bangkok's rough equivalent to Super Target) to choose a washing machine.
9. Give up and go home.
10. Hear that there's a washing service in the area and ask about it.
11. Later that day, a man motor-scooters down the street with a rod for hanging clothing attached to the bike. Find out that that's the washing service. He uses the small "laundromat" that's always full.
12. Find out he charges 50 cents per item.
13. Look at the pile of dozens of items and decide to just hand wash a few things to carry us a couple more day.
14. Go back to Big C with your bilingual, ex-pat friend to help you buy a washing machine and schedule the delivery. Buy a drying rack and about 50 other needed items too.
15. Wait a couple of days for the delivery.
16. When the guys come to install the washing machine, find out through lots of pointing and sign language that they can't finish installing it because there is dried glue-gun glue all over the sawed off drainage pipe. Dang.
17. After they leave, jankily shove the drainage hose into the drainage pipe and try washing a load anyway.
18. It works. Hallelujah.
19. The drying rack can only hold one medium-sized load at a time and each load takes several hours to dry, so do one load of laundry every day until all your clothes are clean. This takes about four days.
20. Enjoy having clean clothes. Though, because you recently paired down to just the essentials (hello, international move!) and because your family goes through four outfits a day from sweating so much (hello, tropics!), learn to permanently do laundry one load at a time, two times per week.