Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The travelling translator...reporting from Bangkok, Thailand!!!

Moving on after our first successful interview with Catharine Cellier-Smart from Reunion, our next guest interview is with Srdjan Stepanovich, an EN into SR freelance translator who lives in Bangkok, Thailand. I asked him about his decision to move to Thailand and here's what he had to say:

Srdjan, talk to us briefly about your life before you moved to Bangkok, Thailand. I was born and raised in a small town in Western Serbia, Loznica. After completing high-school in 1998, I moved to Belgrade (the capital of Serbia) to continue my education at the Faculty of Philology. I graduated in 2005 with a BA in English language and literature. I got my first full-time job shortly after. Within a year and a half  I had changed two more in-house jobs before deciding to go freelance. I was dissatisfied with my work. Working within the confines of an office and giving up your precious time just wasn't something I could get used to. I took the plunge and started freelancing. Looking back, it was the right decision.

Why Thailand of all places and how long have you been living there already? At the time I decided to treat myself to a holiday but traveling through Europe with a Serbian passport was an ordeal. You had to submit a ton of paperwork in order to apply for a visa. It was particularly difficult for freelancers as we were officially unemployed and without a proof of income, invitation letter or a company to vouch for you, most embassies would not even consider your application. As far as they were concerned, you were just another illegal immigrant. So, Asia seemed like an interesting alternative. I short-listed a couple of countries and Thailand came up as a winner. Tourist visa was easy to get, tropical climate all year long, friendly people and great food were some of the reasons why I chose Thailand. I did not know too much about it though and maybe that was why I fell in love with it when I first came in 2009. My expectations were exceeded. Unfortunately, my 20-day holiday was over and I had to go back. I was filled up with enthusiasm and upon coming back to Serbia, I could not stop thinking about leaving for Thailand again, this time long-term. The greatest benefit of being a freelancer is that it allows you to be mobile and location independent. I wanted to exploit that fact as much as possible. I am also enjoying a happy relationship with my girlfriend Koi, one more reason to stay. :)

How would you describe life in Bangkok in three words?
Exotic, chaotic, hot.

What languages do you speak and what made you become a translator? My native language is Serbian. I speak English, conversational Thai and basic French. I've always preferred translating to teaching. I like the creative process behind it and the rewarding feeling it gives you. I don’t work as a literary translator. My areas of interest lie in IT and photography. Working as a technical translator gave me the opportunity to fuse both.

Describe a typical day in your working life. I usually wake up around 8, make myself a cup of tea  and check emails. I schedule my day depending on 
the amount of work to be done but I try not to work more than 6-7 hours on busy days. I think that everything beyond that compromises you private life. I make a short break at noon to have lunch. Sometimes I go to the gym early in the morning or play basketball after my work is done. On slow days, I enjoy going out, exploring the city and taking pictures, it makes me relaxed.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in Bangkok and how do they affect your life and your translation business? If you are a traveling translator, then Bangkok is a great starting point to explore Southeast Asia. It has excellent infrastructure, cost of living is lower than in Europe (if you are renting long term, it's possible to find a nice non-central apartment for as low as 100- 150 EUR per month. For 300 EUR you can stay centrally and even have a pool!) and people are friendly and easygoing. Public transport is cheap and well-connected. It is quite safe for a city of its size as well. Internet access is easy, something that is very important if you are a freelancer. Delicious food and exotic fruits are everywhere around so if you are a foodie, this is your heaven. I like the fact that Bangkok is at GMT +7. Since most of my clients are EU based, this gives me an advantage in terms of deadlines as I can better manage my time.

As for the cons, Bangkok is rated as one of the hottest cities in the world so it may not be for everyone. Traffic can be frustrating. Although Thai people are really friendly and welcoming, communication can be difficult at times so knowing some basic Thai can help you a lot, especially if you move away from tourist spots. Also, long-term stay in Thailand as a freelancer can be tricky and unless you have a work permit, education or marriage visa, you have to do border runs every 2 or 3 months.

Where do the majority of your clients come from? Do you work with local clients as well?
Most of my regular clients are EU based. Some are from the USA and Asia but none from Thailand so far.

What is your advice to anyone wishing to earn a living as a travelling translator?
My advice is to step out of your comfort zone and try if you have the means to fund your travels. Try not to work when you travel or travel when you work. Instead, dedicate yourself to work for a month or two and then indulge in a work-free holiday and enjoy.

Thank you Srdjan! 

Srdjan is an EN into SR freelance translator and a hobbyist travel photographer from Serbia currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.  This is his photography website

Photos: Srdjan Stepanovich,, Worlds of Words

Have you got a similar story to share? Did you leave your country for an exotic paradise? Contact me at to feature your story on my blog. 

1 comment:

  1. The translaor travelling report is just amazing. Very new ideas I got from your post. You have cleared my all the doubts!