The Challenges (and Perks) for Expats Living in Thailand

Being in another country can be sometimes rewarding and sometimes frustrating. But no doubt about it – it is always an enriching experience. But living in a foreign country (most likely permanently) is otherwise a completely different matter, compared to having a vacation there as a tourist. Building your professional life, raising your family or spending your retirement years in a completely foreign land is always a life-changing decision. And I can attest to that!

Thailand is an alluring country and a popular tourist destination. It is home to thousands of awesome temples, gorgeous beaches, delicious cuisine and the warm smiles of the Thai people that beat even the most sweltering Bangkok weather.

But it’s not all paradise in “The Land of Smiles.” Like in many countries, living in Thailand presents its own set of challenges, and some of them are quite frustrating. But don’t worry, not everything is an ordeal there. With learning more on how to adjust to everyday life in Thailand, you will be able to get used to it. There are also advantages and perks that make living in Thailand more than just tolerable — hey, even enjoyable! So read on…

The challenges

It is not usual to see Caucasians in Thailand, but most Thais view all white expatriates as Americans (and having lots of money). Like many foreigners living in a faraway land, adjusting to living in Thailand can be become very challenging, initially. Most foreigners live in Thailand because of business or work.

One of the first hurdles to get over is the language barrier, and there’s only a paucity of English speakers among native Thais. Although English is widely taught in schools, many locals still struggle to speak the language with facility or do not feel at ease speaking in English. Thus, the best way you should do when deciding to move to Thailand is to learn the basics of Thai language – speaking, reading and writing it. That will help everyday living in a Thailand a bit less challenging.

 

 

Bangkok is a megacity, and thus one of the common problems that every megacity faces are the traffic jams. For Western expats, traffic jams make commuting to and from work especially daunting, testing their patience. Expats who are used to driving around back in their home countries will definitely miss it the most once they live in Thailand.

Road accidents often happen due to lack of discipline among both motorists and commuters, making the traffic situation a lot much worse. This will hamper the efficiency of healthcare services, as ambulances fail to respond to emergencies on time because of the heavy gridlock.

But the good thing about getting around in Bangkok (and other Thai cities) is the number of decent public transportation such as buses, taxis, trains, and tuk-tuks.

 

Another concern to be seriously considered when living in Thailand is the lack of good public healthcare, like in the case of many developing countries. The dearth of general physicians and doctors can make it quite difficult when you need them. One of the usual scenes you see in local clinics, public hospitals and health facilities in Thailand is the long queues of patients. If not, patients in public healthcare facilities usually get lesser treatments than patients in private hospitals. Clearly, there’s inequality in Thailand’s healthcare situation.

For expats, the best way to counter against the challenges of public healthcare is to choose a private plan or an international health policy, which will give them access to the best healthcare.

 

Another challenge of living in Thailand is the bad Internet connection. Although most local service providers offer broadband, many Western expats still find Thailand’s Internet speed quite slow. In a recent speed test, Singapore leads the fastest Internet speed with 121.7 megabits per second (mbps), a far, far cry to Thailand’s measly 19.9 mbps.

The average Internet connection speed in Western countries (such as the US and the UK) play between 30 to 36 mbps, which may explain why expats find the Internet speed in Thailand to be frustratingly slow.

 

Bureaucracy and red tape are still common in Thailand, like in many developing nations. Going through a lengthy process in obtaining a visa, a work permit or any other required document can be a considerable challenge and frustration for many.

 

 

 

The perks

Thailand is a beautiful country, no doubt about it. It boasts wonderful natural sights such as world-class beaches, limestone cliffs, amazing rock formations, emerald-green mountains and breathtaking hidden waterfalls. You can also find beauty in the city, with ancient temples juxtaposing tall, modern buildings as well as colorful, diverse markets and beautiful public gardens. Beaches? They’re world-class! Check out the Top Beaches in Thailand to plan your next vacation!

 

 

If there’s something that Western expats love most about living in Thailand, it’s the cheap cost of living. The affordability in Thailand is unbelievable that sometimes you’d think it’s ridiculous. Living in Thailand allows you to stretch your dollar further. For only $1 you can enjoy a full meal consisting of rice, vegetables, or meat/poultry/fish/seafood.

From inner-city apartments and condominiums to luxurious Thai-style country retreats, getting a comfortable place to live in Thailand is incredibly cheap and easy. You can even get a tastefully modern, full-furnished apartment in the heart of Bangkok that is accessible to all amenities and all kinds of transportation for only $500 a month. A great Thai massage can cost you as low as $10. Even if you’re a low-to-middle-income earning expat, you will still be able to live a great quality of life in Thailand while saving a great deal of money at the same time.

 

Thailand is a land of great opportunities for different people with different lifestyles. Today more than ever, Thailand offers a wide range of activities to further maximize your leisure time. If you are a city slicker who loves to shop at big malls and love to party at night, you have Bangkok, Phuket or maybe even Chiang Mai to suit your preference.

If you want to experience a simple country life, you can do that in any of the thousand rural villages in Thailand. If you are a total beach bum, Thailand has lots of gorgeous beaches and many of them have access to basic amenities and facilities and offer an amazing nightlife. If you’re into outdoor activities, there are opportunities in Thailand for biking, cycling, hiking, mountaineering or extreme sports such as skydiving, rock climbing, scuba diving with whale sharks and bungee jumping. If you’re into jungle trekking, you won’t feel short of finding several untouched and pristine forests in Thailand.

 

Thailand is a food haven, especially if you love Thai food in particular. The country is every gastronome’s dream destination. Not only Thai food is delicious and offers a wide variety of flavors (not just spicy), it is also affordable. No wonder, Thai cuisine is certainly world-renowned. To truly experience authentic Thai cuisine, you’ve got to sample their amazing street food, such as pad thai, curries, roti and green papaya salads as well as fresh fruits — Thais love to eat fresh fruits and they usually do that at the end of the meal. If you’re the more adventurous type, try insects or durian.

If you are craving for Western-style food like burgers, pizzas and shakes, there are also fast-food restaurants in Thailand. Craving for Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French or Korean food? No problem, as Thailand also has a great number of restaurants serving international cuisine.

The bottomline

Thailand is a beautiful country. But like many other countries, Thailand has its own advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the country’s low cost of living, a wealth of opportunities as well as its exotic cuisine will entice foreigners, in addition to its natural beauty and the friendly Thai people (as long as you don’t annoy them).

You only have to deal with the negatives such as traffic jams, poor public healthcare and red tape. Being a tourist versus being a permanent resident in any foreign country are certainly different from one another. So, are you ready to live in Thailand? If you want to settle there as an expat, consider it carefully first before making the final decision that can dramatically change your life.

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