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 every day 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.

 

 

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. Some of these outdoor activities can be listed here on this link: “Best Thrilling Adventures and Activities“.

 

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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5 Tips For Moving To Thailand

Having stayed for about a few years now here in Thailand, trust me when I say that it was worth it. I am living my dream every single day. Living comfortably and still continue to enjoy what I love to do best, to write and share my experiences with you all. But of course, looking back, it was not quite easy deciding on which country I would love to set my adventurous feet on and I mean, for good.

Here are 5 wonderful tips I’ll be sharing when you are to move in this beautiful country of Thailand:

Know And Understand The Thai Culture

We all know that each and every culture is unique and I have been a personal witness to this upon arriving in Thailand. Their National Anthem is sung twice a day all throughout the country and everyone must stop whatever they might be doing and just stand still while it is being played and sung. Of course, as a sign of respect, once you’ve set foot in any homeland, you must abide by their laws and culture as well, no ifs and buts.

Another thing to keep in mind is how they give value to their food. I love food, we all love food. Yes, this is a fact for most of us. But in Thailand, they show love for food by giving value to it. Always leave your table with a clean plate after every meal. Doing so will benefit you as it is considered a big no-no or a vital offense if you have leftovers. As for me, it would also show your appreciation for their cuisines and delicacies.

Deciding Where To Live In Thailand

Now that you’ve come to understand the culture in Thailand and you greatly feel that this place really is for you, the decision of where exactly to stay and live is the next big and significant thing for you to make. The move to Thailand still is the best decision I have made for myself, and I can say the same thing for my partner. We have had the main control over our own lives and the independence it brings is truly remarkable.

The cost of living here in Thailand is way much cheaper than what we have in the states. It played a big role for us to firmly decide to stay here.

For a couple of years now, we have been staying in Chiang Mai and have only had the best and fabulous years in here. The place has great apartments where you could stay and the people here are wonderful too. Certainly, a beautiful place to live your dreams same as mine.

The cities in Thailand such as Bangkok and Phuket are good options as well. There are bars, plenty of restaurants, good houses/apartments – city center in its best term. If you have kids, you might also consider in these areas since most schools and related amenities are much closer to the center of these cities.

You might also be the kind who prefers to be away from the busy life of a city. There are lots of good and friendly rural areas in here as well.

Learning The Language

Moving and living in any new country, especially one with a different language as yours, had been one of the biggest challenges I have encountered during my first few weeks of stay here in Thailand.

I’d say it is a cultural responsibility to somewhat adapt and learn the language of a country you have just moved into. But this doesn’t have to cause anxiety and wouldn’t be achieved in an instant as well. Make the learning fun for you and the natives of Thailand.

Just my advice, best if you would make friends with your neighbors for it is them that’ll help you out with this language barrier you would firstly encounter.

People in Thailand have great humor too so don’t stress yourself over learning their language as they will certainly help you be at ease while catching a few new words.

Be Ready For The Weather

I can personally say that one of the difficult things about initially living in Thailand is the weather. Yes! The weather my dear friends. Mr. Sun can be very extreme to the point where I am really not used to. And the fan has almost no effect for comfort and you’d be very glad for the gift of air-conditioning units in this type of weather. But honestly, I guess it just takes getting used to Thai weather and I’d say Chiang Mai’s is much better than that of Bangkok’s and Phuket’s.

Make Good Friends In Thailand

Thailand has great and friendly people. They will make you feel relax and comfortable in their presence.

I’ll make this short but sweet: Find real and good friends in Thailand as they will make your stay worthwhile.

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Chasing A Dream

I was thinking the other day about my first piece of work titled Chasing A Dream. The reason I was thinking about this was because I’m no longer chasing this dream, I’m actually living it. Let me explain.

If you haven’t read this piece of work, don’t worry. It has been over 7 years since I wrote it and I was not only living a different life than I have today, but I was also a different person.

Although I was living one life, I was dreaming about a different life. One that I never imagined would have been achievable. I had spent the last year reading about people that were making their dream their reality. They were packing up their lives and moving to cheaper but comfortable cities like Chiang Mai, Kathmandu, Penang and more. Travel wasn’t really a passion of mine to be honest, but settling somewhere where I could spend my life doing something I loved was.

My boyfriend and I were tired. We were both working over 70 hours a week, and more was expected. We felt that we could never get ahead. We couldn’t afford the lifestyle we wanted to live and more importantly, we didn’t have the time to live it. It was the cost of living in Thailand that prompted the move.

This is when we decided we had nothing to lose. Within a week, we had packed all our belongings and placed them into storage. We weren’t overly sentimental about anything so it wasn’t too hard to throw a lot of what we owned away. We also found super cheap storage and paid what our monthly rent would be for a year.

If any of you think this is crazy, well yeah. It is. We would have thought we were crazy until we actually did it, but the thing we began to consider is why should we live our entire lives doing something that doesn’t make us happy. That was crazy to use. The even worse side to that would be to never have given it was try.

We ended up settling on Chiang Mai. We were truly Chasing A Dream. A lifestyle where we could survive with me earning money as a freelance writer and my boyfriend earning money as a freelance graphic designer. We found heaps on jobs online and already had a few opportunities from blogger friends we knew in the states. The wonder of working online is that you can do the work whenever, wherever you want, and the other benefit of working for yourself is that you can choose exactly how much work you take on.

We found that we could easily survive in Chiang Mai if each of worked about 30 hours a week. In fact the lifestyle here on this rate was significantly better than it was back home even when we were working 70 hours each. It’s pretty amazing just how expensive the states are.

We’ve also experienced things here that we never thought we would. We spend so much time in nature. I’ve taken up meditation and yoga, and we both go to the gym daily and get a weekly massage (sometimes even twice weekly). We eat out at least 5 times a week, and the food is not only delicious and healthy, but it is super cheap. We’ve also made some great friends. These are people that share our vision of having a lifestyle that appeals to us and not necessarily the majority of other people. I’ve even played a live gig here.

Of course, it’s not all a dream. There are parts that are very difficult about our lifestyle that we manage. For me, the hardest part about moving to Thailand was leaving my family behind. We lived in the same city for over 25 years, and leaving them to move to Thailand was actually the first time I had left them at all. I’m lucky enough to see them at least once a year. Because we spend limited time together, when I do get to see them we have a really great time. We make the most of every moment together.

The other difficult thing about living in Thailand is the weather. It can get super hot here, and not the type of heat I am used to. The weather can cover you in a blanket of warmth that you can’t escape until you reach a property that has air conditioning. Even a fan is no match for the conditions here – and it’s all the time. To be fair though, Chiang Mai isn’t too bad. I found that it’s much worse down south in Bangkok and Phuket.

The move is truly the best thing we could have done for ourselves. We’ve gained a great deal of independence over our own lives. We have a great apartment and great friends, and we even have a dog. Nothing in life is forever, and I’m not saying that we wont eventually move back to the states, but for now Chiang Mai works fabulously for us.

The amazing thing is that my book Chasing A Dream predicted this. But even more amazing is that we were able to make it happen.

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