Living in Thailand

by Vern on August 4, 2014

Many visitors that stay for a week or so start asking themselves about whether or not they could live in Thailand.

Can you handle living in Thailand? For how long?

Years back there were estimates by some Thailand expats that suggested there were well over 100,000 expats from around the world living in Thailand at any one time. I’m not sure that number has any validity considering there have been some sweeping visa restrictions across the board that probably took expats living in Siam to Indonesia, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, and Philippines. Recently in 2014 there has been another major immigration overhaul and the tourist visa appears to have lost its life. Personally I already know a number of expats that were living in Bangkok, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon, and Chiang Mai that have left Thailand in search of greener grass.

To me the grass is still green and I’d not rather live elsewhere and deal with an entirely different culture. Thai culture suits me pretty well. Very well really. Living Thailand style is different than in the west – way different, but it’s not a bad way of life at all.

What might you think about when deciding to move to Thailand?

Visiting first. Many people, myself included, just hop on a plane all set to live in Thailand for a year or so, not knowing at all what they’re getting into. I researched Thailand for months before deciding on it over the other Asian countries nearby. Despite how much you look into it – you’ll be surprised at many things when you arrive. You can’t be TOO prepared when it comes to moving to a foreign country to live. My best advice is to find someone that can answer some of your questions for you. I found a guy that did that for me and it helped immensely give me a good feel for what I’d be getting into. I took a chance by not visiting Thailand first – I wouldn’t suggest it for most people. You’ve got to be adventurous, but there’s something else – you have to be committed to staying because you will face some things that put you off. It’s inevitable. So, if you can, visit first and see if it’s really something you could deal with. It’s a world different than your home country. I guarantee that!

Cash bailout money. It’s important to have as much as possible saved before you arrive. I used to recommend less, but since what happened to me could happen to almost anyone, I’m recommending you have minimum 10,000 to 15,000 usd available not only for your basic needs until you find a teaching job or whatever it is you’ll do here (even retire)… but, also for emergencies… like plain-clothed police officers showing up in your hotel room accusing you of things… Or any sort of scam.

Touring around the country and choosing a spot to live. Bangkok is the only place for many people. For me it’s the only place I’d never consider living. I’ve stayed in New York City, Honolulu, Miami, and Tampa – all big cities and besides Honolulu I really don’t enjoy living in a big city at all. Give me Thailand’s out of the way towns of less than 50,000 people and I’m in the right spot. Thailand has many different styles of life – and you should see some of them before deciding where to live. Nothing will predict whether you can stay a year or not like choosing the wrong location to stay. You might last 2 months in such a situation. Take six months to travel the country and see Chiang Mai, Trat, Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Nong Khai, Bangkok, Hua Hin, and some of the south. Each Thailand location has a much different style of living.

Thailand food. Sure you like it at the restaurant, but, can you eat it nearly every meal for a year? This is one area that kills expats’ dreams quickly. If you don’t like spicy food – don’t live in the northeast, and maybe not the south either. In the northeast I can’t imagine someone being able to find and order non-spicy food continually day after day unless eating the same foods everyday. How fun is that? Do some research into what Thais eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be ready to have your beliefs challenged… like, hot noodle soup for breakfast. Breakfast for me was the hardest thing to get over about living in Thailand. Finally I’m fine with it- and love it, but it did take some getting used to no pancakes, no cereal, no good coffee to drink.

Coffee. I think this deserves a separate mention because if you’re considering moving to live in Thailand and you drink coffee… well. I have had about 3 good cups of coffee while in the country. I’ve tried coffee at all the Starbucks, Black Canyons, everywhere that offers coffee and you know what? Laos Coffee in Ubon Ratchathani was the best I’ve found. There is a little shop there on a cross street back behind Tung C Muang park that is really nice. I guess I’ve had about 50 cups there, not 3. I tend to exaggerate. If coffee fuels your mind, your creativity, your good mood… you may have a SERIOUS issue finding decent coffee in this country. I’ve had Nescafe Red Cup instant coffee now for about 8 years. It sucks, but, I just don’t think about it as I drink it… and then it’s fine. It’s just a way to ingest some caffeine, and not a religious experience like it used to be in Hawaii drinking Kona coffee at $50 a lb. Update: I started buying Suzuki espresso ground coffee at Makro and I found a very expensive coffee press for sale at Starbucks. I now have excellent coffee daily.

 

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The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

by Vern on August 2, 2014

Recent immigration changes have some expats screaming over at knob-forum that the sky is falling.

It won’t be that easy for a lot of expats to stay, but probably half the long-term expats or more are married to a Thai or have a child with a Thai national. Visas are not hard to get in that case.

There are even crackdowns on the ED visas. I’m sure they aren’t going away completely, they are just trying to get rid of the bogus schools. If you aren’t with a decent school that actually holds classes – get into one. Not that difficult.

If you’re working for a school and teaching English and they haven’t done the paperwork for the correct visa and work permit – get on them to do so, or change schools. Again, not that difficult. I never understood teachers that accept positions at schools like this. Then again, I haven’t looked much into how few have valid bachelor degrees either.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to tell you how easy it is now to get a valid visa. There are still plenty of people that cannot or will not get one.

The point is, though the sky is falling today, tomorrow may be another day altogether. Changes in immigration policy are flitty like the wind, and though it appears tough today, in a couple weeks or months something will change. It will all definitely change when a new government takes over – in a year? 18 months? Whenever.

So, it might be time for a vacation from LOS. Go see Malaysia, Singapore, or what the hell – the Philippines and see what they have. Stay a few months, a year or so and then return to Thailand for business as usual.

My buddy Lee, from The Philippines just emailed me about the visa situation there being easy for expats…

“Free 21 days when you land here. Before the 21 days are up go to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration. Fill out the paperwork and get your 59 day visa and continue to renew every 59 days and you’re safe here until Thailand wants expats back or bans all non citizens to make ‘The China’ happy.”

So, there’s an option for you (us) when we get desperate. I’ve not been to the Philippines, but there are something like a million Americans alone over there. I just don’t know what I would eat. I’d spend all my income on finding western food I fear.

 

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