This is page 2 of the story, “Living in Thailand” – the first page is HERE.
The USA Isn’t FUN Anymore…
Life in the U.S.A. had become rather depressing. I was enjoying it less as time passed. I watched materialism feed off itself. I saw advertising agencies spend billions to keep the ball rolling and the game being played always for bigger stakes. Things got harder as I got older, not easier. I saved less as I got older, not more. There were more toys to buy and get involved with as time passed and income grew.
The U.S.A. is money-driven. That best describs our entire country. All people care about is money. It’s what we are brainwashed with from infancy. Make more. Do more. Spend more. Get more. Create more. Achieve more. We are the most advanced nation on Earth and yet we didn’t get there without some major sacrifices to family values… morality.
I found the USA no longer fun to live in. I found it disgusting really. I found that just thinking about the simple necessities: Food, House, Car, Gas, Car Insurance, Health Insurance, and finding time to relax was too overwhelming. I am NOT good with money. I’ve made lots of money – but have no savings. I was 38 when I left the U.S. I let the bank repossess my truck. I didn’t have any credit card bills or other bills, but I had student loans I was about to default on.
For the couple months before I left, I seriously felt like, and KNEW, in my professional opinion that I could seriously lose my mind. I am absolutely sure that I was headed for a monumental breakdown, and I couldn’t face that. I had to delay it. Put it off entirely if possible. Getting away completely from the insanity of it all seemed like the best idea.
What Country is Right for “Vern”?
I started to research different places to live. I never had any desire to live in Europe or Canada, where it would be more of the same type of living as America. I wanted something really different. Kind of remote like I had read about in “Jack London’s” Tales of Hawaii book I’d read many years before. I wanted something remote and backwoods and yet the people needed to be friendly… not hostile. I didn’t want to be in the “Heart of Darkness,” but somewhere close. Somewhere friendlier.
It had to be somewhere with good food. Japanese food doesn’t do it for me. Korean has some great food and yet overall there is little healthy about their food from what I ate in Korea during a three-month stay in the Air Force on a temporary duty assignment called, “Team Spirit.” I also didn’t think the country as a whole had much to offer in the way of things I like to do.
Indian food is my hands-down favorite. But, Indian people can be a bit annoying. A bit too serious. A bit too unclean by American standards and I wasn’t ready to abandon cleanliness yet. Not to say they all are of course, but there are a large number – a high proportion that are not so clean if we’re comparing them to American or Thai standards of what “clean” is. Cleanliness is nice. I enjoy cleanliness myself. I’d rather stay among very clean people who take lots of showers and among whom it is not “OK” to smell bad.
Laos was too backwards – and not enough foreigners living there. I wanted to have foreigners “farang” living there – just not with me. I wanted pizza and Italian bread occasionally, but didn’t want to be living with a family of Italians.
Cambodia was out of the question. Too dangerous. Too many crazy stories of lawlessness and he with the biggest or fastest or most-used gun wins. There is more corruption there and in Vietnam than most of the other Asian countries – at least more than is talked about… except maybe Burma (Myanmar).
The guys who liked Cambodia liked two things: Drugs, and girls and boys under 18 for sex. There really are NO OTHER GOOD reasons to go there and actually LIVE THERE. The place is a haven for derelicts and degenerates for whom it’s the last stop.
One can teach English there – but really the only reason you’d stay is if you craved one or both of the vices mentioned. Don’t let anyone tell you they were living there for a different reason – other than humanitarian reasons. The place is a hole. Sick guys go there to live for sick reasons. That being said, there are thousands and thousands – millions? of tourists that go there to see the Khmer temples which are quite a site. (Update 2015 – a number of expats have moved from Thailand to Cambodia in search of something that Thailand was like years ago. Cambodia isn’t the haven for degenerates it once was, but there are still plenty!)
Malaysia seemed to be OK, but I wasn’t up for being surrounded by Muslim people. I didn’t know anything about the religion at the time and I didn’t want to find out, and have negative experiences, and have to move quickly. There are Muslims fighting with Thai people in the Southern parts of Thailand. They are killing teachers, kids, and monks randomly. They appear to be a separatist group of fanatical Muslims that are insisting on breaking the south away from Thai control to give to Malaysia or form their own state or country.
I’ve been to Malaysia and the Muslims were friendly from the heart. They couldn’t have faked the kind of generosity and friendliness they showed me. Incredible! So, I really believe it’s just these splinter groups of radicals that are causing the trouble. I still wouldn’t LIVE in Malaysia – but for many other reasons.
China was a possibility. I wasn’t up for living in a communist controlled country with limits on the internet though. The food can be good and unhealthy at the same time. As far as food goes, Thailand and Vietnam had the best in the world next to Indian food and it was between these two countries that I knew I would choose from.
My son is half-Vietnamese. His mom came to America when she was 11-years-old. She told me stories of Vietnam and I’ve read some books. Mostly what turned me against it was that there is widespread corruption among the police force and military and a foreigner is totally at their whim. Usually they are gentlemanly about the fines you must pay and what not, but still… you know? They do it to their own people too, so one could probably get used to it, and yet it seemed excessive.
The other negative about the Vietnamese people was that I heard from some people before leaving that they really try hard to take foreigners to the cleaners – cheating them on money and inflating prices for foreigners. Even if you live there. They are rather cold and ruthless so the stories go. I cannot verify any of this as I’ve not gone there yet, but back two years ago when I was trying to decide it was good enough evidence to help me decide that I didn’t want to go there and spend a year or so…. visit later, yes. Live there as my first stop in Asia? No.
Is the “Land of Smiles” My next Stop?
So I began to look in-depth at Thailand. Thailand had Buddhism… Buddhism is one religion I can at least stomach. I had meditated “Vipassana style” for a period of ten months back in 1998 and I experienced some very strange incidents that I was curious to know more about. I also was married to a Thai girl from 1996-1998 and met her family – they all lived in the USA for the past thirty years. The family was very nice and I got the feeling that it was their culture more than them just being nice because I married into the family.
I looked at visa requirements – there weren’t any. A 30-day Visa could be obtained by any American just by arriving in Bangkok. I looked at job possibilities and work permits. It seemed like it was quite easy to get a job with a degree – I have a master’s in psychology but they’d literally take any bachelors degree with any major. Some schools wanted a teachers’ course certificate like TEFL, but most didn’t care much about that. The government schools and other good schools wanted a degree.
I looked at living conditions, temperatures, rainfall, government… all were tolerable. The heat was actually a plus since I do well in hot weather. It is hard to find a place hotter than Florida – but at times Thailand can be hotter.
I started to search in Thailand online forums for more information. I met a guy online that was doing some internet related things that he was vague about. When I sent him my resume he replied that he had similar interests but still didn’t tell me what he was doing exactly. I asked him many questions… everything I could think of. I figured out that he was working in the adult film industry. He had some web sites and was filming ladyboy content on a nearly daily basis for himself and for the largest ladyboy site on the planet.
Having this guy available was a great help, and I would advise anyone planning to come over to live to find someone that can answer all their questions about life here before coming. It’s quite a help to find someone willing to share what they know what they have already done. I guess you know that, and that’s why you’re reading this ebook. You’ll never know everything you need to ask, but you can be much more prepared and so have much more chance of success because your expectations matched what your experiences here.
I am not sure if I’m part of the ‘norm’ or if any part of my reasons for choosing to move away from the USA to come to Thailand are common. I’ve met many people here who have been running away from something stressful there and others that seem to have been but that didn’t choose to share their story with me. I’ve met people with serious drug addiction problems… people that dropped out of life so to speak and are living bare minimum lives – teaching, eating, drinking, smoking, taking prostitutes, and sitting at the bars every day and night here, just like they did in the U.S. or wherever they came from.
I’ve seen kids in their early twenties that want to see the world and teach a bit – some of them volunteering. They come for many reasons. I’ve seen hordes of people come just traveling around seeing the country. The Europeans seem to have months at a time to travel…. but I’ve only met a couple Americans who were traveling for more than three weeks before they had to return to America.
Thailand’s Dirt-Cheap Cost of Living
I’ve seen so many retired guys here. They came for the cheap life, cheap women, the cheap food. They are basically slugs that just exist here in a slightly more substantial way than they could have in the States or Europe on a small pension or social security. Really, one only needs a savings of $100,000 USD to live off the interest here. That would give you about 15,000 baht per month. Housing in smaller cities isn’t more than 3,000 baht a month. Food would be 5 – 6,000 for one person. Extras would take the rest. One could teach English from home (illegally) – nobody cares much – and earn an extra 10,000-20,000 baht per month without attracting too much attention. Some expats have stayed in Thailand for years teaching at schools, or privately without a work permit. Some don’t even have visas to stay in Thailand. The penalties for being found working without a work permit are usually – a quick bribe to whatever police officer is holding out his hand. It could get worse if the officer doesn’t accept, or you offer too little, or other factors are involved. You’ll be sent back home, maybe without chance of ever entering the “Land of Smiles” again. Usually you can just take a plane right back here.
Beer is really cheap. I think today (2015) a big Beer Leo is about forty-five baht in this town. It is twenty-two ounces and has 5.5 to 7% alcohol content. American beer often has less. Forty-five baht is about $1.50 USD at the moment.
Food is cheap – super cheap. One could eat for under $200.00 USD per month if you chose to.
I can have a hearty noodle soup in the morning for just thirty-five baht ($1.15 USD). I can eat lunch – fried rice with chicken – for just forty to fifty baht. I could eat dinner – som tam – papaya salad, sticky rice, and barbequed chicken for just eighty baht. So, for just around six dollars a day you can eat some great food. Fortunately, and very fortunately for me, my girlfriend cooks breakfast and dinner for me everyday. It is heavenly… she can cook better than any restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. Every meal is perfect. I’ve eaten like this for a year and a half. You haven’t lived until you’ve had excellent Thai food made for you every day!
More about the day-to-day living later…
Differences in Culture? Oh yeah!
There are some HUGE cultural differences between living here and living in the U.S.A. I will cover a few of them – but really there are so many that a list will always be incomplete.
The most overwhelming difference between Thai society and American society is that America is BIG on responsibility for one’s actions and Thailand is not.
America is big on nailing your ass to the wall if you do something wrong… Thais’ are not.
America is big on calling it like it IS. Not fluffing around something… not glossing over something. In America they want to know the TRUTH. The objective truth. Nothing else will do. We make all our decisions on the truth or the volumes of information we can find about a subject.
In Thailand this all comes second to keeping the flow going… keeping the seemingly smooth interactions going. They DO gloss over things. MANY things. They don’t WANT to know the truth or scream the truth or admit the truth if they know it will screw up the flow of things… the illusion of cohesiveness… They don’t WANT to change the illusion.
It is maddening to see happen sometimes and yet it happens often and consistently.
They want to gloss over confrontation. They hate confrontation. They want to smooth everything over like smoothing peanut butter on bread. They want to keep everyone smiling and happy when in person. They will lie until they turn purple to retain face.
Someone might see a man go into a hotel with a woman obviously not his wife. The Thais will gossip to no end about it, yet if the wife of the guy asks someone about it – it didn’t happen. If the guy was caught with photos and video of the event, he will likely not admit it either. They never admit it. I don’t know when this is taught – but all Thais seem to know it.
There is rarely a harsh word said in public. Rarely. But, if one is said it may quickly escalate into a free-for-all brawl that includes throwing bottles, cutting people open, lots of kicking and usually, no ALWAYS, it includes multiple guys beating on one or two people at a time. There is no such thing as a one-on-one fight here. It is groups of people on a small number of people usually. It happens when someone is eating dinner at an outside sit-down restaurant and they get a wooden stick or metal bar to the back of the head. It happens when the person’s back it turned and a knife is plunged deeply over and over without a chance for response.
It happens mostly when Thais are drunk. They embarrass more easily and are more likely to embarrass others when in that state – as is everyone. But, the Thais just explode when they feel they are losing “face.” Face is similar to embarrassment. But different. It’s related to the individual’s standing in society too. One that has a high position in society will be embarrassed more easily. Extra care is taken by Thais not to step too heavily on those who are in high positions. People can die here quickly and cheaply. I’ve had both Thais and foreigners alike tell me that for 20,000 baht ($500 USD) someone can be killed and disposed of. Anyone. It happens often enough. The police here are corrupt… or can be corrupted if they happen not to be already. They are not well paid, and they often take bribes to look the other way. In fact, to get something investigated at all one needs to start with a contribution to the police. For a murder investigation it might take 5,000 – 20,000 baht to get them started to look into it.
The newspapers in Thailand are not quick to find out about, or write about killings, fights, rapes, etc. There is little that will be found in newspapers in smaller cities. There is just such little flow of information. There is no central ambulance system. In smaller cities guys run around in pickup trucks and pick up bodies at accidents. They literally throw someone in the back of a pickup and take them to the hospital – knowing they’ll make some money for their efforts. There ARE some foreign owned newspapers that report on violence against foreigners as often as they find it. The Pattaya mail is one such publication that always has a list of crimes and crazy goings-on that happened in Pattaya, Thailand.
It isn’t all negative, this idea of no real responsibility for anything… a foreigner can use this to his advantage too. Not being directly responsible for anything is a nice change actually. Any change from the USA way of doing things was welcomed by me when I first arrived.
Thais have virtually no visible ego. Buddhism is a religion or philosophy or way of living that de-emphasizes the ego. This is so obvious in Thai society. It is a wonderful change from the USA. Thai men are not ‘macho’ in the least. They are friendly and nice from the start. There is no attitude to get over between two men strangers with nothing in common like there usually is in America. There are never hard looks from Thais to foreigners that are complete strangers. NONE. I’ve never experienced it. (I’m speaking of the non-sex tourist areas).
When I arrived, I was sure it was happening. However, the guys were just looking at me because I am a foreigner and they were curious about me – how I look, my eyelids, my nose bridge, the clothes I’m wearing, my blonde hair. They don’t mean anything by it. I know this because I started smiling at them when they looked and it was like I just snapped them out of their trance. They would suddenly get red in the face and laugh like they were embarrassed and look away. It was like I caught them looking – and they were shy. It was so awesome to see it. It happens more in the small cities than the big ones – but it happens all the time.
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