What is Living in Thailand REALLY Like?

Moving to Thailand | Essentials

15 Years of Living in Thailand

Moved to Thailand met my Thai wife.
Moved to Thailand, and such a better person for it.

So, you’re thinking about moving to Thailand? I made the jump from the US on November 5, 2004. I’m still here. Can’t be that bad, right? It wasn’t. Overall, the move to Thailand was the best move I ever made and I’ve lived a number of places in the USA (Pittsburgh, NYC, Miami, Tampa, Oahu, Maui) that weren’t so bad to live in at all.

Here’s something to consider…

Moving to Thailand isn’t about the scenery or the food. It isn’t about the crazy nightlife and low price of beer and clubs. Living in Thailand is about ALL OF THIS, and so much more. It’s the LIFESTYLE. It’s the complete change of life that can only be experienced by living in a country so different from yours that nothing seems to make sense for a while.

Difficulties of Life in Thailand

Thailand's annual Songkran water throwing holiday to thank the gods for water.
Songkran water throwing.

When you come to Thailand, your mind goes into a sort of Nonsense Mode. Really. For a while, months, and probably years, you just won’t be able to wrap your head around the way things work in this country. It’s LUDICROUS! It’s DANGEROUS! It’s not FAIR! It’s DISGUSTING!

You’ll probably say something similar at some point after you come to Thailand. I’m sure everyone does.

It will take a little while to get accustomed to what is going on here. Guess what? I’m STILL, after 15 years, getting used to what is going on here. There are things I still just refuse to get over. I can’t accept that dogs are running around loose and biting random people and attacking and maiming kids on a somewhat regular basis. I just can’t. That’s just one example of a societal difference that I’m not going to get over. Thais live with it. They don’t fix the problem. It isn’t THAT BIG of a problem to them, apparently. It is for me. That’s my problem, not theirs. And so it goes with various things in Thailand.

During the first few years of life in Thailand, your major experience will be LEARNING TO ADJUST to a completely different way of life. You’ll crave some of the consistency that you once knew back in your home country. You’ll long for some logical thinking, planning, and conversation that you once enjoyed daily back at home.

Adjusting psychologically, emotionally, even spiritually and physically, are the major tasks after moving to Thailand. Probably nothing else matters more for your success and continued long-term stay in the country, than adjusting to at least some of the major differences that are in your face constantly.

Many people return to their home country after a year, two years.


I think most of them just can’t believe that people LIVE LIKE THIS every day of their lives. It’s a real shocker. Now, we’re not talking about living in 4th world conditions. We’re not living in squalor over here in Thailand, but it’s way different.

Some Ways Living in Thailand is Different (worse) than Living in the USA

It’s Not as Clean

It’s dirtier, with more litter laying around the beaches, mountains, parks, streets, rivers, sidewalks, schools, and literally everywhere you look. In the 1970’s in the states, I remember a huge drive to clean up the nation and stop littering. Thailand is only just now coming to the same state of mind.

Stray Dogs are Everywhere

Buddhist temple dog in Thailand.
Many dogs are dropped at the temples for monks to take care of.

There is little to no animal control in the country. Stray cats and dogs reproduce a couple of times a year and there are more stray dogs in Thailand than maybe in any other country in the world. I haven’t seen them all, but it’s a problem here. Read more: Soi Dogs | Dogs & Cats | Dog Tips.

Crime is Not Investigated Properly

Thailand’s police force is paid ridiculously low wages, but that’s because so little is expected of them. To make more money they resort to pulling people over for not having the correct paperwork for their vehicles, helmet checks, and sometimes – though rarely – having loud after-market exhaust on their motorbikes. I’ve never seen a police officer chasing a suspect in a car who just ran a red light, or who was speeding.

Small Crimes Go Uninvestigated

Even some major crimes like rape and murder are not given full investigations at times. The justice system is rife with payoffs at all levels, and it’s often said that if you have the money, you can get out of ANYTHING. For a little eye-opener, just have a look at the heir to the Red Bull fortune. He mowed down a police officer in his Ferrari and has never (and will never) go to jail for it. Most of us from abroad are never going to accept the injustice we see here. It happens daily if you look hard enough for it. Usually, you need not go far, it just slaps you in the face.

Medical Treatment is Sub-par

It’s true (I guess) that you can come to Thailand and have medical procedures done by some of the best surgeons in the world. At the very highest level, there is some good medical treatment available. HOWEVER, for people without money, they are getting some of the worst treatment on the planet. I’ve seen it so many times. In fact, you can roll up into ANY public hospital and see it for yourself. Overworked nurses who just don’t give a shit. Too few fans and air-conditioned rooms ONLY for those who pay for private rooms.

Yes, the Thai health insurance covers Thais for just 30 Thai Baht per incident. But, you’re getting about 3 Thai Baht of value.

I would NOT recommend coming to Thailand without decent health insurance. At the moment we pay around $180 per month for me, my wife and daughter. Not too bad considering what we’d pay in the USA.

I’ll put the brakes on the negative experiences of living in Thailand for now. There are MANY more, and some of the articles I’ve written cover them in some detail here.

Living in Thailand Positives

People are Friendlier!

A Thailand student makes a sign for her head in my class.
A Thai student being funny for the teacher. (Teaching in Thailand)

I debated which word to use in that sentence. Nicer? Yes, they are nicer up-front than people in the states. Strangers are often greeted with a smile. It’s a nice way to start things off – isn’t it? Thais seem to be friendly to people as a default in most instances. Customer service in restaurants and other shops is at a level of friendliness much higher than in the states (as I remember).

Thai Food is Amazing!

Pumpkin and shrimp lunch in Thailand.
Pumpkin (Fuhktong) and Shrimp (Goong) – just a little something the wife whipped up this afternoon for lunch. Find a woman who can cook!

One of my main considerations before moving to Thailand was — “Can I eat only Thai food for a year?” As it turns out, you don’t have to, there are plenty of other food styles in Thailand — Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Company & Hut, Swenson’s Ice Cream, etc. In the bigger cities and cities frequented by tourists, you’ll see many food choices.

Thai food is one of the top cuisines in the world though, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find another 50 or so dishes you can eat. In the states, I had Tom Yum, Yum woon sen, and Thai fried rice with chicken or shrimp. Here in Thailand, I’ve had at least another 100 meals that were equally or more delicious than these staples.

Cost of Living is Ridiculously Low

The cost of almost everything is lower in Thailand than you experienced in your home country. Almost for sure. I told you about our health insurance. That’s a fraction of what it would be in the USA. A rental house with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths in Krabi, one of the most beautiful spots in Thailand, can be just 9,000 THB per month – around $300 USD. Our electric bill is around $75 per month. Our water bill – always less than $9 per month. Our 2 Gbps internet is about $24 per month. A meal out for four people is usually just about $11. Delicious food at that price too!

There are hundreds more positives I could list about living in Thailand, and maybe someday I will list them. I get crazy about writing long lists sometimes.

Moving to Thailand for a Year

I suggest you do as I did, at least as I planned. I figured, no, I wondered, could I live in Thailand for a full year? Could I actually make it away from the USA for an entire year? That became my goal, my mission. I wanted to accomplish that before I died. So, I set off to do it.

I had no idea what I was in for back in 2004. There wasn’t very much written online about it, and certainly no books about moving to Thailand existed. I was lucky enough to find an American in an online forum who was super-helpful during the planning stage.

What to Do Now?

I wrote a book about Moving to Thailand. You can click here and get it on PDF for $5. Or, order at Amazon in Kindle format for $6.99 or paperback for around $9 (changes constantly). Read the book and take notes for what you need to get done before you move. The more you research where you want to live – the better!

Grab your copy of the book above in PDF format by contacting us here and we’ll send a Paypal invoice for $5. Or, buy at Amazon for your Kindle or in Paperback.


Figure out financially how you’re going to swing this move. Get a one-way flight ticket and save some cash. Choose an area with tourists so you don’t feel so out of it. Good food and people who speak English will be a better experience than moving to a place where few speak English – like in Sisaket, Thailand.

Choose a City

Noppharat Thara Beach in Krabi, Thailand - one of the best places to live when you move to Thailand.
Noppharat Thara Beach with Ngorn Nak Mountain peak in the background. Krabi, Thailand.

I suggest many cities in the book like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hua Hin, Phuket Island, Krabi, Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima), and more. Maybe you’ll find a place close to one of these areas and move there instead. Maybe you think Bangkok is best, and you move straight there. I strongly suggest you take into account AIR QUALITY for the place you want to move to.

There are not that many ideal places with great air year-round in Thailand. You should probably find one of them because otherwise, you may be facing nose, throat, and lung problems. Also keep in mind allergies may be an issue – so you might have to move away from an area you thought was going to be perfect.

Moving to Thailand can be the best decision you ever made. It probably will NOT be the worst, so you have that going for you. I think 95%+ of all foreigners moving to Thailand who leave in a couple of years, are still very happy with their decision to try it. So, try it. See if it’s right for you. See if you’re the type of person who can adjust to many problems and less-than-ideal situations, and come out on top with a new understanding of the place.

I wouldn’t say I feel like a WINNER because I stayed here for 15 years. I will say that I’m sort of proud of my self for sticking it out – for getting past SO MANY negatives that have occurred over the years. I’m still here. I’m still married. I’m still in good health. I’m still, overall, quite happy with life and the decision I made 15 years ago to move to Thailand.

I think you will also be happy you came to Thailand and gave it a try.

Remember, moving to Thailand certainly won’t be the worst decision you ever made!!!!!

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