Realities of being an expat in Thailand

Realities of being an expat in Thailand

Realities of being an expat in Thailand

Expat life in Thailand can be fulfilling and fun, but Westerners should never, ever forget the Land of Smiles is a very foreign country.

The rumour that all expats who arrive in Thailand are fat, old, rich Westerners looking for a sexy Thai girlfriend may well be true in many cases, but not all. A good proportion of expat arrivals are refugees from dull, rainy days and political chaos, usually spending their time looking back at their home country in horror. A few expats arrive in Thailand with a business plan, and some actually make it work. A few arrive on relocation, but don’t count as they’re based in, and seldom leave, Bangkok.

One thing’s true for all the above groups is that living in Thailand has its very own unique frustrations. Perhaps the most frustrating of all are the ever-changing immigration rulings and the inconsistency with which they’re applied by Thai immigration authorities. At first, the various available visas seem to take care of most expat needs, but the devil’s in the detail and the details sometime simply don’t make any sense. Over the past decade, regulations have toughened up and their enforcers have become more aggressive in their often inexplicable decisions. Online information visa-wise doesn’t seem to have trickled down to local offices, making a sense of security difficult to obtain for the average expat.

Expats running a business in Thailand have been know to complain about corruption, forgetting the fact that it’s now endemic the world over. Brown envelopes passed over to officials can make problems disappear, and everyone accepts it’s the Thai way. It’s also the way in the West and always has been, but there it’s under, not on, the table and the amounts are usually much larger. Thai bureaucracy is another expat cause for complaint, especially as Thais sem to adore paperwork. Simple tasks require reams of paper, despite the fact that most of the rest of the world now works in paperless offices.

A recent claim by a USA NGO caused hysterical laughter across Thailand’s expat community for its rating of Thailand as a great place to start a business. Expat experiences range between impossible, confusing and an adventure to challenging and not worth the hassle, with ‘do-it-yourself’ an absolute no-no especially as regards hiring Thai staff! One general moan with a deal of justification is the dual-pricing system as in one price for Thais and another, far higher price for foreigners, whether expats or tourists. It’s never going to change as it’s just another example of the ‘Thai way’. Whatever your problem, there’s no point in complaining and losing your cool, as it’s a total waste of time and may have unforeseen consequences such as a group of angry Thais. Not a good idea.

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