Is Thailand calling time on Western expats

Is Thailand calling time on Western expats

Is Thailand calling time on Western expats

For decades, Thailand has been one of the most popular Asian destinations for expats, but some are now suggesting the ‘good old days’ are well and truly over.

A recent poll on Facebook by an expatriate living in Thailand dared to ask whether Western expats are now seeing the end of an era. The result was a dead heat, with 50 per cent of respondents saying the good life is truly over and the remainder believing it would continue, at least for a while. Only 318 votes were received, but the controversy has been on expatriates’ minds for a while.

Traditionally, expats in the so-called Land of Smiles came in a number of flavours including overweight male pensioners attempting to relive their glory days as stud of the month, older couples retiring to enjoy warmer weather along with the relatively cheap cost of living and younger expatriates relocating to Bangkok for work-related reasons. Nowadays, digital nomads have discovered Thailand as a cool place to hang out for a while before moving on, the country’s still a favourite for workers in the oil and gas sector who need a comfortable hub for their furloughs and, in spite of the law, teaching English without a work permit is still a favourite occupation. The one expat sector everyone tries to ignore holds the scammers, crooks and other undesirables who choose the country as a bolt-hold from Western or Russian law.

Thailand’s expat community is still truly international, even outside Bangkok, with refugees from the USA forming the largest group and found all over the country from the capital to the southern beach towns and Chiang Mai in the north. Until fairly recently, integration with other English-speaking groups resulted in a lively mix, but exclusive, mostly elderly cliques are now the accepted norm, with ethnic enclaves giving little chance of cultural exchange. The main reason for this change would seem to be financial, as the USA state pension is more than twice that of the UK, and also more generous than most other countries’ state pension payments.

One recent development causing the breakdown of the overall expat community in Thailand is the invasion of Chinese investors and visitors arriving in droves from the north, much as they did 800 years ago. The descendents of those original refugees from unrest in their home country and those who continued to arrive are now amongst the Thai elite, with the present invasion causing a market shift impacting the demographics of the established expat communities. To put it basically, Thailand was, for many years, a stomping ground for first world, white, male expats, a world which even now is just a memory, with even its girly bars under attack and marginalised.

Optimistic expats still believe Thailand will adjust, perhaps becoming more like Singapore with a very different expat community of younger professionals living and working in the capital. It’s certain that up-to-the-minute professional expertise and investment will be necessary to continue the country’s development but, and it’s a big but, it’s possible that what’s needed may come from China rather from the West.

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