Debunking several myths about Thailand as an expat destination

Debunking several myths about Thailand as an expat destination

Debunking several myths about Thailand as an expat destination

It has to be said that Thailand is now a somewhat controversial expatriate destination, but is it as bad as it’s being painted?

It’s true the formerly-named ‘Land of Smiles’ seems nowadays to be scowling at its expat residents more often than not, especially concerning immigration matters, but a number of myths are now being taken as truths. Putting aside the often impenetrable Thai culture and its decidedly impenetrable language, several myths about life as it’s lived need to be denied, if only to help those considering emigrating make up their minds.

At first seen as a joke, the Tourist Authority of Thailand’s version of ever-increasing number of visitors rushing to be let in now prompts keyboard warriors to claim it’s all made up. It doesn’t help that surveys in Thailand are almost unheard of, leaving validated percentage increases open to manipulation. The 2019 truth is that fewer tourists from faraway lands do seem to be giving Thailand a miss, preferring ‘fresh fields and pastures new’ and leaving domestic tourism to plump up the numbers. Wherever they come from, they’re still tourists.

Another compliant, it has to be said, is partly true, but is also true everywhere on this congested planet – things are getting more expensive in the vast majority of regions. Inflation is a fact of life inexorably linked to the global economy, with the USA’s annoying trade wars fuelling the fires. In Thailand it’s the average which counts. Cars, luxury goods, hotel accommodation, tourist sites and healthcare are costing far more than in the past, but everyday shopping, non-elite eating out and property are still cheap compared with Western equivalents.

One myth which stands just under half a chance of being true is the risk of being injured or even killed on Thailand’s roads. Statistics place the country as the fourth most dangerous on the planet, but don’t mention that 74 per cent of the horrendous death total involves helmet-less drunken Thais on motorcycles. The other 26 per cent is down to a lack of competent driving schools and one of the world’s most ludicrous driving tests.

Unfortunately, another myth looks ever more likely to contain a grain of truth, in that more and more expats believe the Thai government considers them surplus to requirements. In a country where ‘negotiation’ is the norm, hitting out at expat professionals, retirees and even digital nomads, all of whom are happily spending their salaries, pensions, accumulated capital or one-off payments for articles praising Thailand’s natural beauty does seem to be going a little too far, even for a military government.

Those who believe Western expats do nothing but sit in bars ogling the local talent are harking back to the 1980s and need to get up to speed as it’s now the 21st century. Expats nowadays are younger, are often working, have wives and families and live lives which don’t start and stop in an alcoholic haze. Some older, retired expats do marry their Thai girlfriends, but do so in full knowledge of their responsibilities to their wife’ family

As regards the much-vaunted lack of free speech, related as always to the present military government, it’s true that some subjects are simply not talked about. It’s a Thai thing, difficult to understand for incomers from Western democracies, and needs a few years’ living in the country to truly comprehend. Finally, Thailand’s government is often referred to as a dictatorship by Western expats who don’t quite get it that military coups are part of the long-term pattern, as are similar arrangements in just about all Southeastern Asian states.

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