THINKING ABOUT LIVING IN THAILAND? THINK AGAIN – After 12 years of living in Thailand; also known as the Land of Smiles or as some expats prefer, the Land of Scams, I finally left and returned to the U.S.
I ran a very successful company in California for over 20 years and at the grand old age of 62 I sold up. I was, in all honesty, tired of the bureaucracy and especially the unions. The U.S, for me at least, had turned from a country that promoted the American dream to rewarding the inept and stupid.
As a lover of golf and warm weather I decided to take a trip to Thailand and try out some of the wonderful golf courses on the island of Phuket.
After spending a few days in Phuket I fell in love with the place. The pace of life appeared easy, it wasn’t overly expensive and the locals appeared friendly enough.
On returning home I made the necessary arrangements for a retirement visa in Thailand and a few weeks later returned. I spent the first week living out of a hotel while I scouted around looking for somewhere to rent.
Within a month I was completely set up with a new home and all the golf I could want – life really did appear perfect and the weather was simply divine; even when it was raining for this often provided a welcome relief from the heat and humidity.
When I first visited Thailand I didn’t really pay any attention to how Thais perceive westerners and I really didn’t bother to investigate any of the so-called ‘darker’ aspects of living in Thailand but over the next 12 years I learned that Thailand is not really the best of places to live for a westerner.
Westerner’s are referred to by Thais as ‘farangs’. It doesn’t matter where you go or who you meet, from a Thai that has nothing to one that is wealthy beyond comprehension, a westerner will always be referred to as a farang.
If you are of a ‘black heritage’ then sometimes you will hear the term ‘farang dum’ – farang being a white person or one of European decent while ‘dum’ is the Thai word for black.
The very use of the term ‘farang’ clearly shows that Thais are unable to distinguish differing nationalities and this is not inconceivable consider the appalling level of education in Thailand where most Thai kids have very little knowledge about the world outside of Thailand.
The question is, are you thinking about living in Thailand? Well maybe you really ought to reconsider your idea and I would certainly recommend you do your homework thoroughly before you jump in with both feet.
For tourists Thailand has its good and bad points; yes it’s like most places on earth and if you are looking for Utopia I’m afraid Thailand is not it.
Many foreign tourists who visit Thailand have a pretty good time and there is plenty to do. One of the most appealing aspects, from a guy’s perspective, is that Thailand has a very colorful nightlife and the bars are always entertaining.
There have been countless critical articles written on Thai tourism over the years and I suspect this will continue long after my bones are laid to rest for Thailand isn’t about to change anytime soon.
Tourists must be aware of the pitfalls, such as renting Jet Skis and Motorbikes and be aware that double pricing and dual standards is prevalent throughout Thailand.
When it comes to living in Thailand as an expat, there appears to be a mix of those who just retire, those who want to engage in business and those that support their stay by working.
The easiest route is retirement and providing your pension is adequate there is little reason why you would experience any real difficulties.
You might now be wondering why I left. The truth is that Phuket has become a complete and utter mess. The roads are almost unusable, not just in the state of the surface but also the volume of traffic. When I first arrived it would take me no more than 15 minutes to drive to the golf course; when I decided to leave that journey took nearly an hour and on some occasions more.
There used to be many beautiful places but Phuket is now blighted by power lines, garbage and dog mess everywhere – it just appears that the Thais took something truly incredible, in terms of natural beauty, and turned it into a environmental disaster; all in the name of greed.
Despite these known failings they continue to build everywhere without considering the consequences to this once lush and tropical paradise – it reminds me of the lyrics by Big Yellow Taxi, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” unfortunately the Thais have done much worse and turned Phuket into little more than a toxic garbage dump.
If you are one of those thinking about having a business then think carefully. The usual route is a bar or a restaurant and yet there are far too many as it is. There are many foreigners who set up such businesses with the concept that they’ll become rich.
Unfortunately most foreigners soon discover that there are mountains of paper work, for all the licenses and work permits are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ‘paying off’ officials. Nearly all bars are visited once a month by corrupt police officers looking to fill their pockets with protection money.
Thailand really isn’t the place to do business as Thais rarely appreciate a foreigner making a successful business and it is well known that successful businesses are squeezed by the local administrator and authorities in order to keep them firmly in their place.
There are those folks who come to Thailand with the expectations of work and much of this is teaching. If you are young and just looking for a little adventure in your life then this really isn’t a bad route but there are very few who make teaching in Thailand a long term occupation.
I knew a really nice guy who was teaching and he always said it was not only frustrating but truly pointless.
Each semester he would compile a teaching program. This then had to be approved by the Thai teachers and because they didn’t understand the material or that they perceived it to be irrelevant they would often throw it out.
The result was that he would stand in front of a class of 40 or 50 students with nothing much to teach. Most of the kids would spend their time sleeping or playing on their mobile phones and therefore after just 18 month he gave up and moved back to Switzerland, a very disillusioned young man.
Living in Thailand certainly has its problems; but there again that could be said of any country. The issues foreigners have in Thailand however is that most feel they are being discriminated against in one form or another.
Foreigners need to understand that the Thais are extremely proud of being an Asian nation that has never been colonized – or at least that’s what they have been taught; they don’t consider Japan’s takeover in the early 1940’s as colonization.
It could be argued that the Chinese colonized Thailand 400 years ago and simply carved up Thailand relegating the poor to the north eastern regions. It is common practice for Thais to refer to the ‘high society’ sect as Thai Chinese and yet it really doesn’t enter their consciousness that they were in fact taken over by the Chinese.
I once read that foreigners should really treat Thailand in the same way they do a casino – that’s is it’s nice to go in, have a bit of fun, but ultimately know that you are going to leave with the house winning all your money.
There has been, and will continue to be, horrific stories of foreigners being left destitute or worse murdered for their assets. Thailand therefore has to be viewed as a gamble and a gamble where the stakes can be extremely high.
Regardless of whether you are a tourist or intending to reside in Thailand do not every be lulled into the perception that you are equal to a Thai national. You are in their eyes often third class when it comes to the pecking order and you will find that the ‘human rights’ you enjoyed so much in your home country are rarely considered when things go wrong.
Again I left the U.S with the perception that I was leaving my troubles behind and yet what I found was a whole new set of problems and ones that I had no control over.
In the last four years my house was broken into no less than six times and on each occasion the police didn’t want to know. Each time I called in the police I got the usual line; “Can you pay for investigation?”
Yes, it might seem unbelievable that the police would ask you to pay money for them to look into the case (that is actually do the job they are paid to do) and yet this is the way in Thailand.
Thailand is a country that is driven by greed and many Thais, but not all, will do whatever it takes to dip their hands into your pocketbook; even if that means directly stealing from you.
The level of greed in Thailand appears to know no bounds and it is why the levels of corruption are so high and often foreigners are the target of their greed and corruption.
For expats who live in Thailand most will openly acknowledge that there are many forums, such as ThaiVisa, that attempt to uncover and make more people aware of the greed, arrogance and corruption that is abound in Thailand but they will also acknowledge, despite their ranting, that nothing ever gets changed and any change will certainly never come about due to the voice of a farang.
Thailand does have its good points and if you are a guy looking to get laid without any preconceptions or social judgment then Thailand is the place. But as for living or working in Thailand on a permanent basis I would have to say Thailand is not the idyllic utopia many people think it will be.
We all want to escape from time to time but there are many other places around the world where a foreigner is not treated with utter contempt and where its people will even be happy that you chose their country as a place to reside.