Discover Why Thailand is a Major Destination for Expats
With beautiful beaches, wondrous landscapes, active cities, friendly people and a relaxed lifestyle, living in Thailand might seem like the perfect destination for expats.
Expats in Thailand often discover friendly and welcoming people, affordability and a more laid-back style than what Western cultures typically offer. Still, there’s a lot to consider before settling into life of white sands, turquoise water, beautiful cliffs, night life, culture, and an easier way of life.
Once you’ve taken the proper steps and done your research, you will quickly find out why more and more expats are choosing to live in this exotic and exciting country.
The Price is Right
The cost of living in Thailand is pretty affordable compared to other countries. When it comes to property, expect to rent because property ownership is very difficult. Expats in Thailand can own land under a treaty, but the last such treaty ended 45 years ago. Foreigners can own up to 1,600 square meters for residential use. The investment isn’t practical, and even if you bought land under the provision, you can’t leave it to anyone in a will, so ownership is limited to the life of the person who owns it.
When it comes to the cost of renting, location is the prime consideration, but overall, rent in Thailand is affordable compared to Western countries.
In regard to food, there is a major price difference between Thai and Western food. Local restaurants are so affordable that most locals eat out daily because it’s cheaper than cooking at home. Western eats, though, are comparable to prices back home. Beer and local spirits are served at bargain prices, but wine connoisseurs should know that their favorite varieties come at high prices in Thailand.
Life in Bangkok
One of the great things for an expat living in Thailand is that you have a choice of living somewhere calm or relaxing or in an active city, but likely at an easier pace than Western cities.
The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok, the national capital, which has become a modern city with its skyscrapers, luxury hotels and top-notch public transportation system, including its famous BTK Skytrain. It’s also a major destination for expats who want to live in a major city that is affordable.
Dining options range from bargain-priced noodles from street vendors to five-star meals. There’s lots of shopping at markets, malls and boutiques.
Major attractions in Bangkok include the Wat Pho temple, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddah. Another famous temple is the Wat Arun temple, known as the Temple of Dawn because of how the morning light reflects off it.
A popular destination is the Jim Thompson House, named after the American entrepreneur who lived in Thailand for 25 years, until he went missing in 1967 during a vacation in Malaysia.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok is home to more than 800 works of modern painting and sculpture. Lumpini Park offers bird watching, paddle boating, a food center, library and events.
Another popular city for expats is Chiang Mai, a hotbed of culture in Northern Thailand. It is known for its festivals, including the Loy Krathong, which usually happens in November, where people take float their krathongs, banana-leaf containers decorated with flowers and candles, and place them on waterways in honor of the goddess of water. Another hallmark of the festival are sky lanterns, which are believed to rid people of their troubles.
Chiang Mai also is known for its Thai New Year celebration in April, and the three-day flower festival in February, when the city’s flowers are in full bloom.
Another city to consider is Chiang Rai, which is a cheaper option many expats are choosing as other cities are becoming more costly.
Life on the Beaches
Many expats, especially those who are retiring to Thailand, will want to consider a beach lifestyle, such as what’s offered at Koh Samui. It offers tropical weather year-round, is affordable and is a 90-minute flight from Bangkok.
Another beach option is Hua Hin, which became a getaway destination when the royal family built a summer palace there in the 1920s. It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Bangkok and draws its share of expats for its beaches, easy living and restaurant scene.
Phuket’s natural wonders include beaches with sparkling waters and jungle-topped mountains. Known as the “Pearl of the Andaman,” Phuket offers warm waters, breezes, and all sorts of lifestyle options. You can live the easy life, or spend your nights club-hopping. You can relax on the beach or enjoy evenings of music and cabaret shows. It’s famous for its seafood, and it has restaurants that offer all sorts of foods — Italian, Indian, sushi, and more. Expats love it for its golfing, cycling, sailing and markets that sell imported foods. It also is home to a major airport, so you can travel without stopping at Bangkok.
Language in Thailand
Although the Thai language is spoken throughout the country, English is widely spoken in Thailand, especially in Bangkok and major tourist destinations. Thailand also draws visitors from Europe and other Asian countries, so many languages can be heard to different degrees.
Although learning Thai can be difficult, the friendly Thai people are usually willing to help expats in Thailand learn a few keywords. Learning how to truly speak the language is a big challenge as Thai uses five different tones, with each tone altering the meanings of words. Learning to read Thai can be just as tricky as speaking it, but road signs are in both Thai and English and many tourist destinations and restaurants offer menus and written materials in various languages.
Learn the Wai Greeting
One bit of non-verbal communication any expat in Thailand should know is the “wai” greeting. It’s a show of respect and is done by pressing your palms near your chest and bowing. Greeting people with the wai will help you gain respect from Thai people.
The higher your hands are during a wai greeting, the more respect you are showing. Fingers might be raised by some as high as the nose, but fingertips never should be higher than eye level. Do not use the wai when meeting servants, street vendors, or children. Never return a wai to a servant or child, just nod and smile. It’s also worth knowing that monks do not return wai greetings.
Religion in Thailand
Thailand recognizes freedom of religion but Buddhism is the most commonly practices religion. Indeed, the king is required to be Theravada Buddhist. Chinese folk religions, including Taoism, are practiced, as areTai folk religions. The country also has a significant Muslim population.
Meditation is an important part of Buddhism and many wats will teach visitors the basics of meditation. In some temples, monks will talk with people about Buddhism, either simply to gain knowledge or to consider serious study of the religion.
Laws and Customs
Thailand also has a reputation for having some unique laws, including one that makes it illegal to leave your home without underwear on, although how strictly that law is enforced is unclear. Driving shirtless also is forbidden.
It’s also illegal to defile any images of the king, to the point that you can be punished for stepping on Thai currency.
When it comes to drinking, it’s illegal to imbibe in places of worship, public offices, pharmacies, educational institutions, gas stations and public parks.
One important law to know is that people with passports are required to have it on them, and never leave your passport with anyone.
While some traditions regarding the sexes are changing, be aware that women are not allowed to enter the “bot” area of temples.
Avoid shaking hands. Although some Thai people will shake hands, they don’t do it with a lot of enthusiasm. Make sure not to kiss people on the check, European style, as this is off-putting in Thailand.
Transportation in Thailand can be tricky and complicated. Buses are the most common form of public transportation in Bangkok and some other cities, with government-run buses being the best option. Bangkok also has an above ground and underground public rail system.
Another method of transportation is the sŏrng·tăa·ou, a small truck which can operate on specific routes, similar to a bus or as a taxi-type service, bringing multiple passengers to destinations that are fairly close to each other. Be sure to arrange a fare before agreeing to a ride.
Many cities have motorcycle taxes for short distances, they’re a good option for a short drive if you’re not carrying packages. Other options include taxis and minivans. Be sure to negotiate fairs prior to the ride.
Before heading to Thailand, find how out about job opportunities and check out the guide on how to work abroad in Thailand, which provides tips to expats on business customs, popular industries, and work opportunities in Phuket, and Bangkok, and in other cities.
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