The dream of living in Thailand can become reality for most people, since the Kingdom provides many options for long-term stay and a plethora of opportunities for study, employment and entrepreneurial ventures. Thailand has developed quickly, which is great for some people and less desirable for others. However, there is no doubt that Thailand offers a great place to live, work, relax, travel, raise a family and enjoy life in a truly unique place that is unlike every other country on Earth.
So you have been dreaming about living in Thailand for some time. You feel like the country may provide you with the type of life you truly want. You probably have traveled here before and if not, you certainly should. Get a feel for the place, travel around and see what the country has to offer. Moving here sight unseen is a recipe for a rude awakening and often leads to expats returning home with their tail in between their legs, shocked at the differences and unable to acclimate to such an unfamiliar environment, language and culture.
A few notable web resources say that it is a great idea to simply read about Thailand and then make the decision to move here. While some people can make this move successfully, we highly recommend taking time to see the country firsthand. Don’t just come for a week and do only touristy things. Come for an extended trip, travel about and then return home to take it all in and make an informed decision about whether living in Thailand is right for you or not. In the long run, you will be happy that you invested the time in the decision making process and will have a better chance of finding an appealing place to live if you decide to move here. Remember, there are many areas where you can stay and knowing the best places to live in Thailand for your needs will make your experience much, much better!
There are many types of visas and extensions of stay that can make Thailand friendly for long-term residency. Thailand has a booming real estate market with tons of new housing being built each year. Meanwhile, Thai people are having fewer children than ever before, halting population growth. It is easy to see that the Thai government will have to make the country a haven for expats in order to prevent possible future economic collapse. Someone needs to live in all of this sparkling new housing, right? For extended stays, Thailand offers easy yearly extensions for retired people and people who are married to Thai nationals. People who come to work can get a visa, although there are usually more hassles and hoops to jump through, especially for workers who change jobs often. There are visa options for people who are investing in Thailand or starting a business here. There are also student visas that allow long stays when studying in the Kingdom. For truly extended stays, Thailand offers permanent resident status, as well as the chance to acquire Thai citizenship for select individuals who meet certain criteria.
Many expats in Thailand tend to congregate into communities and take up living like they did back home. They might enjoy some aspects of Thai life, but lean towards the familiar and some actually entrench themselves in maintaining their former life at any cost or consequence. This is not recommended or productive towards a happy, healthy life in Thailand. Likewise, many retirees and married people come to live in Thailand and assume a permanent vacation mentality, which can be great or catastrophic, depending on the activities they participate in on a daily basis. If they raise a family, do charity work, get a job or do something productive, then they fare well. If they only look for friends from their home country, go to the bar to drink every day and spend their money on various vices, then they are bound to fail immediately or eventually. The number of expats who fall into poverty and find very real nightmares in Thailand is legendary. This is often known as the Thailand Trap. The trap is actually set by the poor choices of its victim, certainly not by life in Thailand itself!
We have been living in Thailand now for 5 years. We had to overcome the learning curve, even though Jammy is Thai. Being abroad for a long time changed many things in Thailand and even Jammy never lived in Bangkok as an independent adult before starting over here in 2014. We have built a life here together through hard work and the desire to understand the culture and the reasons why things happen. We loved our old life in New York, but had to let it go fully in order to build fresh here. Holding on is simply unproductive… We highly recommend the following practices for people who are considering moving to Thailand and starting a new life here. These considerations will help you to adjust and increase the chances of you being successful in your decision to relocate:
Learn all you can about living in Thailand and Thai culture. Understanding helps to overcome fear and prevent problems based on different cultural perspectives.
Learn Thai language. Ok, so maybe you will not become 100% fluent, but at least know the basics. Adam strongly recommends focusing on reading skills at first, since this opens the door to learn everything else (speaking, writing, understanding) much better!
Become active in your community in positive ways. Don’t become a blight on Thailand by being yet another drunk, ill-mannered tourist.
If there are things you do not like here, feel free to become active in bringing about objectively positive change. However, do it with respect, kid gloves and compassion. Do not feel superior or be judgmental. Things here exist for reasons you might not understand. If you can’t change something, you just have to accept it. It is pointless to resist at the expense of your future happiness.
Don’t fall into the trap of exclusively surrounding yourself with people from your own country instead of socializing with Thai people. Likewise, don’t become one of those sour expats who distrusts every foreigner in Thailand either. People are people, wherever they are from. Give each person the chance to demonstrate their quality individually.
Most importantly, consider living in Thailand for the right reasons. Come because you love it here. Come because your can build a real meaningful life here. Come for whatever reason speaks to you in your heart. Do not come because it is cheap. Do not come because you have destroyed your present life in your own country and need to escape. Do not come to spoil the generally good demeanor of Thai people with your cynicism and rancor. Especially, do not come to victimize people due to economic disparities. This is soulless and you will be punished in some way. Karma does work here!
Do not come to Thailand without the means to support yourself. Don’t hope that you will “figure it out”. This is a recipe for disaster. This lack of planning may have worked out for a few people, but cost many more everything they had.
Make sure you have health insurance! Living in Thailand without it is a risky proposition that has literally killed many foreigners. This has been highlighted on YouTube recently, case after case…
Most importantly, don’t come to live in Thailand with a sense of entitlement. Thailand does not owe you anything. In fact, life does not own you anything. If Thai people are welcoming you to live in their country, you owe them. Keep this in mind every day and you will prosper.
If you want to ask specific questions about living in Thailand, please accept our invitation to add them in the comments below. Best of luck with your potential move!
Living is Thailand should be a dream, not a nightmare. Do it right and have no regrets. Do it wrong and end up like so many others who failed…often with dire consequences.