CHIANG RAI – Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to identify the real reasons why would-be expats choose one destination over another, but the expat demographics in Thailand are now tending towards the inexplicable rather than the straightforward.
Expat forums in Thailand often concentrate on the reasons why posters on the site decided on Thailand as their home from home rather than other easier to understand locations. Replies tend to vary between the obvious and the irrational, thus giving those considering the location little on which to base an informed decision. One thing’s for sure, the styles of differing types of expat have become much broader over the past ten years, even although the popular stereotypes haven’t changed much.
One recent article in The Thaiger an English language newspaper attempted to categories the various expat types, with the first being the ambition of lonely men looking to find the perfect wife after their several attempts back in the home country ended in expensive divorces. Finding love is the motivation – the hope is that Thai women will be more submissive and obedient than their Western counterparts. Needless to say, hope springs eternal but is normally based on common sense as well as daydreams.
Bangkok is still a hub for expat professionals on huge salaries working with international corporations based in the city. Living the high life, networking with the elite, buying upscale properties and staffing them with willing Thai servants is the way to go, but they never, ever, venture into the real Thailand outside their gilded gates, continuing to live their privileged lives in a total lack of awareness of the lives of the vast majority of Thai nationals.
Entrepreneurs fare somewhat better, as they’ve worked their way up depending on their own ideas and abilities, but making a small business into a major company is almost impossible in the Land of Smiles, mostly due to Thailand’s illogical, restrictive visa and work permit rules.
Retiring in Thailand was the preferred route to long-term stays until fairly recently and resulted in innumerable internet sites giving instructions on how to live on pennies rather than pounds or dollars. As a result, retirees now make up a sizeable proportion of expats in the country.
Pushed as the perfect retirement destination for its weather, cost of living and welcoming expat and local communities, the Land of Smiles dream seemed real but is now fading fast due to increasingly expensive visa requirements and a rise in the cost of living coinciding with an artificially strengthening baht. For example, living off the UK state pension was possible then – it isn’t now.
Teaching the English language in Thailand used to be the easy way to gain access to all the other advantages of living in a developing country, as visas were easy to get with just a TEFL qualification and no-one ever asked about teaching qualifications or experience.
Retire in Chiang Rai is a beautiful and comfortable place to retire. If you are a nature lover and wants a quiet and laid back retirement.
Chiang Rai is unbelievable cheap. Not to mention that, the food is good, the weather is lovely and cool plus people are nice. Retirement life in Chiang Rai is more peaceful and quiet that Bangkok.
Nowadays it’s a different story, although the Thai kids are still charming and smiley and just as unlikely to benefit from instruction in a decidedly foreign language. Learning Chinese is now the preferred parental option, as the Chinese influx isn’t likely to go away any time soon, if ever, and many expat English teachers have now left Thailand for teaching jobs in mainland China.
The message now is simple – come if you feel you must, but be prepared for a short stay unless you’re very lucky.