• Lucy

Living the Life of An Expat

Updated: Jan 18

What lies behind the life of an expat? Is an expat required to follow the traditions and practices of Thais?

The population of expats in Thailand is estimated around 500,000 to 1 million over the last decade.

An Expatriate or an “expat” is a person who moves to another country either temporarily or permanently for the reason of employment or retirement. Getting away from the native land and move into a new place as a complete stranger is something to think about. It is practical to learn and adapt the ways and means of the people and acclimate to the environment and conditions in order to survive.


The place

Bangkok is the capital and the most populated city in Thailand. As the Asian investments rose up in 1980s and 1990s, many multinational companies have relocated their regional headquarters in Bangkok causing the rapid growth on its population. (Bangkok.Wiki) Nevertheless, Bangkok has continue to rise all through the millennial era up to the present time. Thailand tourism boasted about over 30 million visitors every year from all over the world. The country is known for its historical attractions, nice beaches, shopping markets, popular cuisines, wide variety of street foods, and even the famous red-light districts. These developments has opened doors for more employment in the city and all through the provinces. The cost of living is considered average compared to other countries and this is the reason why other nationalities has opted to retire in Thailand. Over the last decade, it was estimated to have 500,000 to 1 million expats all over the country. (Thaivisa.com)


The culture

Thailand culture is a mix of Indian influences, Chinese traditions, and the unique Thai elements. Thai has a strong sense of shared traditions and identity, influenced by diverse ethnic groups from all parts of the country. Many of its traditions and beliefs rooted from the principles of Buddhism. Expats however, are not required to follow these practices but are legally and morally bound to respect every Thai traditions, their religion, the government and its people.


The language

Thai language is widely spoken and understood even among these diverse groups. Thai script is often used in place of traditional writing. (reachtoteachrecruiting.com) Apparently, some Thais are not well-versed on other languages particularly the English dialect. In the past, English language was not introduced to Thai people nor it was a part of the regular curriculum in schools. For a certain time it was offered only to International or private schools and has become an option to students to learn in some other institutions. In reality, an expat learning the Thai language finds it difficult than a Thai learning the English words. One Thai word could mean differently depending on the tone or how the word is pronounced. But due to the fast-growing economic condition and unstoppable rise in tourism industry, Thais have realized the vitality of learning the English language to be able to cope up with the demands of the business world and prove to be a Third world country. In the recent years, schools have offered the English program to its students and has opened the teaching opportunity to other nationalities which was then catered predominantly by native English and Filipino teachers.


The hitch

Culture shock is but normal to anyone stepping in to a new ground and feeling disoriented for the sudden encounter with unfamiliar ways, attitude, and culture most especially when you are not the adventurous type. In the early part of 2012, only few Thais could speak the universal language in most places. There were occasions when taxi drivers refused to give an expat a ride just simply because they don’t speak the same language. For some locals, they call every foreigner a “farang” but generally, this term is used to address Caucasian people or someone of white race. The treatment between Europeans and Americans from other expats is different in a way. Discrimination seemed to be happening at some point when they were given a special attention and care over other expats. But on a VISA run for example, farangs are grouped separately from other foreigners. On a contrary, they were charged with a higher cost and this explains the difference apart from cultural diversity.



In a developing city like Bangkok, residents and expats could have a similar type of place to stay. Condominiums and apartments are greater in numbers compared to subdivisions or housing units. The terms condo and apartment are interchangeable over the years. In the strict sense, the difference on these properties depend on how the law classify them.(Bangkokcondofinder.com) But generally speaking, high-rise buildings are often called condos while the low-rise are considered an apartment by many. Room rental fees are based on location, size, and its furnishings. Expats can rent a unit or could even acquire an ownership on these units but are not allowed to purchase a land by law. There are only two options offered and that is either through a 30-yr leasehold or purchasing from a limited company. Apartments can be purchased provided that at least 51% of the property is owned by a Thai. (Thailandguide)



Among the many challenges an expat could face is homesickness or having melancholy mood that could lead to depression or anxiety attack. Another is surviving hunger and food cravings. Thai food are known to be spicy. Not only that, going in a restaurant without an English menu is difficult or even buying a food from the street vendor when no one can translate or write the order. As a quick recourse, 24/7 convenient stores offer an "easy-go" food readily available to eat only to the disadvantage of having a limited variety of menu. Mingling with locals and making friends is even a snag. Some locals could speak English but the comprehension level is different. Learning a bit of the local language is a benefit but understanding their ways and practices, or adapting their nature means survival.


Eventually, life will become easy. Getting familiar of the people and the place is a good point to start. Thai people are generally friendly and accommodating. Trying to be an expat in another country requires a thorough decision-making that considers the culture and nature of the place along with the self-assessment of adaptability and stress tolerance.



"Whatever place you may go, life is hard only if you don't allow yourself to see the beauty that lies on it."

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