I returned to Europe last year, after 5 years in Thailand. Had to go, for monetary reasons, and dreaded the return to boring, bland and expensive Farangland.
But even with a cold and rainy summer it was not as bad as I had feared. Old friends to meet, all that food that was hard to find in Thailand, sensible traffic, honest police, and generally everything from goods in stores to public transportation being of high quality.
Top quality public services – hospitals are free, so are schools. A lot of rules and regulations, yes, but far less mess with tons of paperwork and red tape for everything and all those problems with laws and rules being applied randomly as happens in Thailand.
One thing is clear: Having Thailand on your CV is not a great thing. People are interested enough in what it was like there. And many are expecting wild stories from the notorious nightlife. What most people hear in the way of news from Thailand is stories in the tabloids whenever a westerner has been raped or killed or badly scammed – so the public perception of the Kingdom is not the best.
Of the Thai living in my country, most are females. More often than not married to the kind of man that for a catalogue of reasons has problems finding someone at home. Then there is a number of Thai women who work in massage parlors of questionable reputation. This has been in the news enough to make it common knowledge.
And for the tourist on his first trip to Bangkok – walking down Sukhumvit with or without wife or girlfriend from his own country, what a nice and proper first impression…touts on every other corner with those pamphlets with pictures of more or less dressed girls for sale at parlors. If Thailand is concerned about its reputation, forget closing the bars at a time many Europeans are used to start nightclubbing. Better have a chat with all those taxi and tuk drivers who often represents the vacationer's first interaction with a Thai national.
Anyway. My point is that, as we know, Thailand has a bit of a reputation. Anyone looking at your CV may have some impressions in the back of her head, a collection of bad news half remembered from stories in the news and possibly from that sightseeing trip through Patpong which seemed like a good idea at the time.
So anyone in need of staff may ask themselves: "Hmm, is this chap an adventurer? Is this a steady guy like we need for the job? What sort of person is he really?"
Better to get a job through connections, friends and former contacts. Seems most jobs – at the least the interesting ones – are had by people not finding them in the ads but through networking. Here your problem can be that your network is not really there anymore, things have changed. You may need to rebuild your network. And if you cannot land a good job maybe you have to take "anything" just to pay the rent until something better turns up. If so, you might be seen as a guy who could not make it "over there" and something is not all ok, cause you are now not a manager anymore, just another chap struggling to make it on a janitor's salary.
Me, I got some odd jobs here and there, all from former employers. I am currently enrolled at the taxi school, as there is a lack of drivers and the pay is quite good here – absolutely totally different from Thailand.
If I had not had family back home for support and a place to stay, I would have been in trouble when I returned. In some contrast to where I was when I moved to Bangkok, to take a position offered in a telecom company. I flew first class to Thailand on my own money, which I could afford at the time, to give myself a cool feeling for the "new start". Coming back I was on the cheapest ticket I could find…
One of my best friends in Thailand, a Brit who has been in-country for some 25 odd years, told me not long before I went that he would have gone back to London if he could at this time. But he could not. No family left, no network over there anymore, no money – not enough to be anything but a welfare case anyway – no work prospects. He is getting by as a teacher, a job he took just to make ends meet and get a visa. Honest as he is, he really does his very best in the job – but he hates it. And where he is located, around 20,000 baht per month is what he can get with the TEFL certificate he forked out his last 50k baht to get a job. Not much there to save up for a return to Farangland, really.
In retrospect, I should have done a job while in Thailand to keep in touch with former colleagues and business contacts back home. I should have gone back more frequently to socialise for the purpose of keeping myself remembered. Should have, should have. Did not.
So now I face the penalty. Not to nag and complain too much – I have the luxury of a friendly family for support. But working my way back to a position and a salary like what I had before will take time and effort. Man, am I happy right now that healthcare is free and that I am in a rich and well organised country that can and will support those in need in so many ways. Getting something back for all the taxes I have paid over the years.
And being back here paying tax on every dime made, I am back in the system – as in climbing the pension rates ladder. The more I make, the more pension I will get when I retire. If I do fairly well here for about 10 years, I can – unless things change dramatically – afford to retire in Thailand or somewhere in South East Asia and live not in luxury, but quite comfortably – comparative to having about 80 – 100K baht / month after taxes as it is at present.
In all honesty I had my wild times in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. Even been naughty in Laos, which was great. And no regrets. But now is my time to face a hard reality and bend my back for a decade or so – in order to be able to enjoy life later without economic worries.
I now look forward to become one of those old expat guys who cares little if they are seen as old pigs hanging out in bars, leaning back with another cold beer and resting assured that next month's cheque will arrive sure as sunrise courtesy of a country that is both rich and well managed, solid to the point it would take a dinosaur killing event to crash things.
Should I offer any advice? There are a number of westerners who are doing well and better than well in Thailand. But there are more westerners who do not, or who are in a situation that could get very difficult if a visa law is changed again, or another Thai partner goes crazy, or whatever.
I would say: Burn no bridges, try to have some backup – a possibility to return to Farangland if need be.
Don't sell the house, rent it out. You just might need it later 😉
Good luck to you all, and thanks Stick for keeping the site running. Good job, lots and lots of useful info and good stories.
Excellent advice here. Unless one is on a true expat salary, say 200K+ baht per month, I think anyone staying in Thailand for a long time who has not already built up a nest egg has to be conscious of their future…