Readers' Submissions

Back Home Again Too

  • Written by Marc Holt
  • May 20th, 2009
  • 9 min read

Stick, you really surprised me with your decision to return to live in Thailand. We have been discussing our options for a couple of years, and from everything you said I thought you had made up your mind to return home. Let’s face it, at your age (late thirties) you are fast approaching the point where you have to get your life together. If you leave it any longer you will find it incredibly difficult or even impossible to return home to a good job.

Of course, qualifications are important. I understand that you don’t have certified teaching qualifications. <You misunderstand completely. I am in fact a qualified teacher and have the credentials to prove itStick> That would mean if you want to continue teaching back home you would have to go back to school again to qualify. <I have already put teaching in the rear view mirrorStick> That would be hard, but with your knowledge and experience you shouldn’t find that too onerous.

Do you have a job to return to in Thailand? <Yes, I do!Stick> If not, you will find it difficult to find a good one. And even if you do, the money you will earn will be a joke compared to what you could be making back home. <Salaries in New Zealand are amongst the lowest in the Western world. The average salary is well under $US30,000 per yearStick>

Of course, everything is relative. But strangely, I have found that the cost of living in Australia is not that much different than Thailand. Food is more expensive, but rent is on a par with what I was paying up there. Gas is cheaper. There is much more to do, beautiful places to go, more entertainment options. Of course, I don’t have a young, nubile body sitting on my face when I go out for a beer. But I do have good conversation with friends, and a convivial atmosphere.

But more importantly, returning home now would give you enough time to build up a pension fund. What are you going to do when you get old in Thailand? Who is going to look after you? Do you know that when you reach 60 that most insurance companies in Thailand, if not all, will not give you health insurance if they think it will cost them money? In other words, you will have to show that you are incredibly healthy before they will renew your health insurance. They will not take a risk on you if they think you will cost them large sums of money.

What would you face if you did return home now?

My experience might help.

My first task was to re-establish my identity. After so long away I had no Aussie identity documents. The taxation office remembered me, and even they only had a record of my name; not even a tax number. I’m not even sure we had tax numbers when I left, so I had to get one from them.

Then I had to get an Aussie driver’s license, easy enough but it took a little time to study the road laws and pass the test. But I was given a 10-year license immediately I complied.

Nearly everything you want to apply for here needs 3 forms of identity, so I had to get a couple of credit cards too. Once I had my 3 IDs I was able to rent a house. That took three weeks for me to achieve. But we were lucky and found a great place to live with a swimming pool, right next door to the shopping center, and a 10-minute drive to the beach.

Ah, the beaches. After that crappy experience they offer on Thai beaches with rented deck chairs and incessant hawkers, a visit to an Aussie beach is pure pleasure. Long white sandy beaches, pristine clear water, fabulous waves, real lifeguards. And NO BLOODY HAWKERS!!!

Then there is the air. Clean, fresh, with that tangy eucalyptus fragrance. There are numerous parks for my kids to play at…FREE. Plenty of good shops for my wife to have fun in.

But best of all has been the unexpected support I have had from the government and the veteran’s organizations here. We have applied for Family Benefit so that the government is helping subsidize our kids' education. The vets have helped me apply for not one, but two, pensions. Canberra is even organizing to send me my war medals. This nation is grateful for my military service. They are bending over backwards to make sure that blokes like me that have served the country are well looked after in our old age. I won’t tell you all the benefits I get, but discounts, very cheap or even free medical and dental, and so on are just part of the package.

My wife and kids love it here. While I stay home and look after our youngest, my wife has plenty of work. She is bringing home good money already. She was worried she wouldn’t be able to work before we came here, and I thought I could get a job easily. Well, I haven’t even tried to find a job, but my wife found work within a few days of arriving and the work keeps coming in.

Like Herringbone, I have found that returning home was much different than I expected. Everyone I have met here has been friendly. Shop assistants, bank clerks, government people have all been not only friendly and helpful, but they always ask if they can help me with anything else. Compare that attitude to the Thais who give you their ‘mai pen rai’ attitude most of the time. The smiles here are genuine. A far cry from the false Thai smile you get up there.

Driving here is wonderful too. As long as you stay within the speed limit you will never have any problems with the cops. In fact, after the mad way I had to drive in Bangkok just to survive, driving here is relaxing and stress free.

And the food! I can get all my favorites; roast lamb, Bar-B-Que’s, real fresh milk, a wide variety of fresh fruit and veggies, and so many wine choices I have not repeated once since I got back. Sure, you can get all that up there too, but at a price. You can live cheap up there if you eat Thai. But if you crave farung food you have to pay through the nose.

Because my wife is working at a Thai restaurant, we have found out where to get lots of little goodies, including the dreaded pla rah! We have even found jackfruit growing in my doctor’s yard. He didn’t even know you could eat the fruit. I opened one up for him and now he’s a confirmed aficionado. There are a couple of Thai grocery stores here, so we get all the ingredients to cook our favorite Thai food. That has made us very popular with our neighbors. We often cook up a feast and either invite them over, or give them some as well. They all love sticky rice!

Not having to worry about my next visa application is a big load off my mind too. Even though I had a retirement visa up there, I hated reporting every 90 days, and having to renew each year. I never felt like I was really welcome in Thailand. At least here I am a citizen and treated like one. I belong.

Do I miss the nightlife?

Of course I do, but not enough to want to live up there all the time. Actually, since coming to live here my marriage seems to have gotten a lot better. My wife and I are closer now, as we are working together to adjust to living here. I sure don’t miss the bar girls. Who needs them when I have everything I need here already?

Finally, what about the political situation up there? Thai society is deeply divided now. Even though the Thais don’t want to talk about it, you can be sure they are thinking exactly the same as we are; what will happen when someone dies? We can all see the writing on the wall, and that is one of the main reasons I decided to get my family out of the country. Australia offers a stable environment. Thailand doesn’t. The red shirts are stirring again, yet there doesn’t seem to be a way out of the political mess the Thais have created. I fear only a violent revolution might be the answer. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but you must admit that something has to give.

Thailand has been bogged down with an unfair social system that does not offer much benefit to the vast majority of Thais. That is what is driving the unrest. Until they work out a more equitable way of governing themselves the problems will persist and continue to get worse.

Where will that leave guys like you who have decided to make Thailand their home?

Luckily, the Thais still like foreigners….right now. Since foreigners are not involved in the political mess there should be no backlash against them. But even so, the political problems are making life difficult for you. The economy is down, business is down and unemployment is up. This is creating a situation where the poorest will get desperate. They will see foreigners as a source of income, and robberies and scams will increase. In fact, that has already started. Reading between the lines in reports from you and others I can already see this trend starting. Life will not be so good in future, and it may even get dangerous if the unrest continues.

Is missing the Thai ladies really sufficient reason for you to continue to live in Thailand? Only you can answer that question, and it seems you have made up your mind that it is. But is it a wise decision? I just hope you haven’t closed the door on returning home. At least make sure you have your exit strategy in place. You might be very glad you have in the future.

Stickman's thoughts:

I know that the intent of your submission is good and your thoughts and suggestions have my well-being at heart but unfortunately there are a number of things about my situation that you misunderstand or simply do not know and upon which you have made assumptions that aren't just inaccurate, they bear no resemblance to reality. If you were aware of all of these issues then your submission would no doubt be rather different.

The final paragraph made me laugh. Women have *nothing* to do with my reasons for living in Thailand. I assure you, that has *nothing* to do with it!

Let me refer back to what I wrote in one of my pieces from New Zealand as well as comments made on other submissions. We all have a completely set of different personal circumstances that only those closest to us are aware of, and in some cases, even they are not fully aware of them. It is those circumstances, that others are often blind to, that dictate the major decisions in our life – including where we choose to live.