Stickman Readers' Submissions July 30th, 2009

The Lost Opportunities Of Living In Thailand

It seems to me that all those defending Thailand of late have one thing in common. Their love of the naughty sex life and the availability of the girls! If you take that out of the equation and Thailand would lose 98% of its visitors for sure.

I still chuckle when certain folk, especially those who entered Thailand as immigrants only to return ‘home’ some years later as new immigrants to their own or another country in search of another ‘perceived’ better life, extol the virtues of the life they have just ran away from when in fact they are returning to the one they originally away ran from in the first place. I am sure there is a paradox of multiple distortions in here somewhere but buggered if I can figure it out.

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What I find particularly interesting is that many of those that do return, come back to do so because they either want to live "off the state" now that their venture in Thailand failed to give them the life they hoped it would, so they have returned to cash in on what’s now owed them, or they return because they are financially on their arse and have no choice. Many of course don’t come back in financial straits but several examples I have seen of late have been hit rather hard because they have relied on interest earned to fund their Thailand existence and as we all know, interest rates are at rock bottom and therefore they are eroding their capital somewhat and so have hot tailed it back to the real world to earn a living during the crisis.

So here they are, many of the ex-Thailand cons, stood in a line doing the fan dango with their welfare books in hand and claiming as many benefits as the state can throw their way. Many of these guys may not have the intellect to recognise or indeed give a shite to the fact that it is us who have actually been working here for a living, and therefore by default are paying for the benefits they are now receiving ex gratia free of charge and indeed continue to pay for while they fester back amongst us.

I have some choice words for guys like these but I am biting my lip lest the air turn blue.

What I do find particularly galling is that when you engage these folk in conversations, usually at some Thai related function or other that they have wheezed their way into, you not only have to endure tales of their Thai girl conquest but they are also the ones that tell you about how “all Thai men are no good” and that “Thai’s are lazy at best”. Sometimes I want to hold a mirror up to their faces to see if they can recognise that they are in fact describing themselves.

When all is said and done, many of these returnees are nothing but scoundrels who we were happy to be rid of in the first place and even more reticent to receive back upon their grumbling return.

There are several guys I know who sit here back in the WEST, extolling upon us the virtues of Thailand, and yet when you look beneath the surface they are all in fact on their arse financially. Most have made the classic, albeit stupid decision to invest in a bar or property in Thailand. Now they have no liquid funds beyond the beer at the end of their arm to call their own and tales of bygone times of a place they secretly yearn to return to.

Some of these guys will even tell you tales that it is OK to have sex behind your wife's back or that it was an English woman who ‘forced’ them to go to Thailand in the first place by taking everything they owned. They are bitter and twisted to a tee. Even those who have returned with a Thai wife are saying that it’s ok to shag other women behind her back because it is good for the relationship and helps to keep the relationship alive.

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If the dirty deed is done with another Thai woman then all the better!

If it is with a bar girl then bloody fantastic as in the typical mongers words, “all is fair in love and war and I am winning the battle!”

Well maybe he is… or at least in his own head.

In the same breath, these folks will try and tell you all about the virtues of the party girls in Nana and Soi Cowboy and Pattaya and Patpong and Patong and that shagging prostitutes is something we all must hold a candle to if we are to revel in our manhood and belong to that all inclusive Alpha male community. Yeah boys, let’s all bang our chests and get into a male huddle and chant and pull our chest hairs while we recite the glory that exists beyond our Y-fronts.

Jeez. Give me a break!

Maybe it is this make-believe world of mongerism that I could never figure out whilst in Thailand. I myself was never interested in the bar scene, and quickly dismantled any notions of becoming a monger after sitting in a bar one day watching the world go by. It was on my 2nd day in Thailand. What really convinced me that it wasn’t for me was when I watched a popular girl one day go in and out of a bar on several short time excursions to the local ‘bonk’ hotel. It started off fairly innocuous but as the day proceeded, she would go off with some rather nefarious looking folk, many of whom no doubt would not hesitate to go with a dog, a sheep or any other kind of willing animal given their choices and position in life.

Later as the evening wore on, the usual mongers would arrive and then they too would take her home for the full on GFE experience only to send her a stipend each month once they get back off holiday. They had no idea of all whop had been before her or remain with her when he is not around. It was not for me and each to their own and all that and maybe living in Thailand I was fish out of the proverbial water. The point being was that I could never quite get what the fuss was all about in taking one of these girls home for some nocturnal “employment” given the traffic I saw venturing up her own personal Soi during the day light hours.

I guess the mongers have their reasons and believe me I have met many types whilst in Thailand but given that almost ALL of the positive responses to the negative posts of late on Stickman have typically been from “the mongers”, well one does have to wonder as to the clientele that Thailand encourages to its shores and if those of us outside the monger fraternity should be listening. Again, each to their own of course and what may be good for a Goose on a Saturday afternoon, may not be something the rest of us wish to Gander at. “Moist” certainly it is not necessarily what I or indeed the tourists’ that Thailand aims to entice onto their shores wish to see. Maybe that’s the problem with Thailand. It has an image problem.

Let me give you an example. One night I was sitting next to a certain writer on this forum. One minute we were having a friendly chat and I turned my head left to look out the door. My head was turned for a minute and yet to my right all I could hear were the slurps of someone’s lips and the clacking of some false teeth as they slapped against their ragged pallet. At first I thought he was sucking a mint so I tuned around to continue to have a look and to continue our chat when I realised that what I thought was a balloon being pulled across the counter top was indeed some not so fair maiden’s breast and nipple. In the mean time some spit and polish was going on under the table and the everlasting impression I will always have is of a cow with rolling eyes being milked. He winked at me, or at least I thought it was a wink, maybe it was the vinegar stroke causing him to blink. I wouldn’t normally mind, well actually I would because all things in their place and all that, but we were also sitting in a coffee shop at the time. I don’t think it was only the milk in my coffee that curdled on that day.

In the mean time his wife and two kiddies were sat at home wondering why Daddy walked around across eyed most of the time. Now I know why. But what is it that makes some supposedly stable person, suddenly seek sexual gratification at a whim? I don’t get it. I probably will never get it, quite literally, but surely there is a time and a place and that wasn’t one of them.

Any who, what I wanted to write and explore further when I first started these rambling was the notion of those who have returned back from Thailand and who are now on their financial arse. Many are back because the exchange rate has pushed them over the edge. Most certainly when I was there, the exchange rate dropped from 70 to 65 and now it is 55. On a £100k savings, that’s a fall of 1.5m THB per year and for sure it becomes an issue if you are investing in Thailand or as one friend of mine who has just returned from Thailand, found out, is that getting zero interest on his money has huge down stream impacts. For he has just returned after spending 9 years in Thailand and the initial capital he had has been reduced from 30m THB to just 11m THB during his 9 years stay. Lord knows what he has done with the money but what I do know is that he is now back here, on the job market at the tender age of 55 with 9 years of doing nothing behind him, desperately seeking ways to earn money again.

No plan you see.

He is one of many I know. So what’s in store for him? Well when I took a look at the average earnings back in the WEST, (You can find all of this by doing a Google search) you will find that in the UK the average earnings are GB£ 24k. In Australia it is AU$ 67k. Now I know many (as I do) will earn significantly more than this, but that is not the point I am trying to make as what we talking about are those being forced to return or who have been away for so long that their options are limited.

Now I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the majority of those who are currently living in Thailand are somewhere in these earnings bracket or not far either side. Now let’s assume rather generously that whilst living in Thailand the average punter will be earning circa 80k THB per month. This equates to about 960k THB per year, give or take a margin above or below these numbers. Some expats will much earn more and many will earn much less, but let’s discuss averages here. I am also factoring into this that in order to earn £10k per year as interest, one must have a pot of money available in their pension of £250k but given that next to zero interest is being earned at the moment, I can see why many have to return.

As a comparator, if you are Thai, then the average earnings are approx THB 175 per day or circa (THB 63.7k per year) but let’s again be generous here and assume we are discussing Bangkok and move this up a tab to 15k THB on average or to 180k THB per year for the average Thai person.

So let’s do the numbers. Assuming the above are what someone on average will earn whilst in Thailand (80k THB per month), and let’s deduct what Stick says it will cost to live here in order to have a reasonable standard of living (60k THB per month), then one could easily argue that it is not unreasonable for someone to be able to save say approx £5k per year. Now before all those who are retired jump on me, I recognise that in your twilight years, earnings and savings versus enjoying the moment is the decider for you guys, but hey all things are relative as there are more and more guys turning up on the shores in Thailand who in theory are in their highest earnings potential bracket and are making foolhardy decisions to jack it all in to saviour the delights of some girl called Nong, Pong or Song.

When you multiply the £5k savings over 25 years (which is how long it would be for someone aged 40 to reach normal retirement age) then that would become give or take £125k in total. Not a great deal to retire on and when you factor in inflation, interest rates, cost of living rises, visa' etc… The problem is, far too many expats are earning way less than 80kTHB per month and the chances of them retiring with 5 baht let alone £125k is a remote concept indeed

Now I guess one could argue that if you are or were one of those earning the average salary in the WEST then yeah I can kind of get it that being in Thailand and wishing to remain there is the only option open for you as the chances of you retiring with £125k in your bank had you stayed in the WEST would have difficult at best. So maybe for you guys, going to Thailand was the right decision for even the losers are winners in Thailand, or so they would have us believe and it is this lot who will and do come out of the woodwork to defend all things Thai.

All of this assumes of course that you have not cough, cough, invested your money into a Thai property, chicken farm or any other kind of Thai invoked investment along the way.

If we consider the choice of those who have decided to remain in the WEST or indeed moved back WEST after a few years living in Thailand in order to cash in on their highest earnings potential, well the picture could be different. Some will continue to struggle through, while others will step up to the plate and maximise on their potential.

Well of course I can only tell you about my own example here as we are all different in this respect and again I will caveat this by saying many will be higher while others will be lower. I won’t go into what I earn per sae, but I will discuss what I SAVE each year.

My cost of living today back here in the WEST is such that my NET SAVINGS per year, after all my bills, taxes etc have been paid, is circa £35k. Not a bad chunk of money to put away for a rainy day.

In the period I have been back I have accumulated £55K in savings. It would have been higher but I had furniture to buy, but none the less, it is £55k that I would not have had otherwise. If you multiply the £35k by 25 years, it becomes £875k and that excludes inflation or any effects of compound interest etc… If I decide to retire 10 years early at 55, then it becomes £525k. When you add into this the house I bought well you can add another £300k on top taking the numbers to £1.1 m or £825k respectively. Not a bad plan to aim for and the cost is a few years of so called missed delights in Thailand but who needs it when I have a Thai wife anyway.

On the other hand, had I stayed in Thailand my choices would have been significantly different and although my reasons to go to Thailand in the first place were not financially driven, they sure as hell were when I decided to return. For me the financials were and are a no brainer. Indeed, the missed opportunity of living in Thailand alone cost me personally £40k in lost savings potential and this doesn’t even consider the lost earnings or property opportunities I didn’t exploit whilst I was away either. Ok I may have gained ‘life’ experience and other character building attributes as a consequence of my stay in Thailand but was it £40k’s worth? One has to wonder.

I don’t regret my time in Thailand because I came back with what I set out to achieve but I do sometimes reflect on the value of that experience in monetary terms.

So thanks to the choice I made in getting out of Thailand, I now have better options than I would have had otherwise. When (and *if*) I reach the proverbial party age of those who wish to retire in Thailand (health and career opportunities willing) I should be in a far healthier position financially with far greater choices available to me than I would have had otherwise. But will I retire in Thailand anyway? Unlikely!

If you compare this position to many of the “defenders” of Thailand who are clambering back WEST for a free bus pass after 30 years in Thailand, well it’s not even something that should even be open for a debate.

Now I know many (especially the mongers and those that wear the rose tinted glasses) will point out that I have missed the opportunity of a lifetime in order to enjoy myself while I had the chance and that one day I may look back whilst on my dying bed and curse myself for all those bonking opportunities missed.

But will I really?

When I consider the plight of many mongers who have returned back WEST after many years of living in Thailand, I do have to wonder what their motives are in ‘rushing’ back home, especially when they harp on about how good Thailand is. Many of them will give a tale or two and a one reason or other but when I hear them wrap it all up as an investment in their kid’s future, well I just have to laugh. The reality is often one born out of a lack of choice and poor decision making at some point in their life and now they are blaming it all on their children. Give me a break.

Many of those are actually returning home now purely to cash in on the state benefits that are suddenly on offer to them. Thailand has no fall back position so why not fall back on other tax payers’ money. Of course these guys will tell you that there is nothing in their decisions to return that benefits them directly per sae, because it is after all, all about the kids you see.

What many of these guys seem to forget however is that many of us have memories like elephants and remember that they have been telling anyone who cares to listen about how much better off they are now that they have returned WEST especially when it comes to the benefits they are now receiving courtesy of the tax payer. Oh yeah of course they will tell us how wonderful Thailand is and how experienced they are in all things Thailand and that it is a mongers paradise but given the choice of staying or running back home, well erm can you please explain to me again why you returned WEST me ole guv’nor!

Ah yes, I remember, lack of choice… no alternative… didn’t invest in one self or didn’t keep their skills up to date… oh yes it’s a familiar story that I see and hear all too often but how many are prepared to openly admit it.

I do however see far too many examples returning who fit the “oh shit I have to return WEST but didn’t plan on it” category and that does make me wonder if they ever did have a plan in the first place.

But why they or indeed anyone in their 30's and 40's would give up their highest earning potential for all things Thailand without having a plan is beyond me. Only someone who has no choice (health reasons being a good example here) then anyone who cares to listen should hear the call that tells them that they should maximise on their earnings accordingly and then retire when they have more options and choices available to them. Going to Thailand is sort of OK if you have an objective in mind and an exit plan available but going there without one is will only see them become one of the many returnees I have seen of late who are all standing around wondering what the hell happened, while they wait for their next benefits payment to come in or wait in line with their bus pass in hand and their hopes hanging on an even older relative kicking the bucket so that they can cash in on the life insurance and re-start the Thailand dream all over again.

Stickman's thoughts:

As I have said numerous times on this site over the years, we all have a different set of PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES that are not clear to others and which factor into the choices we make. Your argument is on the premise that people can earn decent money in the West but when you talk of an average salary of £24,000 in the UK I cannot imagine that giving one a great life. In your particular case, you may be better off financially in the UK, but what about others? It's different for everyone.

Some people are simply happier in Thailand – and that is something you cannot put a figure on. I have a Canadian friend who trained to be a lawyer in Canada as he was approaching 40 but then decided the Canadian winters weren't for him and he moved to Thailand to teach English and he is genuinely happy. You cannot put a dollar figure on that. Some people have ailments which may mean they feel better in a warmer climate.

I have a good mate up in Lampang, a regular contributor to the submissions and he works an average job but he is happy and has a good life. There are plenty more like him.

I agree with you that one should not shirk their responsibilities of saving and looking after themselves. There can be a massive opportunity cost living in Thailand BUT if we measure how the average person lives in the West, then many really have a fairly mediocre existence. At the end of the day it's a person decision and all of the factors are seldom clear to an outsider.

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