Thailand Sucks……for us
While catching up on Stick’s site recently I noticed how much talk there had been about whether to stay in the Kingdom or whether to move on. My wife's Resident Permit to Canada has been approved and we are just waiting to tie up a couple of loose ends and off we go.
Why? I have been asked that almost daily since we confirmed for our circle of friends that we were leaving and glad to be doing so. That is the question that I will attempt to answer for you.
Truth is after making a comparison to the West, staying in Thailand made no sense at all for us. After doing my homework I wondered how it could make sense for anybody in our shoes. I will give you the pros (few) and cons (many) and I look forward to feedback from those that have made a different choice than my wife and I.
We only looked at the big issues. I mean, yes, the fact that Thais might be the worst drivers on the planet, or the silly double pricing, the horrible customer service, the terrible workmanship in most industries, are all annoying, but generally speaking, for me anyway, not enough of a reason to pack up and move countries. I am talking about political stability, schooling, work opportunities, standard of living, quality of life, buying power, climate, things that I believe are the real deciding factors that need to be addressed when one looks to make a life altering choice.
I also have NOT taken into account the naughty nightlife as a stand-alone issue, but rather as part of the entertainment section as a whole. Reason being I don’t partake and truth is anybody that would relocate countries based on the prostitution sector is likely not looking at the same issues as we are.
So let me present (and in no particular order) the items we looked at and the reasons my wife and I decided to move on. My wife is Thai, of I guess what one would call middle class upbringing. Both her parents are university professors and she earned her Master’s degree in the US before coming back to work for a multinational based here. So the issue of it being a mixed culture marriage plays little part in the process as my wife lived abroad for many years in the past and had no issues with being homesick or anything of that nature that we hear so much about with Thais. She can also be quite critical of the Thai government and society in general and will openly admit when she sees things done in Thailand that are counter-productive to the good of the country as a whole or just plain illogical. People always ask her if she supports the Red or Yellow shirts and her answer is she supports neither and thinks they all behave like wild monkeys, so ya, she’s not afraid to speak her mind or call a spade a spade.
Thailand – Not really the slam dunk many would think, me included, when I first visited this issue. It is true there is no snow in Thailand at all, ever. But it is also true that a few months of the year this place is stinking painfully hot. There are those that actually love that, but for most there is a certain time of year where it's just too stifling to stay outside for long. We also have rainy season which can be a huge pain in the ass with the flooding and of course that time you are stuck outside somewhere when a massive downpour comes.
Canada – I will only comment on the area of Canada we will be moving to, which is the West Coast, Vancouver to be exact. It is mild there, more so than most other places in Canada and there are many years they get no snow at all in the winter. But it is obviously colder on average than Thailand and they also have a pretty long rainy season. The weather overall is quite pleasant though and I do miss fall and spring as it's nice to see the colours change and watch everything grow new again in the spring time.
Winner – Thailand, by a much smaller margin that I would have thought.
Standard of Living
Thailand – This one caught me by surprise, but my standard of living in Thailand costs me a lot more than it would for the same comforts in Canada. I realize that if one wants to live up country or live like a Thai they would save a lot of money and it would not be a contest but that was not our goal. We like creature comforts that we have in the west and to have them here it's a LOT more costly. On average my wife and I spend about 200,000 baht per month ( +/- 10,000) to carry our household and live comfortably. This includes two car payments, a house payment, internet, mobiles, entertainment costs, food, etc…. all in costs. We live comfortably spending this amount but we still can't quite find everything we want to a western level, I realize it’s not the west but again we are talking about OUR wants.
Canada – The 200k baht we currently spend here would translate at today's exchange rate to about 6,400 CAD after tax dollars. With a comparable home, and cars and socializing to the same level doing the same things more or less we would be hard pressed to spend the whole 6,400 each month. Meaning that we can live how we do here now and still bank a LOT more for a rainy day or do the prudent thing and pay down our debts more quickly. I make the same income here in Thailand as I did when back in Canada as I do the same work. I travel about the same amount while working here as I did back home. When we compare the costs here it really is more expensive by a pretty wide margin to live. I base the costs on putting the same amount of money percentage wise down on the property and cars.
Winner – Canada by a surprisingly large margin.
Thailand – A non issue for me as I still run my company from Thailand as I did from Canada so I never missed a beat on this one. But for my wife she found that the jobs that she was qualified for here and what was considered a good salary as a starting point (low 40k's baht) was pretty much like slave labor compared to working in the west. That does not even take into account the bizarre habits of so many companies expecting employees to work 6 days a week and no defined holiday period and so forth and so on.
Canada – My wife has already accepted a position in Vancouver, which will pay her 37,500 CAD PA to start. At today's exchange rate that is about 100k baht per month or about 2.5 times what she would get paid HERE. Yet in Canada she has three weeks holidays to start, full company benefits, paid for training. Also worth examining in more detail some other time is the type of office politics that you find in Thailand that you do not find in the West. The old Thai boss is never wrong even if he is and proven in black and white with a million witnesses… but this submission will not delve into that.
Winner – Canada by leaps and bounds.
This is a category looking at a direct dollar for dollar cost of the things we have here vs. replacing those same things in Canada. I had a clue about some of the stuff but a couple of things here made me go WOW, why the hell did we not look at this stuff sooner, and the reason we did not will be mentioned later.
House – Thailand – We own a nice house in the Bangkapi area of Bangkok which cost us 18 million when we purchased it and we put down 50% and financed the balance, using some of my wife's family assets as the security requested by the bank. The house is a reasonable size, measuring 250 sq meters. The land is smaller than we would have liked but such is life. It has 3 bedrooms, a den, 4 washrooms, Thai and western kitchen. A normal middle class home – nothing out of the ordinary. We pay 50,340 baht per month to carry the mortgage.
House – Canada – We have put an offer on a place in Richmond BC, which is pretty much to Vancouver what Bangkapi is to Bangkok – a bedroom community for lack of a better term. The house there cost us 425,000 CAD (13.5 million THB) with the same down payment size of 50% the mortgage will cost 1,117 CAD (35,622 THB). This house is almost the exact same size and also has a pretty small lot.
House Winner – Canada, by so much it's not funny. Not only is the house cheaper to purchase and carry but it is a new build that comes with washer, dryer, fridge, stove, dishwasher, garbage compactor, microwave and fireplace insert with heat recovery. Beyond all those superficial reasons, the biggest reason is its location. The development is on the banks of the Fraser River, 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver (airport, casino, nightlife etc) situated among nature trails, a bird sanctuary and clean fresh air. Hello increased quality of life.
Cars – Thailand, I drive a BMW X3 2.5 and my wife a Camry. With 30% down and a 48-month lease my BMW costs me 55,675 per month and the Camry which is the top of the line Hybrid runs us 26,000 per month.
Cars – Canada, the BMW X3 3.0i (slightly better car) will cost me 569. CAD (18,000 THB) the Camry will cost 298. CAD (9,500 THB)
Car Winner – Canada, I don't understand why a Toyota Hybrid costs me 35k CAD in Canada but the same car, an Asian brand costs the equivalent of 56k CAD in Thailand. Somebody can explain that one to me if they know why. I understand the difference for the BMW, as German cars are taxed through the wazoo….
Household Expenses – Thailand – We spend on average about 5,000 baht per week on food. We shop at Tops and Home Fresh Mart (Bangkapi mall) and eat more western, meaning we cook ourselves a fair bit and don't scrimp on the things we want. We spend 5,600 baht per month for our Internet from True, a fixed IP business line as I do all of my work online and a lot of it in real time, and the previous residential connections we tried with them did not cut it. Depending on the time of year, we spend between 5k and 7k per month on electric. Add to that two mobile bills (GSM Advance for me – 1200 average month, True Move for the wife – average bill 800 per month) True Visions Platinum. There are a whole bunch of small odds and ends one doesn't really think about so for the sake of clarity let’s just take the bigger ticket items already stated.
Household Expenses – Canada – We have been to Canada twice for two months each time and spent on average about 400 CAD per month (12,700 THB) in food. Internet, with Shaw in BC I can have a 7.5 MEG down, .5 MEG up, line for 52 bucks a month (1,500 THB) that would be DOUBLE my speed on the True account, with TWO IP addresses and less than 1/3 of the cost. With Telus our mobile phones will cost us more than in Thailand, for each of us to use the smart phones we do here; it will cost us roughly 50 each per month (1.500 THB). Utilities costs will be very close to the same, on average about 200 CAD (6,000 THB). Our TV costs will cost us about 500 THB more, but with HDTV channels making up about 45 of the 200 channels we receive.
Household Expenses Winner – Canada, maybe not by leaps and bounds but clearly cheaper to get the same stuff and often better quality in Canada compared to Thailand. We can never find everything we need or want at Tops and end up making two stops for shopping each time. The internet is a slam dunk, the utility costs are a wash, the TV and phone are a slight advantage to Thailand. Overall we would save about 10k baht per month. Remember I am sure there are tons of you saying oh I can get this that or the other cheaper, but we are comparing OUR lifestyles from one location to the other…
Quality of life
This one is a personal call as everybody looks for something different from the place in which they live. But the hassle and stress of the traffic in Bangkok, the smog, the corruption that is on the streets daily, the lousy infrastructure, poor education system, poor social programs, lack of government health insurance, there are so many things that we feel as cons for us and our lifestyle and needs. The high taxes in Canada seem to be worth it when compared to what one receives in return.
In looking at our entertainment, we have a lot more options in Canada. We can hit the casinos in BC, we have the NHL Canucks, and Seattle is a hop, skip and a jump away if we want to see MLB, NFL or NBA live. Most major concert acts and plays never get near Bangkok. Most major Hollywood releases DO make it to Bangkok but not always in a timely fashion. Of course if one wants cheap booze and women Thailand wins in that department hands down. Over all I give Canada the nod here but again I realize this one is a totally personal call.
Finally the HUGE reason we even looked at all this stuff now, when we obviously should have done so before moving here in 2006. In early 2008 my wife and I learned we were expecting. Our child was born in early 2009; one of the very first things my wife said after the doctor confirmed the pregnancy is "we are going to raise our child in Canada, right?" There was no other choice in her mind. She was born in Bangkok and knows the issues as well as anyone and in her mind having the option to raise our child in the West will give it many advantages that it could NEVER have being born and growing up in Thailand.
How pointless is a Thai passport generally speaking? Or having Thai as your first or only language? Or having a degree from a Thai university? The public education system in Thailand is laughable. The private schools are acceptable although costing an arm and a leg. Bangkok Pattana, one of the more respected schools, would cost us between 6 and 7 million baht with today's purchasing power to attend from pre-school through grade 12. <Actually, with price increases, registration and other stuff, it would probably cost quite a bit more! – Stick>
All of this number crunching and soul searching obviously should have been done four years ago when we first moved here full time. But it took a new addition to the family for us to evaluate our costs and look closely at where we are, why we are here and if it really is the best place when ALL things are considered. For me it was just such a shock as to how much more expensive it is to live in Bangkok. More so when people are sure that being here is so much cheaper when clearly it is not and when you add in all the other intangibles that can be so frustrating to non-Thais the cost almost seems secondary sometimes.
One other interesting thing is my wife’s Resident Permit gives her virtually full rights as a Canadian from the time she steps off the plane, the ability to purchase property, full health care, and full work rights. Not only is a resident permit much harder to get in Thailand, it really does not give you many worthwhile benefits IMHO. Another little weight that tipped the scales for us.
Of course the one thing I will not go into any depth on is the silly political situation in Thailand. I wish I could say “going on now” but let’s face it, it has been ongoing for years (decades?) and will continue forever it seems. Simply put I have no desire to put my own or my family’s lives at risk by staying here any longer. My wife cringes when the TV is on. She can see her so called “people” behaving like wild animals in the jungles, sharpening bamboo poles and screaming for blood. We made our choice to leave before the recent RED uprising took place but it was sure a nice little reminder why we made that choice.
YMMV but I am very interested to hear how others have determined Thailand IS the place for them and based on what criteria. About four years ago we stupidly said let’s move to Thailand, great weather and cheaper everything. How wrong were we? At least we still have time to set things straight.
This excellent, honest summary reaches the same conclusions I have. Thailand is great if you are a single male and / or you're here for the woman and / or you are happy / willing to go native which can allow a low cost of living.