Stickman Readers' Submissions May 19th, 2011

Comparative Advantage – Advice To The Young Man

With great interest I have read the submission about the dilemma of the young Australian man as well as the advice submitted by the Australian doctor and the Canadian limo driver. Yes, I believe this is a dilemma that most Stickman readers ponder at least once in their lives.

I am also not surprised that the two contributors offer totally opposing advice – the Australian doctor is advising the young man to stay in Australia pursuing a degree and a career in medicine, while the Canadian limo driver suggests moving to Thailand and living a carefree life in a tropical paradise. The advice I can give to the young man and all individuals in similar position is: Consider the expected change of your social status and long term career prospects!

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That might sound sophisticated, but it’s quite simple in fact. The Australian doctor is enjoying a high social status in a developed country and, I am sure, enjoys all kinds of pleasures and amenities his country has to offer. He lives a sophisticated and intellectually stimulating life, being a valued member of the society which appreciates his intelligence and merits. In too many areas, he could not live his current life in Thailand. In most scenarios imaginable, he would move from an affluent class in a developed country to an above average class in a developing country. We should also take into consideration that after interrupting his career for a long period of time, such as 2 years spent in Thailand, getting back on his career track and income levels would be very difficult if not impossible, particularly if this gentleman is a top specialist in his field of work and / or a doctor with private practice. For him the choice is clear, stay where you are and take Thailand for what it is – a pleasurable holiday destination.

Our Canadian limo driver is in a totally different situation. Surely, moving to Thailand and landing a good English teaching position would reduce his nominal income, but he would move up the social ladder, all of the sudden he would become richer than most of the folks around him, he could dine out and go out perhaps more often than he does in Canada, he could certainly date younger and prettier women, and his opportunity cost would not be particularly large – we can expect that even if he decides to come back after a few years, he could enter his old profession and generate more or less the same income he would be generating if he had not left Canada. To people like him I would say: Move to Thailand and give it a try, have a little financial reserve and make sure that you have a place to come back to in case Thailand does not work out for you.

I got the Jasmine fever when I was 17, while still living in communist Hungary at that time. My first opportunity to take a holiday overseas would come only 10 years later, heading straight to Thailand. Despite considering moving to Thailand several times, now being 45, similarly to the Australian doctor, I still have not lived in Thailand. I have focused on my education (got my MBA from a respected US university financed by EU scholarship) and built my career in international finance. I had ample chances to work and live abroad, including 1.5 years in China. My career has always given me access to a fine life and good company. The closest I got to living in Thailand was a business venture that I co-financed some 7 years ago. I was seriously contemplating quitting my job and devoting myself fully to this venture, in the end I have kept my job and hired a director to run the Thai operation. The business has not thrived as I had expected, returning only very modest profits after 2 years of operation – at that time I was very happy that I have kept my job that secures my lifestyle until today and my Thai business adventure has remained just a troubled investment, costing me a few hundred thousand dollars, but without any life wrecking consequences.

Stickman's thoughts:

A lot of people fall in love with Thailand and cannot imagine life without it, but there many also fall out of love with the country in time. What we crave today may not hold quite the same interest tomorrow…

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