Readers' Submissions

Trapped In Thailand



Sawadee2000 wrote a very eloquent submission, mostly to answer criticism directed at him by Airmail but partly to explain his decision to move to Thailand to those who had forgotten or not read his original submissions that told the tale some time ago. Basically it boiled down to the fact that his wife missed Thailand, her family, the food, the music, so he decided to up-root from a very comfortable existence in the United States to dive into a place he now acknowledges he knew very little about – could not possibly have known about, although he thought he was pretty wised-up at the time after numerous visits. Nothing new in that. Much in Thailand is concealed from the casual visitor, and what lays beneath the surface is often very unpleasant indeed. No wonder the Thais keep so much of their culture hidden from view, and why so many resent foreigners staying around and getting to ‘know too mutt’.

And Sawadee2000 also, he says, craved something different. He certainly got that, and he has chronicled the ups and downs of being a Thai resident. Much of what he has written has been positive, but there are plenty of incidents that were not just unpleasant but downright dangerous and an insult to anyone who comes from more advanced civilisations.

Make no mistake – when it comes to morals Thais are at the bottom of the cesspit. The only thing that matters to them is money, along with the incredibly childish obsession with saving face. I have written about that stupidity before in Facing Facts so won’t do so again. I have also written about how rotten to the core Thailand is. Sawadee2000 knows all this, too, so why does he stay and would he have made the move to Thailand if he knew then what he knows now? He admits that he might not have done so, but after he took the plunge he had no choice but to try and adapt. Certainly, the rip-offs began straight away as a local he refers to as The Monkey tried to defraud him in relation to the house he wanted to build. Welcome to Thailand.

All in all, though, Sawadee2000 is happy with his lot, despite the fact that, like me, his life was put in danger by the gross incompetence of the Thai medical system. That he found no justice in a driving accident. That he was blackmailed by his former employer when he tried to apply for what was legally his. And many other incidents. Still, he hints that he may well be forced to eventually retreat back to the United States in order that his son may receive a proper education, although he also admits that his homeland is hardly Nirvana either.

All this is very interesting to me because, like our friend, I also moved to Thailand for my wife’s benefit. We met over 20 years ago when I visited an introduction agency run by a friend of hers, and picked out a video and photos that my wife claims she made just because she was hanging around the office one day. Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. We met, and married exactly two weeks later. I had to get off to the States for my job, and she joined me and we spent the next 18 months travelling the world as I pursued my work. She saw Sydney, London, Paris, Rome, New York, Washington and many places in between. But she got bored while I was working often long hours, and it got expensive, so we based ourselves in London for a while, renting a house from a friend of my sister who spent much of the year running a business in Spain.

We were based in East London and went to the Thai temple in Wimbledon, many miles away, to try and link up with other Thais, but nothing came of it, so I eventually decided it was unfair for her to be stuck in a place where she didn’t really know anyone and made the decision that I might as well base myself in Thailand. Another consideration at the time was that it was much cheaper than the UK, and we were also able to share a house that a Jap had bought for one of her sisters. She had met him when she worked as a waitress in Japan … better not go there. Who knows? Who ever really knows?

Now, like Sawadee2000, would I have made the move if I knew then what I know now? In my case, absolutely not. The place is a lunatic asylum. So much of what goes on defies logic, and as a foreigner I have absolutely no rights at all. I am banned from most jobs, owning land, still after 20 years of marriage have to apply for a visa for permission to live with my wife, and even then I have to leave the country every 90 days. It’s madness. There is also the complete, the utter lack, of any accountability from anyone for anything. There is very little freedom of speech, as many have found out to their great cost. Stick recently linked to the story of a foreign writer at the Bangkok Post who was forced to leave her adopted country because she published an article about someone. The fact that she had proof about his fraudulent actions was totally irrelevant. Someone important had lost face, and pressure was applied and she fled before she was jailed for exposing the truth. And we all know there is a subject none of us are ever allowed to comment on.

There is so much in Thailand that frustrates. So why do I stay? Basically, I am trapped in Thailand. I cannot in all fairness ask my wife to leave all her family, especially her aged parents, and move away again. It simply wouldn’t be fair. And anyway, if I had the choice I wouldn't move back to the UK, which is alien to me now as the culture has changed so much. I'd follow my sister to Spain to live in an English ghetto. It's easy to say that such set-ups are bad, but the quality of expats there are higher, the television is more varied, food and drink is of infinitely higher quality and often much cheaper than in Thailand, and the locals are always welcoming. There isn't a great deal of interaction with them, but what there is in the markets and supermarkets is friendly. They appreciate your business. Certainly, the area my sister lives in, on the Costa Blanca near Alicante, would be far poorer without the 'imports', mostly British and German, and they know it. Meanwhile, there are countless restaurants and pubs and cafes of all kinds run by and catering for the Brits, and it's wonderful. England with sunshine, although it can get a bit cool in the winter. I'm off there again next month for a holiday, and very much looking forward to a taste of the real world once again.

But then I have to return to Cloud Cuckoo Land, where nothing is as it seems. The only bright spot on the horizon is that I hope we might soon leave Bangkok and move to a house we have in Issan, where life goes on as it has for decades, centuries perhaps, where most of the bullshit of what is everyday life in Thailand doesn’t invade. Many might find the quiet life there impossible to deal with, but I know for sure that I wouldn’t be bored for a minute. I’ll have all the western comforts such as air conditioning, satellite TV and a decent internet connection through my mobile phone, and there is a Tesco Lotus around 40 kilometres away when I can’t get all I need from the local market. And the air is fresh and clean and I wouldn’t have to endure the blanket of pollution and stinking klongs and drains of Bangkok.

For anyone thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Thailand, think very, very carefully and be prepared to give up most of your rights, freedom of speech and to always be considered as a second class citizen.


Stickman's thoughts:

It's hard to argue against anything you say. Anyone considering a move to Thailand should read this.

It is wise for every foreigner living in Thailand – irrespective of their domestic situation – to have an exit plan. A big part of that plan should be the ability to be able to live in their homeland to a reasonable standard. Sure, we might all have the means to get on a plane and go home – a valid passport and a $1,000 should do it – but what about when you get there? Mum's spare room or a mate's sofa isn't a long term solution!

As an aside, I recently read accounts from 2 foreigners who were deported from Thailand having lived in the country a long time. The biggest thing they had to come to terms with was readjusting to the high cost of living in the West. 50,000 baht a month might be enough for a single guy to have a decent, but basic life in Bangkok, but that amount of money won't go far in the West.