Readers' Submissions

Moving To Thailand

  • Written by SydM78
  • February 10th, 2012
  • 21 min read


Due to my overwhelming creative desires tugging me, I have decided to express my thoughts and feelings while on the verge of moving to Thailand. This submission will firstly lay out the 'push' and 'pull' factors inclining me towards certainty in relation to moving to Thailand. Secondly, I will form a discussion around the probable difficulties faced while transitioning and adapting to a new environment. Finally, I will provide a few points on how to deal with the difficulties while transitioning and adapting to a new country. Before we proceed, I believe it's important to note that the majority of this extract represents a theoretical perspective rather than one based on experience. The mere fact that I have not moved to Thailand yet will suffice to explain why this is so. However, this does not diminish the relevance or importance for those who have not, but are planning to move to Thailand (or any other country) or has already moved to Thailand. At the very least, it may provide important information about what to possibly expect before relocating and provide valuable tips to cope with the predicament one finds their self in after they have moved. As for those who have already settled and managed to adapt and transition in Thailand, then reading this might strike a chord with your experiences of how you managed when you moved to Thailand. Let us now begin with the causes that have pushed me into the conviction of moving to Thailand.


'Push' factors

I have spent my whole life thus far in Sydney, Australia. I am 32, turning 33 this year. In these 32 and three quarter years, I have witnessed this city and country slide deeper and deeper into melancholy. The consequence of this melancholy has permeated all aspects of society and reveals itself in many facets. Suicide is one such facet and Australia is on par with the USA and Canada and higher than the UK when it comes to suicide rates even though the approximate population of Australia is 20 million. Divorce is another facet. One in third of marriages in Australia ends in divorce and women file more divorce applications than men. Feminism I strongly believe has fulfilled its duty by infecting and poisoning the minds and identity of women 'down under' as well as other Western nations creating a mass of 'toxic females' who spit their radiation on men who are always behind the 8 ball when it comes to family law, custody and divorce settlements. Thank God I have never had to be put through the mince machine but can only feel sympathy to the men who have, and believe me, I know plenty.

Social interaction has been transformed into superficial relationships. There is no doubt mediated interaction via telephones, mobile phones, the internet; TV and radio has each been a nail in the coffin. The deep, meaningful face to face interaction has almost completely been dissolved. Social interaction has become a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. Most social interaction carries with it an underlying motive where they see the person they interact with as a means to achieve an ultimate goal. Being interested in the person for who they are, what values they possess, the opinions they carry and considering the emotions of the other is nearly non-existent. The dissolving meaningful face to face interaction has created a society full of suspicious and cynical people. Cynicism breeds apathy and apathy gives birth to neglect! With social interaction the way it is, people have become cold and distant, hence, Sydney has become cold and distant.

Besides the social factors, tight regulation and rules is another factor which 'pushes' me away from Sydney. It has become so regulated and tight in Sydney that it feels like I am in an open air jail. Nearly every intersection either has a red light camera or speed camera. Get snapped by one of these and expect a letter with a fine that's around AUD$ 300 with a loss of 3 points on your license which has a total of 12 points. There are hundreds of mobile undercover cars which have cameras attached to them that hide behind trees and bushes to nab drivers. Driving a car in Sydney is no different to playing Russian roulette. Obviously the greedy state government says "it is for our benefit to prevent accidents" but ask any Tom, Dick and Harry and they will tell you it's revenue raising for the state. Fines alone add up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year in the state’s coffers.

Most of the major freeways incur huge tolls. Taking a family on a day out from the outer suburbs to the beaches will cost nearly $30 in tolls alone. The other option is taking the public roads but drivers can expect traffic grid locked for miles and miles. A half hour trip via the freeway could end up taking an hour or longer on these public roads. Parking your car also incurs a cost. Getting caught parking without paying the meter or overstaying your time limit by a minute usually results in a parking inspector slipping the bill under your windscreen wiper.

Land-based fishing has just about been prohibited everywhere in Sydney and even if you can in very limited areas, believe it or not you need a fishing license! Yes you read that correctly. You need a fishing license to fish in Sydney which incurs a yearly fee by the way. So only the rich who own fishing boats and are able to maintain the ongoing costs with maintaining a boat are able to fish.

If you thought that was ridiculous then you’re never going to believe this. If a few friends want to get together and play football or cricket at a public park, then you must first go to the council, book the park for the time and period and yes you guessed it, pay a fee to hire out the 'public' park. This is how bad Sydney has become. When I was a young boy growing up in Sydney, you could walk into any park and play all sports and share it with others absolutely free without the need to book it and pay a fee. Not these days however. And if you’re playing in the park when you’re not supposed to, good old 'Wyatt Earp' from the local council is ready to uphold the law by kicking you out of the park. When statistics show drug use and alcohol abuse has reached stratospheric levels; crime and gun violence constantly on the increase, it is sad to think that a bunch of guys who do not sell drugs, commit crimes and abuse alcohol are not allowed to fish or play in a park without getting the necessary permission and paying a fee. What a joke!!

Economic factors play major roles which ‘push' me away from Sydney. This city has become one of the world's most expensive cities to live in. Let’s start with housing. If you decide to go via the route of owning a unit or home, then this involves taking a home loan out. With the cost of units averaging $400,000 around my area, it takes on average a minimum of 8 to 10 years to pay that off. That's the minimum time frame mind you. To achieve this, a husband and wife must work together, keep their social life to an absolute minimum and ensure they are employed for that entire time frame. If there is a kid or kids, you cannot forget about that minimum time frame. It then goes up to 20 or 25 years to pay off that unit which is why the bank gives you 25 years to pay off the debt anyway. Meanwhile, electricity bills, gas bills, telephone bills, ongoing costs of maintaining the family car (petrol, servicing, yearly registration fees etc.), cable TV, furniture, white goods and a never ending list of 'necessities' usually means breaking even on a week to week basis with nothing to show until 25 years later you have finally paid off that unit. I simply refuse to commit up to 10 years (but more like 25 years) of my life, live a monotonous life and hardly have a social life all for the sake of owning a unit after all those years. I see all my friends who are in this quandary and every one of them is suffering from depression as they are 'locked' into the system and can't get out. In my opinion, this is not 'living'. If you go the rental route, then the cost of renting an apartment is also freakishly expensive. To compound matters, finding a rental property has become very hard due to availability. There are people so desperate that it's become common for landlords to request 3 to 6 months’ worth of rent in advance!

Finding employment has become harder especially since the global financial crisis. Slowly but surely, throughout the last two decades, hundreds of factories have shut down and moved to China. Jobs are mainly found in the service sector such as customer service, admin, finance, banking, IT, consulting etc. This then means further education is required to build the necessary skill level to meet the requirements of the job. Australian-owned businesses and producers are suffering as cheap products from China hamper their ability to compete. I do not know the exact figures off the top of my head but a huge number of farmers are literally committing suicide as they have become broke and unable to pay their debts to the hungry banks that have no qualms about taking their property.

Small businesses whether they are a butcher, restaurant, fruit and vege shop or clothes shop are struggling. The number of shops closing down is exponentially increasing. Retail is unable to compete with the internet while the butcher and fruit shop are unable to compete with the big supermarket chains that have formed a duopoly in the market crushing the small businesses.

Grocery costs are unbelievably expensive too these days. Last I remember Red Delicious apples were hovering at $10 / kg! Smoking and drinking are phenomenally expensive. A packet of smokes with 20 cigarettes averages $16 dollars! If either the husband or wife has a gambling habit then they could forget about the unit all together.

Last but not least, the climate 'pushes' me away from Sydney. As a child growing up, summer was summer, autumn was autumn, winter was winter and spring was spring. These days, it is not known which is which. Just a quick search on the net will reveal that Sydney is at the end of its so called summer season but just about the entire summer here has consisted of rain and cold weather. Everyone is complaining about the changing climate here in Sydney including me.

Overall, combinations of social, psychological, economic and natural factors have contributed as 'push' factors.


'Pull' factors

Now I will explain the 'pull' factors of Thailand. The first involves employment opportunities. I am on the cusp of completing my TESOL course to teach English. I already have a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Sociology and History. Based on job vacancies from the Ajarn website and word of mouth, demand for English teachers in Thailand seems quite high. Although the pay when compared to Australian dollars is very low, in the context of Thailand, 30,000 baht which seems to be the average monthly pay as an English teacher (although this can be substantially increased if private tutoring is done) according my conditions and calculations is fine. Owning a condo outright in Phrakanong definitely helps my situation.

The second key 'pull' factor is the character of Bangkok. Shops close 10 PM seven days a week. There are plenty of markets and busy areas which go well into the night. Heaps of outside eating areas packed with people all the time. For me personally, all this adds up to feeling 'alive'. Simply walking around these busy areas, eating at crowded places and restaurants, watching people walk by, soaking in the atmosphere and being in the 'thick' of things makes me feel 'alive'. I always feel as though there is something to do or place to go. Just possessing this mode of thought alone is enough to keep me happy. Sydney on the other hand is the exact opposite. The city is literally dead after 6 PM every night. Only various pockets of Sydney have a substantial number of people enjoying the nightlife. Other than that, it feels like a ghost town. Shops close everyday around 5 PM except for Thursdays which is 'late night shopping' till 9 PM. basically, there is no 'buzz' here in Sydney as there is in Bangkok. Obviously the population difference plays a key role with Sydney possessing around 4 million people making it a sparsely populated city whereas Bangkok is very dense.

The third 'pull' factor is the 'general mood' of Thailand. Wherever I have gone in Thailand, I have always sensed a sort of relaxed, eased, unhurried, sedated and calm mood and approach to things in general. This really rubs on to me making me feel calm and relaxed. The melancholic state that Sydney has been in for years has affected me in a negative way. Everything feels rushed and hurried here. The pace of life here is so fast that patience, calmness and taking it easy DOES NOT EXIST HERE. The way people drive and go about their day to day activities is crazy!

Climate is another obvious 'pull' factor which I feel doesn't need elaboration as Thailand's climate is consistent. It is usually hot and sunny. The monsoonal rains however may cause havoc as witnessed last year with the floods which I believe still hasn't been completely cleaned up. <I would respectfully suggest that Sydney has a much better climate than Bangkok which is too hot for most of the yearStick>

Now that the 'push' and 'pull' factors have been detailed, let us qualify and discuss this further.

Although one might get the impression based on the above that Sydney is a 'melancholic ghost town' which saps the life out of you; and Thailand is the 'Land of Smiles', moving there seems to be straightforward and rational but as the old proverb goes "expectation is better than realization". On an abstract level, relocating to a new country presents a complex set of dilemmas one must face. Let us look at these.

I have been to Thailand 3 times. The first was April 2009. I stayed 3 weeks. The second was November 2010. I stayed 3 months this time round. The third was October 2011 where I stayed 6 weeks. The vital point to consider from these visits is the purpose behind them. All of these visits were HOLIDAYS. This is very important because when on holidays, the state of mind is completely different to the state of mind of one who has relocated lives and works in Thailand. When we contrast these states of mind, they are mutually exclusive and not one and the same thing.

A more pressing matter is the actual settling and adjustment process. Let me quote two paragraphs of my essay I wrote back in February 2010 for my history subject at university related to this matter.

"According to human ecologists, cities possess areas known as 'natural areas' which contain people with similar social, cultural, occupational and familial characteristics. Ethnic-migrant 'natural areas' are regarded as social units where primary relationships exist and where human interaction is based on mutual understanding and solidarity of the members. These 'natural areas' provide the fulfillment and fostering of important basic human needs which is critical in the adjustment process of migrants".

"Arriving in a strange, unfamiliar and 'cold' city, the migrant by settling within the familiar environment of his / her ethnic community fulfils the basic human needs of safety and identity which softens the impact of facing the host city. Sharing a similar religious, cultural and linguistic background not only provides a sense of safety and identity to develop but also a sense of belongingness is fostered which also is crucial to basic human needs. Rather than feeling lost in a strange host city, the migrant is able to have a sense of belongingness in a 'natural area' where he / she is understood and accepted and does not feel isolated"

In light of this, we must ask ourselves these questions:

Does Bangkok or the city I am planning to move possess 'natural areas'?

If not, how will I be able to soften the impact of moving and adjusting in Thailand?

Without a sense of belongingness due to people not sharing a similar religious, cultural and linguistic background, how will I cope with the possible alienation and isolation?

How safe is Bangkok or Thailand?

These questions must be considered in depth when taking the plunge to move to Thailand. I have considered these questions for quite a while and the one which is thorny is the question about alienation and isolation. On my second visit to Thailand which was 3 months, the last 2 weeks was burdened with loneliness and isolation. The reason for this was I had experienced most of what Bangkok had to offer. Initially it was the ultimate of experiences and sensations. The neon lights, the crowds, the hustle and bustle, late night markets, shopping, girls, drinks, food, restaurants and you name it. But after all the walking, eating, humping, sleeping, shopping and drinking, there comes that moment when you’re not satisfied anymore. There is something on the inside that wants fulfillment and nourishment but all the eating, humping etc. simply does not fulfill and nourish that thing on the inside. As you're sitting in a restaurant or outside a bar with hundreds and thousands of people walking by, suddenly you become oblivious, lonely and isolated. The atmosphere is not penetrating you. As people are going about their business, there you are oh so lonely. One of the busiest cities in the world feels like one of the loneliest. You feel the need to converse and bond with people but the language barrier hampers that. Even the basic Thai I know or English they know restricts the conversation to simple and ostensible topics equivalent to discussing the outer layer of a watermelon rather than the juicy and beneficial inside which nourishes. Here is a poem I wrote related to all of this:

Coup-de-mane, yet again
Weak armour, in seeps strain
Overwhelmed, is my choice domain
Profane, is Its ordain

Mundane, is my gain
Disdain, what I attain
Heart, covered in stain
Limping, in vile terrain

To regain, I must restrain
To retain, I must constrain
To sustain, I must abstain
To obtain, I must detain

No longer, are You thane
Quarried, is my fain
Dusted, the sword cane
Now! Now You’re slain!

Coup-de-mane, yet again
Weak armour, in seeps strain
Overwhelmed, is my choice domain
Profane, is Its ordain

I have weighed this and other possible issues in relation to adjusting in Thailand and in the end, the positives outweigh the negatives for my situation. For me personally, the key is the language. I must get a better grasp of it which I know I can improve dramatically. Learning the language gives access to the 'real' Thailand as it will provide for better conversation and the development of new friends. However, do Thais really want to be your friend? Do they also like the people in Sydney mainly possess some underlying motive to befriend you? Are they calculative and manipulative? Well I pretty much know the bar girls and scenery but I don't mean them. I mean those not involved in that industry. Without side tracking too much let me share a bizarre story briefly about a girl outside of the bar industry.

Continuing from the Ibis Hotel Sathorn Rd incident which was my previous post, a week later I organize a date with another girl from Thaifriendly.com, meet in front of KFC in MBK (my usual meeting spot) but this time bring Eddy with me so he doesn't feel lonely and bored. The girl comes and is very attractive. I quickly tell her to organize a friend for Eddy and after a few hours, she comes to Starbucks MBK and she is a nurse in a dental clinic. The next night we go on a double date and go to Zanzibar for drinks and Eddy's girl is quite drunk. We then head into Insomnia nightclub which wasn't very busy then we head back to my place. Now my girl is refusing to sleep with me no matter how much I tried gaming her. "No worries" I say to myself. Eddy has no hope according to what his girl is saying to me and her friend. Anyway, I am in my room with the girl talking and chatting on my bed and Eddy is in the TV room. After 10 minutes he calls my name out and in Turkish says "have you got rubber" in a jovial manner. I hand one to him and he starts banging her on the couch. After the second round, they relax a little and due to my impatience with my girl not putting out, I tell her and her friend to leave. After they left, I find out Eddy managed to bang his girl because she said she'll put out for 2,000 Baht. This girl is not a bar girl but your 'average' girl who works in a dental clinic as a nurse and I even know where it is and have seen her work there. Reason why I side tracked is this incident was an eye-opener and taught me a lot about girls who are not in the bar industry. However this is nothing unique if you have read many other submissions. Nevertheless, bizarre but interesting :) (The noises coming from the lounge were also funny hehe)

Back to the main discussion, being able to read in Thai is especially important for me as I would love to read some of their literary classics, poems and history they possess in their libraries. The overarching factor which inclined me to move to Thailand is that I love learning, meeting and understanding people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds. This yearning for constant learning and understanding really drives me. In conclusion, moving to Thailand is a double edged sword. One edge is not moving and staying in Australia and the other is moving to Thailand. Australia's edge is sharper than Thailand for me so I will be in there permanently in about 2-3 months.

Here is a further list I found in my TESOL reading manuals which assist with 'culture shock'. Maybe they might be handy as well

• Develop a hobby

• Don't forget the good things you already have!

• Remember, there are always resources that you can use

• Be patient. The act of immigrating is a process of adaptation to new situations. It is going to take time

• Learn to be constructive. If you encounter an unfavourable environment, don't put yourself in that position again. Be easy on yourself

• Don't try too hard

• Learn to include a regular form of physical activity in your routine. This will help combat the sadness and loneliness in a constructive manner. Exercise, swim, take an aerobics class, etc.

• Relaxation and meditation are proven to be very positive for people who are passing through periods of stress

• Maintain contact with your ethnic group. This will give you a feeling of belonging and you will reduce your feelings of loneliness and alienation

• Maintain contact with the new culture. Learn the language. Volunteer in community activities that allow you to practice the language that you are learning. This will help you feel less stress about
Language and useful at the same time

• Allow yourself to feel sad about the things that you have left behind: your family, your friends, etc.

• Recognize the sorrow of leaving your old country. Accept the new country. Focus your power on getting through the transition

• Pay attention to relationships with your family and at work. They will serve as support for you in difficult times

• Establish simple goals and evaluate your progress

• Find ways to live with the things that don't satisfy you 100%

• Maintain confidence in yourself. Follow your ambitions and continue your plans for the future

• If you feel stressed, look for help. There is always someone or some service available to help you (this could refer to a massage :)

Amazing Properties

Stickman's thoughts:

Yikes, Sydney is one of my favourite cities, a place I like on so many levels, but the picture you paint of it is awful!

There's no doubt that one can have a nice life in Thailand. If I may give you some unsolicited advice: Use English teaching as a springboard. It's a great way to start out, network, make contacts and learn about life in Thailand, but I wouldn't recommend looking at it long-term. It can be very frustrating and besides, unless you're on a really good gig you just won't get that far ahead on a teacher's salary. Sydney is expensive for sure, but unless you really go native, Bangkok is *much* more expensive than it used to be!