Readers' Submissions

Expectations USA

  • Written by BKKSteve
  • June 6th, 2012
  • 13 min read

Description: We’re all familiar with the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome and I sincerely believe that no matter how old or experienced we might be, we all fall victim to one degree or another. In anticipation of my impending relocation back to middle America I thought I’d write down my expectations and share them with you now, and then in a few months evaluate how things went and share that as well.

Wanted or not? One of my most significant issues as an expatriate here in Thailand is that I’m really not wanted. Seriously. The more you learn about Thailand the more you realize they’d rather we just came for a few days, dropped all our cash, and moved right on out of their country. The masses don’t want us hanging around for years. I expect to feel “wanted” and welcome in my own country. A reasonable expectation?

Governmental Agencies. Doing anything with a governmental agency in Thailand is more often than not a virtual nightmare. I’ll explain some of my less than unique experiences in a separate post later. I expect the USA’s governmental agencies to not only be much easier to deal with, but more efficient, user friendly, and informative.

Immigration. During my decade+ in Thailand I’ve held education, tourist, marriage, and retirement visas. Tourist visas are the easiest, but the least useful. Education visas can be another nightmare, while the first marriage visa can resemble an interrogation at Guantanamo and subsequent marriage visas not much better. By far retirement visas are the easiest and most trouble free. You might not think it fair experiencing immigration in my own country, but my passport has more SEA stamps than leopards have spots and my wife must deal with them as well. There should be some interesting comparisons, but I expect the US immigration service to be much easier.

Driving. I’ve written so much about driving in Thailand, here, here, and here. Buying a car in Thailand is expensive, insuring it is cheap, maintaining it is cheap, getting it washed cheap, and driving extreme. Law enforcement only exists to extort. In the USA I expect better roads, to be able to afford a much nicer car, laws to be enforced, rules of the road to be obeyed, less expensive cars for purchase which are more expensive to insure and maintain. I expect to fuel and wash my own car. How accurate will I be?

Restaurants and Groceries. With few exceptions I find western food in Thailand to be of a low quality and vastly more expensive than in my own country. I’m not fond of Thai food, but in Thailand I find excellent Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, and other Asian restaurants at reasonable prices. Thai food ingredients my wife purchases should be much cheaper in Thailand. Once in the USA I expect to find inexpensive but good western food everywhere, plenty of Asian restaurants but at higher prices, and some of the best produce, dairy, and meats available anywhere in the world. And at great prices.

Clothes Shopping. I get great custom suits and dress shirts made here in Thailand at decent prices, and my seamstress regularly makes me two new shirts a month which I promptly add to my closet while removing the two I’ve ruined. I don’t expect this in the USA, but I do expect off the shelf clothes of the styles I enjoy to be much more plentiful, and in the right sizes.

Retail shopping. Home improvement supplies, a new lamp, televisions, picture frames, Thailand has always struck me as having only two types of retail. Ultra-expensive for the uber-rich, and cheap merchandise for everyone else. There’s not much in the middle, and what there is, is oddball stuff marketed at odder stores like Tesco/Lotus and Mackro and most isn’t current. Product lineups are just a fraction of what you’ll find in the west, and way outdated. The USA is the biggest market in the world with the best prices to match. Most everything is released first in the USA, or shortly after another western country. I expect vastly superior retail experiences in the USA, and not only availability and prices, but consumer protections, return policies, and knowledgeable salespeople. What do you think?

Vacation experiences. My favorite activity/time in Thailand is to load up the truck with camera gear and take off to places previously unknown and meet interesting people while experiencing an exotic culture. Islands, mountains, farm lands, fishing villages, craft villages, Thailand offers so much. How will the USA compare? Without a doubt the USA has more variety in geographical features, lakes, oceans, coastlines, mountain ranges, valley’s, deserts, cultures from all over the world, and national forests like the Redwoods, Yosemite, Crater Lake, Death Valley, The Badlands, The Sierras, Yellowstone, there are hundreds if not thousands of national forests and monuments. I’m curious how the overall experience will compare.

Educational Opportunities. I’m a permanent student. I have degrees earned both in the USA, and in Thailand. I ‘might’ want to earn another, and for sure my son will be attending university. I’ve maintained contact with institutions here in Thailand. I expect to find USA educational facilities much superior in every aspect. I’ll let you know.

Employment Opportunities. No worries, this kid won’t be taking a greeter job at Walmart. But hopefully I’ll be running the same type of business in the USA as I do in Thailand, and I expect all regulatory aspects of doing business to be far superior in the USA. Yet, I’m not sure about my clientele. My clients here in Thailand typically come from western countries and I greatly enjoy meeting these people and learning about their own countries. How will I feel with a mostly American clientele? I suspect I’ll be disappointed.

Television. No contest, the USA produces the most quality shows available anywhere. I enjoy US news more, and US sports. I have access to these in Thailand, but I must download torrents or use my Slingbox which is twelve hours out of sync with the states. I expect to have access to the most programming choices in the world, on-demand HD movies through various services, and the content I enjoy most. I also expect commercial breaks which I haven’t had to suffer in quite some time. I think I’ll hate that part.

Internet. These last few years I’ve enjoyed a love/hate relationship with True Online. My 16mbps download and 1mbps upload is actually pretty decent. Yet, it cuts on/off regularly, speeds slow for weeks at a time, and outages are the norm. At baht 2345 monthly it’s not exactly cheap. In contrast I just signed up for Comcasts 105mbps download and 10mbps upload cable service, and expect very few variances in line speed and even less outages. Will I be right?

Entertainment. This is a big one as everyone has different preferences for general entertainment. Some love golf, others drink for a sport, and some like bird watching. Me? I like to read, see the occasional movie, and of course I enjoy photography and related travel greatly. Now that I download books from Amazon to read on my Kindle. I suspect there will be a difference in movie theatres. For photography I expect both places to be equally full of artistic and fun photographic opportunities. I’m not sure about this one. In the states I can also renew several hobbies unavailable to farangs in Thailand, like IDPA and High Power shooting competitions.

Exercise. Here in Thailand I have a pool, weight room, squash court, sauna, and misc exercise machines all here in my building. Unfortunately even though I live in an upscale resort complex, the machines are ill maintained and downright dangerous, the sauna has never worked, the table tennis table is held together with rubber bands and popsicle sticks, and the pool is so over chlorinated it would turn Shamu white. And I swear I’ve seen several white whales in that pool to support my case. Health clubs are very expensive here in Thailand. I only maintain free weights and an upper body cycle machine at my home in the states, but I do expect the local health clubs to be nicer, better maintained, and more reasonably priced in the USA.

Weather. This is tough, which do you prefer? Frankly I’m sick and tired of being hot and sticky all the time and needing air conditioning to sleep comfortably. I use air conditioning at least 50% of the time. This is a lot of time to be breathing in cycled air. I run my air conditioning in my car 95% of the time so I don’t need to breath in the poison street air. But mostly I don’t enjoy working up a sweat standing still, and then having to wear the same shirt for the rest of the day. It gets old. My photography equipment is caked with a white salt residue. On the other hand while I expect the Midwest weather to be far preferable 6-7 months of the year, I think I’ll find the sub-zero winters to be much less desirable.

Environment. I never thought I’d be so concerned over my environment. But I am. Thailand, especially Bangkok does that to you. From my 16th floor apartment enough particle pollution works its way into my home to require twice daily dustings. I can’t imagine what my lungs look like. It’s a well-known fact that particle pollution is some of the worst in the world, behind only parts of India and Beijing. With seasonal field burns, a huge amount of vehicular pollution, building projects which never quit, and the particle pollution I talked about above, my guess is I’m severely hurting my health being here. In contrast Midwest USA is very clean in all aspects. Not that many cars, no big cities close to where I’ll be, no field burning, no trash burning, and even the coal fired power plants are strictly regulated and very clean. I expect a much cleaner environment in the USA.

Medical Treatment. I enjoy top notch medical treatment at Bumrungrad Hospital, Thailand’s finest. And I must admit the “hospital” is a showcase, great presentation, nice food places, nice shops, nice big screens everywhere, it’s pretty nice that way. And my doctor is first rate as well. I can’t get my preferred medications however because corrupt officials tightly control pharmaceuticals for profit. I expect “hospitals” in the states to be not so nice in the common spaces, but better equipped with better trained personal where it actually counts. I also expect all medications, treatments, and services available.

Women. No such discussion on Thailand would be complete without touching on this subject. I’m probably going against the norm, but I don’t do the nightlife and I’ve no issues with western women. I’ve never had problems finding interesting and pretty women to date in any country. Thailand of course offers a younger more target rich environment, and there’s no doubt some of the local women are beautiful. But I find many western women just as beautiful. My guess is that if I was looking for a younger more traditional wife Thailand would be the place to go. I’m convinced there are also highly educated women available who speak English as well as you or I. Yet, we shan’t discuss this more lest my wife inject her two cents worth.

Friends. I’ve been lucky and made some truly good friends here in Thailand. I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time here nearly as much without them. They’ve been great friends, always there when I need them, coming through when I least expected it, and I’ve done my best to give more than I took. I feel so fortunate and will be forever thankful. I don’t expect to do as well with friends in the USA. I find I have less in common with the average American than I do the average expat. I suppose after 23 years in Asia this is understandable. I hope I’m wrong about this.

Family. My wife’s family is here in Thailand, my family is in the states. I think this will be a simple matter of taking turns, but of course I’ll enjoy the states more because my family is there. On the other hand, relatives can be too close. Yet, I’ll be living very close to my sons and I can’t hope for more than this. I want nothing but this. Family is why I’m returning.

The pursuit of success and happiness. I’m of the mindset that success is endemic to the individual. In other words, it’s the person and not so much the environment that determines how successful an individual makes a location, job, vacation, business venture, or even relationships. In that regard I expect Thailand and the USA to be equal. I’ll be equally successful in both places. Yet, I do think the USA offers more opportunity for specific types of success such as running a business, education, and even health.

Cost of living. So much depends and I’m sure this is highly personal. But I will go out on the limb and say this. If you want to ‘go native’ and live as the average Thai’s do, or even several steps better, you’ll live much cheaper in Thailand. However, if you want to live a western lifestyle, live in a western quality home, eat western quality foods, drive a western quality car, take western quality vacations, and participate in western quality activities, then I expect to pay far more in Thailand than I would in the west. I realize this is one of the areas that heavily depends on the individual and their circumstances, and that few will ever agree. But I do intend to see if my expectations for lower costs are realized and I’ll get back to you.

Overall quality of life. This would be the aggregate of all of the above and much more I haven’t mentioned. Again, it’s personal. Some will weigh one area more than another will, and so on down the list. Some put 90% of their perception into available women, others will put it into their car, and still others into their home. Weighting is individual. With all that said, I expect overall quality of life to be better in the USA FOR ME. We’ll see. But how about you? What’s important to you and how you’re take on the individual areas differs from mine.

Until next time.. .

Stickman's thoughts:

What I find most interesting about this submission is that it provides food for thought fora anyone contemplating coming to Thailand as much as for someone thinking of returning to Farangland.