The Thailand Expat Disease
There is a disease in Thailand expat society that many succumb to. Using condoms won’t prevent it. Some might not even consider it a disease, but it’s still remarkably common amongst expats in Thailand.
I always thought HIV would be common in expat society, but despite widespread recklessness, seemingly very few expats contract HIV.
What about other sexually transmitted diseases? Gonorrhea? Nope. Chlamydia? It’s out there, but it’s far from the most common disease amongst expats. Sexually transmitted diseases are prevalent amongst expats, but there’s another disease even more common.
Thailand can suck in expats as they succumb to its charms. Even those with the best self-control may abandon their principles and do things the Thai way.
Over time, many expats become more and more like locals as they adopt behaviour and characteristics so common in Thailand, even if some may be considered bad habits in their homeland.
It starts with the small things. They lose their sense of timeliness. Meeting times become loose, and they may not even turn up for social engagements.
They start telling fibs. Initially it is to avoid hurting people’s feelings but in time it might be because it is advantageous or beneficial to them to do so.
Recklessness soon follows. After vowing to avoid them at all costs, they take motorbike taxi rides not just up and down the local soi, but all the way across town. Hookers are shagged without protection – even when they have a clean pussy to go home to.
Some develop a superiority complex and enter in to nonsensical games of one-upmanship where everything becomes about self-image and face.
They join the ranks of the damned in bad-mouthing their homeland and all the perceived ills of Western society. The idea of ever moving back home becomes a nightmare and they gravitate towards other expats who feel the same. They constantly remind each other how their homeland is cold, boring, controlling and expensive, how western women are evil and so on, all in an effort to continually convince themselves that they’ve made the right decision. They become uncomfortable with farangs who question their new way of thinking. They don’t like being outside the echo chamber. They’re self-brainwashing.
They downgrade their lifestyle in an effort to make their money last. They might calculate that they have enough to stay in Thailand without the need to ever work again even if they are relatively young and might have 40 years or more to live. Property in the West is liquidated, remaining possessions of any value sold, retirement schemes cashed in early and expected inheritance factored in years or even decades before it may (or may not) come their way.
They have checked out of life and intend to see out their days as wasters in Thailand. It’s not that retiring early in Thailand is a bad thing – saying goodbye to a life of drudgery to live in the tropics is something many dream of. Some forget their principles, retire on the bare minimum and refuse to see that there is a great life to be had outside Thailand.
With a modest amount to survive on for the rest of their life, the goals and dreams they once had are cast aside forever. Au revoir to the idea of spending summers in Paris studying the French language. The dream of owning an exotic sports car, even a 30-year old 911 – will never get out of first gear.
Any thought of improving their place in life, or planning for contingencies is gone.
There is little or no fat in their budget, no provisions for serious health issues.
They have fallen in to the trap of thinking, I could exist like this for x number of years and if I am lucky I might not ever have to do anything again!
They have abandoned their dreams and drastically limited their future options. You could say they have checked out of life. They refuse to believe that there is a big, exciting world out there!
They officially have the Thailand expat disease.
The Thailand expat disease is easily contracted. I don’t know if there is a cure, short of leaving the country.
Where was this photo taken?
Last week’s photo proved difficult and only a handful of people got it right. It was taken inside Lucky Luke’s Tiki Bar at the entrance to Nana Plaza. This week’s photo might be even more challenging again. It was taken by a reader in downtown Bangkok but the view is kind of unusual. There is a cool story behind this photo which will follow next week.
FROM STICK’S INBOX (These are emails from readers and what is written here was not written by Stick.)
Thailand not for the faint-hearted.
I visited Thailand first in 2000 and since then I have come back every year. In 2003 I made my first attempt to stay in Thailand, but got involved with a freelancer and ended up burning through money over a couple of months before making the decision to return to Farangland. That led to staying in a hostel in Europe, because I had no flat, had ended my job and had to start from scratch. In 2006 I made my second attempt and the result was the same, burning through money and hanging out with a freelancer. I work in customer service and without speaking any Thai there were not many jobs I was interested in, let alone able to secure one. So after going through the routine of staying in a hostel with no flat and no job the second time at the age of 44, I came to the conclusion that Thailand would strictly be a holiday destination until I have enough money to retire. I bumped up my lottery spending and come to Thailand at least once a year for holiday. It’s not perfect but it beats sitting in Thailand with no cash, no hope and contemplating the best way to end my life. Thailand is not for the faint-hearted and not very forgiving if you make mistakes. But I would do it all over again exactly the same way. I have great memories!
A harsh reality?
I visited Thailand once several years ago. I think people move to Thailand because they are broken and have issues fitting in to life in their homeland. Thailand didn’t break them. The were already broken upon arrival. I personally didn’t care much for Thailand, and didn’t visit any of the nightspots. All the farang I saw appeared to be losers.
When you’re removed from the usual scrutiny.
Your observations about Thais in New Zealand are exactly the same as my thoughts on Thais here in Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne has a wide variety of Thai people from ex (and not ex) bargirls to university-educated academics. I have met all sorts over the years. Many display undesirable characteristics. They are jealous of each other’s respective success, continually snipe about each other behind their backs and many conduct ongoing guerilla warfare with their supposed enemies. They spread false stories in the local community about the ‘enemy’. I used to spend quite a bit of time with many of them before I retired to Thailand, but it became tiresome. The Thais I know in Bangkok are a completely different species. As one of my few Thai friends in Melbourne said, ‘I really don’t want to mix with Thais in Melbourne – something happens to them when they leave Thailand – they stop being Thais and become something quite unpleasant‘. I think part of being an expat (farang in LOS or Thai in the west) means you are somewhat removed from the normal scrutiny of your peers and family at home. This can lead to behaviour that you wouldn’t dream of doing if your family or friends had a chance of finding out about.
Chinese leftovers of no interest to Thai women.
Could the Chinese men become popular amongst Thai women? – This is what I used to think, though I recently read an article that suggested reasons why this might not be the case. The article stated that Chinese women are very much in demand and they snatch up the best men. This leaves the poorest and least attractive Chinese men remaining single. So would ugly and poor Chinese men do well with Thai women? At least in Pattaya, I’ve seen many women forgive looks in exchange for money. But if the money is missing, I’m not so sure. Maybe Chinese men will become extremely popular here in Thailand, but it will be the rich married men looking for a little something on the side rather than the many single “leftovers”.
I just came back from my annual 3 weeks winter break at the Oriental where soon after arrival I realised what terrible mistake it had been to overlook this year’s early Chinese New Year. The place was full of them causing a mess at the breakfast buffet by shouting at each other and verbally attacking the staff. After they came back from shopping they caused trouble at the pools and whenever there was noise in the rooms you can guess who was inside. In future I shall use extra care to avoid them at all costs and I would even say that a high percentage of them occupying the place would make me stay at home altogether. I do not travel half way around the world to spend a fortune on a holiday only to be troubled by people from an entirely different culture.
Too much neon?
Many years ago, sailors who pulled into Klong Toey used to recall the rough bars in that area. In particular boxing and wrestling. So something on those lines. Mad Max style would do well, I reckon. It’s needed to get away from the jaded gogo model and chrome poles and escape the glitz and bling and go back to basics. The nightlife is very passé in Bangkok now. There’s too much neon!
The lines at Immigration arriving in Thailand are terrible. I thank god that I don’t have to go through the usual queues. A few months ago we were going out of Don Meuang Airport and the line was so long it was backed up out of the immigration hall. At that airport I don’t have premium services. Thank goodness my wife could take me through the Thai channel otherwise I don’t know how we would have made the flight. And a lot of it is Chinese tourists. Loud. Pushy. Obnoxious. Thailand would surely be better off without them.
Brexit being felt in Thailand
Brexit and the pound is affecting expats here. On my 3rd trip in December, 1997, the baht was over 90 to the pound. I went home with money as I just could not spend it. When I got married in 2005, it was still a healthy 73. Then when I moved to Thailand a bit later on it was 68. The last time I transferred money over at the start of last June it was 55. Today it’s just over 42 and seems to be slowly still sinking. This time, inflation has put costs up as well. I wonder how low it will have to fall before people just cannot afford to live here. Pensioners in the main whose state pensions never increase if living in Thailand. Seems to be a lot without the 800K in the and Bank these days and who get an extension through visa services with the authorities obviously getting a bung.
Girl Of The Week
Ying, dancer, Lighthouse, Soi Cowboy
A native of Bangkok, Ying would like to be an accountant.
Construction is slow on the new plaza in Soi Nana, the large building a couple of hundred or so metres down the soi from Nana Plaza on the other side, in what was the Rajah Hotel car park. Buildings in Thailand often go up at breakneck speed and expected this building would be finished now. The large structure reminds me of the huge beer bar complexes on Soi Bangla in Phuket where the bars are sheltered in what appears to be a large building – but which is not really a building at all, but a building without proper walls, and is really just a huge great roof. There’s still much conjecture about just what the format of what they are calling Toh Roong will be. Let me piss all over the rumours that it will be the new Nana Plaza or Nana Plaza II and be full of gogo bars. It won’t. I’d expect a mix of bars, the odd eatery, live music and maybe even some shops. With a name like Toh Roong, I predict it is going to be a gigantic flop.
Bada Bing in Patpong soi 2 was arguably one of the best bars of its type for a while. The French owners of Bada Bing have taken over the long-troubled Glamour just 50 or so metres further up the soi. It reopened Wednesday of last week. A great job has been done with the remodeling and renovation – gone is the ridiculously high stage that took up so much space. Instead, the bar now features two smaller stages. For the time being a number of pretty dancers from Bada Bing make up the numbers but expect an all new crew at Glamour soon.
Popular freelancer bar Insanity will move from its current location on Sukhumvit soi 12 to soi 11, not far from where Q Bar used to be. With the legal battle Insanity’s owners have been fighting to try and remain on soi 12, the writing has been on the wall and the operator must have known its days in that location were numbered. Construction has started on the new Insanity location and the doors are expected to open late May or early June.
One of the best deals in town for views and a great drink at a great price is the 90 baht Long Island Iced Tea special at Sam’s 2000, the bar and eatery next to Tilac, slap in the middle of Soi Cowboy. Sam’s uses quality liquor and not the cheap stuff that you often find in Bangkok when cocktails are so cheap. The chicken and cashew nuts at Sam’s is pretty good too.
In a sign of the times, the grilled chicken vendor who operates outside Dundee on Soi Cowboy most nights has a sign on the stall advertising grilled chicken in Thai, English and now you guessed it – Chinese script.
Cockatoo, the one and only ladyboy bar on Soi Cowboy, hosts its 6th birthday bash this Monday, February 27th. Kicking off at 8 PM, there will be a free buffet and free Vodka shots. They’re calling it The White Party.
Sukhumvit soi 11 is a largely Indian-Thai owned soi with a great variety of entertainment and dining options. A mile down the road, Sukhumvit soi 33 is largely Chinese-Thai owned and has a similar mix of venues, albeit much quieter and smaller. The Chinese-Thais who operate soi 33 have seen how successful the Indian-Thais have been on soi 11 and are looking to replicate their success. Don’t be surprised to see aggressive tactics to bring soi 33 up and there are plans to entice some of the venues on soi 11 to relocate down to soi 33.
Many foreigners have a false sense of security on the streets of Thailand that baffles locals who generally hardly consider their country to be safe. The top-selling Thai newspaper Thai Rath this week reported on a number of reported thefts of iPhones along the stretch of Sukhumvit Road between Terminal 21 / the Asoke intersection and Emporium and from the sounds of it a gang of pickpockets is operating in the area. A video taken from the security camera at the 7 Eleven store near the top of soi 18 showed the gang in operation grabbing a phone from a pedestrian. If you happen to be strolling around that area, do be aware of your surroundings.
Word from Pattaya is that Walking Street is rammed with Middle Easterners, Indians and Russians. It’s the same old story of recent years with the white man in the minority. Most on Walking Street are lookyloos and selfie takers and many don’t spend a single baht on Pattaya’s Ground Zero. A friend in Pattaya met up with a bunch of like-minded folks from the top Pattaya naughty boys forum, Pattaya Addicts, and observed that despite being in Sin City, most were all over Tinder and Thai-Friendly, chasing maidens online rather than in the traditional venues. It’s just proof – as if it was needed – that the future of the bars isn’t great. The one hot spot in Pattaya seems to be the discos which are busy every night and full of young guys.
Still in Pattaya, fallout from the article in the Daily Mirror last week about Pattaya being the sex tourism capital of the world has seen a knee jerk reaction by the authorities. Raids were carried out on a few random locations around town. It’s hard to see that much can be done to change Pattaya’s image unless there is an entire change of culture and a law change – and even then, does anyone really think that will happen?
Art galleries are not the sort of thing I generally include in this column but let me give a mention to A4 Gallery, run by a friend. It will open on Silom soi 4, this coming Tuesday and is located on the 2nd floor of G’s German restaurant. The gallery will specialise in abstract and modern paintings as well as photographic prints. Originals and various size prints will be available for sale. For the first two months, photographer David Van Driessche will exhibit many wonderful images taken during his travels through South-East Asia.
Some time in the last few weeks, Thai banks increased the fee for making an ATM withdrawal from a foreign bank account up to 220 baht. OK, so it might only be a small increase of 20 baht but all of these little bits add up.
A popular Bangkok restaurateur explained why he feels the need to add a service charge to the bill, something which is common in restaurants with farang food, much less so in Thai eateries. The explanation was simple: it is necessary to levy a service charge to get English-speaking staff. Many restaurant owners have all sorts of trouble getting staff, and English-speaking staff know they have many options.
There is something about the way some Thai females say thank you ka (in English, not Thai) that strikes me as them being insincere, almost like they are being sarcastic using English when they needn’t. Many Thais drop these 2 words in English in to a conversation unnecessarily (when obviously everything else is in Thai). Thais frequently use those two words here in New Zealand when they’re speaking with other Thais in their own language. It’s the way it comes out that makes me think they are taking the piss. Of course, it could just be me over-thinking things.
Many of the rooms in new condominium developments in Pattaya and Bangkok – and that is really the only word you can use, “rooms”, are so small that the only way to describe them is as a small hotel room. I don’t know how you can think of such rooms as a home. A place to store your condoms seems about all they are good for – and in many of the rooms in new developments there’s not much space for anything else. What amazes me is that it is not just low-end buildings which have tiny rooms, but high-end, genuinely expensive buildings too. Let’s take for example Lumpini 24, the building on the far right in the photo above, which sits amongst a cluster of new, high-end buildings on rapidly rising Sukhumvit soi 24. Lumpini 24 is a fancy development where units average around 220,000 baht a square metre. And in Lumpini 24 there are many units of around 28 – 32 square metres. My lounge in New Zealand is bigger than that. I completely get it that some like the idea of downsizing and simplifying their lives, but is this really someone’s idea of a “home”? You battle so much living in Thailand that I have always thought that the place you live ought to be comfortable, somewhere you can return to at the end of the day and escape from the excitement and the madness that is life in Bangkok. I know land prices are getting silly but living in such tight quarters hardly strikes me as a great lifestyle choice.
Recommending a Bangkok language institute where a Thai female can learn English is not as simple a question as it sounds. The British Council is generally considered the best language school in Bangkok but I wouldn’t recommend it to the average Thai. The reason relates to Thai culture and the way that Thais interact with each other, and specifically the pee / nong hierarchy. Thais hang out with those from the same social class and from a similar socio-economic background. The British Council tends to be the choice of well-to-do Thais and while all are welcome, a Thai from a less privileged background may not fit in with the other students in the class – and that is a big issue for Thais. If you are looking to send your Thai lady to school to improve her English, I’d suggest that you: 1. Make sure the teacher is a foreigner. 2. Get your good lady to check that the students come from similar social strata as she does. If they don’t, the dynamic may not work and she might not enjoy it, she will likely get less out of it, or might just drop out, making some sort of excuses or other but really it’s about not fitting in with students from a different background.
Quote of the week comes from a long-time reader, “While Noi from Buriram may be exotically erotic to Westerners, her caramel skin means the Wu family isn’t paying one satang.“
Motorcycle taxi riders in Soi Bearing have installed free wi-fi for waiting passengers.
Two Pattaya gogo bars are ordered closed after naked dancers are found in one venue, adult toys in another.
Plans for special SIM cards for tourists which could be tracked have been abandoned.
The authorities plan to move Pattaya’s image away from that of a city of sin and towards a family tourism destination.
A Canadian trying to help his lady friend in Chumphon from a thief becomes the victim of a machete attack.
The UK’s Guardian looks at how Thailand’s BBC correspondent is facing defamation charges.
A Russian tourist is facing up to a year in prison for feeding the wrong fish in Phuket.
The Bangkok Post takes an in-depth look at prostitution in Pattaya.
Ask Sunbelt Legal
Sunbelt Legal Advisors is here to answer any legal questions you have related to Thailand. Drop me an email and I will forward your questions to Sunbelt Legal and run their response in the next column.
Question 1: I’m asking this question on behalf of a friend who owes 2 months’ back rent to a Thailand-based Chinese property corporation. He was renting a condo in Bangkok when he noticed that the property management had forgotten to give him his bill for 2 months straight. He forgot about it too. One day, he received a phone call from his mother telling him that his grandpa had passed away, so he left Thailand to return home. Once back home, he received an email from the management company asking for rent payment within 3 days and if payment wasn’t received, they would proceed according to the law. He said that he had to take care of his family situation and didn’t know when he’d be back. He told them they could keep the deposit payment. The company said he’d still have to pay the 2 months’ back rent. At that point, he didn’t reply. He has since left Thailand, but he wants to return. However, he’s afraid that if he lands at Bangkok Airport, he might be arrested and imprisoned, if the company reported him to the police. Since the company threatened to proceed according to the law, might there have been a chance that they reported him to the police and immigration? The company has a copy of his passport. Is there any way to find out if he’s on an Immigration watch list or blacklist? Is there any way to find out if there’s a warrant for his arrest? Do you provide that service? Is it stupid of him to return to Thailand? In Thailand, this is a civil matter and not a criminal matter, right? What are the chances of him returning to Thailand and nothing-bad happening to him?
Sunbelt Legal responds: Under Thai law, paying rent falls under civil law so there would be no arrest as he has not broken any criminal law. The police may take a report but would have no grounds to arrest him. Since the owner has the two months deposit, which is the same as the outstanding rent, there should be no outstanding case. However, Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors would be happy to check with the police for his peace of mind. To do this, we would need a copy of his passport.
Question 2: I have been residing here in the Kingdom for just over 4 years. I am now looking to take a holiday back to the UK and take my wife and son with me to visit my family at home. My situation is a little more complex than normal due to the fact that my son is from a previous marriage to another Thai national who I divorced 9 years ago. Although he has lived with my wife and I for the past year or so, he does not yet have a Thai or British passport. I am in the process of getting a Thai passport for him and will then try to get him the British one. This is not being made easy due to the geographical location of his mother and some other issues created by her. I think it’s likely that I will have to take him to the UK with the Thai passport and apply for a holiday visa for him due to time constraints and then get him a UK passport at a later date. What I really need to know is, what documentation will I need to present to be able to bring him with me on holiday? Also, what other documents would be useful in ensuring my wife gets her visa at the first time of asking? We will have a letter from my boss who has employed me for nearly 3 years and my wife for about 2.5 years. My condo rental agreement, photos taken over several years we have lived together, copies of the flights I have booked and receipt from the house rental that will cover the duration of our stay and salary details and bank statements. If there is anything else you can recommend it would be much appreciated.
Sunbelt Legal responds: While it is not against Thai law for a custodial parent to take a child out of the country without the other parent’s permission, it is important to note that this can vary on a case by case basis and since the child has a Thai passport an official may question as to parental custody and permission. If you have a court document stating that you have custody this could help allay any concerns that may arise.
As for the child’s visa, you will need to prove that your child will be coming back, if he or she is enrolled in school a letter from the school head stating that the child is enrolled in school and that fees have been paid for his return the following term for instance. It would also be helpful, in addition to the documents you mention, to include proof of your visa in Thailand, for example if you are on a one year marriage extension or non-B work visa copies of the visa and work permit should be included.
Question 3: My wife and I are both healthcare specialists (MD, PhD). Case: We lost a member of our Thai family, 40 years old, male, sporty when travelling in Malaysia, by a sudden heart attack. After the start of symptoms during the night he was immediately admitted to the ER of the biggest hospital in Kuala Lumpur, and died within one hour. However, the standard treatment for – the correctly diagnosed – myocardial infarction, a so-called PCI (percutaneous catheter intervention) was not applied. Since 2 months the family has asked for copies of the medical records, being staved off repeatedly. Question: How to proceed legally against a foreign facility, for 1. Getting hold of the documents related to the case, and 2. Suing them if recommended. What are the estimated costs?
Sunbelt Legal responds: We at Sunbelt Asia Legal Advisors would like to offer our sympathies for the loss of your family member and that the Malaysian hospital has not been forthcoming in providing you with information. Unfortunately, this case falls under Malaysian jurisdiction and we do not have any rights in jurisdictions outside Thailand. We suggest that you find a Malaysian law firm that can assist you in this process.
We had the where is Stickman going discussion this week. There have been a few minor hiccups over the past couple of years, but overall, I think it’s fair to say that things have worked out ok. There are plans for a couple of new sections and some parts of the site which are a little stale will be rewritten. The general flavour will stay the same. I appreciate all of the supportive and encouraging emails and it’s nice to know that many look forward to tuning in each week. I can say with a good degree of confidence that there are no plans to stop writing this column for some time to come. I do hope you continue to tune in.
Your Bangkok commentator,