LIVING IN THAILAND VS THE UK

Living in Thailand vs the UK

Many people dream about moving to Thailand permanently, either as an ex-pat or to pursue their dream of Teaching English abroad, but living in Thailand is not always a bed of roses. There are many differences to be aware of, some will be positive and some negative, depending on your point of view. Let’s take a look at some of the main issues:

- The biggest headache is your visa. Getting the correct Thai visa for your needs can be time consuming and may involve you having to leave the country to visit a consulate in a neighbouring country. The biggest issue right now, is that the Thai authorities are constantly moving the goalposts, making things more difficult for foreigners living in the country. Once you’ve got your visa, things are not over, not by a long way! You will have to renew your visa, sometimes several times per year, which will take time and money, and become very tiring. For example, if you are in Phuket, then the round trip to the Savannakhet embassy in Laos is 2878km (no, that is not a typo!).

- Your next issue is likely to be the language. Despite Thailand storming ahead in development indices recently, the country still ranks very poorly for their standards of spoken English. And Thai is a tonal language, which can be difficult for some learners. Indeed, you may find ex-pats who have been here for thirty years and barely speak a word, but if you want to integrate and enjoy the country, learning a little bit of the language will go a long way.

- The next is paperwork, and bureaucracy. Thais love paperwork. In fact, that is an understatement, you will see what I mean if you go to your local bank to open a savings account. Be prepared to complete many forms, and sign dozens of times. Thai officials carefully scrutinise everything, and they work in their own time. Paper still rules in Thailand, they haven’t transitioned to more technological methods like the rest of the world. Things which can be done quickly and easily in the UK will generally take a lot more effort here. For example, in the countryside, people still drive to the local electricity company to pay their bills in person, something unheard of in the UK.

- Buddhist holidays – sometimes it seems that there is a Buddhist holiday almost every week! Nowadays, though, not much changes on Buddhist holidays, most people will visit the temple in the morning, schools will be closed, and you can’t buy alcohol, if you don’t drink you might not even realise. And along a similar vein, remember that there is no Christmas in Thailand. Great news for me, but you might not feel the same.

- A lot of fuss is made of Thai food, and quite rightly so. Beware that it can be very spicy, you will need to learn how to ask for less spicy if this is a problem for you (when a Thai person says ‘not spicy’ they will mean that it only has 5 chillies per bowl instead of 8!). Thais adore their food, and seem to eat every couple of hours without gaining weight. You will be delighted to know that you can eat delicious Thai food in the street which blows away your Thai takeaway in the UK for £2 or even less, drink included.

- Driving standards are absolutely atrocious in Thailand, in fact Thailand has the second highest incidences of road deaths in the world. Good motor and health insurance is a must for the ex-pat.

- Speaking of health – there is no NHS here. Be prepared to pay if you need to see a doctor, have any tests done, or even need a hospital stay. Some of the better hospitals can be very expensive.

- You know that Thailand is a hot country, however, many visitors are not prepared for the intensity of the weather when they arrive. Coming from the UK to Thailand is a massive change in temperature and humidity, and you will need to be careful to not get dehydrated.

- Clothing sizes are very small by Western standards.

- The cost of living is very reasonable, you can rent an apartment close to a BTS station in Bangkok for under £250 a month.

- In the countryside, people have their parties in the mornings. If you get invited to a wake, a birthday party or wedding party, don’t be surprised if it starts at 8am and finishes and midday. And yes, people will be drinking whisky at that time.

- Even though prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, if you venture out in the evenings in larger cities, you will almost certainly see ladies plying their wares. Even though prostitution exists in the West, it is much more discrete.

- Prisons in Thailand are brutal. Overcrowded, squalid and outrageously hot, they will be torture for someone used to living in the UK. They also still have capital punishment and extremely harsh penalties for drug abuse, so never risk it.

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