Thailand is one of the world’s top holiday destinations and as with all exotic locations, many people wonder what it is like to live permanently on its sunny shores. Yes, there are the wonderful attractions of sun, sea, sand and delicious cuisine, but with the good also comes the bad.
Thailand’s typical expats
For over twenty years the “Land of Smiles” as Thailand is known has attracted expats from many European countries, as well as the UK and USA. Expats who move to Thailand are often in the oil and gas industries or are UK retirees looking for a warm climate with cheap living to make their retirement funds go further.
In addition, Thailand’s cheap lifestyle attracts digital nomads in their twenties and early thirties who can work anywhere in the world – and why not do it from a Thai café with free WiFi where the food is cheap and the lifestyle wonderful? Many expats settle happily in Thailand but there are a few things expats need to be aware of if you are moving to ‘paradise’.
What expats need to be aware of in Thailand
- Fraud and corruption
Corruption is an underlying part of the culture in Thailand. If you want to get a project underway or secure a contract – a small gift to grease the wheels of the decision process is often standard practice.
- Endless paperwork
Bureaucracy is alive and well in Thailand with many complicated processes that can cause headaches for expats. The Thais seem to love reams of paperwork and if you are moving there the system has immigration rules that are interpreted differently by every province. To add to the frustration, these rules seem to change on a regular basis. So get prepared to face endless paperwork when you apply for a work permit or are retiring or studying in Thailand.
- Two-tier pricing
Two-tier pricing is alive and well in Thailand. This means that locals pay one price for a service and expats pay another. This can cover everything from a meal out to national park entry fees. Some expats used to be able to get away with it by producing their Thai driving licence – but even that is not producing many results these days. Whatever you do, don’t lose your temper as this is the worst possible reaction for everyone involved. To the Thai people you will have lost face and it won’t get you anywhere.
- Endless traffic jams
Expats living in Bangkok can find the continuous traffic jams a daunting and challenging experience. Most expats who used to drive a car to get around in their home countries generally agree that driving is one of the things they miss most once they settle in Thailand. Other problems that expats face when it comes to traffic are the very different driving manners and general road safety standards. Even if there is an emergency – Ambulances are stuck in queues just like everyone else and can’t respond in a timely manner.
- Understaffed healthcare
If you are an expat from a more developed country you are likely to find the public healthcare system underfunded and understaffed, especially in larger cities like Bangkok. There is also a shortage of GPs for minor medical problems. Despite this, when you do receive care, the standards are generally of high quality. To avoid the challenges of public healthcare, most expats opt for a private plan or an international health policy, which offers shorter waiting times and access to the best healthcare services.
If you are a South African living the dream in Thailand and would like to know more about how you can maximise your finances through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and our tailor-made tax solutions for South Africans around the world, contact FinGlobal today.