I’ve lived in Bangkok, Thailand for more than 8 years, and it’s been a good time. I wouldn’t want to live back in snowy Pittsburgh again, and I enjoy the tropics – swimming all year round. However it hasn’t all been a garden of roses. There are good and bad things about living in Thailand. While my experiences apply primarily to the capital city of Bangkok, the same principles apply to most of Thailand. Here are the Pros and Cons of living in Thailand.
Positive side of Thailand: the Pros
1 – Beautiful Weather. It’s not just hot tropical weather, it’s cloudless, sunny cheerful weather. You feel good every day with the sun on your face. No snow, and no 3-week marathon stretches of cloudy days you get in the US Northeast (and UK). You can swim and play tennis all year long.
2 – Healthy, Delicious Food. The food is incredible in Thailand. Spicy and delicious, and most of it is home-cooked. Very few chain restaurants – instead, the streets are packed with family-owned restaurants giving you a fresh-cooked meal. Yummy and healthy. Super fruits like papaya and guava are sold on every corner. It’s a health food extravaganza.
3 – Health Care. Speaking of healthy, the hospitals are first-class in Bangkok. The cost is about 70% less than the cost in the US, but you’ll get a private room, attentive nurses, and caring doctors. My last doctor in Pittsburgh would barely give me the time of day.
4 – Shopping. Bangkok is the shopping capital of the world. No one buys anything online. You can go out and get instant gratification and can find literally anything you want. Meanwhile, your friends in the US are waiting for a package to be delivered in 1 to 4 weeks.
5 – Social. It’s a more social place. People go out and mingle, shop, and talk to each other. It’s not as addicted to the online world of Facebook and online-shopping.
6 – Transportation. Sky trains, subways, canals and taxis allow you to live free without a car. It’s funny how some people think a car means freedom, but I guarantee you: living without a car is the real freedom. No parking hassles, no insurance, no maintenance costs… just the freedom to go where you want on someone else’s ride. I can get a taxi in less than 60 seconds. Quick and easy.
7 – Cell Phones. Very easy to buy a cell phone, insert a sim chip and be up and running in minutes. The cost: about $20 per month with unlimited internet and calling. No complicated contracts or tie-ins with one company. You pre-pay monthly and just stop pre-paying when you don’t want it anymore.
8 – Travel. You’re a hop away from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and many other fun cities in Asia. From Bangkok you can see all of Asia with a short flight. A weekend trip to Hong Kong or Manila? No problem.
9 – Nightlife. Stay up all night and hop from club to club. Or just go out for a snack or fruit shake, even at 2 am. It’s all open – all night.
10 – Safety: the crime rate is very low. I can walk home alone at 2am with total peace of mind.
Negative side to living in Thailand: the Cons
1 – Thai immigration is a nightmare. You’ve stepped into the pit of hell. The rules and regulations defy all logic, and the hoops you jump through only lead to more hoops. It drives most people out of the country and on to neighboring Malaysia or further to Taiwan, or even back home.
2 – High Cost of Living. Sure my rent for a beautiful condo with pool is 30% of the cost it would be in NY or LA, but the cost for visas, visa trips (they make you leave the country every 90 days), and the extra taxes and fees on foreigners make my cost of living here about 10% higher than if I stayed in the US. My standard of living is higher here in Bangkok, but my expenses are higher, too.
3 – Language. It’s not easy to learn the Thai language, but it’s necessary. Few Thai people speak English, so you will have to learn their language. It’s a struggle to communicate, and misunderstandings are a daily event.
4 – Being on time is a foreign concept here. Don’t expect any of your local friends to show up for an appointment on time. An hour late is the norm, but 2 hours late is not unusual. They always blame it on traffic, even if they’re within walking distance.
5 – Noisy. Bangkok is a city of young people. Every caf é is loud, every mall is packed. There are few quiet coffee shops. Pop music is blasting from every corner. It’s hard to find quiet places to have a drink with friends. Everything is built for young people and their loud noises/music. I’m not old yet, but I really appreciate a quiet venue at least once in a while. The motorbike store on my street even blasts music at nightclub levels while you’re shopping for a bike.
6 – Censorship. The internet is heavily censored for political or x-rated content. All of CNN or Youtube sites have been blocked on occasion for having 1 political piece that didn’t pass muster. I don’t like someone else telling me what I can see on the net.
7 – Having to fly every 2 months. (repeat of #1, but annoying enough to emphasize again). All foreigners have to leave the country (for at least 1 day) every two and half months. It gets annoying.
All in all, the pros outweigh the cons – for me, not for everyone. A nice place to live, and an exciting place to visit.
See Also: Thailand Travel Beat travel guide