Many expatriates live in Southeast Asia for many reasons. One erudite chap I met told me there are always 4 good reasons to move abroad and one of them you won’t like, its just the other three will be the deciding factor to stay. I thought about his strategy and as he had said I found 4 vital reasons why I moved:
1 The sunshine.
No need to explain this to anyone who hails from Northern Europe. I spent hours trying to explain to my Laos wife what Seasonal Affected Disorder was and how it feels to not see the sunshine for weeks on end.
Saying this however, I regularly meet holiday makers who just complain it’s too hot and struggle to breathe in the climate and find it just too much. Each to their own I suppose. For me I love the chronological regularity of the seasons and you have an excellent idea of what you can expect from the skies each day.
2. The people.
Asian people especially Southeast Asians have a different mindset on many things and if these things go for your own nature then it is a match made in heaven, however many things may abrade your nature, and you will question whether the move is right for you.
They are extremely polite people and that generally works well with British people, annoying so to many others, telling you always what they think you want to hear than the truth, which is awful for directions!
Southeast Asians are also quite open on many things that Westerners find hard to talk about which makes a delightful change in many circumstances. I will take many years of embarrassment and hard work to create the balance between which is good from your culture and theirs to combine to be happy and to earn your ferlang (name Thais give to Westerners) badge!
3. The food.
This is where I fail out of the four reasons, I hang my head in shame and have struggled with any kind of spices, I feel like starting a Facebook support group called ‘Anti-spice ferlangs’ for those of us who are constantly ridiculed for settling in a country famous for aromatic and wonderful inexpensive but mainly very spicy food.
I managed to try many dishes till I found myself a portfolio of 6 or so Thai meals that I can eat, and friends still invite me out. I have met one Thai lady in 15 years who did not eat spicy food and she was very nice but had few Thai friends, I wonder why?
4. The cost of living.
Expatriates in Thailand have bemoaned about the change in their financial circumstances over the last 20 years where the Thai baht has strengthened to make their western currency half of what it was worth back in 2000, meaning an expat with a state pension from UK now lives on half the value of what they could back in 2000 when the baht was hovering around 80 Baht to the pound. And of course, inflation has not wavered. A small can of coke when I first came in 2003 was 5 baht from 7/11 and is now 20 baht. So, the prices of things have gone up and the value of western currency has gone down. Throw in a Covid virus Pandemic in 2020 and many expats are really feeling down in the dumps at what a truly dire year it is indeed.
However, a direct comparison with living in a suburb in UK to a suburb in Thailand is still good value for money. A good 3-bedroom house with a reasonable sized garden and community pool, in a suburb of a major city in Thailand will cost around 4million baht, currently around 100,000 British Pounds. Whereas a 3-bedroom house in the north west of UK with a decent garden is around 220,000 GBP. Utilities in Thailand will be 30-50% cheaper than UK even using air con 8-12 hours a day.
Renting a 30 square meter unfurnished flat in London will cost you 1500-2500 GBP a month depending on how close you are to the city, and of that size unit they will call a bedsit. There is Council Tax on top of that as well.
You can, if you look around, rent a room fully furnished with air con wi-fi and Cable TV for 5,000 THB -upwards (150 GBP) per month in Bangkok with no extra taxes, with a 10-20-minute air con train ride to the city center for no more than 2 GBP, so commuting is very cost effective in Bangkok. (The above pic was my old room in the Lad Prao suburb of Bangkok back in 2009, it was just built when I moved in, with a ten min walk to train to the centre of Bangkok. Rent was 4,500 THB a month furnished with Air con and hot shower, I have seen them in the same building for 6,000 THB a month now)
Cost of food, which was once the one reason travelers boasted at the value of a meal in Thailand, has slowly crept up in price all over the region. food in UK has got a lot cheaper, but one wanders about the quality of cheap processed food in the UK compared to ‘cooked in front of you’ street food in Bangkok.
A Street meal with a drink costs an average 100 baht (2.50 GBP) compared to a fish and chips meal in UK at around 6-8 GBP. It is apples to oranges comparisons, if you go to an Irish pub in Bangkok and have a couple of pints of Guinness and a steak meal you won’t get much change from 50 quid.
The amount of money one can live on quite comfortably is a very relative issue, if you are royalty then 50,000 THB a month would be impossible, but a young man on his own living in a nice condo in the suburbs could afford his rent and a couple of good nights out a week if he cooks and eats street food most days and could have a steak and Guinness twice a month as well on 50,000 THB (1200 GBP a month) which is roughly the UK average salary after tax and NI, getting a job here with this kind of salary is a another issue, yet here he could have a better life. Families would find it harder as kids will cost you especially if you want an English curriculum in Thailand.
Point is regardless of the currency diving since 2000 halving the average expats spare cash to spend, it is still far better value for money than living in UK and if you like spicy food, massages, the sunshine and smiling people each day, is a warm reminder of why you moved.
Everyone has had to contract when it comes to money in 2020, however there is a way you can tap into some spare cash…..If you are over 55 now or wish to ensure that you have FULL access to your UK Private or Company Pension at age 55 (UK Government Pension cannot now be accessed before age 66) or especially a QROPS, you can move the administration to Jersey and access some or all your pension pot tax free, whilst enjoying much better rates of return or managing yourself.
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