Becoming localised as an expat in Thailand

Published:  14 Jul at 6 PM
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Thailand may not be top of the tree for expat professionals looking for the ideal assignment, but it can be a fascinating experience for those seeking something different.

Southeast Asia is crammed with countries once considered to be either third world or remnants of the British Empire, but much has changed over the past several decades. Vietnam is growing fast, and hubs such as Singapore and Malaysia are well ahead on points as regards economic growth and international-style amenities. Thailand, however, seems to live in its own, unique world, not quite developing in the modern interpretation of the word and not quite third world.

For expats looking for work in the country’s capital, Bangkok, or in its several smaller cities such as Chiang Mai, once you’ve passed immigration’s convoluted requirements for a business visa, you’re plunged into a never-never land referred to as the ‘Thai Way’. Frustrating, fascinating and endlessly surprising, enjoying it to the full needs information, experience and knowledge.

Things you’d rarely, if ever, do at home such as ignoring the modern supermarkets and buying at the local ‘mom and pop’ shop, showing up deliberately late for an appointment and putting loads of ice into your already cold beer become second nature after a while. Living in a small soi (lane) in your chosen city is one way to encounter the Thai Way in full and friendly action. Need a broom to sweep your condo? The local mobile vendor on his motorcycle has a choice in his sidecar, along with feather dusters, yard brushes and much more.

The next truck you encounter will be packed with seasonal fruits at incredibly cheap prices, and when you need specialised shopping, a motorcycle taxi is the way to go. So the traffic’s hell? Sit there and chill with the thousands of other motorists whilst keeping an eye out for Honda Dream motorcycles holding Mom, Pop, two kids and the family dog, all without helmets!

Get your own family dog by adopting a street dog – there’s plenty of choice! If you can’t face a permanent pet, at least feed the ones living in your soi. To really understand the Thai way, you’ll need to eat on the floor, use a straw to drink everything including beer, enjoy the heads and tails as well as the rest of the fish, know when it’s illegal to buy alcohol and occasionally use a squat toilet!
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