What to expect from the Thailand expat community

Published:  26 Aug at 6 PM
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Whatever the reasons for leaving one’s country of birth to become a stranger in a strange land, the reasons behind choosing one special country must include the chance to make new friends.

Contrary to popular misconceptions, expats aren’t the same the world over. Fitting in isn’t as simple as behaving like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece, due to the fact that different destinations attract different types of expat, all of whom are searching for a place to belong according to their own preferences.

For decades, Thailand has been seen as an alternative expat destination, attracting the more adventurous type of foreign resident. Also drawn to the country’s major tourism hubs are retired Western men searching for the ultimate sexual experience with an exotic younger woman, either temporarily or within a hopefully more permanent relationship. Basically, expect for a few, quieter resort islands, Thailand isn’t exactly a family destination.

One thing’s for certain, expats arriving in Thailand for a long, possibly permanent, stay need to adjust to a dramatically different culture and lifestyle. Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket and a raft of less well-known cities all have their share of expats from across the world, but they’re not crammed with like-minded expat souls, whether they’re working, retired or living ‘en famille’ with a new Thai bride.

The majority of expats in this highly individual country are settled one way or another, but the minority can be divided into three categories, the good, the bad and the decidedly ugly.
The ‘good’ may well not be seen at the usual expat hangouts such as bars, hotels, karaoke joints and massage parlours, but they’re the guys who can become true friends, given time. They’re knowledgeable, helpful and genuine.

The ‘bad’ are often found perching on bar stools or at expat clubs, and are best avoided as they’re terminally boring, regaling all and sundry with their cynicism and self-indulgent rants. Keyboard warriors depress new arrivals with their tales of woe, usually related to losing all their money to a grasping Thai female, and their over-positive opposite numbers glamorise living in Thailand out of all recognition.

Worst of all are the ‘ugly’, prejudiced, racist, sexist and even illegal, scamming fellow expats into bad investments such as housing that’s never built, Ponzi schemes and pension liberation frauds. These guys are dangerous, best avoided and can be found at the aforementioned expat clubs, on the same bar stools and even in your own condo block or housing estate. A few are villains on the run, attracted by the laid-back Thai visa regulations and easily setting themselves up as bona-fide businessmen in insurance, financial advice and the property market.
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