The Land of Smiles
Most people around the World have an image in mind of the ‘Land of Smiles’ as being a place of exciting cultural experiences, tropical beauty and daily adventures. Thailand certainly has lots to offer any foreign expat and their families in terms of a comfortable daily Life, housing, international schooling and amazing experiences to last a lifetime.
It goes without saying, however, that on receiving the news of an upcoming posting abroad a myriad of questions and uncertainties will arise in anyone’s mind – whether an experienced expatriate or about to commit to the first international move to a new and unknown destination.
Where to Live
In Thailand, most foreign expat professionals are located in and around Bangkok, where the majority find their accommodation along the main business districts of Sukhumvit Road, Sathorn, Silom or Siam. Within the Bangkok city centers, and outside, housing can be found both as condominiums/ apartments or standalone housing and within different budget ranges.
There are also excellent and very family friendly options to be found a bit further from the city center in large housing compounds, which often essentially are complete communities with schooling nearby, grocery shopping and many other services available. For living in this type of housing compounds (called “Mooban” in Thai) it is recommended to have a car at your disposal, as public transportation will not be ‘to the door’ as it is many places in the city center.
Transportation to/from the workplace, childrens’ school, or favored leisure activities is something that should definitely be factored in when deciding on the most convenient area and location to live - not least as traffic in Bangkok, like in many other urban centers in Asia, can add some considerable frustrations to everyday Life if not carefully anticipated. This, simply as the daily commuting time can amount to several hours in peak traffic, although the geographical distance may not be long and looks very convenient on a map.
A significant number of foreign expats, of course, also do live in other urban centers, such as Pattaya/ Rayong, Chiang Mai or Phuket. All of these localities also offer an abundance of shopping convenience, top-standard international schools and leisure activity options.
Thai is spoken everywhere, with only slight deviations from North to South. In Bangkok and the other major cities, you will usually find someone who can speak a little English. However, it is common to find yourself in a situation where people do not understand much English and it is useful to know at least some basic expressions in Thai. Be aware that your hands are a mean of expressing yourself; try to keep them at your side and avoid putting your hands in your pockets.
Doing business or integrating in a new working environment, in a perhaps entirely foreign culture, will of course present a host of challenges in itself. Whether in regards to food, social customs, meeting etiquette or religious practice etc., Thailand does indeed have many colorful and interesting ‘peculiarities’, which one should get acquainted with for own benefit, but which of course also adds to the richness of the cultural experience the country has to offer.
As an example, the very first step or action in any meeting with locals in Thailand - and before further interaction can take place - is to greet (or ‘Wai’) your counterpart and all participants and members of the group. The ‘Wai’, as it’s called in Thai language, is performed by pressing the palms of your hands together, as if in prayer, then simultaneously lowering the head and raising the hands towards the ridge of your nose.
Practical Matters & Formalities
Of course, among the more essential formalities are Visa & Immigration issues, which include preparing the applications for the relevant Visa(s) and Work Permit for the Assignee. A local Relocation & Immigration Service provider will be best suited to handle such processes seamlessly.
It is also recommendable to make inquiries with your home country’s tax authorities to double-check for any implications or required measures relating to your (temporary) expat status. Similarly, your employer should be able to help you clarify on local obligations and follow up for compliance locally once you have arrived to Thailand.
When moving abroad, for convenience, many expats prefer to bring along as little as possible on their relocation. In the case of Thailand, this is made easy as most accommodation is rented out furnished, or at least semi-furnished. At the same time, there are also furniture rental options for any additional needs that may occur. Similarly, it is of course possible to organize for car purchase locally or, alternatively, for long-term car rental.
IT & Communications is generally reliable in Thailand, although the quality, speed and coverage of internet/mobile networks of course can vary when visiting very remote rural locations. General home utilities supply in all Thailand’s urban areas - such as internet, water and electricity – can be relied on in terms of consistency and quality, while prices are also very reasonable.
Health & Medical Considerations
General health and medical concerns are often foremost in the mind of expats, probably even more so if moving to a tropical climate for the first time. While Thailand is free from many of the natural disasters that occasionally strike neighboring countries in the region - such as earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions etc. – the country’s long coastline can indeed be affected by tsunamis (although extremely rare), as was the case during the tragic ‘Indian Ocean Tsunami’ of 2004, which claimed an estimated 8,150 lives along Thailand’s Andaman coast.
Read our healthcare and giving birth and registration of birth/nationality articles for more information.
Apart from very few natural environment dangers and calamity, a wide range of tropical diseases are present in Thailand and it is advisable to consult with a ‘tropical health clinic’/hospital in your home country, prior to your relocation to Thailand, with regards to recommended vaccinations or other precautions.
In sum, and while any international move will come with it’s own challenges, Thailand is certainly a welcoming expat destination in which options abound for helping to ensure a smooth settling-in process for the entire family and a comfortable and memorable stay, however long the duration.