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Western Expats in Thailand – Why are so many leaving?


Western Expats in Thailand – Why are so many leaving?

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This blog has been provided by Dan About Thailand BLOG for Inspire.

This guest post is written by Tom Tuohy, who has written for various media from The Gurdian (UK), Bangkok Post (Thailand) to Al Jazeera (Qatar). Tom wrote this in follow up the Thaivisa Expat survey that revealed something many of us had been observing for the last few years – that many Western Expats are now leaving Thailand.

So long Thailand, it’s time we were heading home

By now many will have read and digested the news from the biennial survey that a growing number of Western expats are not happy in the Land of Smiles.

For some, this is not exactly news although, for others, it has come as quite a shock. Those brave enough to click on links to pages won’t be strangers to the typically negative comments generated on this website and indeed, many other Thailand expat discussion forums.

If one were to hazard a guess at the general make up of your typical commenter, one might get the image of a forever disgruntled middle-aged, divorcee who sits in his underwear in his 40 square metre condo, fag in one hand, Leo in the other, hunt and peck style (two-fingered) typing, moaning about his lot and never quite able to find it in his heart to say nice things about his adopted home.

Expat suicide? “Nah, he deserved it…for shacking up with a bar girl” or “How inconsiderate to have splattered his brains all over Uncle Suprarerk’s Honda from the fifth floor!” Such is the quality of comments one reads below a link to the sad demise of a recent fellow expat and rarely a word of remorse or pity let alone an RIP graces those boards. Thankfully, these expats do not represent the many thousands of Western expats in Thailand.

In fact, these expat forums seem to be where the most depressed and pessimistic farangs come to congregate if for no other reason than to wallow together in their own support group. Presumably this is the only way to help them get through their own sad existences in the tropical paradise that is Thailand.

That said, it does appear, in this instance, the “Old Groaners” (as I like to call them), have been right about how many expats want to leave Thailand or have already left. So what’s gone wrong? Why are so many expats leaving the paradise that is Thailand? And just as important, where are they all going?

“You seek him here, you seek him there…” (The Scarlet Pimpernel)

According to the survey, which had 1,429 respondents, so quite a sizeable group, there are fewer Western expats arriving in Thailand than ever before and a significant amount of working expats under 60 years have now left Thailand for good. Moreover, half of all expats have considered leaving the country over the last year, and of the group that has considered leaving, a whopping 84% said they are unhappier than when they first arrived.

Also, the newer arrivals have not been the young bucks, the “hansum man”, so beloved of Thai language schools, but have been retirees, with the average age increasing a mammoth ten years from 50 to just over 60 years old in just two years.

Only 1 in 5 expats is now under the age of 50 and only 2% under 30 years old. Back in 2016, when the last survey was taken, 10% were under the age of 30 and 33% were under 50 years old. It seems too that the writing was clearly on the wall two years ago, so it shouldn’t really have come as much of a surprise. When asked then, ‘Are you happier than when you first arrived?’, 39% said they were not and 44% of this group of respondents came from the under 60-year old group of working expats who said that financial pressure was the main reason for their unhappiness.

Indeed, expat finances is another revealing piece of news that came out of the survey and which I personally found quite surprising. Apparently, many expats are now living on between 25,000-45,000 THB a month. The latter figure is just over 1,000 British pounds a month and would barely get you a garden shed to rent in London, so it’s somewhat incredible to hear that so many are able to live on this amount and that’s at the higher end! If the survey is accurate, the vast majority of expats are living on this amount, or much lower, which really does conjure up new images of “amazing” in that old trope Amazing Thailand!

Long gone, it seems, are the days when Western expats would have enough money in their pockets to be out partying all night, grab a geng keeow waan gai on the way home, after paying a bar fine and, after a night’s intra-cultural exertions, stroll into Piccadilly Language School the next day smelling like a Soho brewery on a Monday morning and looking like they had gone 12 rounds with Vidal Sasoon’s hairdryer, and lost.

Indeed, if this news is indeed true, there must also be an inordinate number of Thai mothers going without emergency, lifesaving operations in Isaan (อีสาน) and a lot of arable farmers having to miss the latest auction to buy a new buffalo if these young buck expats are no longer able to spread their wealth around and support the locals.

Why have they left?

Thailand and the expat scene really has changed monumentally over the years and with all the changes to visas, the dreaded 90-day reporting, previously at Soi Suan Phlu near Sathorn, but now requires a trek to Laksi which takes the better part of a whole morning if you live in Bangkok. A friend recently told me that in Chiang Mai he has to get up at 4am every time he needs to do the 90-day report at Thai immigration and often doesn’t leave their offices till 4pm.

The introduction of the Thai Culture courses and the teaching licences were also deeply unpopular and perceived by many as cash cows designed solely to milk the new farangs out of more cash as were and still are the dual pricing shenanigans at national parks and Thai museums.


This blog was written for inspire : Dan About Thailand

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