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Mistakes expats make in Thailand

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to Thailand? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in Thailand to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Priscilla

I made the mistake of using an agent to find me a rental condo when I first came here.  I was paying 14.000 baht a month for a studio in Jomtien.  Luckily I only signed a six-month contract.  I soon discovered that it's best to look around, go to a complex that takes your fancy and look on the notice boards or speak to the staff.  You get a far better deal.  If you change places, always look to move in the low season, more choice and better deals.  You can negotiate the price down if you go for a 12-month contract.  I've saved nearly 40% by doing this.

I like your idea of looking for a place in the low season. Recently I asked an agent about when the best time was to look for a place. Of course she said anytime, rather then giving me any detailed information.
Along those lines there is some input I could give here. The first time I came to Thailand I noticed something very quickly. Too many times I was given glittering generalities about anything I was dealing with. That could have been a rental, cable, phone service, and the list goes on. I was always given some kind of answer like you can have, no problem. However, when it came time to look at some of the fine details of any transaction waves of caution arose. Yes you can have anything you want but the Thai way is that the Farang has unlimited cash and doesn't have to pay the Thai price. In the US I will shop at Walmart. Not because I want to but because I can look at a competitive price. That is not exactly the Thai way.
As pleasant as the Thai way is I have also learned, as a competitive shopper, that I need to use a valuable word - NO. There is this polite Thai process where the consumer will agree, maybe to anything. It is the consumer's responsibility to say either no or negotiate. Then again where in the world is this not the rule of thumb.
Thai prices may seem cheap but there is a world wide process here. I know some people now live in Costa Rica. They applied American standards and costs in Costa Rica. Now the cost of living in Costa Rica has been driven so high, because of this attitude, it is no longer the bargain it once was. Something similar is happening in Thailand. I mean no disrespect to Thailand but as consumers we all need to be alert.

For sure there is a two tier price system here.  Thai price, then farang price.  If I have the car serviced, motorbike serviced or anything like that I get my wife to do it.  (Thai)
Buy fruit and veg in the market, on my own it's always dearer.  Quite a few times I've put stuff back because I know they are overcharging me.
The way of life here, but you soon suss it out.

Haha, you mentioned car service!

Here in the states, my late Japanese-born wife would get different prices at the service station than I would. Because foreign-born and female.

I wonder if it helps to know more of the Thai language than the average farang.

I think speaking the native language where you live is a big plus factor.  I'm not fluent in Thai, far from it.  My Thai conversation is that if a five year old ... lol.  However I know a lot of words now so can usually pick up what's being said.  Car service here they tell you how much before they start.  That gives you a chance to check the amount.

Ruffian Dick :

Haha, you mentioned car service!

Here in the states, my late Japanese-born wife would get different prices at the service station than I would. Because foreign-born and female.

I wonder if it helps to know more of the Thai language than the average farang.

In my experience, yes, it does make a big difference if you speak the language well.  That level of proficiency does not come easily, however, and most people simply aren’t willing to put in the time or effort to get there.  Unfortunately it is common for people to dehumanize others if they find them strange or different and can’t communicate with them.  The home team always wins in these situations.

i have lived in thailand since 2004 in my village there are 4 spoken languages  thai loas cambobian and swie and i have a few words in all but i will speak in loas and english at home we go to my wifes mothers the family speak in swie to my stepsons wife cambodian they speak cambodian family from buriram loas and thai family korat thai if they find that you are under standing a little of there conversation they switch there language thais ask about farang but they will not speak to me they will speak to my wife and son at first i thought this was very ignorant but its not its because they dont want to loose face but when i interrupt there conversation they go into shock mode and pick there conversation very carefully i also have a secret weapon my son who is now 14 born in surin speaks fluent english thai cambodian laos he looks like a european no trace of thai its great when i take him to the market in pattaya on holiday we play a game we listen to what they are saying and then we speak back just 2 farang on holiday  the shocked faces also if they have been rude i will tell them straight in there own language only one problem with this it only works once in that market we go back and every one
knows we make a lot o friends and we get thai prices

I have been here for 20 years working in an international business. Biggest mistake I made was also not learning fluently the Thai language and I wish I would have done that years ago. Even though all my staff are well versed in English and the office runs on a farang basis, speaking the local language definitely makes you more acceptable to the locals as a westerner.

Other mistake I made when first coming here was thinking that I would easily integrate into the Thai culture and community. Even though they accept you after a period of time, you will always only ever be a westerner and an outsider.

Look behind the land of smiles. Once you know your place and the reality of Thailand it then is a wonderful place to work and live.

danmurdoch :

Even though they accept you after a period of time, you will always only ever be a westerner and an outsider.

Look behind the land of smiles. Once you know your place and the reality of Thailand it then is a wonderful place to work and live.

Absolutely.  Always remember nothing is going to change.  The red tape, the driving standards and a man with a whistle helping you park in an empty carpark.
Enjoy the climate, the low cost of living and chill.   :D

my suggestions for expat coming to Thailand whether for vacation or to retire:

leave your (western) attitude about how things should be in Thailand at home!

1) Go with the flow
2) Don't get angry or upset
3) Learn the language asap (this will help you get a lot of credit with Thais)
4) Adapt your driving to how they drive in Thailand.
5) Don't apply your rules and scream that they should all adapt to you.
6) Enjoy the relaxed, laid back lifestyle! it is probably what attracted you to this country in the first place.
7) Try different foods
8) If you have questions, ask them but be polite
9) Learn about losing face in Asia (Thailand) and adapt it as part of your life experience while in Thailand

10) Sometimes you hear something that does not make sense, ask them to explain iso forcing your way onto theirs. many times there will be logic in the chaotic thought.

11) Always remember you are a guest, behave accordingly

Enjoy your stay
:-)

I can’t help but nod my head in disbelief when foreigners complain that they are not seen as being equal to a Thai person.  As a foreigner you are generally put on a pedestal and given the benefit of the doubt unless you do something egregious to change their opinion of you.  Thais have always treated me better than they do each other and I have been afforded a multitude of opportunities and life experiences which would not have come my way if I had been Thai or living in my own country.  Believe me, it is much better being a Farang living in Thailand than a Thai living in Thailand.

villagefarang :

I can’t help but nod my head in disbelief when foreigners complain that they are not seen as being equal to a Thai person.  As a foreigner you are generally put on a pedestal and given the benefit of the doubt unless you do something egregious to change their opinion of you.  Thais have always treated me better than they do each other and I have been afforded a multitude of opportunities and life experiences which would not have come my way if I had been Thai or living in my own country.  Believe me, it is much better being a Farang living in Thailand than a Thai living in Thailand.

I am not complaining at all, far from it. Secondly anyone coming to live in Thailand has to be open eyed about this lovely place and not live in a dream like state. We have to know the reality of things as they are, then understand them and then enjoy them.

life is fantastic here if as one said you << go with the flow>> and forget your farangs ways of doing things
just wake up every morning and enjoy the good life one has here as a farang

After moving over here 18 months ago, I had to find my feet like so many before me.

I made errors, some very large errors, as it turned out, of thinking that it is far more logical to trust another European or from another continent (English speaking), when it comes to serious matters like professional advice, or services.  On two occasions this has backfired with very time consuming and costly results as I have learnt to my cost.

Be aware, there are some farangs that prey on newcomers, who feel more comfortable trusting someone with a good accent or 'education' to gain their confidence or friendship, (I am referring to business matters incidentally.)

Referrals and references are essential if you dont want problems, and preferably more than just one!

Now I have learnt, and I prefer to use local people who are well known to many, and are only to pleased to refer you to some of their previous clients.

It is very easy to go along the path of another English speaking person, rather than find an interpreter to help speak with a technical or other professional individual from Thailand. 

But it could save you a lot of money, frustration and precious time.   Believe me!
And isnt that nicer anyway?    I have met some very courteous and highly skilled professionals now, it just takes a little longer to find but its worth it.

Exactly couldn't agree more

Our move to Thailand was made easier since our son lived here and is an executive with a major corporation here. In the US, we contacted an international moving company that packed our household goods into thirty-seven boxes, put them on a pallet. shrink wrapped them and put them on a container ship that got here in six weeks. We moved here with our two cats and finding them a vet was difficult. We chose one in Nonthaburi that seemed to know what the cats needed. Unfortunately, the care given our cats here in Samutsongkram was such that now both are dead.

Pom put phassa Thai need-noi, na kahp...

While in Chiang Mai, know that the correct pronunciation of Nimmanhemin is nee-mahn-hey-meen.

If pronounced nim-men-hay-men, it means the smell of a vagina... my Thai wife nearly fell on her ass laughing the first time I asked where it was...

John Collins made some very good points.

That is very Sad news about your cats.  We live in Nonthaburi & we brought our 17 year old dog from California on the plane with us, soon after he arrived we stopped walking him, after a problem with mites & we trained him to use the shower for the bathroom, we took him everywhere with us in Thailand, our place didn't allow pets, but we snuck him in & out all the time, no one ever new.  We had to put him to sleep a few months ago, nearly broke our hearts, but dogs don't live forever. We had 2 sets of rescue cats that lived with him for a number of years. They got along just like family. I miss not having pets, but now we have the freedom to travel before we get to old to enjoy. Good Luck to you, if you need a Vet. let us know.  Patrick

I'll try and remember that when I'm in the appropriate bar.

The word pretty or beautiful said incorrectly comes out Bitch.  Many of men got slapped for that one.

Honestly i think it a bit strange that people bring pets to Asia and expect the same as in America 
And imagine the climate.....30 to 35 degree all the time ....your farang dog will go crazy with the heat.

Dogs and cats are not part of the family here as in the Farang world.....
Just go outside BKK and very rarely you ll see an animal inside a Thai house.  It s not the way here.....

I had dogs in Canada,  They were part of the family.   Now in Thailand I have a dog who basically adopted me cause I feed him.   He stays outside,  like all dogs here,  never far from the hand that feed him.
here dogs are just dogs.  we don t give them names, celebrate their birthday.  they all roam around freely trying to make it yet another day.  That s their Thai life outside the big cities.   So Go with the flow, people and stop bringing the Farangs ways to Thailand, otherwise your in for a big shock,  it don t work. We are just outsiders trying to blend in.

Soi dogs a big problem here.  No control, they run in packs, I've been attacked a few times while out on my bike or scooter.

i have learned.....LOL  .  when crusing on my chopper i always carry treat for dogs. and when one of them comes to close,  i throw it at the dog.... .he goes for it,

There is a big world out there not focussed on poverty and prostitution.

There are many pet lovers out there if you really look.  I encounter at least a dozen dogs while walking mine and we never have problems here in the village.  My golden retriever is on a leash but all the others are running free.  I regularly cycle 60 km through several villages and have never been bitten.  We even have a very good veterinarian who takes care of our cats and dogs.

Many Thais are well educated, worldly and talented but you have to get out of the bars and villages to meet them.  It really isn't very productive to generalize about all Thais based on the few you may have met.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/jwncWEeWsllHzHSpN7MyuB-bRqr_gt4BLSgf-f9sS_RGKnZPxbTciaBo-iXe1xl9VJmjs96eqoQO9G9IswVWOyMvTBNCkkt5zOZUT4KRDxBVTbpN6MX75ZqMzcHplLhGuGKIwzAUaTqpoNq_-F9UQTU-5dzjgA1V-RNSMxI0WPrQS113N0kP9MOaHAVrC_3vJiH673Rw4YtFflE5_FQy8H1sqpA7eRPdXdHhcr-vSKYUAP_x_Wbm5PtSy3_MQPrJVIf12tVKrZOk48IiJU-UjxIX_7hR0lUTq-4YSXqPRPHDydToGD7d9bPlR-ri10EOjpuIl6jkWYKTNydIIWVYnqwlny1eHme1JQlh9CA-jk9AJrvcaN4TAMMal_-XLmgA9QlUet2OGhXfhPLrJF0JexprDjjw94BJvLzRJcmIKQqNOvtSWe-quDiB5qyVo9xn-NLEgU6ZpGytmRQetzMZ_-lzwuu3rpf0zcEcgydMKGVQx9Xv1EGkTzEAyiEcj1ZbyN5I93ev2xxxi_7IQ9TZlsUGeANk_xzxQYW4q6Qnh5PCrchHZY6tgyBZ859yJSyDX3y5HoJAjM5v1TLtQAH1kEnQyPqPQU_-Q754-qfhTOq9E6Gzs7hX7w=w768-h1024-no

Here are some of our village friends.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/hM_KNrH9Ao8Crl8UfLcAJ9U4AxQp_DXPc6OSHuD4e-AljOTEmmZY0H44FTYEU0EMeBL6B2P0ZxV_K2apQhSA-ZqLXJlm6Cbmfss0tWpASugrEaNxCMng5CD4LbxignIrlZthQ-F_7HSwi5Q8rK5wNIwJbhjEy6NRk6ChYLlEuyOJs6GxhN4GvqOcjHPvFwElGpDll1nt8T5ygfaIZDdxU6Q4KOkXsZAH590JBFalP2Ut9wz_48Yk-vnB-Rmlty6I7DbGNxpYnq3onBIPobZ9OyzQzluE-sd8i7ugBRj_AVBuNS3pb1hODp3oeWlzMPa79FJHX0vmWxClDZnvYJts5qhqKDs7NHhWIjyArhqSKZs8RVLAO97SSD672cfQBAFxYEKwuPbWpZhYuoByo3XEj2ouamHFoXkNpWam1l7nBj0srj7aSsApDH7p6UvwYX0_4YTZuH6NlBVr29B85qB5I-dTfvaQHyh7ehhUjVd09Gypvx9v5BAapnGtRRqJQB9Wn93Mj-HurX_t6eEq9OLi_digWvKbxuEH8eV932JjSrYTPLBwpMxQ9X5URgkBG6AeEj0o5Ys__f86JtQz8OAFs4QMlSAF-qnyTU2JFfWNlfbqQH23McHIbQ=s1024-no

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/ZohzP_UAdN6P67V_n6NqYO-iULcJ0bOuTFoUgFEyqRlCHShNqmAOb3cS9hP08lh4pknLRciAy0Q74u5AGWED08Fo3n6xP9qaD97IdpJv_blk_8Mp5kyh1xTPEX00Y0jJJDl7_wUL2oo1CGIkcEmKT3V7Ben7HymX7LHoqNSJWw0SGj2CJhYnOBtX0d1hBDpQfvwkymLKaio7WhIm1rTuhWrn0c492Ht1unAIR8yEs0KYkLU7rcNdXzcH0dLi1QIsP3zFBKhkQdIwkylkybIM48_tpDvy0PPduM5IgXm5282dZlya4pU4Bor9UtmNxNVU_du2X-vRlok6t3-WPBUsaCK2IwNUIN1d8botb7ShPsOSB30UPLFLcdmhOI9dbXeJHEEi0XdLpWkLbeVoUoYc1dj8i7yVDxN8WNFR6xlW-UtRVtB0qyVIDSVeX6ZqqpMpJ8QpYZTNEl-sqrv4VPJair9ffoeyfw3OPWguKY0BIuLN6_9opW0Mw9b8AX32FAzZtrOgSrZ8obEEaUZVZRjC_yp0IDaF7QLGzl62k-SDJkTLrBQee_vtJq5QY_OznLR-BQczffL-lm6E59Xj9QwH4VFOwNmSL219BYvmwYOt8cYy56HZIw=s1024-no

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/IUeDXl2452ZZ0fSyEuWnWRKL_SVyFfKJTKUPExAkvDVfS5sQdseKk096ptvfWHqdVWcp1pG22vZTGnJQxZV3ksxxJhPAvf_vbJvpvxRd4ga3SyG6xGM8jGxjrTzv9uDDHbt5h2tR-kTrzbMuNkKb6BdW0YJhgihS5XdxflZWRIRNltJS6iAm65zHFbZrRGnGBOVEWrRXawWwQ7bZ1Q841Hw-ZSs8YfcNXkNUszr6qNzyov7195Ck5SepG54E9OeosmNX0ANLGHAFOPlFVU_Squez0zJ2f-R9yTe26riNEJKLieftw4g2WmbmcGKHR0fN5YVLZUu0n9-hsTauF48uE_-vCNLG-Qqk-dou4RrRpWwLlpngCbLYlurcg4QsqpUi1AeCDDimTJFA6sWC31K5K9qeixYSzXLpD3CYAuYLyf6DQVFMgFNjIMvQkLQw9GSNdi89qJuDL9X4u10OfqT3tZzDYb56JaJsNWXq36_b2MpQM2pNymWUlcpuxHdxhu4cCKJamw05-cg4QIMWlwUVMhqjIP99AT5GnQSNxFG7mJO9EO3E1ov8jUo6YT55EBNwgdemeVwjEJZlmJdWQy7KKqmLGjEinpA1QH4rFYt0ILsrx_7xlw=s1024-no

villagefarang :

There is a big world out there not focussed on poverty and prostitution.


Many Thais are well educated, worldly and talented but you have to get out of the bars and villages to meet them.  It really isn't very productive to generalize about all Thais based on the few you may have met.

Please keep your condescending remarks to yourself.  I have lived in Thailand since 2009.  I have lived in a village and now live near Pattaya.  I have met thousands of Thai's and have many Thai friends.  No one is talking about bars and prostitution in this thread apart from a translation post.   I have a broad range of experiences in Thailand.  Just because I chose to live here doesn't mean I'm focused on poverty and prostitution. Your remark doesn't make sense as you say get out of the bars and villages to meet them?

It is ones own choice if they choice to bring there pets to Thailand & it is no one else business if they do. Mind your own business & let people live there own lives.

Why the insults ?  ain t it a place for stating one s opinions.    Maybe you should put to use your own words and  mind your own business  <<Mr California for me>>

This was my business & my choice & it is others choice to. You have no idea how much pleasure we had by bringing our dog, he was already old when we brought him. We would had not done it any other way, he had a Great life with us & us with him. I might be a little sensitive because we just put him down a few months ago. Do you have a problem with the name, California4me, again it is are chose to live where we want to. We could not leave all of our friends, so we split the time between 2 country's. One day we will return to Thailand for good.

Let me express my opinion about the mistakes expats often make in Thailand in a different way.  Making generalizations about Thais based on the kind of people you will likely meet, in the kind of places you will go to be with other farangs, leads to a very twisted and limited view of Thai people, and is a mistake in my opinion. 

Not everyone is out to get you or charge a farang price and not everyone is looking for a bribe.  In my forty years no one has ever asked for a bribe and I have never paid one.  I don’t pay more than my Thai friends for goods and services.  There is never an expectation that I will pay the bill just because I am a farang.  Often the only way I can pay when out with Thai friends is by excusing myself to go to the restroom and stopping by the cashier on the way.

Anyone who is having difficulty adjusting to Thailand and feels they are being scammed or cheated by those around them, should probably change their circle of friends and where they live.  It is not really all that difficult to live here.

I agree with VillageFarlang.  40 years Congrats. to you. You must have seen a lot of changes over the years.

California4me :

I agree with VillageFarlang.  40 years Congrats. to you. You must have seen a lot of changes over the years.

Pre-internet, no cellphones, no skytrain, no expressways, three tall buildings in Bangkok and more klongs than you see today.  The following is copied from my profile page.

"I live in a house, in a field, in a valley, with a view ... I have lived in Thailand my entire adult life. Soon after completing my studies, I moved to Bangkok. I was not sent here by military, government, god or corporation. I just bought a ticket and boarded a plane with no real plan. I had no idea what I would do or how I would stay here. Somehow it all worked out. I have been treated well by Thais and Thailand. You will hear no horror stories from me about this place I call home."

Villagefarlang, That is a amazing story, do you have any pictures of Thailand without the massive buildings going up everywhere.  Love to see them.

California4me :

Villagefarlang, That is a amazing story, do you have any pictures of Thailand without the massive buildings going up everywhere.  Love to see them.

Sorry, my interest in photography started much later so all those images are confined to my memory.

Villagefarlang.    Understand.

Made a few mistakes here but those mistakes involved alcohol so they could have been made anywhere.

Mistake 1.
Drinking too much in low season in hua hin and allowing over friendly locals to pour me drinks. I had no idea what I was consuming. Being followed back to hotel whilst drugged and my thai wife having to deal with an attempted extortion outside hotel room. My Mrs was caught on camera chasing men away. She is 5 feet 1 and looks like an angel.

Next day a note was slipped under door apologising for misunderstanding.

Solution.  Be very wary of people and never drink with strangers.

The silver lining in this true story is the fact I saw the video. I was drugged or heavily doused by an alcohol drink and in a very comatose state as soon as I got into hotel.

I had known Nok only 8 months and was still unsure and not very trusting of others. Seeing the video solved that concern with Nok and 3 years later I'm happy to report we are still very happy and we prefer raising our son to nights out and live in a quiet little place far from such commotion.

Mistake 2

Do not listen to any expat that tells you that buying a 2nd hand car in Thailand is a mistake and you are better off buying brand new.

It is difficult I admit but the old chestnut that "thai people don't look after their cars" can be applied to many nations.

30 used car showrooms and approximately 6 weeks of patiently inspecting cars. Finding videos on YouTube of water damage videos and stuff like that.

Pleased to report 1 year since purchase not had any complaints (touch wood) I am sure the dealer was in a pickle cash flow wise as I knew the moment I saw car it was worth 40k more by comparison of other dealers and yet when I prompted him for a discount he gave it up. We visited him 3 times we never discussed price until we were certain the car was legit. Perseverance is required but it can be done.

Forgive me for questioning a man of many years in LOS.

Personally for me and mine, if mistakes are made we take responsibility for those actions prior to the mistake.

Example: day we went to get confirmation of pregnancy. Was a happy joyful moment and 2 minutes prior to entering the clinic me and better half disagreed on a silly thing and our entrance to clinic was not United.  The unprofessional doctors wife who we learned is not a nurse sensed the disharmony and then made the error in regards to date of conception. I wholly disagreed she accused better half of not knowing who father was, a complete disaster.

She provided a load of tablets including a abortion tablet and left the last bit of advice as a deadline for abortion tablet.

We threw those tablets away and sought a new clinic who confirmed the correct date. The lad was a tad bigger than her experience so unprofessional Dr wife was wrong but I ask myself daily, was she in the wrong or us due to our entrance and actions.

We laugh about it now but those 7.5 months were difficult for me but when jnr was born I knew instantly and so did everyone. Worth the wait.

Point is, you talk of no horror stories and you do identify issues as being location and countrymen (farang) based. So how do you handle issues and instances where problems did occur. Examples are good and congrats 40 years is a very long time.

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