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Bangkok Thailand

Learning Thai: Important for Expats to Learn Thai

As an expat living in Thailand, you stand to benefit immensely by learning the language while you live and work here. You may think you can get by on English only and in some respects you are right. However, by not knowing any Thai, you miss out on some of the richest experiences this country has to offer. Plus, you will find situations such as ordering food and at the doctor where you will be glad you learned the vocabulary for these two areas. Here are some sources for learning Thai along with a typical curriculum you might be exposed to when learning the language.

Private Language Schools

There are scores of language schools located in every major section of Bangkok. These schools offer a set number of lessons for a fixed price and provide instruction by a native Thai teacher. You can opt for either group classes or one-on-one instruction with the latter being higher-priced. Typical instruction for foreigners will start with speaking and text will be romanized from Thai script. You should come out of a set of lessons with some basic speaking skills. As you become more advanced, you will be introduced to reading and writing Thai script.

Private Thai Tutors

There are many private Thai tutors who will meet you at a place of your choosing for instruction. Their hourly rates start at around 300 THB per hour and most prefer to give you a two-hour block per meeting day. The advantage of private instruction is that your teacher will tailor the course to meet your needs. Plus, you will learn more informal speech and colloquialisms. The Bangkok Craigslist website is a good place to locate a private instructor.

Learn to Read and Write First

You will hear opinions on both sides of this while in Thailand. Learning to read and write Thai script first has some advantages. First, it will help you pronounce words properly because romanization of Thai script does not capture the four tone levels of Thai syllables. Second, when you learn to read Thai, you will be able to order from any menu in any restaurant. You will also be able to read city signs, bus labels, warnings, and traffic signs.

Learn to Order Food

Learning to order food in Thai is a priority when building your vocabulary in this language. This is because Thai people love food and you can find it everywhere. Unless you want to stick to Western fast food restaurants, you will not be able to enjoy the delicacies Thailand has to offer unless you learn what it is called.

Why is this? It is simply because the best Thai foods are sold in back-woods outdoor restaurants and from street vendors where English is rarely spoken. Plus, by learning the foods, you can begin immersing yourself into the language and culture right away.

Learning Medical Terms

Most Thai language courses and tutors will introduce you to the human body parts in Thai language. Then, they should teach you how to tell someone else that a particular part of your body hurts. This is very important in cases where you might have to go to a pharmacy to get medication or to a hospital where English is not widely spoken.

Diaries

Most good Thai teachers will have you write at least a weekly journal or diary in Thai. This gives your teacher feedback as to how you are doing and what you are having difficulty with. In other words, certain words in Thai will become almost automatic. Building sentences in Thai language is an entirely different story.

Reading Comprehension

Once you are comfortable with reading and writing the Thai alphabet, your teacher will have you start reading short excerpts in Thai. The purpose is two-fold. One goal is to help you with your pronunciation because Thai is a tonal language. The other is to test your understanding by asking you questions in Thai of what you just read.

Building Listening Skills

Building listening skills is probably the most difficult. This is because when someone speaks Thai natively, they oftentimes speak it very fast. Plus, there are many expressions that formal language training does not teach. One way to build listening skills is to listen to Thai karaoke music because the lyrics are shown on the video along with the singing. It may not be your favorite music but it is a great way to learn.

Thai people love their soap operas and some expats watch them in order to build listening skills. The difficulty with soap operas is that the actors tend to get emotionally intense and it is not easy to follow. Watching English movies with Thai subtitles is another way to quickly see the translations.

While you are having instruction in the Thai language, it is important to get out there and use it. Use it at every possible opportunity you can. You will be surprised how Thai people like to help you and in exchange they get to practice their English a little. By doing this, you will have a rich experience here.

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Bangkok Thailand

Relocating your Pet Dog to Thailand

Your pets are just as much part of your family as any other member so it is no surprise that the topic of Relocating Your Pet Dog to Thailand is a very interesting one. You can bring your pet to Thailand, especially if coming from a nation that has effective animal control. Thai people love dogs and yours will fit right in here. Thailand also has some of the finest animal hospitals around and pet care is affordable.

Preparation for Relocating Your Pet Dog to Thailand
Prior to leaving your home country, you will need to get all of your pet’s vaccinations updated. You should have these done 30 days prior to leaving. This is because the Thai officials of the Department of Livestock Development will require that this be done 21 days prior to travelling with your dog to Thailand.

Your veterinarian will need to prepare a health certificate for your dog which, at a minimum, must state how many dogs you are bringing, their breeds, colors, age, and gender. The certificate will need to state the dog’s address in your country of origin. The last part of the certificate must state the vaccination specifics.

Pertaining to the vaccination specifics, all dogs must be certified as vaccinated and free of rabies. The rabies vaccination must be current and is required to be given no less than 21 days prior to the departure of the animal.

The other required vaccinations will be for Parovirus, Distemper, Leptospirosis, and Hepatitis. Your dog should also be in generally good health with no obvious signs of disease.

Transporting your Pet
Making transportation arrangements is the next step for Relocating Your Pet Dog to Thailand. The first thing you must do is find a “pet-friendly” carrier that flies to the country. Here is where it gets just a bit complicated. Not all airlines will ship your pets and then there are those that take animals but not overseas. So you must call around to the different airlines. Consider that most flights to Thailand from North America or the U.K. will have at least one connecting flight.

The best thing to do is put the pet in the cargo hold. Not every airline flying to Southeast Asia will offer to do this. The primary reason is because of the hot temperatures that a pet might be exposed to when transferring cargo to a connecting flight. During this transfer, the pet’s carrier may have to wait on the tarmac and the temperatures can be intense during the peak hot weather months. Thus, some airlines do not want the liability. You just have to call around.

For small dogs, an option for Relocating Your Pet Dog to Thailand is to carry it in the cabin. The individual airline has its rules for carrying pets in the cabin and generally it will require the pet be placed in an approved carrier that will fit under the seat. The airline will give you the dimensions of the carrier and probably instruct you that the dog is not allowed out of it and not allowed to bark. If you have a house-trained dog, more than likely it will sleep for the entire trip or just sit still terrified and never make a sound.

There will be an additional fee by the airline for transporting your pet. Fees can start at $200 USD and upwards.

Pet Arrival in Thailand
When Relocating Your Pet Dog to Thailand and arriving in the country, you will be directed to take your pet to the Department of Livestock Development office which is located at the group of structures where the Customs Department is located. There is a shuttle bus that will take you there. You may have to leave your dog there overnight while an entry permit is created. More than likely, a quarantine address will be stipulated which can be your address in Thailand and that quarantine period will be for 30 days.

Care of Your Pet in Thailand
Thailand is a tropical country and with this comes parasites that will love your dog no matter how carefully you try to protect it from them. Ticks will probably be your biggest trouble here. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to apply to your pet’s coat to keep ticks and bugs at a minimum however it usually is never 100% effective.

You will have to inspect your pet’s coat consistently. If you find a tick, you should take quick action. Don’t just pull out the tick because the legs might remain in your dog’s skin and become infected. Take something metal like a fork and heat it up with a lighter. Then touch one of the prongs to the tick and it will either fry or jump off. Either way, it is a clean way to remove the tick.

The other problem is taking the pet out for a walk if you live in a crowded city area. You will find that there are dogs all over the streets here. Locals refer to them as “soi dogs” which translates to street dogs. When you take your dog outside, these dogs will come around out of curiosity. You’ll find that they are friendly dogs for the most part but those bugs will jump on your dog.

For further information, have a look at the Thai Department of Livestock Development website at http://www.dld.go.th/webenglish/movec1.html. This page lists the current requirements for Relocating Your Pet Dog to Thailand.

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Bangkok Thailand

Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Expats in Thailand

A Western expat in Thailand often has to think about making money. Thailand is a paradise in many ways, but if you don’t have any money, it can be a hell. Even if one is getting a steady pension check or social security or trust fund payout, there is always the fear that the dollar or other home currency can lose value in comparison with the Thai Baht, so it is important to find some kind of income stream locally. One of the ways to do that is to start your own business, but in Thailand there are special considerations that have to be taken into account.

First of all, being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Incomes go up and down, and there are always strange things that hit the business owner, making stress part of the price that must be paid. But that’s the same everywhere. You have it, or you don’t.

In order to establish a corporation or partnership in Thailand (a Limited Company), a foreigner can own only up to 49% of the equity. That means there must be Thai partners that will own the majority. There are exceptions possible if you work through the Ministry of Commerce to set up a Foreign Business License, but these are typically granted for companies that start out with large capital amounts and will employ a lot of Thai people. An existing company that wants to set up manufacturing in Thailand for export would be a good candidate for that type of business license.

Even with only having a minority share of the equity, control can still be held by the expat if he designs the business so that he is the managing director, and so that no Thai partner has a large portion of the ownership. It is essential that a Western expat employ professional Thai accountants and a lawyer to set up the company here.

In order for an expat to work at the Thai corporation, a work permit must be obtained (with fees) and four Thai nationals must be employed for every one foreigner working at the company. And once working with a permit, you must pay yourself a minimum of 50,000Baht per month (about $1650 USD).

There are businesses for sale in Thailand, but even with an existing business, the same rules apply for the new expat buyer.

For my own situation, I partnered with my wife (a Thai national) and a couple of her close Thai relatives to establish our corporation, originally designed as just a travel agency (known as Top Thai Travel, Ltd.). As a company, we offer tours within Thailand and localized travel services, such as local specialized tours, Thai cooking schools, Elephant Farm experiences, hotel reservations and domestic air tickets. That has worked well, so we have since expanded that business to include a Thai restaurant, condo rentals for visitors to Chiang Mai, and a boutique fashion shop. For us, our main goal was to earn a little income while having fun Thai adventures, and in that regard, we have done very well. I found that actually establishing the corporation in Thailand was less cumbersome than back in the US, where we had to report to so many different redundant government agencies.

An alternative for entrepreneurs to the restrictions of setting up a Thai company is to establish a sole proprietorship in the home country (like in the US). One can work this way as a contractor, such as writing articles for websites or publishing an ebook, or as a y small resale business, such as buying Thai products and exporting them back to your home market. A sole proprietorship puts things on a small scale, but also can be more flexible, with much of the work being done individually on a virtual basis.

A work permit requirement is enforced only if the work is involving a Thai company or directly competes with Thai companies. For instance, if you are a financial consultant that is employed by Thai companies, you will likely need a work permit, and the same would be true if you operated a sole person travel agency serving foreigners visiting Thailand that competed with local Thai businesses. But if you are trading US stocks on the computer or building websites for American shops online, you should not have to worry about getting a work permit or other documentation. The Thai laws in this regard are vague and are subject to local interpretation, but generally if you don’t rock the boat for Thai businesses, you can probably work with little worry about permits.

A Few Words on the Treaty of Amity

There is a special agreement between the United States and Thailand to allow American businesses to operate in Thailand “on the same footing as Thai companies.” It is reciprocal, in that Thai companies can do the same in the US. This treaty was signed in 1966, and was due to expire in 2006, but it has been renewed for 3 months every quarter since it was due to expire. The point is that the treaty at this point is a bit tenuous and may go away at any moment. The relationship between the US and Thailand is not the same as it was in ’66 when Thailand greatly assisted the US in their war with Vietnam. During the sixties, there were many treaties between the two nations in many different areas. Rules are now being interpreted with the Treaty of Amity differently at different times by the Thais, so it is essential to have a good Thai attorney working in your behalf to set this up, who also will have the latest word of how it is working.

The amount of capital that must be in a Thai bank to make the program work has gone up and down. American sole proprietorships (a single person working as a consultant or otherwise alone) was not required to employ Thais, but lately have been required to hire 4 Thais for every American work permit. There are types of businesses that are not permitted by Americans under the treaty, such as Land Ownership, Communications, Transportation and pulling out of any natural resources, like wood, precious metals or oil.

While the Treaty is designed to put the American and Thai companies on equal footing, the Thais enjoy “Most Favored Nation” status with exports to the US having very low (or none at all) tariffs, while US imports into Thailand have very high tariffs. Just try buying a bottle of California wine or Skippy Peanut Butter at the Thai supermarket to see how these high tariffs on US products affect things. It is hardly “equal footing.”

So like so many Agreements made between nations, the Treaty of Amity is not one that has matured into business fairness. It may work for some, but it is not an easy task to work under this framework.

In practicality, Thai regulations allow the expat entrepreneur to get involved in a lot of small business that are independent but not interfering into the Thai marketplace. So for an expat to start up a little food cart businesses competing with Thai street vendors would really be totally impossible to do. Establishing a restaurant with Thai partners and employing Thais as staff is “do-able” with a little planning and business set-up. And an independent computer consulting business for international clients from a home office is very easy to establish as long as it does not involve Thai business as clients or competitors to any substantial level.

There are lots of expats in Thailand involved in exporting Thai products. Some sell directly online through websites like Amazon and ebay, or on a dedicated shopping website. That usually involves pretty hefty shipping charges added on to the products sold, so many expat exporters partner up with someone in their home country to ship individual orders out to end users. Shipping a large amount via a container or even a partial container that will base cost on a square meter basis can be a lot more economical that sending out individual small shipments from Thailand.

Finding unique Thai products that will have a steady market back home is the trick. Some products that seem to do extremely well are Thai Buddha statues, hand woven silk and finely carved wood wall art. There is so much available from Thai artisans that it is not difficult to find something that is truly different from other mass produced products that will always be appreciated in the West.

I met an entrepreneur from Seattle that spent most of his time in Thailand raising orchids in his large greenhouse next to his home. The resources are plentiful in Thailand, and the climate is ideal for having product grow and developing unique colors and strains of the flowers. Then once a year he would head back to Seattle with a near full container load of the finest orchid plants one could find. Within a month back in his home country, he had it all sold with enough sales and profits to keep him going till the next trip.

The limitations for an entrepreneur in Thailand, like a self-employed person anywhere, is to develop a business that you can do well and there will be a viable market, while working under the Thai legal regulations. The more creative, hard-working and skilled enterprises will always be the successful ones.

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Bangkok Thailand

Opening a Bank Account in Thailand as an Expat

As an expat living in the Land of Smiles, you will need to consider opening a bank account in Thailand just as you would in your home country. It is generally easy to open an account here however different banks have different rules depending on the branch and employee you speak with.

Opening a Bank account with a Work Permit.

If you have a work permit, you will probably have no problem opening a bank account in Thailand. Most banks will give you one provided that you meet their minimum deposit requirements. Those who have work permits are considered residents and are here for the long term.

Opening a Bank account With an Extended Stay Visa.

If you are on an extended stay visa such as a non-immigrant O for marriage, support, or retirement then you should have no problem getting a bank account. Just as with a work permit, you are considered a resident here. With most extended-stay visas, you have to prove that you have sufficient funds in this country so there really is no getting away from opening a bank account in Thailand.

Opening a Bank account With a Tourist Visa.

Opening a bank account in Thailand with a tourist visa may or may not be possible depending on the bank. You will need more documents to do this. Why would you open an account on a tourist visa? Maybe you are on this type of visa while waiting to apply for an extended stay visa. One example would be so that you can meet the requirement to have 800,000 THB on account for 3 months prior to applying for a retirement visa.

You will need to have a letter of recommendation from your embassy or other established business in Thailand. The bank may also require a recommendation letter from your bank in your home country. If you know someone in Thailand then you should get their letter of recommendation as well. Different banks have different rules but you will find that most will require some sort of recommendation in order to open an account on a tourist visa.

Common Way of Paying Others in Thailand.

One important reason for opening a bank account in Thailand if you are an expat is because it is a common way to make or receive payments from those whom you do business with. You will find that online payment methods such as Paypal are not quite as popular and that businesses in Thailand would rather make a deposit directly into your account in order to pay. You will also find that businesses that invoice you for large amounts will give you a deposit account number for making payment to them. International schools typically accept tuition payment via their deposit accounts.

General Banking in Thailand.

Thailand banking is generally like banking anywhere else in the world. You can get an ATM card with a major credit card logo for your account as well. With a savings account and no ATM card, two important documents you must have before making a transaction are your passport and passbook. The major banks also have electronic banking.

Documents Needed for Opening a Bank Account.

The basic document that you will need for opening a bank account in Thailand is your passport. Take your work permit as well. Then, each visa type has its own document requirements as stated previously. You will also need proof of address which can be obtained through your country’s embassy in Thailand or a letter from immigration. If you have a Thai driver’s license then this is even better because it will have your address on it.

The best advice for Thailand banking is if you are told you cannot open an account at one bank, go to another. Keep going to different banks until you find one that will welcome you for opening a bank account in Thailand.

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Bangkok Thailand

Top 10 Thai Foods to try for the Newly arrived Expat in Thailand

One of the first things you will notice when arriving in Thailand is the variety of food available and it makes you wonder what the top 10 Thai foods are. There are also the numerous food malls where you can pick up an affordable yet tasty meal from early in the morning until around 9 PM. However, the first problem many experience when getting here is how to order what looks and smells delicious. It is difficult to know where to start unless you have some idea about what the top 10 foods in Thailand are. So, here is a list to get you started.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is a sure to be listed among anyone’s top 10 Thai foods. It is a delicious sticky noodle dish that is famous not only in Thailand but around the world as well. Go to any Thai restaurant in the western world and you will find Pad Thai. The classic version of this dish is with shrimp and there is a vegetarian version as well as one with chicken.

Pad Gapow

This is stir-fried basil leaves and it is mixed with some type of meat. The dish is typically served over white rice with a fried egg (kai dao) on the side. All you have to do is choose the meat. You can choose pork (moo), beef (neua), shrimp (gung), or shellfish (pla meuk). They stir fry it with small Thai chilies so it can be quite spicy. However, the flavor makes you overlook the spiciness. You can also request “mai ped” which tells the cook not to put in the chilies.

Kuay Teow

Kuay Teow is the name for the noodle soup that you see all the Thai people eating at small stands along the road. It is definitely one of the top 10 Thai foods for Thai people. You can also find it in food courts at major shopping venues. Usually, it is ordered with meatballs such as luk chin moo (pork), luk chin gai (chicken), or luk chin pla (fish). So, if you want to order Kuay Teow with pork meatballs, you would tell the vendor “Kuay Teow luk chin moo.”

Gang Keow Wan

In English, this is sweet green curry and it is served with either white rice or thin white noodles. It is probably one of the most famous Thai dishes there is. The ingredients are coconut milk, green curry paste, chicken or pork, Thai eggplant, bamboo shoots, and basil. Most all Thai restaurants serve this delight and it is also popular at events where there is catering. As one of the top 10 Thai foods, you will recognize it by its distinct bright green color and soupiness.

Pad Pak Ruam Mit

Thailand is a vegetarian’s paradise and this dish is a mixture of stir-fried vegetables. It can be served with white rice or eaten as a main dish of vegetables only. The mixture of vegetables might vary from place to place however most dishes consist of cauliflower, baby corn, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and straw mushrooms. Also added to the mix is either soy or oyster sauce. Soy sauce is the truly vegetarian dish.

Som Tam

Any list of top 10 Thai foods will have Som Tam. It is a salad made with grated papaya as the main bulk. The taste is probably the most unique in Thailand with its blend of spices and papaya along with just a tinge of saltiness. The other ingredients that go into this spicy delight include tamarind juice, fish sauce, tomatoes, dried shrimp, string beans, sugar cane paste, fish sauce, peanuts, and lime juice. A variation of this dish is served with bits of chopped crab and known as Som Tam Poo.

Gang Garee

This is a famous Thai yellow curry dish and reminds you of the influence of Indian culture in this land. Basically, it consists of yellow curry soup with chicken and potatoes. The yellow curry soup has coconut milk in it which gives it that distinctive Thai taste.

Gai Pad Met Ma Muang

You can think of this dish as Thai cashew chicken. The chicken is cooked in a wok and combined with onions, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, cashew nuts and dried red chilies.

Moo Satay

This is pork on skewers that is barbequed and served with peanut sauce. The pork is marinated first with a blend of coconut milk, turmeric, Thai curry powder, and soy sauce. In addition to the peanut sauce, it is also served with a white vinegar and cucumber sauce.

Tom Yum Gung

This is another Thai soup that is a mixture of shrimp, lemongrass, mushrooms, galangal, shrimp, and tomatoes. It is super spicy and blends many both salty and sour tastes together. Some variations also use coconut milk in the broth.

There are many more delicious Thai dishes available in the country. Just look at any menu in a Thai restaurant and you will find it to be quite lengthy. Hopefully, with the list of top 10 Thai foods, you can get started trying the many delights this country has to offer.

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Bangkok Thailand

Expat Healthcare in Thailand a Priority for the Expat

Healthcare in Thailand means some of the most modern and affordable healthcare in the world. This is why the country promotes medical tourism, offering the opportunity to get treatment for an ailment and recover where the climate is warm year round. For the expatriate living and working in Thailand, medical tourism is not the focus however getting the best care at a reasonable price is.

Healthcare a Priority for the Expat

It is easy for a healthy expat to ignore the importance of getting all of the facts when it comes to expat healthcare in Thailand. Why? It is mostly because living in the Land of Smiles is so enjoyable that a normally healthy person never thinks about getting injured or sick. However, the expat needs to make it a priority to get healthcare covered because anything could happen after living here for an extended period.

There are common injuries and ailments in this land. The most common is probably falling off of the back of a motorbike taxi. Many expats avoid the motorbike taxis when first arriving in Thailand but the convenience of this mode of transportation is alluring and most end up depending on these two-wheeled modern day horses.

Another ailment that typically victimizes those who first come to Thailand is food poisoning. Even those who have lived in Thailand for some time can fall victim to the occasional bout of diarrhea, fever, and chills after eating food that may have a touch of the wrong bacteria. The risk of minor food poisoning is always here because of the hot, humid weather and sometimes food is on display without proper refrigeration.

These are just a couple of examples of special risks to one’s health in Thailand. Also consider that you may be a retiree here and naturally you will need more treatment as you age.

Hospital Choices for Expats

You basically have two general choices when it comes to hospitals providing Expat healthcare in Thailand: an international hospital or Thai hospital. The most prominent international hospital in the country is in Bangkok, Bumrungrad. It is also the most expensive however more affordable than hospitals in other parts of the world such as the U.S. and U.K. The staff speaks English and there are translators for Japanese, Arabic, and other languages.

Beyond Bumrungrad is a multitude of private Thai and government hospitals for you to choose from. Most expats go with the private Thai hospitals however English-speaking staff members are not as common in them. This is where the expat does well to learn Thai language while living here. However, you will find the care to be at the same high standard yet much more affordable than an international hospital. A couple of good private hospitals for expatriates in Bangkok are Theptarin and Bangkok Hospital and there are many others.

Private Clinics

You can also find private clinics on the street in just about any town in Thailand. These are clinics to handle simple ailments such as colds and minor injuries. Some hospitals such as Bangkok Hospital have outpatient clinics within expatriate communities such as the one at the Bangkok Gardens Apartments near Soi Narathiwas 24 and Rama III Avenue in Bangkok.

Preventative Healthcare

Another attractive perk of Expat healthcare in Thailand is that you can get a complete physical at a fraction of the cost that you would incur in your home country. For example, the international hospital, Bumrungrad, offers a full health check priced at 7,000 THB and 8,300 THB for males and females respectively. This equates to around £142 / £170 and $227 / $270 in U.K. and U.S. prices which would be unheard of in those parts of the world. Bumrungrad also offers different health check packages at different pricing tiers but all are reasonable.

Pharmacies

What is convenient about healthcare in Thailand for expats is that if you have a minor ailment, you can actually get the pharmacist at a local drug store to recommend and sell you a medication without seeing a doctor first. One common medication that is bought in Thailand without a prescription is the antibiotic. Likewise, if there are certain medications that you take regularly (such as asthma inhalers) then you can probably get them refilled by only going to the pharmacist in Thailand. You will also find that many of the pharmacists speak English.

There are also companies that offer healthcare insurance for expats. Some expat employers even offer healthcare as one of the perks of working for them. However, most minor care is affordable even without insurance which will give you the opportunity to shop around for major medical insurance coverage to supplement your healthcare costs in Thailand.

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Bangkok Thailand

Expat Relocation: Moving to Bangkok

Thailand – The Land of Smiles is a great place to visit but expats will tell you that moving to Thailand and living here are entirely different matters. However, it is still a great place to live if you listen to sound advice. If you work for a company that is assigning you to Thailand then your decision has been made for you. Then again, you might be deciding to move here for new opportunities or to retire. There are some things you should consider when making your decision to move here and expats in Thailand are the ones to consult with. Here is some of their advice.

Making the Decision

If you have children, Thailand might be a little tough for them to adapt to at first. You will find that after moving to Thailand that there are not many amusement parks, theme parks, and other entertainment venues geared towards foreign children. Thus, they will find that when they do go to certain entertainment venues for children that there will not be much English spoken. However, if you maintain a positive attitude and encourage your children to enjoy nature then they will probably love it here. Having them enrolled in a good international school where the other kids speak English is very important as well.

Also keep in mind that if you are moving to Thailand for new job opportunities, you are liable to be disappointed. This is not an issue for those coming here to retire or being reassigned by their employer. For those coming here to find a job, there is not much available to a foreigner besides teaching. So, if teaching is not your thing, you had better make sure that you have income sources such as freelancing over the internet or a cash reserve that you can tap into for awhile. In any case, make sure you have employment or sufficient living funds secured before you arrive here.

Then there is the issue of political stability in Thailand. Despite what you see on the news in the western world, Thailand is a relatively stable politically. However, there are still ongoing disputes between the Yellow Shirts and Red Shirts. While these disputes have been peaceful in the last couple of years, they are a potential powder keg nonetheless. For the most part though, expats in Thailand are rarely the target of any political violence here.

Your friends back in the western world may try to kill your spirit when you express your desire to move yourself and your family to Thailand. One of the ways they will do it is by pointing out the seedy side of cities such as Bangkok and Pattaya. True, Thailand is known for its sex trade but these places are in isolated parts of the city and a person could live here for decades and never be exposed to them.

Visa Requirements for Living in Thailand

Once you have made the decision for moving to Thailand, you will need to get your passport in order and get a visa. If you are moving as part of your company’s reassignment, you will probably get a Class B visa prior to departure. This is known as a work permit visa in Thailand.

For all other situations, the best thing to do is get a multiple-entry Class O non-immigrant visa from the consular section of the Thai embassy in your home country. This type of visa is the most expensive but it gives you the least hassle while trying to settle into Thailand the first year. The only thing you must do is make a border run to a neighboring country every 90 days, exit, and reenter Thailand. The most popular border run done by expatriates in Bangkok is to make a day trip to Cambodia.

The multiple-entry O visa can also be converted to an education visa (ED) or retirement visa (O) when it is about to expire and can be done at Thai immigration without leaving the country. In order to convert your multiple O to an ED visa, your child must be enrolled in a Thai international school or you must be in an approved language course for the purpose of studying Thai. And, in order to convert to a retirement visa, you must have at least 800,000 THB in a Thai bank account for 90 days.

Packing your goods

Choose an overseas freight company for sending your household goods when moving to Thailand. The question is what do you ship? You will want to only ship your personal effects such as books and clothing. Shipping furniture or appliances is not recommended and really not necessary because most apartments are already furnished. Keep in mind that you may be charged custom duties when your goods arrive in Thailand and the transit takes about 30 days depending on the origination point.

Also keep in mind before shipping any appliances such as a television that Thailand runs on 220 VAC. This is important for those from the U.S. where electrical appliances run on 110 VAC. Shipping is rather expensive so try to ship only what you really cannot do without such as keepsakes.

When You Arrive in Thailand

When you get here, you will no doubt want to find an apartment and get your children enrolled in school. You will also want to get settled in, learn your way around, find employment if you have not done so already. There is plenty to take care of when moving to Thailand but you will find it to go rather smoothly in the long run.

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Bangkok Thailand

Culture Shock in Thailand for the Expat Family

Many things in Thailand have been influenced by the western world yet the expat will find that he experiences a little of what is known as Thailand culture shock. In spite of the western commercialism brought into this country over the years, Thai culture still remains strong and always will. Here are some important facets of their culture that you, as an expat, must understand. Understanding will make a better quality of life for you and your family while living here.

Respect the Royal Thai Family

The first aspect of Thai culture that you must understand is that Thais hold admiration and the utmost respect for the King of Thailand and his family. Never disrespect the Royal Family and never make any derogatory or critical comments about them. And yes, you can be arrested for showing disrespect. Many a foreigner has even found himself sitting in confinement because of disrespect to the Royal Family.

Farang

For some living here, the biggest Thai culture shock is getting used to being called “farang”. This word is used to refer to someone who is Caucasian. It is also the same Thai word for the fruit guava and is part of the Thai word for French fries. Some take it offensively but it is not meant that way by a Thai. If you want to enjoy your stay here, get accustomed to the fact that no matter where you go you will always be a farang and people will usually be fascinated with you (which means they will stare and try to practice their English with you).

Thai Wai

The wai is the gesture used in Thailand to greet people, pay respects, and thank others. Other places in the world, people shake hands but this is rarely done in Thailand. At first, the wai takes a little getting used to in order to do it properly. And, there are times when it is inappropriate to initiate a wai. The basic form of the gesture is to hold the hands together as if praying. With the palms touching each other and fingers pointing upward like a lotus, the head is bowed slightly to touch the fingertips. The wai is also held close to the body.

A mistake made by foreigners upon first arriving to Thailand is to initiate a wai to everyone. You should never initiate a wai to a service-type of person such as a waitress in a restaurant. Only wai a service-type person if that person first gives you the wai. You should also never initiate a wai to a person who is younger than you or a subordinate. However, remember to initiate a wai to those in a higher social status and those who are older than you. Doing the wai among peers is fine.

Thai Dress

While westerners will openly wear shorts and tank tops in warm climates, it is inappropriate to wear such attire anywhere other than the beach in cities like Bangkok. Wearing this attire in the city will cause Thai culture shock but it will be towards you—they will be shocked at your culture. You will find that Thais are very conservative in their standards of dress.

Thai Family Relations

Unlike the west where families tend to live separated by many miles, Thai families believe in the unity and cohesion. Thus, you will often see family gatherings that are quite large. You will also see that many family members might live under the same roof or have their houses all near each other.

Thai Emotions

Thais are non-confrontational therefore it is inappropriate to show emotions such as anger or irritation. Those from western cultures are not used to this because in these cultures it is quite common to openly express dissatisfaction with something like slow service.

General Thai Conduct

There are generally accepted standards of conduct that at first cause a little Thai culture shock. First, there are cultural norms concerning touching. In Thailand, outward displays of affection are frowned upon. The most you will typically see is couples holding hands.

On the topic of touching, you must never touch the top of a Thai person’s head. Thai’s consider this part of the body sacred and will take offense to your gesture. Also, women must be careful to never touch a monk.

Never stand over a Thai person. In some social situations, Thais like to sit on the floor. If you find yourself standing over another Thai person, don’t do it for long. You should also never walk over a Thai sitting on the floor. Take care to walk around.

Always remove your shoes before entering a Thai house. In fact, it is a good idea to get into the habit of removing your shoes before entering anyone’s home here. You must also remove your shoes prior to entering a temple or around a Buddhist shrine.

Thai Language

One aspect of the Thai language that could be a source of Thai culture shock is putting the ending khrub or ka at the end of sentences when speaking. It is considered polite and speaking without it can be taken as rude. Males put khrub at the end of sentences and females use ka. These two words can also be used as a “yes” answer. It never hurts to get some instruction in Thai language while you are here.

Ladyboys The Third Gender

One of the sights that have a tendency to shock a few expats arriving here is the sight of the “kathoey” or lady boy. In the western world, they would be referred to as “transgendered”. There’s no need to be shocked. These are thought of as the third gender in Thailand and are generally accepted by Thai people. You will often find them as wait staff in outdoor Thai restaurants or working in retail establishments.

Mai Pen Rai

A phrase you will often hear in Thailand is “mai pen rai” or “it is of no matter” in English. You will find that Thais have this outlook in many situations and it can also contribute to Thai culture shock for the expat. Is the traffic bad? Mai pen rai. Did someone cut in line? Mai pen rai. Is it taking too long to fill a food order? Mai pen rai.

Westerners tend to get irritated about practically any inconvenience and oftentimes have difficulty adjusting to mai pen rai ways. Mai pen rai can also show up as frequent tardiness to appointments and last minute cancellations. The expat living here must learn to adapt or frustration will soon set in.

Of course with driving, it seems that all bets are off when it comes to mai pen rai. However, considering the traffic situation in cities like Bangkok, not even mai pen rai can cure the frustration. However, never take it personal if someone honks their horn while behind you. Just say, “mai pen rai”.

Washroom Protocol


A common source for culture shock among expat men after arriving here is seeing the cleaning lady in the men’s toilet. Pay it no mind because she certainly isn’t paying any attention to you. She only has a job to do: keep the toilet clean.

As a final note, you and your family will benefit from enrolling and taking a Thai culture class when you first start living here. These classes cover all aspects of the culture and norms in this country. By educating yourself in advance, you can minimize Thai culture shock and thoroughly enjoy your stay here.

Categories
Thailand

Thailand Visa Requirements for Expat Families

Every expat living in the Land of Smiles needs a visa therefore it is prudent to get a handle on Thailand visa requirements. The 30-day visa upon arrival is not enough. If you are moving here with a job already secured or as part of your employer’s relocation package then you are probably already aware of the visa needed. For those coming here to retire or to look for work, you need information on how to go about getting the right visa.

Tourist Visa Requirements

Although this is not an expat visa, it can be used for your advantage when coming here to retire or look for work. A tourist visa is good for 60 days and can be extended for another 30 days at an immigration office within Thailand. When applying for this visa, you can specify one or two entries and each entry will be good for 60 days. The procedure is to get this visa from a Thai consulate in your home country before departing for Thailand. The tourist visa gives you time to meet other Thailand visa requirements before getting a non-immigrant visa.

Non-immigrant B Visa Requirements

This is also known as the work permit visa and it can only be obtained if you work for a bona fide employer in Thailand. The employer provides documentation to the immigration office so that you can get this visa. It is also required before you can obtain a work permit, a totally separate document.

Retirement Visa Requirements

If you are age 50 or older and do not plan to work (retire only) then this is probably the best visa for you. It is a Non-Immigrant O type visa with a “retirement” stamp on it. To meet the Thailand visa requirements for this, you must have at least 800,000 THB in a Thai bank for a minimum of 90 consecutive days prior to applying. Or, you can prove that you have a monthly income of at least 65,000 THB from a source such as a pension. For the monthly income documentation, you must get a letter from your embassy in Thailand stating this. You can also have a combination of monthly income and bank account balance that totals to 800,000 THB annually to meet the requirement.

Non-immigrant ED Visa Requirements

If you have children who will be attending school here, Thailand visa requirements stipulate that this is the type you will need. Typically, parents will get Non-Immigrant O visas for their children prior to leaving their homeland. Then, after enrollment in a school, an ED visa will be applied for. The school provides a letter that you take to the immigration office when applying for the ED visa.

Non-immigrant O Marriage Requirements

Your situation might be that you have gotten married to a Thai national and there is a visa for this. If you are not working in Thailand and on a B visa then this is the one for you. You will need to show a balance of 400,000 THB deposited in a Thai bank for at least 90 days or show that you have independent income of at least 40,000 THB per month. You will also need to show a marriage certificate.

Non-immigrant O Support Requirements

This is similar to the marriage visa but it is used to support a Thai dependent child. Like the marriage visa, the applicant must have 400,000 THB on deposit in a Thai bank account for the standard 90-day period prior to the application. If not going the bank deposit route, the 40,000 THB independent income must be shown. One stipulation is that the applicant’s name must appear on the child’s birth certificate.

Documents needed Requirements

The necessary documents to meet Thailand visa requirements depend on the type of expat visa however there are some common ones you will need to provide. You will need to provide a signed photocopy of the picture page and each page with a Thai visa in your passport. Additionally, you will need to make a signed photocopy of the TM arrival/departure card that you filled out when entering Thailand. All Thai immigration forms will require a passport quality photo (with white background) measuring 4 x 6 cm. It’s best to take more than one photo.

The previous paragraphs mentioned the additional documents needed for the different types of visas but do not mention about the bank documentation which is needed to prove financial responsibility. You will need to make a photocopy of the account number page and last balance page in your Thai bank book. The balance should be current as of the date you are submitting your visa application. Do this by going to the bank when it first opens and making a small 100 THB deposit.

In addition to the signed photocopies of your bank book, you will also need a letter from the same financial institution that states the amount on deposit over the last 90 days. Your bank will know the letter you need. Make a copy of this letter once you receive it and use it to show your bank when you apply for yearly extensions.

Typical Visa Procedure Requirements

The typical procedure for getting a Thai visa is to get either a tourist or generic non-immigrant O visa from the Thai embassy in the expat’s home country. Then, once the expat family settles down here, head over to immigration with all of the required documentation to change the visa type. The Thai immigration form for this is TM 86. Or, if on a tourist visa, apply for the appropriate visa with Thai immigration form TM 87. The cost for executing either of these forms is 2,000 THB. Then, for each additional year you do a one-year extension using TM 7 at a cost of 1,900 THB. For each extension, you will need to produce the same documentation and any required bank balances will need to be on account 90 days prior.

90-Day Visa Reporting Requirement

With a one-year visa or extension, you will still need to make a trip to your local Thai immigration office every 90 days in order to report your current address. This requires using TM 47 and there is no charge. Also, one member of your family can take all of the passports for each member and do this report.

Keep in mind that requirements pertaining to visas change frequently in Thailand. It is best to visit the Thai immigration website at http://www.immigration.go.th for the latest on any changes. This website also has all of the forms needed for meeting the Thailand visa requirements.

Categories
Bangkok Thailand

Getting a Driver’s License in Thailand

Although you can technically drive in Thailand on an international driver’s license, there are some reasons why you should be getting a driver’s license in Thailand. International driver’s licenses are intended for temporary use–when you are visiting somewhere. If you are an expat living in Thailand for more than a few months, you need a Thai driver’s license because insurance companies require it. Additionally, when you have a Thai license, you can show it at any of the national parks and tourist attractions and avoid paying the tourist prices. You can do the same with a Thai work permit but if you are living here on a retirement visa, you will not have one of those. The final reason is because if you get stopped by a police officer there is a chance that he will not accept your international driver’s license. Here is the basic procedure you will go through when obtaining your driver’s license in Thailand.

Proof of Address

The first document you will need when getting a driver’s license in Thailand is a letter from either your embassy or Thai immigration that states your address in country. Going to Thai immigration to get this letter is probably the easiest route. The immigration officer will give you a form to fill out, charge about 200 THB, and then send the letter to you in the mail. Some sources say that an immigration officer will come to visit you at your residence but this rarely happens in busy places like Bangkok. Make sure you make a copy of the picture page on your passport and your current visa page for the immigration officer.

Medical Certification

Another document needed will be the medical check. You only have to visit any hospital or street clinic and the staff there will know what to do. The check only involves making a determination if you are reasonably healthy and of sound mind. The cost for this check varies however it is minimal.

Other Forms

Make sure that you take your international driver’s license or license from your home country before getting a driver’s license in Thailand. If you have this, and it’s valid, you will not have to take a written or driving test. The other forms necessary include copies of your passport picture page, TM card that was stamped when you entered the country, and current visa. Keep in mind that you need a non-immigrant class visa in order to get a license. Make sure that you take your passport as well.

Going to the Department of Land Transport

This is the agency that you will see when getting a driver’s license in Thailand. It would be a good idea to take someone with you who can speak, read, and write Thai however this is not an absolute necessity. You will hand over all of your documentation at the front desk and then be directed to another station where they have you fill out another form. It is best to get to the department early because the line gets quite long. In Bangkok, the Department of Land Transport office located across from Sukumvit 62 opens at 8:00 A.M. however lines form around 7:00 A.M.

The Tests

For those who do not have a current international license or license from their home country, they may have to take both a written and driving test. The written test is in Thai and it is okay to have a Thai-speaking person assist you. For the driving theory test, you will be shown a video (which will be in Thai language) and then given a 30-question computer test. You will need to score at least 23 on it.

The second, for those without a current foreign or international license, will be a driving test where you will be provided with an automobile from the department. You will need to prove that you can effectively and safely maneuver a vehicle by doing things like backing straight, making turns, and parallel parking.

Everyone, when getting a driver’s license in Thailand, takes these three tests: color blindness, peripheral vision, and reaction time. The color blindness test involves basic recognition of colors. The peripheral vision test requires that you place your chin on a machine and then the operator will ask you to respond when you see flashes of light at your side. And the reaction test puts you on a machine with an accelerator and brake pedal. You accelerate and respond by braking when the signal indicates to do such.

Final Steps

When you have all of the required forms submitted and passed all of your tests, you will finally go to get your picture taken for the actual license. The fee is 105 THB. Your first license is considered temporary and only good for 1 year. After that, you can get a 5-year license.

Keep in mind that different branches of the Department of Land Transport may do things slightly different. For example, you might have an expired foreign license which would theoretically mean that you would have to take the written and driving test but on occasion, officials at the department have been known to overlook it. Like with anything in this country, always smile and be cooperative and you will be surprised at just how easy getting a driver’s license in Thailand is.