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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok Dentists: Expat Guide to Finding Dentists in Bangkok

If you are an expat living in Thailand for the first time, you are bound to be shocked at just how affordable dentists in Bangkok can be compared to the country you came from. This is assuming that you came from the USA, Europe, Canada, or Australia. Other developed nations may also have extremely high dental fees. However, in Thailand, you can look to pay about one-fourth of what you paid in your home country. Annual checkups are a breeze here and the affordable dental care here can be a lifesaver for those needing root canals and bridgework.

Making the Choice

As an expat living in Thailand, price is important when choosing a dentist in Bangkok. Tourists are pleased because just about anywhere is cheaper than in the Western world. However, when living on the Thai economy, price becomes somewhat more relevant. Despite this, price should still not be the most important factor.

Location is probably the most important when choosing a dentist in Bangkok. This is because the traffic in Bangkok is terrible and the mass transit systems are just as packed during hours after you get off of work. You don’t want to get off work just to make a two-hour drive across town for a dental appointment. Probably the best day to drive in Bangkok is on Sunday so a dental provider with opening hours on this day might be what you need.

If you can get a recommendation from another Thai person then this is always helpful. Don’t worry about any language barriers. Some receptionists may not be able to speak English well but they know who in the office can. Furthermore, remember that most all dentists speak English as well.

Now, here are some samplings of the different dental providers throughout Bangkok. Remember, most provide excellent service with some having higher prices than others. These are just a few to consider.

Bumrungrad Hospital Dental Clinic

Bumrungrad is Bangkok’s premier international hospital. Its prices are higher but less than in the Western world and the service is excellent. All facilities are clean and modern as well. These same quality standards apply to the hospital’s dental clinic as well. The dentists are trained in the West and you will have no problem communicating in English here.

Theptarin Dental Clinic

For those living in the area of Rama IV avenue, On Nut, Prakanong, and basically the southern Sukumvit Ave district, there is Theptarin Hospital’s dental clinic. Theptarin Hospital is not quite as crowded as those located in the central part of the city but you may find that more of the staff only speaks Thai. In general, Theptarin’s dental clinic prices are affordable. They have a clean, modern clinic with a waiting area where the kids can play.

Rama 9 Hospital Dental Center

Rama 9 Avenue is located not too far from Bumrungrad Hospital and in the heart of the city as well. They have some convenient opening hours, seven days a week from 8:00 A.M. until 8:00 or 9:00 P.M. They have an extensive list of dentists and you can view their profiles on the clinic’s website. They cost a little less than Bumrungrad and they offer a wide range of services to include general, pediatric, orthodontic, and aesthetic dentistry. Additionally, they have implants, periodontics, and much more.

Silom Dental Building

This is a seven-story dental clinic in Bangkok’s Silom financial district. It is easily reached by BTS Skytrain (Sala Daeng Station) or the MRT subway (Silom Station). This dental complex has just about anything you want in the way of general and cosmetic dentistry. They even have pediatric dental care. Their prices are higher as is everything in the financial district.

Dental Design Clinic

This clinic is a short walk from a popular area for both tourists and expats alike: Asoke. It is a short walk from the Asoke BTS station and right across the street from the Sukumvit MRT subway station on Soi 21 (Asoke Avenue). They feature what you might call “designer” dentistry but have general and surgical services as well. They even feature in-office or at-home teeth whitening. For those who may have difficulty paying for the services all at once, they offer convenient payment plans. One perk is that they are located close to the new Terminal 21 shopping mall.

There are many more dentists available to you in Bangkok—too many to mention here. If you need dental work, this is the place to do it because of the quality and price. Have your teeth checked today and see what these fine dentists can do for you.

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Bangkok Thailand

Making Friends and Networking in Thailand

As an expat living and working in Thailand, you will undoubtedly meet many people and begin to cultivate friendships. These friendships will be with other expats and local Thai people. It is always better to make these friendships as quickly as possible because it enriches the total experience of living here. Here are some tips for making friends and networking in Thailand that will definitely be of help to you.

Learn the Thai Language

Yes, you can get by here without learning a word of Thai but it will reduce the quality of your experience greatly. While many in the cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai speak English, people love it when you try to speak Thai to them. Even if you don’t say it quite right, there is always someone who will help you. In return, they will practice their English with you.

Learn to Like Thai Food

You will find any get-together with Thai people will center on food. Thai people love to eat and it is not uncommon for them to gather around a big table with many different Thai dishes. You can be certain that they will offer a taste of every one to you the westerner. First, they are offering you their best and they are also a little interested to see how you can handle the spiciness.

Laugh at Yourself

Thai people love to laugh and have fun and they rarely take themselves seriously so you should not either. Sometimes, as a “farang” (Thai slang for “foreigner”), you might be the source of their jokes but they mean nothing by them. Westerners typically have larger builds than Thai people and you will find that Thais like to poke a little fun at a person’s large size. The best thing to do is to play right along with them and make jokes about it too. They will feel comfortable around you and you will enjoy your stay here much better.

Speak First

If you are waiting for the majority of Thai people to speak to you first, you will be waiting a long time. Mainstream Thais are generally shy. Many of them are afraid to speak to westerners for fear that their English skill may not be acceptable. So, it’s up to you to speak to them first wherever the day takes you. This is especially important if there are a lot of Thais at the place where you work.

Keep an Open Mind

In a major city such as Bangkok, the traffic is terrible most days. Even the mass transportation systems are crowded and must deal with the traffic (such as buses and taxis). For this reason, you will find that many appointments and meetings in Thailand get started a little late. You will find that most of the time it is due to no fault of their own–it’s the traffic. Westerners tend to get up-tight about lateness but it is best to have an open mind and let it ride.

Be Easy-going

Try to never display outbursts of anger or frustration in Thailand because they will get you nowhere and only alienate you from other locals. You will find in Thailand a “mai pen rai” attitude in general. This Thai expression means, “it is of no importance” and the culture embraces it as one of its rules for living a happy life. You will find that you will also go a long way in making friends when you try to live by this as well.

Go When Invited

This is an important tip no matter what country that you live in. Thai people like to have many social gatherings and they especially love to get together for birthdays. When invited, make every effort to go and they will invite you to the next one.

Stay Connected with Other Expats

No matter how many Thai friends you have, there will be times when you want to get together with others who share your culture and language. It is only natural. Not only this, but there are things that expats go through that no Thai person can understand. For example, Thais don’t generally know the details of immigration rules. However, when one expat learns something about an immigration rule, he is well-suited to share it with his expat friends.

It is a mistake for the expat living in Thailand to live as if he were on his own island. There are so many fun times to be had when sharing them with a network of friends. Follow these tips and start building close friendships right away.

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Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok International Schools for Expat Children

International schools in Thailand are something you will quickly notice when arriving in the country and there are plenty to choose from no matter where you make your abode. These are schools that follow British, American, Australian, and Singaporean curriculum and where English is spoken as the primary language. The fact that that English is spoken is mainly the reason why expats want to send their children to these schools. Also, graduates from these schools usually go off to college in western countries having been prepared for further studies that equip them to do such. These schools provide the highest quality education and here are some other useful bits of information on them.

The Benefits on International Schools in Thailand

Besides being a place where your child can be taught in English, there are other distinct advantages to international schools. Because these schools are privately funded through tuition, they generally have more money to put back into resources, teachers, facilities, and equipment. Teachers are paid better at these schools than anywhere else in Thailand so you naturally get better quality. International schools are also up on the latest trends in using information technology in order to facilitate classroom learning therefore they tend to have modern servers and software.

Thailand international schools are also accredited and there are accrediting organizations that come annually, study the school, and then make recommendations to management. They are also regulated by the Thai Ministry of Education to ensure that children receive Thai cultural training which is critical to having a better quality of life here.

Another important benefit is that students attending these schools get an education in a multi-cultural environment. The student population does not just come from the United States and United Kingdom. They come from all over the world since English is the universal language.

What will it Cost?

Thailand international schools are pricey so you should make sure that you get what you pay for. The prices range from around 100,000 THB to as much as 500,000 THB per year. They also have registration fees that can be between 5,000 THB and 75,000 THB. The bottom line is that pricing depends on the school. Practically all of these schools have a website and publish their prices.

Expect to pay lower tuition for beginning grades and to pay higher as your children get older. If you have more than one child, there may be a discount for that.

What to Look for in an International School ?

There are some international schools in Thailand that miss the mark when it comes to quality. It could be for several reasons. Remember that these schools are a business and if their enrollment is low it will more than likely affect how much tuition can be put back into them. Nonetheless, there are details to look for when evaluating an international school for your child.

First, the school should promote and insist on English as the primary language used. Many affluent Thai, Korean, Indian, and Chinese families also send their children to international schools and insist on English as well. An international school teacher should never be providing instruction in anything other than English.

Second, you want to look at the facilities. Are they well kept? Are classrooms clean and organized? Are classroom sizes reasonable? Are they air conditioned? Do washroom facilities have soap and tissue (you would be surprised that some do not)?

Another question to ask when choosing among Thailand international schools is if there are scholarship programs available. Many of these schools award scholarships to top performing students each semester and it is a way to save if you have a child who works exceptionally hard in school.

One way to determine if the school is giving a quality education is to look at how many of the graduates are attending universities in places such as the U.K., U.S., Australia, or any other top-name school outside of Thailand. You also need to look at the kinds of standardized testing students are being administered in their junior high and high school years such as the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test).

Another way to make sure your child gets a well-rounded education at an international school in Thailand is to look at the after-school programs offered. These are offered at an additional fee however their prices are not unreasonable. These could be courses in dance, guitar, Thai language, and even other world languages.

An international school in Thailand, in order to be accredited with the Thai Ministry of Education, must also instruct children in Thai language and culture. This is a definite plus because it allows your children to get more out of their Thailand experience. Get all the facts about these schools prior to your departure from your homeland and find the best among Thailand international schools that meets your needs.

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Bangkok Thailand

Expat Streets Smarts and personal safety in Bangkok

Moving to the Land of Smiles naturally causes some concern for the Thailand expat because he is migrating to an entirely different culture along with unfamiliar surroundings. However, you need not worry too much because Thailand has taken many measures to guard your safety and it is probably the most relaxed of all countries in Southeast Asia. Yes, there are scams and dangers in the street but all it takes is a little vigilance and common sense and you will more than likely have no problem. Here are some street smarts that will help you stay safe in Thailand.

Streets Smarts in Entertainment

No doubt, when you first come to Thailand, you will want to partake of some of the nightlife and restaurants that cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya have to offer. Most expats coming to Thailand to work will probably live in Bangkok so consider that the tips that apply to this city are pretty much the same anywhere else in the country.

If your night out takes you to a restaurant or bar, always make sure you know what you are being charged so that there are no surprises when the check comes. There have been instances where checks were artificially inflated unbeknownst to the customer because of an inability to read Thai language or inebriation. Higher class restaurants will probably never do this to you but many like to experience the spirit of Thailand and eat or drink at street restaurants and bars. Stay vigilant and always know what you are getting charged.

Dealing with People

The Thailand expat will find that Thai people are generally easy-going and non-confrontational. You will also find that out in the streets, Thais will be cordial and friendly but will rarely intrude on your personal or business life. Having made this point, if a person (Thai or foreigner) walks up to you on the street trying to befriend you then you should be suspicious and politely bow out as quickly as possible. Oftentimes, folks who walk up to you on the street are trying to set you up for a scam or talk you out of some money. And, whatever you do, try to always avoid confrontation with a Thai because you may either get no reaction or an explosive one and the situation will more than likely turn out worse.

The street beggars in Thailand will oftentimes tug on your heartstrings, especially when there are mothers begging while holding small children. It is better that you keep your money. It is sad but begging scams are common here.

Then, enough cannot be said about your safety and being cautious with whom you drink. While the locals in the neighborhood watering hole might seem jovial and friendly, you may be in for a surprise. All it takes is one person (usually male) to drink too much and you, being a foreigner, will draw his attention. There have been many instances of the Thailand expat being injured or fatally wounded here after a night of drinking with strangers.

Respecting Thai Culture

The Royal Family of Thailand is highly revered and respected in this country. Never, under any circumstances, disrespect any member of the Royal Family. This includes making derogatory comments about them, verbal and written. The country’s Les Majeste laws specify that anyone, to include the Thailand expat, showing this disrespect can be arrested and sentenced to prison.

Also, consider that the King of Thailand’s picture is on all currency. Therefore, if you drop a coin, never trap it with your feet. Thai culture considers the feet a very repulsive part of the body and it is disrespectful to step on icons of Thailand with them.

Transportation Smarts

One of the fascinating features of Thailand is the availability of several modes of transportation, one of them being the tuk-tuk. These are the small three-wheeled covered motorized taxis that have been featured in movies and travel brochures and capture the spirit of Thailand. Unfortunately, many of the drivers are dishonest and overcharge foreigners because the vehicles are not metered. If you absolutely must take a tuk-tuk, negotiate the fee beforehand.

The preferred modes of public transportation for the Thailand expat in Bangkok are taxis, buses, BTS Sky train, and the MRT subway. Taxis are good for safety and reliable but do not forget to tell the driver to turn on the meter. There have been instances where taxi drivers turn off their meter with the unsuspecting tourist in order to craft their own “tip”. They have also been known to take foreigners to their destination by using a longer route but unless you know your way around, you may not detect this is happening.

Then, there are the motorbike taxis. This mode of transportation is probably one of the most noticeable when you arrive in Thailand. The concept is simple; motorbikes can get you easily to your destination because they have the ability to weave through stalled traffic. However, passengers rarely wear helmets and the drivers have been known to be intoxicated at times. If you really want to ride a motorbike taxi, take care of your safety and sit square on the back and do not lean to the left or right. When the motorbike is navigating through tight traffic, keep your arms close to your sides, hold on tightly, don’t spread your legs, and never lean to the left or right to see what is going on. Many have been injured by not keeping a tight profile on the back of these motorbikes.

Protecting Your Money

Obviously, you should never flash your money regardless of the city where you are at. However, there are other ways to be vigilant with your money in Thailand. First on the list is to make sure that you always count your change no matter where you purchase an item. Second, always exercise caution at ATMs. There have been instances where thieves have tampered with ATMs by inserting a device to get an imprint of your card and then someone looks over your shoulder to get your PIN as you punch it in. To protect against this happening, make sure that you always cover your pin with your other hand while entering it and be wary of any strangers studying your movements.

It is important to always trust your instincts just as you would in any of the world’s major cities. And, it is of critical importance to stay sober if you are alone on the streets. By following these basic street smarts for the Thailand expat, you can be sure to guard your safety thus making your stay here much more enjoyable.

Categories
Bangkok Thailand

Giving Birth & Having a Baby in Bangkok

Being Pregnant in Bangkok

When my husband and I moved to Bangkok in July of 2014, having a baby was the last thing on my mind. I had just completed grad school, and had big-albeit vague- ambitions for my new life in Asia. My husband was the one with the full time job, while I was about to learn the meaning of that charming term,’trailing spouse.’In spite of my newly graduated optimism, it soon hit me that finding a job (let alone a work permit) in this crazy city was going to be more difficult than I had previously imagined.

After months of submitting application after application to a variety of jobs and internships both within and outside of my field of education, I was forced to acknowledge that landing a full time position in Bangkok didn’t seem to be happening. While this process was incredibly frustrating, it also gave me the impetus to explore the world of freelance writing and editing. It soon became clear to me that, educational background aside, this was the career path that I wanted to pursue. I knew that developing a career out of freelance work would likely take years of dedication, and I was ready to embrace this. My plan had only one small problem I was developing a serious case of baby fever.

I had never been a child who fantasised about someday being a mother, but as I got older and met and married my husband, I anticipated that I would probably have children ‘at some point.’What I didn’t anticipate was the sudden ticking of my biological clock as I entered my late twenties.

I’m not sure if this phenomenon has been scientifically proven but in my purely anecdotal experience, it is very real.

Conversations with my husband about ‘hypothetical’ children quickly morphed into frank discussions about whether we were ready to become parents. My biggest hang up was that I had just started down a career path that I was excited about. I realised, however, that whether I had kids now or later, my career would likely be derailed for a little while: a few years either way wasn’t going to make or break anything.

Ironically, the idea of being pregnant and giving birth in a foreign country wasn’t high on our list of concerns. To other expats, this might sound reasonable, but I think it seemed a little insane to some of my friends at home. I’d had enough experience with the medical system in Bangkok that I was confident I would receive comparable if not better care than I would if I was still in Canada. And besides, I figured, humanity has somehow managed to continue reproducing itself since time immemorial-women have always found a way, with or without great healthcare options. And so we decided to take the plunge…

Being pregnant in Bangkok

I have never been pregnant anywhere else in the world, so comparison is difficult, but here are, a few ways that my experience with pregnancy in Bangkok has been unique:
The hospital system

The healthcare that I have received in Bangkok has been amazing. In Canada, healthcare is socialised and while I am proud of that fact I can’t deny that privatised healthcare has its perks. When you are used to waiting months (and sometimes years) for a referral to a specialist, being able to book an appointment on line with the doctor of your choice is mind boggling. Another element of healthcare in Thailand that really stands out to me is how kind the nurses and other hospital staff are: receiving a wai and a smile when you hand a nurse your urine sample borders on the surreal.

The Bangkok heat

I knew the in advance that pregnant women felt the heat more than the average person. Advance knowledge, however, didn’t quite prepare me for reality. My first trimester was nicely timed to coincide with the hottest part of the year in Thailand, and for me, nothing intensifies nausea like a good hot flash. Suddenly, the stairs leading to the BTS station seemed insurmountable, because climbing them would reduce me to a sweating, quivering wreck. I’m embarrassed to admit that I developed the habit of walking until I found an escalator, even if it was several blocks away.

Adapting to a new body shape is challenging enough without rivers of sweat making everything chafe.

The food

I enjoy Thai food, but the combination of spice, heat, oil, and fish sauce can be a bit much when you’re pregnant, especially when it is paired with the intense sewage/garbage/cooking aromas that seem to lurk on every street corner. During my first trimester, it was more than my sensitive stomach could handle, and now that I’m nearing the end of my third trimester, the spice is guaranteed to trigger a delightful round of heartburn. On the other hand, Thailand unfortunately also offers every possible Western convenience food that you could want i’m convinced that I can mark down my entire first trimester weight gain to an overconsumption of Magnum bars. Not to mention the lethal combination of pregnancy cravings and the doughnut stands in every mall…

The people

I have never been pregnant anywhere else in the world but it is difficult for me to imagine a country where people are kinder to pregnant women. I have had many offers to carry my bags or hail a taxi and almost every time that I have taken the BTS I have been offered a seat. Many people, both Thais and expats have smiled at me and asked when the baby is due. Sometimes, the kindness borders on the humorous-the receptionist at my orthodontist’s office always clutches my elbow to guide me up the single stair leading
to the examination room and the guards at my BTS station are horrified when I don’t use the special security gate (even though I am so tall that my belly clears the clamps in the regular gates by several inches).

The crazy emotions

I knew that pregnancy would probably make me a little more emotional than I usually am. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the floods of tears that I would shed-even commercials on the BTS are enough to trigger the waterworks on abad day (advertisers really should capitalise on this). On one memorable occasion, I was shopping for groceries at a Tops market. My husband had gone into Robinson’s to find a Western Union, and was taking much longer than expected, For some reason, it seemed like a really good ‘idea for him to take my purse with him, so I was stranded without a wallet or phone. As slowly hauled my massive frame around lap after lap of the store, my irritation increased: ‘what on earth is he doing?! I’m so tired.’ However, this irritation soon turned to anxiety, as I started to imagine all the horrible fates that could have befallen him: ‘what if he got hit by a motorcycle taxi?!’ The sappy pop songs that always seem to be playing in Tops did not help the situation, and before I knew it, I was bawling uncontrollably in the toiletries section. Try as I might, I could not stop, so I pretended to be riveted by cotton balls and Q-tips. when my husband finally arrived ready to vent about the ridiculous line- up at Western Union he was aghast to discover his Pregnant wife on the verge of hysteria.

I wish I had a better explanation for him, but ‘pregnancy’ pretty much sums it up.

Waiting…

As I write this, I am approaching the 37 week mark, and I can look back on my experience with pregnancy in this city with a certain measure of fondness. Although it is too early to draw any conclusions, I am grateful that I made the decision to have a child in this city rather than waiting until I moved back to Canada. It still boggles my mind that in approximately three weeks I am going to be bringing a new human into the world. And all the humorous horrible, and quirky details of pregnancy in a foreign country fade into obscurity in light of one central fact : it’s gonna hurt.

Categories
Bangkok Thailand

Raising Expat Kids in Bangkok

Many expat families coming to live and work in Thailand will have children of all ages. Children in general love Thailand. The warm weather, year-round swimming, fruit, animals, colorful taxis, and beautiful parks capture their excitement. However, there is always the possibility that older children may begin to miss their homeland and the sparkle in their eyes diminishes. Here are some tips for raising expat kids in Thailand so that you can keep their spirits high during their stay.

Different Situations

Raising kids in Thailand depends on the situation. There are expat families who, because of a job, move to Thailand with their kids who were born in a western country. Expats don’t just come from western countries either. There are many expat Korean, Japanese, Indian, Filipino, and Chinese families here as well. For these families, the children, depending on their ages, may or may not miss things back in their homeland.

For expat families who come from non-English speaking countries, one of the challenges for younger children will be educating them in their native language as well as English so that they can attend an international school in Thailand. For example, many Korean families live in Bangkok because of the husband’s employer. At some time in the future, these families will return to Korea and their children will need to be able to assimilate back into their native culture. Typically, what you will see are Korean mother’s teaching their young children how to read and write the Korean language.

Focus on the Positive

One way of keeping kids happy in Thailand is to always point out the good things about living here. While this may be obvious, it’s easy to forget when something is not done the way it would be back home. For small children, memories of their home country are vague so adapting to Thailand is relatively easy. For older children, the opposite is sometimes true.

It takes a little creativity to find the good things about living here and convincing your child of such. For instance, your child might miss his favorite cereal which cannot be found in the local grocery stores. You may have to spend a little more and go to a grocery store that specializes in imported goods such as the Villa Market.

Learning New Things

One thing you will notice about Thailand is that children are learning something all of the time. You can see this on a typical Saturday or Sunday afternoon in a McDonald’s restaurant filled with tutors and children getting extra help on homework or Thai children learning English. Shopping malls are filled with schools that teach cooking, web design, art, piano, singing, and an array of other extracurricular skills. Try to encourage your child to learn something new and it will build his self-esteem, provide opportunities to make new friends, and occupy free time.

Keeping Tradition

Depending on how long you live in Thailand, the day might come when your child graduates from high school and will be going off to college. More than likely, he will return to his homeland for his higher education. By keeping the traditions of your native country, your child will fit right back in to his native culture. This means you should recognize the holidays of your home country even if they are not recognized in Thailand. For example, Thanksgiving is an American holiday but not mentioned much at all in Thailand. So, if you are an American expat family, you will do well by following the tradition of the Thanksgiving meal.

International Schools

International schools are really the best for expat children in Thailand. This is simply because your children will be able to speak English and make friends with others who speak the same. Most of the teachers come from western lands or other countries where mastery of English is typical. In international schools, your child will retain his or her identity with his native country.

What You are Giving Your Children

What may not be obvious now will someday be a reality for your children who had the privilege of living in a foreign land. This will be especially true if you have children of high school age. As mentioned before, your kids graduating from high school in Thailand will more than likely return to their homeland to attend college. When they return to their homeland, they will make new friends who will be fascinated with your child’s history of living abroad. This is especially true with Thailand which has been a young backpacker’s paradise for decades.