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Living in Thailand

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There are few places in the world where you will find such a diverse expat community as that found living in Thailand. It has a rather unfortunate reputation as being attractive to undesirables and to a degree that is true, but Thailand is attracting many talented executive expatriates, with an array of multinationals choosing Bangkok as the base for their regional operations.

The whole spectrum of expatriates are here... retirees, independently wealthy types, company managers, sex tourists who settled, English teachers, NGO's, foreign students, the list is endless.

Bangkok is where you're most likely to find foreigners employed and on an expat package, and the expat scene is vibrant, with many entertainment areas popular with expats. Further south, in coastal towns and resorts such as Phuket, you'll find a mix of retirees, holidaymakers, those with second homes, and foreigners working in the oil industry. English teachers can be found everywhere but mostly in Bangkok, where there are many language schools. In deep rural locations, particularly Northeastern Thailand, there are many Westerners who settled in Thailand after marriage to a local and usually, these expatriates live off savings, pensions, or income sourced from outside of Thailand.

There's no doubt that Thailand has a lot to offer the expatriate. It is debatable whether or not Thailand is still a third world country but it is well developed compared to it's neighbors with reasonably good infrastructure, although outside the major cities, things are still rather basic. The main attractions for an expatriate are not necessarily the work opportunities but the lifestyle itself, with year round warm weather, countless beaches, low cost of living and a relaxed way of life. It is also only a short journey to neighboring countries if you wish to enjoy what they have to offer if you need a change of scenery, with the beaches of Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia only a short flight away.

There are also drawbacks to living in Thailand. Land ownership is virtually impossible, as is property ownership. There are ways around this problem by using loopholes in the law but such methods still carry risks and only serve to complicate what should be relatively straightforward. Laws are also quite fluid in this regard. Some expatriates may be forgiven for saying that they feel Thailand does not really welcome them as residents, due to the complicated visa regulations, with frequent trips to the border to renew their paperwork.

In reality, if you are in Thailand legitimately, for work or because of marriage to a local, it is possible to greatly reduce the complexities of paperwork and dispense with the visa runs altogether. The most vocal of those who complain about the visa regulations in Thailand are the 'perpetual tourists'.

In some ways, Thailand is a victim of its own success. It attracts too many expats who either can't afford to be expats, or are there for the wrong reasons. Thailand also faces growing competition to it's tourism industry from emerging tourist destinations like Vietnam, that have cleaner and less crowded beaches. Thailand has actually ruined many of it's most beautiful locations by failing to control and regulate development.

That said, Thailand really does have it all for an expat... a buzzing nightlife, lower cost of living, if you have the credentials you will find the right job, a pleasant climate... You just need to navigate your way around the visas and property ownership issues.

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