Living in Thailand

There is a large expat community living in Thailand consisting of ex war veterans, Westerners who have gone over to work or study, and people who have ended up emigrating there. Some Westerners go over to study in meditation retreats, or become monks or nuns. In addition to permanent or long-term residents, there is a huge traveller scene as Thailand is very popular with tourists. Thailand is a welcoming country and many who go out there for a holiday end up going back.

It is best to have work or study set up before you get to Thailand as going for a short trip and then staying on can cause complications with visas. Jobs in Thailand for foreigners (farang) tend to be teaching English as a foreign language, bar work, working in the diving industry as an instructor or a divemaster, or working in guest houses. Foreigners are not technically allowed to own certain types of businesses in Thailand outright. Some Westerners run bars, dive shops or guesthouses with a Thai business partner or spouse, who put their name on the business but have little or nothing to do with the running of the business. Some people get jobs as programmers. It is fairly easy to pick up casual work when you get there. Some people work out there without a visa, travelling to the border with Malaysia or Laos to get a new stamp on their passport every month. This works out to be expensive and a bit of a pain and officials do occasionally check up on farang working in tourist areas. Even those doing voluntary work would need a work permit and a tax certificate technically speaking - the best place to check though is with the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT), or a Thai embassy or consulate before you go. Your employer can help arrange a work permit.

Buying property in Thailand is restricted for aliens, but having a Thai spouse helps with visa issues, buying land or property, or running a business.

Thais are fairly accepting of farang provided they are dressed neatly and behave appropriately. While Thais are tolerant of different cultures, they do have a strong set of hierarchical social customs and it is best to copy how Thais behave. Thais do not shake hands on meeting; the usual greeting is to hold the hands together in front of the chest. They do not express strong emotions, such as anger or sadness and are always very polite. Learning to speak a little Thai is much appreciated. If living in North Thailand, then it is more important to learn a little of the language as less people speak English in Northern Thailand. In addition the many hill tribes have their own languages.

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