Mariposa moved from Texas to Thailand along with her husband when he was relocated. There for four years, she enjoyed her time and has maintained close ties with the friends she made in Thailand despite since moving to Germany. Read her great advice for catching public transport in Bangkok, as well as her experiences of the weather, healthcare facilities, and making friends in Thailand.
Read more about Thailand in the Expat Arrivals Thailand country guide or read more expat experiences in Thailand.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where did you live?
Q: How long did you live there?
A: Four years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: Only spouse
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: My husband was offered a job, and the company offered to provide me a position also. In my past life I was a Research and Development Chemist. I am published and have patents.
Q: What did you enjoy most about Bangkok, how was the quality of life in Thailand?
A: I enjoyed the weather. It was hot, but I loved it. The everyday, normal, lower-class people were amazingly kind and generous. They might not have had a lot, but they always offered to share what little they had. You visit a vendor who is snacking on something, and they immediately offer you to join them. As an expat the quality of life was superb. The things you could do seemed limitless.
Q: Any negatives? What did you miss most about home?
A: Negatives where, as a foreigner, you were always referred to as “foreigner” – people called you farang. So you were never given the opportunity to assimilate and become one of the locals. What I missed about home was the seasons, and the events that took place during the seasons. You knew when it was Christmas; you knew when it was Easter. That sense of different times of the year to celebrate different things was lost.
Q: Is Bangkok safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Bangkok is safe. I walked home at 1am many a time. It was the city that never slept, even on the outskirts.
Not to say that there is no crime. I once saw a man running through the outdoor market place with a gun in his hand, a “huge smile” on his face, and in pursuit were a policeman and a mob. It actually made me wonder if he was mad, and if the gun was real or merely a toy! All in all, Thai men do not find Western women attractive. So Western women in general are safe.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Bangkok? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: You do not need to own a car, but if you are an expat, your fellow expats might look down on you if you don’t. We had a car, and I rarely drove. I took public transport, and as soon as I figured it out, I introduced all my expat friends (even those who had lived there for years) to the ease of public transport in Bangkok. When I took my husband into Chinatown for sightseeing and shopping, I insisted on public transport. Less stressful - in my opinion - than driving through traffic and looking for a place to park.
1. The train – rót fai
2. The different busses – bàt lek (one way to refer to the small green busses)
3. The sky train – rót fai fáa
4. The underground metro – rót fai dtâi din
5. The water/ canal boats – nám reua
6. The motor scooters – I rode this only twice, because your insurance is void if you ride this and have an accident. They are considered to be highly unsafe, even though millions use this as transportation.
Granted, my maid taught me Thai, and so my Thai probably had a lot of slang. It served me well, because when I spoke, the locals identified my speech as one who associates or hangs out with that same level of people, and it worked in my favour.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Bangkok?
A: Healthcare was amazing! Hospitals were like seven-star hotels, and super cheap.
About living in Bangkok
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Bangkok as an expat?
A: Expats lived in a variety of areas. It all depends and what country you are from and what nationalities do you expect to live near. I once went to a party where the entire gated (albeit small) community were French. Almost all were with Doctors without Borders. I would never have learned of this enclave had I not been invited to a party. In all honesty it depends on how much you want to spend, and what part of town your spouse is living in, as to how much traffic he/she wants to incorporate into his or her daily commute to work.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Bangkok?
A: Nice house with almost non-existent kitchens. There are two different types of expats: ones who are smart enough (or veterans as I like to call them) who negotiate a package that gives you living quarter allowance (LQA), and ones who pay for rent out of their own pockets. In general you can tell the two apart. The ones with an LQA have the biggest and most luxurious housing, and the ones without have normal housing like back home.
Q: What’ was the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living is super cheap! You can really live for a dollar a day if you want to eat and live like a local. Otherwise you can spend all your money going to expensive restaurants that cater to expats. Then there is the in-between. Cheap are the lunch specials that all the very expensive hotels offer during the lunch hours. Expensive is going back for dinner. Cheap is the street food (but only eat where you see locals eating). Cheap are the local markets where the locals shop as well as Carrefour, Tesco and Jusco. Expensive is Villa supermarket.
Q: What are the locals like; did you mix mainly with other expats in Bangkok?
A: We mixed with both. It just depends on what mood and what type of conversation you wanted to have.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Bangkok?
A: No, meeting people and making friends was tiring. But once you have two friends, then it multiplies and keeps on. The easiest and best way to meet people is to join a “Thai language course”, then a sports group (e.g. netball), and last but not the least, join your home countries women’s club (if you are a female) and if you are a male, go to your local bar.
About working in Thailand
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Thailand?
A: Yes, I never managed to get one.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Bangkok; is there plenty of work?
A: Yes and no, as it depends on what kind of work you want to do.
Q: How does the work culture in Thailand differ from home?
A: Thai people are stress free, and believe in this philosophy of life. So they are not necessarily on time, and sleep on the job and are just different. They love to say tomorrow (prûng-née), don’t worry, and you worry/think too much! At the end of the day you realise they most likely have very low blood pressure, and really, there is always tomorrow!
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: No, but I can recommend a couple. You also have to understand, if you move to Thailand, you have only six months to bring your belongings in, otherwise you are taxed for your belongings when they arrive.
Family and children in Bangkok
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: Not at all.
Q: What are the schools in Bangkok like, any particular suggestions?
A: All expats send their kids to international schools. These schools are all dependant on the nationality of the parents. Germans and Swiss went to RIS, the French to their own schools etc. However, kids under 6 might not be covered by your company’s paid-for school fees. In this case, I knew expats who sent their young ones to local Thai schools. The parents saw nothing wrong, and the kids learned Thai at an early age, and most importantly had Thai school friends to play with.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: You either love it, or hate it, but it takes a while to adjust to either or! Go out and explore, don’t stay at home, and travel while you are there! Oh, and most important is to learn the language. It might seem hard, but honestly it is not.
– Interviewed in November 2012