Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 07/05/12

Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand 07/05/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

New York, about 20-24 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Fours years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Corporate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartments in the city, houses outside the city.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you eat like a Thai, it will be cheap. If you can't do without maple syrup, you'll pay through the nose.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Whatever you want.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes, but not too bad. Just use coils and wear insect repellant when you're outside at night.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Thai Post is okay.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Very reasonable and good.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, lots from workout palaces to amazing sporting clubs like RBSC to racket clubs and the like.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't use credit/debit card at local shops. Use it for brand name hotels, brand name stores, etc. I typically use cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

They speak a lot of English here, but a little Thai goes a long way.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots. It is not a wheelchair-friendly city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, BTS and Metro are brilliant. There is an extensive bus and boat system. Taxis are cheap and air conditioned, if a little small.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Locally made brands likeToyota, Mitsubishi and Honda are cheaper, but more than you'd pay in the US.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

OK, but slow speeds.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Local calling plans are quite cheap. I use True. My wife uses AIS.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Many vets here. We use Thonglor Pet Hospital.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

It depends. Thai immigration can be a bit touchy. Working while here on a spouse's visa can be hard to do.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It is a very safe city.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

You definitely notice it, but it is so much better than China.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and wet June-November, Amazing December-Early Feb. Hotter than the face of the sun during March, April and part of May.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I am writing this as we leave Bangkok. I have contributed to talesmag before. My children go to NIST. We are very sad to be leaving the school. It has been a terrific place for both of my kids. We love the IB curriculum and the quality of the teachers has been excellent. The school offers a multitude of wonderful after school activities -- from swimming, gymnastics, and basketball to cooking, singing, and robotics. They also have a good instrumental music program.

The school has a very diverse student body. There are students from many different backgrounds -- Thais, embassy staff from all over the world, NGO staff families, UN and corporate families. This diversity is a plus, but there seems to be some tension between international parents who love the IB and some of the Thai families who like the success the school achieves with students in terms of college admissions, but don't quite get the IB. They would like to see an even better admission records at top universities -- our kids do get into Ivies and Public Ivies and top universities in the UK and Australia, but it is not at the rate that some would like to see. The college guidance department would rather see kids get into a school that would be a good match for them, rather than chasing a brand. The school has excellent leadership and it remains one of the best IB schools in the world, but I fear that there is pressure for the school to become more of a college admissions "powerhouse".

What parents don't always understand that none of the schools in Bangkok are selective in the admissions process. If there is space and the parents can pay the tuition, the kids can typically matriculate at any of the private schools here. If you're looking for an elite private school, you will not find it at NIST or at any of the private schools in Bangkok (anyone who says anything different is being very disingenuous). Having said that, the curriculum you will find at NIST is the best I have ever seen in my 17 years of teaching at elite private schools in the US. They take the kids who come in that front door and do an amazing job with them. They are encouraged to think and question and be inspired. Students will be engaged at a level which challenges them. When I look at how my 7 and 4 year are thriving, I am blown away. They love school and they love to learn, something they take with them outside the classroom. The kids are pushed and stretched intellectually, not drilled and killed.

NIST is not the only game in town. Bangkok is blessed with many excellent schools. Among them are ISB (American), Pattana (British), Ruamrudee (Catholic), KIS (IB) and Harrow (British). I am familiar with parents and students from all of these schools and they all offer a a good to excellent quality education. The most international, other than NIST, are ISB and Pattana. Your school choice will be a combination of two things, location and curriculum. NIST is in the city center. ISB is in the Northern suburbs, Pattana is East of the city, and the other schools are also outside of the city center.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

It varies by school, but I know that Ruamrudee has a good program for special-needs kids. Students in this program must pay a supplement.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

ELC is an excellent choice, as is the Australian school, but there are numerous choices and they're not cheap!

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, great soccer (Can u kick it, Brazilian Soccer school) and basketball programs (top flight, BJBL, gym rats). There is little league baseball out at ISB.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very high.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots and lots.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Excellent for all!

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Thais tend to be very open. There is more a sense of class discrimination, rather than racial discrimination.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We have enjoyed becoming a part of our school community and meeting lots of terrific people. We have gone on amazing vacations -- lots of great snorkeling and beach time!

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Too many to list.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Too many to list: friendly people, large expat community, great shopping bars and restaurants, easy and short trips to the beach.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, but you can also spend it easily if you're not careful.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely! I hope we get to come back!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

down jacket.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Any novel by John Burdett

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I would say that this is probably one of the most livable cities in Asia. Once you get used to the buzz, it is an amazing place to live.

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