Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 08/08/15

Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand 08/08/15

Background:

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

No, several prior around the globe

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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 - 2.5 hours to Hong Kong followed by 16 hours to New York. Or you can fly thru Tokyo first.

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3. How long have you lived here?

4 years

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

U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy housing is either city based or outside the city in "the bubble" known as Nichada Thani, where we live. People choose Nichada because the houses are beautiful and spacious, (many are brand new), the community is gated and safe, and Internatiional School Bangkok is inside the gates. The school is the heart of this community, so if you have kids, this is a great place to be. Embassy workers take the free shuttle in the morning into the office, with a commute of about 35 - 45 minutes. If you go later you can sit in traffic forever. Bangkok traffic is absolutely some of the worst on the planet. Don't even try to figure it out. There is no rhyme or reason.

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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 want American products, you will pay double or triple for them. If you get used to local brands, it will be a lot cheaper.

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

Car tires and car parts, my dog's favorite dogfood, but otherwise you can get anything you need here.

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

Everything you can think of except Taco Bell, and they all deliver.

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

Less than I would've expected. After the rainy season there tends to be an issue with mosquitos, but otherwise this is far less tropical in terms of insects than other places we've lived. There are virtually no bugs in our house!

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Daily Life:

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

APO

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

Plentiful - about US$400 per month for five days per week.

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

Nichada Thani has a gym facility.

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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?

ATMs are everywhere and credit cards are widely accepted.

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

Catholic churches, Mormom, Jewish, Muslim

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

It's nice to have a small vocabulary, but you can survive in Bangkok easily without it. Most people do.

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

Yes - sidewalks downtown are terrible and sometimes nonexistent.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe, plentiful, and cheap. The BTS in Bangkok is modern, safe, and inexpensive, but it only covers a small portion of the city.

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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?

You don't need an SUV in this country - the roads are great. Car parts for American vehicles and even American import Toyotas can be hard to find and often have to be ordered.

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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?

Not expensive but not high speed either. You won't get what you pay for, that's for sure.

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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?

You need an unlocked one.

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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 - good vets here, and inexpensive

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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?

Nope. This is the downside of things, especially for embassy spouses. There is no agreement with the Thai government.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty.

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

It's hot, so nobody really wears suits.

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Health & Safety:

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

Virtually none. This is about the safest place you could ever imagine living with a family. I put my kids in taxis at night and don't think twice. I haven't locked my door in four years and don't even know where the keys are.

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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?

Medical care is superb. There is a huge medical tourism trade here. International hospitals look like five star hotels, and the medical care is often of equal or better caliber than you find in the United States.

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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?

We live about 15km outside of the city in Nichada Thani, and it is just fine.

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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?

Hottest time of the year is March through July. Consistently over 100F degrees. Really mild November thru January. Rainy season starts around May and goes thru October.

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Schools & Children:

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

We send our kids to ISB and we love it. It's like a college campus, and the leadership and teachers there have truly been top notch for our family. Super sports program and extra curricular activities. Excellent IB scores in the High School. If your kid is bored at ISB... Most families really love this school, and the school is at the heart of the Nichada community. Word of warning, though. This is an IB school, so if you are looking for AP, this might not be the school for you. The vast majority of kids in the HS take the full IB program.

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

Most of the international schools won't accept your child, regardless of how mild the disability. St Andrews Samakee accepts children with special needs but they recently turned down a family with a child with special needs because the particular classroom was full. There is also a school downtown called The Village which caters to children with special needs. There are a couple of therapeutic service companies that offer OT, PT and speech, but support is limited. Recommend you do your homework before you accept an assignment here.

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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?

Yes, there are lots to choose from.

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

Thru the schools, yes. They are extensive.

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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, huge, huge. Most people love it here. Many stay forever.

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

Great clubs and restaurants downtown. Movie theaters, more malls than you will ever have a chance to visit...

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

Great for families.

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

Heading to the north of Thailand, visiting temples, gorgeous beaches and never running out of a place I wanted to experience. The people are calm and amazing.

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

Grand Palace, Ko Kret island for pottery shopping and biking around the island, Wat Arun, longtail boat ride on the Chao Praya. This city never gets old. And the food culture is incredible. Thais eat 24 hours a day, and the streets are filled with amazing smells and opportunities to try new foods.

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

Amazing, warm culture. Beautiful weather much of the year (Okay, hot in the spring, but otherwise really manageable), wonderfully safe. Great regional travel. Wonderful temples, amazing shopping...

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7. Can you save money?

If you eat street food, you will really save money!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

To not expect things to happen in a New York minute. Thailand runs at its own pace. Things that should happen in a day often take five, and nobody seems to get upset about it. People move slowly, and nobody gets angry. Ever! Never ever show your anger - Thais consider it a sign of weakness. So when things don't go your way, you simply have to relax and bear it.

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

Absolutely

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

winter clothes, loud voices, lack of patience for the traffic and the pace of things

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, sense of adventure, willingness to explore a new culture.

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