Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 03/19/09

Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand 03/19/09

Background:

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

No, lived in Tokyo for 4 years.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

US State Department.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

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

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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?

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

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Daily Life:

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

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

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

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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?

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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?

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

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Transportation:

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

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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

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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?

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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. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

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

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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've decided to write a report because I didn't hear this before we arrived. All I heard and read was that ISB was great -and that most Americans, especially Embassy families -go there. We were very disappointed with ISB. We tried it for our elementary child for 2 years, and would say it's "average" academically. Our public school in Northern Virginia was much better. The facilities at ISB are really nice, and many families choose ISB because of the planned community housing surrounding the school. However, if you're expecting a good private school education with individual attention for your child and motivated teachers, ISB is not your place. Many parents I know are frustrated. (The biggest concern we and other families have had is that bright children are bored and not appropriately challenged.)

When parents have spoken to the Administration or individual teachers, they feel brushed aside. Those parents who are most disturbed are former teachers. Some of these parents give their children extra work after school so they won’t be behind when they move. Several have actually moved into town to switch schools. We switched to Bangkok Patana this year, and are absolutely amazed by the difference. The curriculum is British (and structured), but the school is very international and creative. Lessons are differentiated based on prior knowledge or ability, so all students are appropriately engaged and challenged. Some may think the British school would be strict (i.e., “keep a stiff upper lip” mentality), but that has not been our experience at all. It’s a very caring environment and very welcoming to parent involvement (e.g., in the classroom at any time). Lessons and assignments are creative and well designed, and I honestly feel our children are getting an exceptional education. To us, Patana seems worth the private school tuition (which is less than ISB’s). Other parents I know who have switched feel the same way. From the moment we toured Patana we noticed a difference. We talked to children, observed teachers with their classes and reviewed student work samples. We also saw the facilities and heard about athletics and extracurricular activities (which are every bit as impressive as ISB’s, minus the planned housing community around it) –but the focus was on the students, curriculum and learning. Patana may not be for everyone, but we are just thrilled and only wish we knew about it earlier. To be fair, I’ve heard many good things about NIST as well, and I know of a few families who switched from ISB to NIST and are happy. There may be some, but I don’t know of any families who left NIST or Patana to attend ISB.

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

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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?

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

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Expat Life:

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

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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?

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3. Morale among expats:

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

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

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

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

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

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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