Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 04/02/10
Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
Washington DC. It takes a full 24 hours from door to door.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I work for a US Government Agency.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Within the city most people live in high rise apartments. Outside of the city the staff tend to live in houses but the commute is much greater.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
A lot is available and its very inexpensive. I would consider buying hair products in the states as the products here are not of the same quality.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Hair products. Human Kindness.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Food is amazing here. You have Food-To-Go. This is an amazing book that allows you to order takeout from many restaurants at once (very family friendly). Street food is good and normally won't make you sick. Restaurants are excellent and cheap. Food is a major plus to living here.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
With humidity and standing water comes mosquitos. Bring your OFF-spray.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I usually use the APO but don't send for ANYTHING that you want to receive faster than 7 days. It always seems to take the longest to receive anything here.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap. Less than $400 US per month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
You can visit Lumpini Park. There are actual aerobics classes every night from 6-8. Also the hotels usually have fitness facilities. If those don't satisfy you could always join Fitness First or California Wow.
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?
There seems to be an ATM at every corner but I wouldn't use them. Try to use the ATM inside a bank or major store. Try to never use credit cards.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Thailand is a Buddhist country but they respect other religions and have several locations throughout the city to worship if you are Muslim or Christian.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Not very much. Most Thais understand some English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The sidewalks would make it very challenging for a person with physical disabilities to walk anywhere.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The metro is close and goes all over the city. Taxis are also very affordable. If traffic is heavy I would consider a motorcycle taxi as they can whip through the traffic faster and the fares are a lot lower.
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?
Bring something small. The roads are too small for SUV's (although I've seen several expats with them).
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No. But as with any other place if you are female I would not go anywhere at night alone.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
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?
It is unhealthy but from what I've heard it is a lot better than 10 years ago.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There are two seasons. Dry and wet. For the most part it is hot a majority of the time (i.e. above 85 degrees).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
This is a great post if you have children. The top three schools in Bangkok are ISB, NIST, and the British school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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 they are available but are very expensive. Most people hire a nanny. You could have a live in for less than $400US per month and have this person cook and clean. Can't beat it!
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the schools, yes.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Seems to be pretty high. Men seem to LOVE it here!
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This is a good city for families (i.e. great schools and great things to do on the weekends if you have children). A little harder for single women as Thai men don't seem interested in foreign women. Also if you are married it is challenging as their are several rumors that it is very easy for a spouse to stray (primarily husbands).
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not a problem at all for gay or lesbians.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
This is my biggest disappointment. I've seen several Thais disrespect people of darker skin tones. They care very much about status and it seems to them that foreigners with darker skin must be of a lower income bracket. As a result they are not treated as well as their white counterparts. I've seen African Americans laughed at as they walk past and heard them make disrespectful comments. If have very dark skin I would really think about if you have "thick skin" as racial prejudices are commonplace here. Bummer for such an amazing city.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
I visited the Leaning Buddha, the Emerald Buddha, the National Museum, and the Grand Palace.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Shopping (MBK, Pratunam (must see), Siam Paragom, Centre World). Visit Pattaya and Phuket (local beaches).
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Shopping is amazing. You have a great opportunity to view the amazing sights here and tour all of Southeast Asia (i.e. Cambodia, Vietnam)
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
I'm reading "Letters from Thailand". It takes place in the 1940's but is a very good read.