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Living In Thailand: Are You an Expat or an Immigrant?

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing living in Thailand and although I am rather hesitant to ever editorialize for lack of a better term on this channel, this is something that I have noticed needs to be sort of addressed and let me be clear, I don't wish to come off as condescending or as something of a know-it-all with respect to living in Thailand. Everyone has their own lifestyles. Different parts of Thailand are very different. They have very different paradigms, they have very different lifestyle choices, they have just a very different way of doing things. What works in Bangkok is very different from what works in Phuket and what works in Phuket is very different than what works in Chiang Mai. Different people find different things about different regions to be both positive and negative so I don't want this to come off as like some sort of comprehensive "everything you need to know". That is not really my purpose for this video but there is a certain paradigm that one needs to have if one plans to spend their foreseeable future in the Kingdom. 

What I mean to say is, there comes a point, I believe, where one needs to decide if they are an Expat i.e. somebody who is spending a prolonged period of time away from their home country and may never return to their home country to live, but does not necessarily believe they are going to be living the rest of their days in the Kingdom versus somebody who at a certain point I think a threshold is hit, where it becomes rather obvious or at least something to presume, which is that they are now an Immigrant as opposed to an Expat. I can totally understand how people might not understand the difference between these two. Many people from Western countries tend to call themselves Expats.  Me personally, from about the third or fourth year here in Thailand, I rather started thinking of myself as an Immigrant not so much as an Expat because although I do return to my home country Thailand is my home, again at least for the foreseeable future, so I view myself as in more the vein of an Immigrant as opposed to an Expat. 

Now there is nothing wrong with being an Expat and there is nothing wrong with being an Immigrant. Those two paradigms, in my opinion, there are different thought processes that flow from those paradigms so if you come from the standpoint of being an Expat it's okay. You have got a deal with certain things, for example pertaining to Thai Immigration, or you may be taking up accommodation that is more temporary in nature.  You may not be looking to buy a condo in Thailand instead you may be looking to rent a serviced apartment for a prolonged period.  You may not be looking to get into a long-term visa status akin to Permanent Residence or for example the Elite Card; those may not be necessarily what an expat is going to be looking for. Meanwhile, somebody who is more in the "immigrant mode", perhaps purchasing a condo or other real estate here in the Kingdom, may be beneficial to that individual depending on their status. At the same time getting into long-term Immigration status may be a good idea for those individuals.

The reason I bring this up is there seems to be a point with certain foreigners I have seen in the Kingdom, that “immigrating” "snuck up" on them. They started out in an expat mindset and they ended up as a practical matter in an immigrant situation where they basically immigrated. Whether or not they truly believe or feel that they are going to live in Thailand forever, they have spent a prolonged period of time here. They may have built up a business interest here. They may have built a family interest here and as a result they have planted roots, either consciously or inadvertently, they have planted roots in the Kingdom and those roots compel them to need to remain and at that point, rather than maintaining one's status in year on year in Non-immigrant Visa renewals, it may become more not only convenient, but it may become more appropriate for lack of better term, to get over into Permanent Residence for example and rather than renting forever in the Kingdom, it may become more prudent to go ahead and purchase a place to live. Again, everybody's lifestyle is different.

The thing I want people to think about with this video is one can start off here an expat. I certainly did. I came out here for a year, 12 years ago! So you can start off with your thinking one way but I think what I have noticed has made many an expat/immigrant better off in terms of their own peace of mind, is understanding exactly what they are when the circumstances arise. I have seen many expats that have been very happy. They have come and gone. They even come here for prolonged periods but they still are in Expat thinking mode and I have seen many people that are in Immigrant thinking mode. The problem I see is when people are actually as a practical matter they are an Immigrant for example but they are still thinking like an Expat or where they are an Expat but they are thinking like an Immigrant. You will sometimes see people who haven't been here very long that are thinking about making grand plans for the longer-term. Maybe it is a good idea to just focus on the immediate problems at hand rather than years down the road. Conversely, that can also be turned on its head for folks who have been here for a prolonged period of time but still can't quite wrap their head around being in Thailand forever or at least the foreseeable future. 

So those watching this video, the thing to take away from this, think about it. Do an evaluation, probably on a yearly basis if you are living here. Am I an Expat or am I an Immigrant? I don't think there is bright line at which you know “this specific Tuesday into the following Wednesday things change”. There is change. It tends to creep but it is fact based. It is based on one’s own lifestyle choices. Everybody is going to be different but the frequent reassessment of one’s status and priorities in the Kingdom especially for Expats and Immigrants is never a bad idea.