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Things to Think Of Before Living Abroad

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are going to be discussing things to think about when moving abroad. I am doing this from the context of having lived in Thailand for 10 years. Those who watch this video, there is probably some things in here that could be of interest to somebody moving to Spain from the United States or to Chile from the UK. It is not specific to Thailand and frankly every once in a while I like to do a video where I'm a little less constrained by the narrowness of the topic I get into.

I have seen a lot of folks move abroad over the years. I have seen a lot have tremendous success in doing so and I have seen a fair amount who have not been so successful and I just thought that I would kind of, for lack of a better word, pontificate on what I have seen works and what I have seen doesn't and what I think folks need to probably be aware of before moving someplace else.

Obviously the first one is the language. I do see a lot of people that move to Thailand and sort of assume the Thais should just know a lot of English and frankly it is not called England it is called Thailand and they speak Thai in Thailand and frankly due to their history and the very sort of somewhat insular nature of their culture, they are not as adept in English as certain other jurisdictions here in Southeast Asia and throughout the world. In many cases your average Thai doesn't have to be particularly proficient in English. They can go their whole life knowing very little English and can lead a perfectly fine life for that matter. So I often find expats or prospective expat who come down here to Thailand, they often sort of think that they can kind of get by without knowing a lot of Thai and look my Thai is functional at best, but at least I can get my point across when I am talking to people and have at least have a superficial discussion, get around in a taxi, buy food etc. I first lived in Korea and frankly the Thais are so accommodating, and I'm not saying the Koreans are cold or something, but in Korea they just did not help with your language at all. They sort of just said, I felt like the first few days there I only ate like one kind of food because I didn't know how to order anything else and it was a difficult experience but I learned Korean quite quickly. Again, the Thais are rather an accommodating people on a personal level and I do feel like there's a lot of folks that move at least to Thailand and assume that Thais should accommodate them and I think that that is a bad assumption to make.

Another thing that I see a lot of Farang or foreigners here in Thailand get kind of hamstrung on is banking. Banking, especially the past 10 years, the details and logistics of getting a personal,  just a personal bank account set up in Thailand, it has gotten more difficult overtime and they have made restrictions on it for those that don't have work permits or long term non-immigrant visa like a retirement Visa here in the Kingdom and they have basically, it is tough to get a bank account setup and I have seen, perhaps not expats so much but tourists who kind of are on the verge of maybe going down the expat road make really wild assumptions with respect to how banking should operate. The Thai banking system is very paper intensive compared to say the American system or I am sure the European or British systems of banking. It can be very slow. I had a member of my staff today  go and get a bank draft for use in the United States it took her like 2 or 3 hours at the at the bank to get it issued. We are not talking about substantial sum of money, it was a few hundred dollars that we needed to get this done for and it is just sort of the Nature of the Beast. Making assumptions about how the banking system works in the Kingdom is probably not the best idea. I suspect making similar assumptions about other jurisdictions is not the best idea. I suspect making similar assumptions about other jurisdictions, is not the best idea. Now, different countries, you are going to be talking about a different level of difficulty associated with banking. I suspect if you move from the US to Australia, it is probably not the hardest thing in the world to get a bank account.

Just moving forward on that notion, there is also a communication issue and this isn't specifically on language. It is almost a sort of a cultural disconnect that I see a lot of expats trying to make their way here in Thailand have real problems overcoming, and in fact I talked with other long-term expats about how there is a type of relatively long-term expat that hits about the 7-year mark, sort of hits a wall they just can't take, at least with Thailand, living in Thailand much longer and a lot of it I think comes from this sort of cultural disconnect. It's walking into a bank for example, having done business at that bank for years, and then out of nowhere they want some new document and it just pops up out of nowhere. I actually had a client once who got very upset that that exact scenario happened; he had been banking at the same place for years. They wanted some other document for him to I think it was to withdraw funds and he just snapped, got on a plane and never came back. He told me to pack up his stuff and send it to him. Was that the right thing? I think for him it probably was. I think he had hit his wit's end with the system. But the thing I am trying to get across with this video and with this specific topic on   the cultural disconnect, those looking to move here really should understand that there are going to be those moments; it is easier said than done to prepare for them and keep your cool when they come up; it is easier said than done to do that. I myself have lost my temper many times because just the sheer sort of, the seeming absurdity of a given regulation or something just was too much for me to bear and I sort of lost it. 

But that being said, that is not a good way to deal with things and in the long-term you have to kind of take an attitude of “okay, everything is going to be alright”. I suspect that this is very similar in other jurisdictions. It is not just in Thailand issue. I am sure if you moved to South America somewhere, there's probably jurisdictions in South America that have very similar circumstances. I have talked to people who live in Italy and they say “Yes actually there are certain aspects of dealing with the Thai government that are very similar to dealing with certain aspects of the Italian government.” I have not trying to point out just one specific jurisdiction. I am just trying to provide a little bit of a conceptual framework for those who are really serious about moving abroad. Maybe I should say Americans specifically moving abroad because getting outside of your comfort zone, although it can be very much an adventure, at the same time it can result in some ill-will and some wasted resources and time and a lot of frustration. If you are unable to sort of enter the phase in your life that you're going into and being an expat, if you are unable to enter it without at least taking stock and trying to understand what you're getting into before you get into it.