Did you ever daydream about being in a place where everything is perfect, where you feel totally at ease and happy? I have not found such a perfect place on planet earth, and to my best knowledge it does not exist.
But some places come much closer than others, and Thailand is in this category. No country is perfect, and neither is Thailand. But there is a good reason why tens of thousands of expatriates have decided on settling here.
Actually there are ten good reasons I can think of.
1. Thailand is quite a safe place
I am not saying there is no crime here – there is. But it hardly ever touches expatriates. Did you notice I did not say “tourists”? Expatriates know their way around. They know what things cost, which situations to avoid, and what to do.
Tourists are a little more exposed to petty crimes like overcharging or some scams that target the ignorant like buying fake jewelry. Or they might fall for the story of a bar girl who is a past master in making you part with your money and giving it to her.
Expats don’t generally fall for those games. They know them and just avoid them. But despite the inherent vulnerability of tourists, there is hardly any violent crime directed towards them in Thailand, and you are generally perfectly safe walking around in any Thai city at 2 am in the morning. You can’t say that about a lot of cities on this planet.
2. Thais are naturally polite
Did you ever travel to some country, and found people aggressive or even rude? I certainly have.
I don’t have to go very far – in my own home country, the USA, if I make a little mistake in traffic, people get easily upset, give me the finger or yell at me.
In Thailand this almost never happens. People cut each other off in traffic all day long, they park in bizarre places, and they disrupt traffic by doing the wrong thing, but nobody gets upset, nobody honks their horn, and nobody yells at you.
This is not typical for all Asian countries. In India or Vietnam you can go deaf from all the horn honking, but in Thailand you hardly ever hear a car horn.
3. Thais are friendly
I mean really friendly, and they smile at you all the time, even if you do something stupid.
I am not saying that the famous Thai smile always comes straight from the heart, but wouldn’t you rather have someone smile at you if you do something stupid rather than frowning, lecturing you or shaking their fist at you?
And many times the Thai smile really does come from the heart. Being impolite or rude is simply not acceptable in the Thai culture.
4. Price stability
Most prices in Thailand are fairly fixed, at least compared to many other Asian countries.
Why is that a big deal? Did you ever travel to a country where you have to bargain for every little thing, even a 10 cent sweet, for about 10 minutes? Try Vietnam or some middle eastern countries. It can be exasperating.
Many tourists argue that they don’t mind paying a little more since it is so cheap anyway. That’s not a good idea, since you will end up paying twice as much for your vacation, and you help drive prices up even more. The vendor will try to charge the next tourist even more.
In Thailand prices for public transportation are mostly fixed, and in the markets the vendors sell their goods at fairly fixed prices that are mostly displayed in writing.
Even if there is some bargaining going on, it is more along the lines of a polite “can you make a little discount?” They almost always agree. There is no vicious drawn out bargaining going on. It is such a relief, as I can tell you from experience.
However there are areas where you have to be careful. If you try to buy property in Thailand, you will be taken to the cleaners if you don’t know what you are doing. But in everyday life, I know that I am paying the same as the Thais in almost all areas, and I don’t have to fight for it.
5. Thailand is an easy place to be
Things work here, buses leave exactly on time, the infrastructure is good, you can find anything you want including all western goods.
Thailand is a relatively organized place compared to some other Asian countries. It is clean, easy to travel around, pretty stress free and uncomplicated. Nobody is pushing and shoving, people even stay in line at counters (most of them at least).
Many times I heard the same comments from travelers – they were relieved to be in Thailand after coming from a more chaotic place like India for example.
6. The cost of living is quite low in Thailand
But – not for everything. Thai food is quite cheap, but prices for western food can be much higher than in the West. Simple accommodation is a bargain, but a western style condo is not.
Cars and electronics can be expensive too. If you live simply and comfortably, the cost of living is lower than in most other parts of Asia and much lower than in the West.
7. Cultural diversity
If you travel in North America, there is not much of a difference between big towns and small towns.
But in Thailand there is not only more of a difference, but it feels like you are being transported back 100 years in time.
There are gleaming malls in modern cities, but the villages in the country appear to look like they must have looked forever without much change.
Charming teakwood houses on stilts, dogs sleeping in the middle of the road, colorful flowers, plants and trees everywhere, and ‘hurry’ is not even in the vocabulary of the people there.
8. Warm climate
Ok, I admit it, sometimes it’s a little too warm. But if the alternative is shoveling snow in the winter in Minnesota or Canada, the hot season in Thailand seems quite tolerable. You only need one kind of wardrobe here: shorts, T-shirts, and sandals.
9. Sabai sabai and maipenrai
Thailand is quite a relaxed and laid back place which is not the case in all Asian countries. Thais don’t stress out easily like the Japanese for example, and they don’t get upset over little things that would cause waves in other countries.
Thais like to enjoy life and they have a word for it: “sabai sabai”, which means it’s fun, enjoyable, pleasant, or relaxing.
The other important word in the Thai vocabulary is “maipenrai”, which means it’s ok, no problem, don’t worry, no big deal, forget about it. These two expressions nicely encapsulate the essence of the Thai attitude to life.
10. The availability of good and cheap massage
In the western world, massage is a luxury. A one-hour session can set you back between $50 and $120, depending on where you are. In Thailand there are massage shops everywhere, and you can treat yourself to Thai Massage, foot massage, or oil massage for $7-$10 per hour.
This is one of the great pleasures of being in Thailand. You can pamper yourself without breaking the bank. And you might even do your health a whole lot of good in this way.
The author, Shama Kern, has been living in Thailand for close to two decades with his Thai wife. They have traveled all over Thailand together. You can reach Shama at firstname.lastname@example.org