Expats In Thailand: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Being an expat is often held up to be something of a hallowed experience. To live in a place other than your homeland, assimilate with the locals and emphatically change your life can only be a good thing. Right?

Well, yes. Absolutely true. But the reality – especially in Thailand – can be a little murkier…

When you think of an expat, the first thing that comes to mind is usually a professional at a multinational on a hefty expatriate package with kids in international schools. Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and Dubai all spring to mind as expat hubs.

And then we have Thailand.

Of course, most of the expats in Thailand are just like those from elsewhere – often they’re qualified teachers, company owners, professionals in some way, shape or form. Many – especially men – marry locals and assimilate fully into the culture, often having Thai children and living out long, happy lives over here.

But then you have the minority whose actions can tarnish the reputations of everyone else: the prejudiced, the White Knights, the Cheap Charlies.

In short: the arseholes.

There’s shades of grey in expat communities all over the world, regardless of nationalities – here are some of the favourable, and less than favourable traits we’ve seen on display by expats in Thailand over the years.

The Good


  • Have a wide breadth of life and travel experience to draw from – often with unique perspective and great stories to boot. For examples, see the gazillions of blogs, vlogs, websites, the What’s On Sukhumvit homepage and more, to get a taste of the shiteload of experience people are hanging out to dry for just one… more… click.
  • Are curious by nature; always looking for new people, places and things to discover.
  • Are friendly, accepting of new people and cultures and non-judgmental. You can be whoever you want to be in Thailand, and the expats here will take you as you are.
  • Are knowledgeable, whether in language or customs, and are generally willing to help others.
  • Are often laidback, and happy to adapt to new circumstances.
  • Can find humour in less than ideal situations, whether it was taking ‘coup selfies’ back in 2014 or getting pumped for the unpredictable thrills of 90-day reporting.

The Bad


  • Can be cynical to the point of being jaded, unable to find the good in their home country or Thailand, and consequently…
  • Don’t know when to quit, pack it all in and just go back home.
  • Can be insufferable bores with self-indulgent stories and unwarranted advice. To all the Bar Stool Barrys: shut up, mate.
  • Can act superior towards new, less experienced expats. For the live feed of this, head on over to the Thaivisa forum.
  • Become ‘White Knight’ keyboard warriors, defending Thailand beyond all comprehension and telling any naysayers, “You know where the airport is.”
  • Might refuse to bow to local laws and customs in a misguided effort to show themselves above the law. A certain Aussie found himself under fire recently when he shot his mouth off about police corruption in Thailand while moaning about being fined for driving without a licence. Apparently “no white person” that he knew of would have such a licence in Thailand. Sure.

The Ugly


  • Might bring their prejudices from their home-country to Thailand, including racism and sexism. A Bangkok expats Facebook group was recently banned following a load of abuse from some members on a photograph of an unsuspecting woman at a pro-feminism event.
expats in thailand

CHARMERS. [Via Buzzfeed]

  • Can be rude or even dehumanising to the locals, such as assuming every local woman spotted in the vicinity of the Nana neighbourhood is available for hire.
  • Use Thailand as a front to hide from the rule of law, choosing to deal drugs or indulge in other criminality. Or to ride their motorbikes on the pavement.
  • Project their own insecurities and issues onto Thailand, rather than deal with their problems on a personal level. Problem with the girlfriend? Of course, it’s because she’s Thai, not because you can’t handle relationships!
  • Expect Thailand to be just like their home country and refuse to adapt themselves to their new surroundings. Sometimes it’s best to take it as it comes, with a pinch of salt and a mai pen rai.


Where do you fit in on the spectrum of Thailand’s expats?

Featured image is by Roberto.Trombetta and used under a Creative Commons licence



About Author

Staff Writer for What's On Sukhumvit

Comments are closed.