The Top 10 types of expat in Thailand (2019)

Being an expat in Thailand you’ll go through plenty of phases – from excitement, to astonishment, to bewilderment, to acceptance – it’s all an exciting journey, and will rarely go to plan. But that’s why so many of us love living in Thailand.

There are some particular sub-sets of Thai expat we can spot a mile away. Far from type-casting a typical expat, we provide these sub-sets as a guide – there are plenty of other varieties of  expats floating around Thailand.

We should also mention that in 2019 there’s a much broader range of expats living in Thailand. Contrary to popular wisdom (aka. the internet chat rooms), the numbers of expats are growing every year and they are coming from just about everywhere, not just the UK, northern Europe, Australia and the US, as in the past.

1. The search of a wife

Finding looking for love in the West daunting? Or had a few failed marriages? Head to Asia and find a wife there instead. Right?!

These gentlemen come to Thailand for the sole purpose of finding love and maybe a wife. There seems to be some belief that Asian women are going to be more polite, obedient and submissive than the women in their own country. They’re about to get a shock.

Others are looking to ‘trade in’ their older, western model for a younger, prettier Asian version. And where are you going to find this source of Asian ladies? At an expat bar (or on the internet these days). And so the well-trodden path and litany of perilous adventures begins. We know how most of these relationships end.

Of course there are many western men, and women, who do find a Thai partner and live long, happy lives. But they’re vastly out numbered by the stories of love-gone-wrong in the Land of Smiles.

  1. Don’t take it too seriously
  2. Read a couple of hundred stories on the internet before moving in with the Thai GF
  3. Have deep pockets

NB. Guys, the bar girls don’t actually love you.

2. The businessman

Many professional expats live, mostly in Bangkok, working for big international companies on salaries that would make them rich in any country. They can afford to, and do, live the high life. Some are single but others bring their family along for the adventure. They rent a big house, have a live-in maid, a driver and live a great life indeed. But, living their life in an artificial bubble in their working years, they rarely transition into a more mundane retired life in ‘normal’ Thailand.

3. Retiring in Thailand

The mantra used to be that you could move to Thailand and live off your pension (which would translate to lots and lots of baht), walking the Phuket beaches, shopping in Bangkok or living a quiet life in Chiang Mai. The perfect retirement lifestyle.

Other single, mostly, men would be lured by a carefree life of cheap beer, endless beaches and a seemingly endless supply of attractive young ladies in the many bars.

A lot of this has changed in recent years as the Thai economy has gained strength, along with the Thai Baht, and some international currencies have deflated meaning that people hoping to live off their overseas pensions or savings are not getting the same bargain they once did. Especially living in tourist hubs like Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya, the cost of living has been rising in recent years pricing them out of the retirement market.

If you’re contemplating a retired life in Thailand spend some time on the internet and come and spend a few months in selected locations. Try before you buy and don’t start packing the crockery until you’ve done your homework and your sums.

4. Teaching English

The English teacher is found everywhere in the LOS (Land of Smiles) and is still a reasonably sure-fire way to extend your time living in Thailand.

These teachers usually break down into four categories….  Some are career educators and love teaching English, others are backpackers trying to extend their stay and top up their travel spend, there are some older guys who have spent their savings and will do anything to stay in Thailand. Finally, there’s the bored wives who want something useful and meaningful to fill their days whilst their husbands work for larger international companies.

There are numerous TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) courses around the country. The pay’s not great and you’ll be living a local lifestyle rather than the lap of luxury. But many former teachers remember their time teaching English in Thailand fondly and say they’ll never forget the smiling Thai children.

5. The entrepreneurial spirit

Savvy business people often come to Thailand for some better weather and the chance to make their fortune. The joke used to be that if you wanted to start a small business in Thailand, just invest in a big business here and wait a few years.

But many actually make a go of it and end up doing well. Like starting a business anywhere else in the world, do your homework and make sure you tick all the right boxes, including a business and marketing plan (in a foreign country).

The flashy, brash real estate hacks that sell one property a year and spend the other 364 days sitting at the beach bar spending their commission, are a local cliché and a dime a dozen.

Remember that the paperwork and administration requirements of a Thai company can be bewildering and you WILL need some good local advice before you open up shop. Take someone who’s already done it for a few years to dinner and ask lots of questions.

6. The bored wife

Many of the categories mentioned so far have a predominance of males. Life for a single foreign woman in Thailand can be a challenge. Kudos to those who cut through the cultural issues and make a go of it (and I know many).

There’s also the wives and partners of the many, many men who get to work in Thailand and bring their families with them. The live-in maid, driver and shopping trips eventually get boring and they will often be looking for other things to do. In most cases their visas won’t allow them to legally work. So many do end up doing various charity and volunteer work (thought you should be very clear about what your visa will and won’t allow you to do).

There are numerous expat groups around the country to provide information, social outings and community for the many mums or spouses who find themselves at a loose end whilst the husband works in the office. Jump on your computer and do some homework and you’ll discover a whole new world of other woman out there.

Your next coffee or movie gal-pal is as far away as the internet.

7. The fresh-starter

For whatever reason, Thailand seems to attract its fair share of misfits, vagrants and social outcasts that can’t seem to get their act together in their home country. So they come to Thailand where the cheap booze, beaches and travel brochures have lured them.

Of course they find a very different culture and an entirely new list of reasons they can’t fit in and get their life established.

Some are just running away from 1) bad marriages 2) the law 3) anything-they-don’t-want-to-confront.

The long term prognosis for many of these misfits isn’t good. We end up reading about them as over-stayers, drink driving road deaths or victims of balcony falls.

8. Sexpats

‘Sexpats’ are notorious and much-maligned. They come to Thailand, lured by a slightly old-fashioned notions of the Kingdom as an easy place to find sex. And sometimes, in some locations the opportunities are still available, for a price. Sexpats usually hang around other expats who are less likely to frown on their indulgences. The three P’s – Patpong, Patong and Pattaya – sum up most of the popular sexpat locations.

In most cases they’re here for a good time, not a long time, and will frequent the sleazier locations in Thailand pursuing their goals and, eventually, running out of money or getting bored. Or getting into trouble. Or contracting any number of available STDs.

There’s also a subset of the sexpat that will find themselves on the very outer fringes of society – the pedophile. Thailand, and other south east asian countries, have provided solace for these people in the past but recent crackdowns are now detecting a lot of their activities and they are being increasingly rounded up, arrested or deported.

As a pedophile you will get zero sympathy from Thai authorities.

9. The serial complainer

Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever be as good in Thailand compared to where they come from. They will find fault in everything from the traffic to the food to the government to the medical system to the culture to the visa system to the corruption to the heat to the roads to the culture to the girls.

Surprise. Thailand is a foreign country with a rich, frequently bewildering culture. The longer you spend here, the less it all makes sense. But that’s part of the glorious adventure of living in Thailand. Whilst many expats revel in the wonders and excesses of Thai life, some just wallow in their own self-righteousness.

Many of these haters and complainers have never been to Thailand but are happy to share their wisdom, often, in chat rooms and social media. Blah, blah, blah.

Worse, there are plenty of haters living amongst us who bore us sideways with their whinging and complaining. They can be directed to the nearest international airport where they are invited to escape the country they so despise and return to their homeland or just go somewhere else, anywhere really.

10. The digital nomads

We see them tapping away on their keyboards at cafés and work spaces around the country. As long as they have wifi their business is open. They’re trading stocks and shares, selling property, gambling, posting stories, filing news reports, selling stuff on their Facebook pages – they’re working.

If you can run your business outside of a traditional office, hey, why not do it sitting next to a beach or high up in a mountain overlooking Chiang Rai. The digital nomads fall between the cracks in the Thai Immigration system and often have to run the gauntlet of dodgy visas and visa runs although a recently introduced Smart Visa helps some of them get a proper visa.

There is an increasing range of co-working spaces opening around the country and almost every café in Thailand will now have wifi – whether it’s working or not is another matter. Then again you can always tether your phone to your laptop and use your smartphone’s wifi.

10a. The Keyboard Warriors

We can’t leave this group out because there seems to be a large contingent of keyboard warriors out there who keep Thai website administrators busy. They respond to everything that’s posted and are keen to share their expert advice on the matter. On ALL matters. A virtual Library of Congress when it comes to dispensing their opinions and vast knowledge about all matters relating to life in Thailand, or anywhere really.

Web administrators (The Thaiger included) are kept busy ‘hiding’ some of their extravagant claims, nonsense or thinly-veiled abuse at the writer of the story, the website generally or other commenters.

There is one website in Thailand who does a roaring trade based on the clicks of expats that seem to have nothing better to do than whinge, complain, comment and click, click, click on a broad range of matters, particularly those concerning traffic accidents, ladyboys, visa overstayers and police matters.

It’s a love-hate relationship. We hate their monotonous drivel but we love their traffic.

Tim Newton

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

View Comments

  • does posting a comment making me automatically a keyboard warrior?
    I cant agree more with the listing, but there are really some old guys living here because they are loving the country as it is, even if everything is changing and not all to the best!
    .
    Sometimes i understand our government (Thaigovernment) and sometimes i dont. Usually they should intrested in making money by creating TAX income...but i cant see the so called digital nomads or guys living here on a ThaiBoxing Visa or Language Visa to make much Tax out of them. Usually this guys living cheap in houses which was build actually for Thaipeople, so taking the place for Thais away, eating fried rice, and drinking water, staying with each other or having a Thaigirlfriend who thinks she can make it back with them one day into their country.
    :
    The other guys, the expats always complaining how terrible things are and what Thailand could do much better, they should pack and leave.
    :
    Thailand will make it harder in future, since they are not blind and they see whats going on in "our" home countries. Many have left, many more want to leave but its not easy anymore with the pension most people get, so they will not spent much here and also create no TAX income...

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