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Where is the world’s most popular place for expats? You won’t believe it.

Tim Newton

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This city is the winner of the 2017 Expat Insider Survey. I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of it.

Where is the best place in the world to live as an expat? Mexico? Thailand? Malaysia? Bahrain? BAHRAIN?! No way, surely not.

But yes. Manama, the capital of Bahrain, has come out on top in a survey of the world’s best places for international expats to settle.

The Internations.org survey is full of surprises. Locally, the survey places Kuala Lumpur fourth in the overall list of 51 cities ranked best to worst for expats to set up home in, with Manama, Prague, and Madrid just slightly ahead.

The study compiles responses from nearly 13,000 people living and working abroad.

Expat Insider 2017 is one of the most extensive expat studies worldwide. Apart from offering an in-depth analysis of expat life in 51 cities, the survey ranks them by a variety of factors from the area’s quality of urban living, getting settled, urban work life, as well as finance and housing.

According to all these rating factors, the top 10 cities for expats are Manama, Prague, Madrid, Kuala Lumpur, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Bangkok (in 8th place), Basel and Frankfurt.

Though there’s consistency in the bottom 3 voted countries, the surprises this year are Bahrain, Costa Rica and Mexico knocking the 2016 winners off the podium.

• Bahrain leaps from 19th to 1st due to ease of settling in and career satisfaction.

• Costa Rica’s warm welcome and pura vida vibe see it take second place.

• Mexico remains a favorite; expats find it easy to settle and good value for money.

Bangkok barely struggled into this year’s top 10 having to settle for eighth place this year. (PHOTO: NationMultimedia)

None of last year’s top 3 retained their spot this year but the bottom three remain the same – Kuwait, Greece and Nigeria (I have friends living in Santorini and swear it’s an amazing place to live – they’re digital nomads so maybe they just need good wi-fi, some cheap accommodation and bars open late.)

While Bahrain barely made the top 20 in 2016, improvements across all indices that factor into the ranking have seen the Gulf state take pole position in 2017.

Bahrain really excels in making expats feel at home, and the country tops the ‘Ease of Settling In’ index. It also comes first for being able to get by without learning the local language; one Kyrgyz respondent likes that “Bahrainis are very friendly and welcoming. Everyone speaks English”. In fact, a quarter of expats in Bahrain (25%) say they started feeling at home almost straight away. This is particularly impressive given that a third of respondents in Bahrain (33%) have never lived abroad before.

Respondents are also happy with their careers. Not only does Bahrain rank third in the ‘Working Abroad Index’, it is also second in the ‘Job & Career’ as well as the ‘Work-Life Balance’ subcategory. Expats in Bahrain are less positive, however, about the state of the economy (25th place), with the county ranking 18th in the ‘Job Security’ subcategory.

Many respondents praised the country: one American expat called it “a beautiful melting pot of many different cultures”, and another respondent from the Philippines said it was their “home away from home”. With such glowing reviews, it’s no surprise that almost a third of expats (32%) see themselves staying in Bahrain for more than five years, and 11% say they might stay forever.

KL’s ease of long-term visa hassles, variety of food, cost of living and ease of communication scored well. (PHOTO: Lonely Planet)

Locally, KL was the top performer coming in fourth place ahead of BKK in eighth place.

Although Islam is the main recognised religion of Malaysia, many other faiths are celebrated through public holidays, like Diwali and Chinese New Year. Expats also praised the city for being understood by locals, way ahead of Bangkok where non-Thai speakers can struggle.

Being an expat in Kuala Lumpur will also make your bank account smile. The city came in second in the category of finance and housing, just marginally behind Bangkok.

Expats in Kuala Lumpur have reported finding the housing search particularly easy, with 46 percent reporting that it is usually little or no difficulty in scooping up a place to live. As well as the ease of finding a house, the cost of upkeep and rent is kept to a minimal also.

With an average two-bedroom apartment in the city coming in at around US$650 per month in rent and 69 percent of expats surveyed said the financial pressures in Kuala Lumpur are kept to an absolute minimum.

Read all the winners and losers in the survey HERE.

 

- 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 2,800 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 330 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger and Phuket Gazette.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Honest Person

    December 18, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    K.L is good value however Singapore is by far the most racist and discriminatory against foreigners.

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Food Scene

How to Trust – Annie’s story

Darren Scherbain

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by Darren Scherbain

Putting yourself out there in the uncertainty, and exposing your raw vulnerability is downright scary. Who said charging after your dreams with courage and conviction was going to be EASY?

Starting your own business and making a vision become a reality requires an enormous amount of patience, persistence and perseverance. It’s so easy to double down on fear and what’s happened to you in the past. It’s so much easier to just be a dreamer and not a DOER.

Courage is the great equaliser that doesn’t hold you hostage to your past.

Annie  shared with me her 3 secrets of starting Coffee Tribe Phuket and how we can all add a little more courage and conviction into our lives:

• Why? You need to be brutally honest with yourself and ask this very important question: Why are you DOING this?  This is where honesty and self awareness will build an absolute rock solid foundation.

• Passion trumps money for chasing after success. Success isn’t something you get; its something you bring. It’s time we start reevaluating success and failure.

• Are You Ready? There will be an enormous amount of disappointment and an overwhelming sense that you can’t trust yourself. You have to be willing for the brick walls. The brick walls are not meant to keep us out but to challenge us… “How bad do you want this?”

There is only one person who can answer this question.

Making your dreams a reality requires an enormous leap of faith. You are going to run into the brick walls and acquire a few new shiny blisters. Annie also pointed out that in the first few years of starting Coffee Tribe she had countless nights of no sleep, an incredible amount of stress and lost sight of her ‘Why’. Annie ran out of fingers on her hands with all the times she wanted to quit and cash in her chips.

The dots are never going to connect and make perfect sense.

Let’s look at your track record up to this point in your life. Have you been able to handle everything that has come your way? What makes you so certain that you will not be able to handle the brick walls?

Head to Coffee Tribe in Rawai to experience Annie’s dream.

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Property

Three new luxury show suites open at flagship Twin Palms Residences

The Thaiger

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MONTAZURE ON STUNNING KAMALA BEACH

MontAzure, the upscale mixed-use residential resort community set on 454 rai (178 acres or 72 hectares) of mountainside to beachfront land in Kamala, has launched 3 new on-site beachfront show suites at the award-winning beach condominium development, Twinpalms Residences MontAzure.

Considered by real estate experts to be one of the most compelling lifestyle investment opportunities on Phuket, the development will be managed and operated by Twinpalms Group. Investors and visitors will be able to tour and experience all three of the units to really get a feel for the unique luxury island lifestyle on offer.

“Recent luxury investment trends on Phuket have seen a move away from private villas toward upscale condos, especially penthouse units with outdoor facilities. Buyers appreciate the opportunity to own these luxury properties on a freehold basis,” says MontAzure Executive Director Setthaphol Boottho.

“Properties managed by reputable brands also attract savvy investors, as the condos can be rented out to international visitors and therefore generate income when owners are not using them,” he added.

Andreas Savvides of Haveli Design, whose pedigree includes several landmark residential developments in Bangkok including 185 Rajadamri and The River, designed the interiors for two of the new show units at Twinpalms Residences MontAzure, one of which is a stunning penthouse with a rooftop pool and ocean view sun deck.

As the first phase of the expansive MontAzure master-planned mixed-use development, the luxury beachfront condominiums have already attracted lifestyle-driven investors looking for a combination of hotel-based yields and usage time, along with strong capital appreciation due to the rare beachfront location. Owners enjoy privacy and world-class facilities without having to employ their own staff as they would at a private villa.

The development is sensitively designed as a series of low-rise clusters orchestrated around generous communal swimming pools with intimate views of the beautifully landscaped grounds. One-bedroom units are sized from 70 to 250sqm while the two-bedroom units range from 154 to 400sqm. The developers also recently added super penthouses measuring an impressive 799sqm and offering stunning views of Phuket’s idyllic sunset coast. Prices for entry-level investment units start from 15.5 Million baht.

Part of the development’s beachfront zone, Twinpalms Residences MontAzure is just a short stroll along the beach from HQ Beach Lounge, which has become an island favourite for its chic, contemporary oceanfront dining and entertainment. The sea view restaurant at HQ serves delicious light fare, signature cocktails, fine wines and an eclectic music selection to match the casual surroundings. 

Right next door to HQ Beach Lounge, lifestyle aficionados can enjoy causal fine dining, world class drinks and entertainment at Café Del Mar, Phuket’s hippest waterfront venue with 40 metres of beach frontage and chic tropical design. A rolling schedule of events includes weekly pool parties, international guest DJs, and tempting food and drinks promotions to attract a stylish global clientele.

Enhancing the unique choice of word-class beachfront facilities, MontAzure’s anchor hotel, InterContinental Phuket Resort, will open this year to offer visitors and residents of Kamala even more options for dining and entertainment, complementing the breathtaking sea views and tropical surroundings.

“Twinpalms Residences MontAzure offers buyers a rare opportunity to own a property within an integrated beachfront resort and residential community just steps from the pristine sands at Kamala beach and within walking distance of the island’s most popular beachfront venues,” says Henri Young, Director of Marketing at MontAzure.

To mark the launch of the new show suites and MontAzure is offering buyers a guaranteed return on investment for 3 years on selected units, as well as free furniture packages valued up to 2 Million baht. 

For more information or to make an appointment to view the show units call +66 93 624 8800 or email [email protected]

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Opinion

Wai Khru – setting a bad example for the future. Thailand’s demand for respect from its young

The Thaiger

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Hazing (US English), initiation ceremonies (British English), bastardisation (Australian English), ragging (South Asia), or deposition, refers to the practice of rituals, challenges, and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group including a new fraternity, sorority, team or club.

In Thailand, hazing is not only rife, it’s seen as a rite of passage for young Thais as part of their cultural inculcation into the subservience they’re expected to display elders or people with more money or higher positions than them. What’s mistaken for ‘respect’ is actually a cultural party trick where children and young adults are ‘trained’ to be deferential from an early age.

In recent years there have a been a few high-profile deaths of army trainees, in the care of their Academy leaders, but allegedly subjected to initiations and bastardisation that is just ‘par for the course’ for the education of young Thais.

In a response to the recent death of Phakhapong Tanyakan at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on October 17 last year, the Thai Deputy PM and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan claimed that he “was not beaten to death, but just too weak to withstand tough training.”

He went further saying “I was once beaten more than I could take and I fainted too. I didn’t die. For this, before the school accepts kids for entry, they must give them a proper physical check-up.”

When you get you get such official, public, responses from the top you can see how this hazing culture continues to thrive in the, otherwise, Land of Smiles.

We spoke to three foreign teachers in Thailand, all speaking on condition of anonymity, about the culture of hazing in their schools and the benign version of that in primary schools, ‘wai khru’.

“Hazing is seen in many different types of social groups, including gangs, sports teams, schools, military units, fraternities and sororities. The initiation rites can range from relatively benign pranks and was khru, to protracted patterns of behavior that rise to the level of abuse or criminal misconduct.”

For the families of hazing victims these ceremonies can be catastrophic, as in the tragic case of Phakhapong Tanyakan.

A 19-year-old armed forces cadet, previously subjected to harsh physical discipline, suddenly died a day after returning to school from a break. His parents were told he suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest but became suspicious of possible foul play after a detailed autopsy report never came. – Khaosod English

But he’s not the only one. Hazing and cruel or unusual initiations are conducted every day around the Kingdom but with a growing concern about the practices, both from the young students themselves and concerned older Thais, who realise the dangers of ‘persuading’ youngsters to respect elders needs examination in a modern 21st century Thailand.

We spoke to a respected senior Thai businessperson, again on the condition of anonymity, who said he had seen too much hazing going on during his time at school and then whilst training in the military.

“I was a victim of this type of bullying. I was told to ‘be a man’ and that all Thai men have to go through this. I think it is degrading and breaks human spirits. It teaches fear of those we are meant to respect. It has to change.”

It all starts when young Thais are subjected to the Wai Khru or ‘Teacher Wai’ where students are expected to prostrate themselves in front of their teachers in a show of respect. But a broad spectrum of foreign teachers not only feel uncomfortable with this faux-deference, some of them go out of their way to be away for that day or, sometimes, even speak out about their concern with this tradition.

“I made the mistake of speaking out about the Wai Khru in our school. I just found it demeaning for the poor students who had to rehearse all week for this totally meaningless show of respect. I didn’t feel respected, I felt sick. I ended up being ostracised and had to leave that school.”

Whilst many Thais continue to wonder why westerners might find all this kowtowing and prostrating could cause concern, you just need to examine the deaths in the Army preparatory schools as the end result of ‘demanding’ obedience and deference to elders. In western culture, I have learned, respect is something that is earned, not demanded.

“Hazing is undignified, humiliating and cruel… not my words, but the words of students who are made go through this horrible experience. It’s meant to be a sign of showing respect to your seniors but it’s nothing more than a shameful indulgence at the expense of the students,” said a long-term foreign teacher.

“Making students crawl around on the ground acting like animals in front of their peers, does nothing for either senior or freshie students. I have stopped attending Wai Khru day as I find it terribly uncomfortable for myself and for the students. You can see the look in their eyes as they approach you and are ordered to bow before the teacher. Teachers, like everyone else, should learn how to earn the respect of their students.”

A young female foreign teacher first thought that the Wai Khru was ‘cute’ but has changed her tune over the years.

“Wai khru was the highlight of my first year teaching in Thailand. I was, and still am, extremely humbled and deeply touched by this beautiful tradition intended to recognise a teachers’ role in children’s life and to give said children the opportunity to express their gratitude to their teachers.

“But throughout the years I have started to look at this event with a more critical eye and I wish it weren’t as rehearsed and staged as it unfortunately is. At our school, rehearsals for Wai Kru start a week prior to the event. During this week, children are drilled incessantly until they have mastered the walk, the bow and the wai leading up to the offering of the flowers that they are eager to free their sweaty little palms of.”

Wai Khru continues to be practiced in all Thai schools as a long standing tradition and show of respect for teachers.

“Although I understand and commend the wonderful intentions behind such practices, I feel that much like other sorts of drilling that these students endure, this sadly takes away from the true purpose of it all. For want of a picture perfect event, meaning is lost and a demonstration of gratitude is transformed into a dreaded labour,” she said.

An investigation into the death of Army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, by military investigators, found no wrongdoing by the Preparatory School. The parents have consistently called for a probe into their son’s death and are still pursuing legal action.

PHOTO: Army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan, who died at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on October 17 last year.

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