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I had Christmas dinner with a group of American/Canadian expats who live in Bangkok. I was invited by Art who runs CrazyDogTravel.com and other websites. Most of the guys were involved in internet/web design so it was nice to be able to talk shop with some similar minded people; something I almost never get to do on the road. It was a buffet in an Indian restaurant which wasn’t bad. It was more than what you would pay for most meals in Bangkok, but it was Christmas so there isn’t really anything to complain about. I got my moneys worth and filled myself with seafood.
It was interesting to be in such a large group of expats, many of which have been in Thailand for over a decade. Most of them have Thai wives or girlfriends and seem to have every intention of staying in Thailand forever.
I’ve probably met more expats in Thailand than anywhere else I’ve been on my trip. I was told by one American guy I met in Vietnam that Pattaya alone is the largest expat community in the world with over 100,000 westerners living there. As he described it, it is one of the only places outside of the western world where you can live without making any of the compromises you have to make in other places. There are tons of golf courses, big box stores, western supermarkets, lots of restaurants and a very low cost of living.
What I found fascinating about the guys I met on Christmas was that they were basically doing the same work they would otherwise have done back in the US. So long as you have an internet connection, you really do have the freedom to live anywhere in the world your want.
One thing I’ve noticed with many of the expats I’ve met in SE Asia (everywhere but Australia actually) is that they are almost always men. The women I meet are usually married to western men, but many of the men are married to local women. I’m curious to see if I see the opposite trend in other parts of the world: expat women marrying local men. If what you see on movies and television is true, you should expect to see more expat women in places like Italy and France.
The idea of moving away from the US is something which is very strange to people who haven’t done much international traveling. The more of the world I see, the more I can understand why people do it. Thailand is a very comfortable place to live and it is also very affordable. There are downsides, but there are plenty of upsides to living abroad. If they had a better connection to the internet, I could see living somewhere like Samoa or Micronesia.
If you are an expat who lives in any country away from your homeland, please leave a comment giving your experiences. I’d especially love to hear how expat experiences might differ between men and women.