Thailand Expats

I had Christmas dinner with a group of American/Canadian expats who live in Bangkok. I was invited by Art who runs 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.

11 thoughts on “Thailand Expats”

  1. I’ve enjoyed your site for awhile, I love hearing about your adventures! I’m not free to travel constantly, mostly because I have no money, but I’m an expat living in Korea. It’s funny because in Korea many women come to teach English (like I do) but it’s true that the majority of “lifers” are men with local wives. Interesting and true observations!

  2. Gary:

    Not surprising the ex-pat’s you dined with were web-designers and whatnot. It’s difficult for nerds to find partners in the USA, 2008, even high I.Q., high-earners such as I’d imagine these guys were. The mating game is dominated by large, physically imposing fast-talkers. In California, at places like UCLA, lots of smart, Asian guys are stunned when they find their would-be Asian wives are dating black guys.

    Thai women are the perfect alternative for Western men who either can’t stand pushy feminists or who can’t compete in the current mating game which favors bling and muscle over brains.

  3. I think it is more a case of the grass is always greener. I can’t say I’ve met any western/Asian couples where the guy was a dick and tried to be controlling. If anything, I think the fact that western men are NOT that way might make them more attractive to Asian women. I dunno.

    I met more expat women in Australia than men. I assume, and will find out later, if the same holds true for Europe. I’m also interested to see how it holds up in Latin America and Africa.

  4. Gary, your remarks are interesting and accurate, IMO.

    I am an expat Canadian-American woman who has been permanently residing in Australia for the past 18 years. Yes, I’m married to an Aussie – too bloody right, mate! Because I arrived as an adult I still have my American accent and that has made me a target over the years for Aussie blokes with an ax to grind against “imperialist America”. Whew – sure am glad Obama was elected and I’m hoping that will protect me from the Bush bashing I experienced since the Iraq war began. Australian women never subjected me to this kind of abuse – only the men.

    Ah, well it’s not like I wasn’t warned. My Australian mother left Sydney in 1946, the only unmarried woman on a ship full of war brides sailing for San Francisco to join their American husbands. My mother refused to be chained to a stove and dreamed of touring America. She would tell me stories about Australia growing up and her view on Australian men – her intense dislike, that is. They were rude, selfish and abusive to their wives and families. And so I married an Australian and later settled in her hometown of Sydney. Is this some kind of cosmic joke?

    It appears that Western men view Asian women as less threatening and agreeably submissive. You’ll see quite a few older Australian men with Thai or Filipino women. I’m all for interracial, international marriages, but the thought that these men may be entering into a relationship in which they intend to control their wife makes me disgusted. I just wonder if that is the case in most of these relationships.

    In so far as the reverse, that’s more difficult as women are second class citizens in most Asian cultures and few Western women would be willing to accept a life of that kind. That is now, however. The world is changing rapidly. Someday the world may be come a safe and welcoming place for ALL women.

  5. My first expat experience was related to work where I spent a year and a half living outside of London. Unfortunately I spent maybe 2-3 weeks in the UK for the entire duration of my stay and was never able to truly assimilate to any international culture. I spent the entire time traveling for work in the whole of continental Europe which was an experience in and of itself. I felt more like a dilettante than someone who was truly understanding international business and operations. But I was able to understand many facets about the cultures to provide me an amazing learning experience. I was also able to make a more educated and informed decision about where I would love to live. While the UK was chosen for me by my US-based company who insisted that the UK was (while not cost effective) a better culture for an American to experience an expat life, I quickly realized that their decision was based entirely on misinformation. I would have been far better served in the Netherlands or Switzerland. At least now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

    Being a woman and an expat on business makes my experience a little different than the vast majority of expat women that I know. But knowing those women has greatly helped with assimilation into the culture and provided me some of the closest friendships I’ve ever experienced. I’m fascinated by understanding gender business relations in multi-cultural business. It’s been a great learning experience for me. I’ve certainly had my foibles but I’m learning a great deal and it’s improved my outlook on international travel.

    My next expat experience is going to be a full immersion so hopefully I can appreciate a lot of the things a new culture and environment will provide. It should be a great experience this time and allow me an opportunity to truly form a new love affair with my new country. I can’t wait.

  6. Do agree, very interesting post. I’m a French Canadian woman married to a Senegalise men I’ve met in Taiwan… Like globalgal, I love the expat lifestyle and I can’t wait to get back to this life. As a freelance journalist and writer, I can work from eveywhere.

    When I was living in Asia, I’ve met plenty of men who were openly saying they choose Asia for women. But I only had one Caucasian friend who got married to a Taiwanese man (the got divorces a couple years ago). I had an Asian boyfriend for a few month before meeting my husband and it was kindda hard to deal with all the family stuff and the culture (I was always confused with the jetlag between what he was saying and what he was doing… can happen in every culture, but all the «saving face» stuff in Asia can get really annoying). So I think you’re right, some cultures are easier to deal with for women, and other for men…

  7. Interesting read Gary. I find many factors affected my decision to live in Japan. Change of scenery, women, food, gateway to other areas easier and also just the fact that every day has an added excitement that was missing after living in Astralia for 34 years. It`s grea being able to immerse yourself into a different culture, learn a language and see what it`s like elsewhere … first hand. I only know of a few girls that have made the move, that was to France, US, Singapore and HK. Much different places and the asias ones aren`t really full blown asia, they`re English speaking, western oriented places.

  8. Interesting observations and I would have to say that I agree with them. I am an American expat woman married to a Spanish man, but we do not live in Spain we live in China. Of all the expat blogs I follow written by women, many are married to European men and living in the corresponding European country. Others are married to men from their same country and living in a third country. I do read two blogs of American/British women married to Chinese/Hong Kong men, but overall the percentage would be low, except for Japan, which seems to have a large community of foreign women married to Japanese and blogging. Completely unscientific observations, but there you go.

    I, personally, have no plans to return to the US to live. While I might see myself retired in Spain, I don’t envision us living there full-time either. We love the expat lifestyle, and particularly love living in Asia. Why is that? Ease of travel, good food, low cost of living, out of the “rat race” & mass consumption culture of US… and I’m a Third-Culture Kid who is used to not belonging; I am more comfortable in a culture/environment that is not my own.

  9. I met a lot of ex-pats throughout Southeast Asia. Most felt it was a very comfortable place to be for a variety of reasons. Westerners are well respected in the area in comparison to moving to many other areas where resentment may creep in.

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