Sunday, 8 August 2010

Still here close to two years later

I arrived in Thailand in October 2008 having done little preparation on the country or life here. Over the course of time since then, both my missus (as a Thai) and I have learnt so much about living out here whilst raising a family.

My knowledge and comfort in being out here has grown as I’ve picked up an understanding of Thai culture, the language and nuisances of everyday life in this country.

We deliberately chose to come back to Thailand for the first years of my son’s life. We didn’t know how long we’d stay but neither of us was particularly enamoured with the prospect of raising the fella in London, where just renting a house alone takes up a huge chunk of our hard earned wages.

Neither of us wanted our son to grow up through perpetual childcare with two working parents, there had to be an alternative to life in London on my salary – though great for a twenty something guy living the urban life – and that was Thailand.

Nearly two years later, with another kiddie on the way, our thinking is shifting to a different paradigm of thougt.

Location is no longer our primary motivation for remaining in Thailand, or indeed anywhere.

When you’ve lived in rural Thailand and ‘earned baht’ – as an American guy stuck in the country without the means to return home once counselled me – many things become out of your range, suddenly the lure of a salary in London becomes somewhat stronger.

Though life is perhaps more comfortable out here, it comes with restrictions as you slip into Thailand-only mode.

That is to say, Thai prices which seem cheap and an absolute steal for tourists are normal for you...while you can do anything you please in Thailand, you are restricted on leaving the country where your hard-earned cash gets you far less.

For example, our trip back to England last year was only made possible courtesy of an early birthday present (the cost of flights) from my family, while prices back home genuinely scared me compared to cheep-as-chips Thailand.

This doesn't mean I believe we made the wrong decision coming out in Thailand, far from it, it was the right decision which we do again a hundred times over again.

Coming to Thailand we (particularly I) have learnt so much that I wouldn’t not have found in London. Opportunity knocks here I’ve been fortunate to do and be part of some very interesting things, open interesting doors etc...but now, more than ever, our future will not be about geographical location alone, it will be about career opportunity (for both my wife and I), lifestyle and quality of living.

These things have, of course, always been important to us...but from now on, it may be Thailand or it may be somewhere else...

In the meanwhile, I’m looking at a series of informative posts based on a few experiences I’ve had out here.

They may/may not be relevant to anyone but, for my own thought process and digestion of events, I’m going to be exploring them in more detail.

This post isn’t the precursor to us leaving Thailand but instead reflective of a change in our recent thinking - from my new lease of freedom working freelance - which doesn’t discount living in other countries, specifically the UK, just because they are not Thailand.

My situation is quite unique compared to others I know, and don’t know, many of whom are older, without family responsibilities and out here having invested time in a career at ‘home’ – wherever that may be – and are retiring in Thailand or reinventing themselves out here.

Unlike them, I spent less than four years working in London, so my career and our future prospects are still very much in development and - after finally knocking teacher on the head earlier this year - we are looking at my next career opportunity as a family and in more detail than our initial last-minute move out to Thailand.

While also, looking at other expats, with children and a wife my situation is very different to most I know who have already ruled out the potential of returning home. A friend’s recent happy return to repatriation in the USA from Thailand – ‘the right decision’ as he calls it – is proof that there is life after Thailand, and we needn’t restrict ourselves to being in Thailand, and Saraburi in particular, if there are other opportunities out there.


Mike said...

Jon, given that I am retired and have done the career thing in the UK I think I know where you are coming from.

I know you are from a different generation to me but the one thing my work in the UK provided me with was a strong base to retire abroad-a degree of financial independence, in short two half decent pensions.

Living and earning a living out here in my early life(had I chosen that route) would not have provided me with that.

Thailand is great, but it is Thailand and not the UK, no health service, no social support network to name but a couple of things, great for a single bloke or someone like me perhaps, but I don't see it as a place for careers and family or indeed for putting down roots(appreciate you have a Thai family) in a country that does not really want you.

I also believe it is possible to end up trapped here, like the guy you quote, almost like not living in the real world.

Given you position I would certainly keep my options open, the UK is not all bad and there are many other exciting prospects within Asia that maybe can offer more than here.

Paul Garrigan said...

I would never rule out living back in my country, but I can't see it happening. I was moved around a lot as a kid and I don't want to do that to my son.

I also work as a freelancer so it doesn't really matter where I live. I think it is possible to be happy anywhere, so making the most of any opportunties that come along makes sense - especially with you being a relatively young chap.

Thailand Musings said...

As a guy who hasn't yet taken the plunge in moving to Thailand I think you're very wise in keeping your options open. It's a huge world out there and depending on your circumstances and priorities you might be tempted to call anywhere at all home.

One thing that I have been focusing on over the past couple years is exactly what it sounds like you've gotten for yourself and that is freedom and independence from being tied down to one specific location due to financial concerns.

While we plan on moving to Thailand to raise our daughter I don't feel like that is necessarily the end of the line. I would definitely consider further moves to broaden not only my own horizons, but also those of Golf and our daughter.

I like the new thought pattern and will be looking forward to the upcoming series of posts.

Joe said...

interesting article Jon.

Stickman had a somewhat similar theme in his August 8th posting. did u two talk beforehand ? j/k

Jimbo said...

There is so much sh*te written and posted about how great it is to live in Thailand and how cr*p it is to live anywhere in Europe - Mike you post brings much welcomed balance

Boonsong said...

Not an easy decision. I find that life often dictates and that decisions therefore make themselves. I've rarely planned anything that life hasn't hijacked.
An interesting post. Thanks.

All the best, Boonsong

Tom Yam said...

Hi Jon,
Whatever you decide to do and whatever direction you take then i'm sure things will work out for you and your family. You have something lots of us don't have. Youth.... At your age you can go anywhere and do anything and it will always turn out ok. For my part, i'm nearly 50 with no money and limited skills so i can't really afford to leave Thailand so it's just as well i love it here.
Good luck to you whatever you decide to do!

Jon said...

Some great comments in response to what was essentially a rambling, rant of a post. Sorry to all for the late responses.

Jon said...

Hi Mike,

Great comment, you (and indeed Jimbo) are right that coverage of the challenges - shall we call them - in Thailand is not as widespread as it perhaps should be. Living outside of Bangkok and putting down roots, as you mention, is not easy. While we are doing a good job, we're looking for a bit of a change - we'll see how it develops.

Jon said...

Seconded - there isn't anything like enough balance and coverage of Thailand's challenges out there.

Jon said...

Hi Paul,

True working freelance affords a degree of flexibility, work hours, location etc, though the money I make here is enough for a good life were I to take it back home I'd be in dire straits accounting for currency conversion and cost of living. So much choice now is to use my time in Thailand productively so if we move back to UK I've advanced myself, rather than treating water career-wise.

As a published book writer, your income sources are no doubt different to me, but we do share a passion for writing, which is a hugely rewarding career choice.

Jon said...

You're right Steve, it is about keeping options open...that is exactly how I could summarise my post, would've saved a lot of words!

You're definitely going down a solid route planning your move, not sure I have the patience to do so, am much more of a short-it-out-on-the-ground type person.

Jon said...

Ha ha. Thanks Joe, I don't usually read Stickman but enjoyed that entry. If i could just find an RSS for his blog I might go back more often.

Jon said...

You're right Boonsong, we can make plans but life often has other ideas. I think the point I'm trying to make is that, should we return to the UK, I want to ensure my career hasn't suffered from living in Thailand. i dont' believe it has, but I certainly haven't advanced it yet...hence the look at possible opportunities.

On a side note, look at your blog, liked it, have signed you up on RSS and we will back in due course.

Jon said...

Hi Tom,

Yeah i guess I am a relative 'yoof' out here, though with a wife and kiddy I seem to lead a far more boring existence than the older guys i know out here in Thailand.

If things were different and I was older and without responsibility I dare say I'd be the same, and be content to see out my time here...but as a father, I need to keep the door open for a return to UK, or some other Western destination.

Mike said...

Jon I am certainly not a Thailand knocker but I do get a bit hot under the collar with some commentary you see extolling all things Thai and the restriction on speaking your mind on certain issues.

I do believe you have to put things in perspective, for example living a rural life is somewhat third world, particularly with services. I mean things like every time it rains(not very often at the moment) the electricity disappears for an hour, I assume it shorts out, or in the current water shortage I haven't had a decent shower for over a week because when the water is on there is insufficient pressure in the pipes to fire up my shower unit.

That said it can be fun too. You would have had to smile if you had seen me yesterday as I diverted some heavy rain into storage tubs from the gutter, I got soaked but I laughed a lot too(so I have had a shower I suppose).

Lloyd said...

A good post and a very similar conclusion to what I came to earlier this year, although I never made a firm commitment to living in Thailand and was more or less on an extended holiday I realised that although I love my Thai wife, Thailand does not have everything going for it that I want in my lifestyle.

My ultimate goal is to be a perpetual traveler, live where you heart is when you feel like it, what could be more perfect!

DanPloy said...

Having that nagging feeling that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time can really take its toll. We had that living in Canada, the 'honeymoon' period there was very short for us.

We have a freedom that some do not in that we only have each other with no family ties on either side. We also have a freedom in that we have our own company and therefore are not tied to a job. And so we have decided to make Thailand our home because it had the best work/life balance of the countries we considered. There certainly are frustrations here but we are surmounting them one by one and the 'life' side of things is all we expected.

That said things could change with a change in the monarchy. So we have half a plan should things become bad here - which in Saraburi probably means it proves too difficult to run my company rather than any personal effects - and that is to go to Singapore again. A much better place to run the business but the work/life balance is too much towards the work for what we want.

But returning to the West is out of the question for us for all sorts of reasons but probably principally it is the cost of living there. Without a career to nurture anymore I am not affected by the 'status' of Thailand or the job opportunities here. But if I was I choose Singapore.

Jon said...

Your're right Lloyd, Thailand doesn't have it all...but neither does the UK, hence the situation of analysing the merits and drawbacks of both, along with other options.

Perpetual travels sounds great, I'm assuming you don't have children?

Lloyd said...

No I don't have children however that is not totally of the table as my wife is young enough and still yet to decide for herself, personally I cant see it happening as we enjoy our lifestyle too much.

I think if I had a family I would still choose a life where my family gets to experience different cultures and lifestyles.

Jon said...

As a father myself I'd of course say don't rule it out - I don't think it is impossible to live a culturally varied life...mainly because that's exactly what I'm aiming to do with my fam.

Jon said...

Hi Dan,

I think living out here for 2 years has seen our time in Saraburi run its course.

Singapore is an option but, given the cost of living, our preference would be to return to London instead so it looks as though Bangkok is 'first choice'. We'll see how it develops, as my in-laws are here I'm bound to be a regular visitor to Saraburi no matter where we live.