We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. I think it's only fair that I add my thoughts as well.
Could you introduce yourself (where are you from? how long have you lived in Thailand? and what do you do for a living?)
I'm Phil from Birmingham in England and I've been in Thailand for just over 30 years. I was a teacher for a good number of years but now retired.
In general, how do you think Thailand has handled the pandemic up to now?
Last year, when Thailand was reporting single digit infections, there was almost a 'too good to be true' feeling about it, and while I never wanted to be a part of the 'if you don't test, you don't find' brigade, looking back I think they may have had a point. The last month or so (the so-called third wave) has rather caught Thailand napping. I'm confident that it will find a way out but it's not going to happen overnight. Reading about how well several European countries are doing at the moment rather adds to the frustration.
If you were put in charge of things right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?
I'm big on clear communication and that's certainly the main area I would improve. Don't put out an announcement until it's as set in stone as it can be. The constant misunderstandings and flip-flopping have driven expats insane. I'm sure a lot of the anger and frustration on social media has been a result of the mixed messaging. I'm not sure that provincial governors being allowed to make up their own rules really works either.
Let’s talk about you personally. What is the most regrettable thing that the pandemic has robbed you of or changed about your life?
Without doubt, travel. Pre-pandemic, my wife and I went abroad at least twice a year and I would go back to England to see the family every September. We both really miss the trips abroad and I haven't seen my family for getting on two years. My parents are both almost 80 and Dad especially is not in the greatest of health. Time is passing by and no one lives forever. Plus I've got a niece and nephew hurtling through their teenage years and I'm missing out on all that. Damn you Covid!
From a work point of view, how has your situation changed (if indeed it has) and has there been any significant financial impact?
Not really. Travel is by far my biggest annual expense. Take that out of the equation and I can live relatively comfortably on less than 30K a month.
Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?
I've become something of a closet minimalist in my old age so what I've 'enjoyed' about the pandemic is having fewer choices, and this has slowed down the pace of life and made it more relaxing. I hate rushing around. I can't remember the last time I walked around a shopping mall (something I used to do regularly) and after a while, you realise you don't need to do that stuff anyway.
When do you predict the world will return to some sort of normality and we will be able to travel abroad and maybe get to remove these damn face-masks, etc?
Like so many of us, I'm desperate to get home and see family. I've set a target in my mind of April 2022 at the very latest - but I'm keeping fingers crossed for the last quarter of this year.
Things started to go pear-shaped in March 2020. Over the past year or so, has your enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased or decreased?
I don't think this has changed much because I've had a love-hate relationship with Thailand for many years anyway. One of the downsides for me is living in Samut Prakan, where we have no public parks for starters. I'm so envious of the guys who live near the ocean or can go cycling in the countryside. Those morning walks along deserted beaches must be a life-saver!
When we get to the light at the end of this long tunnel, have you promised yourself to make lifestyle changes or do some things differently?
I'm not going to take a single day for granted - because 'normality' can be taken from us in the blink of an eye. I'm 57 now. How many 'good years' have I got left? And that's what it's all about - it's not about how long you live but how many years you're fit enough to do stuff. I can't waste any of what remains.
For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?
I would say two things - keep yourself busy (even if it's only doing a bit of housework) and try and avoid doom-scrolling on social media. There's an awful lot of misinformation and bullshit out there. Start believing the nonsense and it will eat away at you.