"The worst thing about Thailand is the government generally seeing very little distinction between expat and tourist." Ajarn is asking expats some random questions on life in Thailand. Simon lives in Bangkok.
Thanks a million for answering the questions. Firstly, where in Thailand are you living and how long have you been here?
I'm living in Bangkok and I've now lived here for ten years. Before that, I spent just under two years in Nakhon Si Thammarat, which I loved.
How would you describe your Thai language ability?
When asked, I always say to people it's not what it should be considering the time I've been here. I'd describe it as 'Taxi Thai'. I can have a basic conversation about the usual things. Having a Filipina fiancé and working in a British International School means I don't really have many situations where I would practice it. Poor excuses, I know!
Now that the Covid years seem to be thankfully behind us, what lessons did you learn from the whole experience?
I'd say I learned an appreciation for walking and enjoying the city that I live in for what it is. Going on long walks with my partner during Covid kept me sane.
A common theme on Thailand social media is the rising cost of living here. In what areas have you cut down or attempted to cut down on expenses?
I enjoy cooking at home and I've definitely noticed the sharp rise in food prices, but I'm lucky in that I earn a good salary so I've not consciously cut down on anything, I just save a little less.
Another very controversial issue is the annual pollution, especially in the north of Thailand. It’s been particularly bad this year. Has it made you rethink your long-term future here?
The pollution has definitely made me question life in Thailand, especially as I enjoy outdoor exercise. It would have to be pretty bad to tip the balance though. I'm absolutely not one of these expat UK haters. I love the UK and thoroughly enjoy my trips home, but to live there, the pollution would have to be pretty terrible all year round!
Which place in Thailand have you never visited but would most like to and why?
Funnily enough, someone posted a website in Twitter the other day to see what percentage of Thailand you've been to. Turns out I've visited 80%. I can thank all the motorbike trips for that. I'd love to explore some of the lesser known islands more, such as Koh Libong, Koh Kradan (not that that's now under the radar after a recent world's best beach survey)
If you had to choose a place in Thailand to live (other than where you are now) where would it be and why?
I think I'd choose New Zealand to live. I visited there in 2009 and it's stunning. I'd love to have all those incredible landscapes as my backyard. Imagine it, just popping up a glacier today, be back home for tea at six! But in reality, we're both very happy in Thailand. I'm as happy here as the first day I arrived.
“The smiles have disappeared from The Land of Smiles” Agree or disagree?
This is a hard one to answer. I think it depends on where you go. In Phuket, I'd say the smiles have definitely worn thin. But I think I'd be the same if I had to deal with all of those tourists. If you get out in to the countryside though, I find that generally people are the same friendly selves they've always been. Treat people well, and generally you'll be treated well. I'd say that's as true in Thailand as anywhere.
Generally, is life in Thailand better for you now than when you first arrived?
I'd say it's not better, it's different. It's more comfortable. But I wouldn't have it any other way. When I was a younger TEFL teacher, I loved the far more simple way of life living down in NST. Now, I'm happy with a different way of life, saving good money and living a western lifestyle in Bangkok. Both are great!
What is the best and worst thing about living here?
The best thing about here is the opportunity to live a great lifestyle and travel to some amazing places. The worst thing? The government generally seeing very little distinction between expat and tourist. It would be lovely to be treated a little better, but it's one of the things you have to accept. Otherwise, you won't last long here.