With elderly families being attacked in the streets, university lecturers killing each other, a seemingly endless line of foreign lemmings dropping off balconies, packs of vicious ladyboys, the army taking over the country and a bomb every other day in the south it may seem that Thailand isn't a safe place to be.
As a new teacher considering where to live and work, safety is an important factor. Even if you don't think too much about it I am sure your family will. Moving overseas is supposed to be an adventure but not like the type of adventure that Frodo had where there was the chance he might not come back alive...
Three years ago when I moved here I didn't think too much about safety other than about the usual potential pickpockets and petty crime that you could find in any city. I didn't do much research about safety and there weren't as many high profile incidents as there have been in the last three years. I had been to Bangkok on vacation before and considered myself to be somewhere relatively safe.
As you can see at the start of this blog there have been a number of incidents recently which have been reported far and wide. Adding to those above we also have the Erawan bombing which left my phone buzzing with friends and family anxiously checking I was ok. It was this event which really made me think about the impact my move had had on those back home.
I have noticed that a lot of them seem less keen on coming to Thailand to visit now than when I first moved here. I guess they have the perception that Thailand is maybe not the safest place to be right now - but is that really true?
In all honesty I feel there is more danger now than three years ago but in reality there are many ways to avoid it and it isn't dangerous living here.
Firstly in regards to the bombings in the south of Thailand (Songkhla, Yala, Pattani, Narithawat) you should simply avoid living and working there in my opinion. There is no need to put yourself in any danger. I'm sure some of you live in these areas and will say it is safe but why risk it? There is plenty of work all over Thailand and many great provinces to live in which cater for every need.
Next we have families being attacked, and in general foreigners being attacked in Thailand. I have never once been in a situation where I have felt like I was going to be assaulted in Thailand. I guess the phrase 'wrong place wrong time' applies in some of the situations where foreigners are on the receiving end - and of course sometimes premeditated attacks do happen as they do in other countries around the world.
If you want to lower the chances of being in such a situation then you should avoid certain areas at certain times. I always read most of the stories about foreigners being attacked by ladyboys and see it almost always happens in the dark streets of Pattaya at 2am - I think people need to show some common sense. I wouldn't go out alone at that time in certain parts of the UK, USA or Australia - why would you need to be out alone in Pattaya at that time?
Falling off the balcony
Another curse that seems to happen often in Pattaya and many other major expat areas is that a large number of foreigners fall from balconies. In many cases people cry foul play and insist they must have been pushed. In reality most of these cases don't involve English teachers but other expats and tourists.
I would say that a lot of foreigners aren't used to living in high rise buildings and after a few drinks it is possible for accidents to happen. I also believe that a lot of the deaths of older people are genuine suicides and indeed notes are often found with people saying what they are about to do. Maybe there are some incidents where people are pushed but in this case you should be thinking about who you are inviting into your room. If you are still concerned about the balcony suicide rate then take it out of the equation - rent a house or a room without a balcony, there are plenty of them around.
Thailand has had many military coups over the years but this one is probably the most widely reported and known about. Reading around on many sites you would seem to think we are under a North Korean style dictatorship. To be honest my daily life hasn't changed in the last 2 years since the army took over. I am not allowed to join a political protest or like any political photos on Facebook - hardly activities I would like to do anyway.
Sure there have been some sacrifices in terms of commenting on events and people but it doesn't affect my job, my weekly round of golf or the price of a beer. The political situation in the UK and USA isn't exactly A1 right now and to be honest I am bored of listening to people complain about Trump vs Clinton and the whole "Brexit" thing. So the army coming in and not having to deal with "Shutdown Bangkok" and the like is fine with me.
I appreciate the argument of free speech and the rights of people but as an English teacher here it really doesn't make any difference to your daily life. English teachers have been here for years and will be in the future. I doubt we will get a seat at the negotiation table to discuss the road map for Thailand - I'll leave that to the Thais.
So what are the real dangers of being an English teacher in Thailand?
It's not just Pattaya which is full of vices, you can find them all around the country - alcohol and women being most people's choices. Arriving in Thailand you will be surrounded by temptations that you might not have had before.
Warm weather and cheap beer are a perfect match. An ex colleague of mine found out to his cost that employers aren't keen on teachers who call in sick at 2pm or just don't show up to work because they've been out drinking - he's on his third job in six months right now. Also a few too many nights out a month could leave you with very light pockets - eating Mama Noodles for the last week every month isn't a good experience.
With a quick swipe left or right on your phone you can find yourself a date for the night. In fact walking from your apartment to 7/11 you can probably find someone to spend time with. When you arrive in Thailand you will likely be a lot more attractive to the opposite sex than in your home country. This leads to many people being a lot more promiscuous than they would normally be (especially when mixed with cheap beer). Of course we all know of the health risks associated with unprotected sex but bear in mind Thailand has a rapidly growing rate of HIV infection too.
I also know of people who invite people from the internet or Tinder to meet at their apartment for a first "date" which is another risk - some people really are just after the money. This isn't to say that dating Thais is a bad thing to do, on the contrary in fact. If you meet Thai people who work away from the tourist areas you will find some of the most caring, lovely people. Again the quick fix isn't the way to find love.
As a teacher there is the potential to fall for a student. Working in a high school this will get you fired and depending on the circumstances much worse could happen - you don't want to end up in jail.
The biggest danger for the new arrival will be running out of money. Your first pay packet won't arrive until after your first month and in most cases it won't be a large packet. Many people forget about the startup costs and arrive in holiday mode, spending too much each day. You really do need at least 100,000 Baht to make it through the first 2 months before you get paid.
Low level crime such as pickpocketing and other scams is mainly centred around tourist areas. Think whether you really need or want to live in these areas. If you chose to live near Asok, Khao San or similar locations in other tourist areas then you are more likely experience bad situations. I live in the northern outskirts of Bangkok and feel safe and have never had any problems day or night.
It's actually quite good here....
Thailand isn't dangerous, you just need to be smart. The country relies on tourism for around 10% of its GDP so you will be looked after as most people will presume you are a tourist. You need to say or do something quite bad for most Thai people to react to what you have done. Being a bit drunk or complaining about service in the restaurant won't get you beaten up but in the same way it is best to try and avoid confrontational situations - is it worth arguing over a 40 Baht dish?
Chill out on your weekends, have a couple of drinks and smile at the somtam seller outside your apartment - you're in Thailand its pretty good here.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country
Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand.
Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book.
Settling in Thailand takes a broad, insightful and balanced approach – neither too cynical nor evangelical, this book sets a precedent in terms of presenting a positive but realistic and non-judgemental description of Thailand life for foreign residents.
Written by two British expats in Thailand, and with interviews with another 13 expats from around the world, you will get first-hand experience, advice and explanations of expat life in Thailand. With a combined 150 years of Thai experience this book is the ultimate guide to making sure your move and settling in Thailand goes smoothly.