Suzanne Nam Offers Advice on Making the Move to Thailand

1. Are there local customs that a newcomer to Thailand should be aware of?

From the way people line up to wait for stalls in bathrooms to how you buy produce in the supermarket, things are a little different here! You’ll pick up the local customs when you arrive, just be flexible.

2. Making local friends is a great way to assimilate to living in a new country. What’s the best way to meet new people in Thailand?

Thai people are generally very open and friendly so most efforts to make friends will be rewarded. Even if you’re not typically extroverted, chat with people whenever you can, whether at your child’s school, your office or the mall. You’ll make friends quickly.

3. What do you consider essential items to pack before moving to Thailand? Are there any things you just can’t find?

Thailand really is extraordinarily convenient and modern, and there’s nothing you just can’t find. Electronics, furniture and housewares are all available here at very reasonable prices. However, some imported items, especially luxury items, can be very expensive. If you need Wustof kitchen knives, for example, bring them with you or you’ll end up paying three times the price here. Good shoes at reasonable prices are also tough to find here, especially if you have bigger than average feet.

4. Should someone moving to Thailand find housing before they leave or look around upon arrival? Are there any great housing resources to be aware of?

Look when you arrive. If you’re moving to a popular city or region, such as Bangkok or Phuket, you’ll find plenty to choose from that you won’t know about until you’re on the ground. The best way to find housing is still to get out there and walk the land, and you just can’t do that until you arrive. Temporary housing isn’t difficult to find in Thailand, so there’s no downside to waiting other than not feeling settled until you find a permanent home.

5. What’s the best way to manage your money in Thailand?

It’s probably a wise idea to open a local bank account while you’re in Thailand. You don’t have to keep tons of cash in it, but it will make life easier when it comes to paying bills online. Plus, you won’t have to pay exorbitant ATM fees if you have a local account.

6. When moving to Thailand, what are the initial costs? How much money should one set aside for the move?

Initial costs can be quite low depending on what part of the country you move to and what your housing situation is. If you’re moving into a serviced apartment, you’ll pay a minimal deposit for your housing but nothing up front for setting up utilities. You really can arrive with just a couple hundred dollars in your pocket to begin your life here. On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re setting up a new home, you’ll pay first and last months’ rent, plus a security deposit, plus fees to set up your internet, cable and telephone utilities. That will most likely run into the thousands of dollars, similar to the cost of setting up a new home in the US.

7. In which fields is it easier for a foreigner to secure a job? Any tips on getting hired?

Teaching English is the quintessential foreigner job in Thailand. Since studying English is so popular here, there are thousands of positions available. Though some mostly for-profit schools hire teachers without experience or qualifications, most good teaching jobs require one or both. However, you can enroll in a certification course here in Thailand and spend a month getting qualified before looking for a job. Thailand is a hub for multinationals doing business in the region, so qualified people, especially those in business, often find opportunities here.

8. What’s the one thing you wished you would have known about living abroad before you left?

I guess I didn’t realize that life would be so…normal. Although you’re moving to an exotic and foreign place, you’ll still have to walk the dog, commute to work, go to the bank, etc. Make sure to plan for that stuff. The exotic adventure stuff comes easy!

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