Tasty Thailand

Everything you need to know about Thailand

Discrimination Against Westerners and Other Foreigners Alive and Well in Thailand


In Thailand, Westerners (known as ‘farangs’) are discriminated against by each successive Thai government. Thais move to the USA and are given the same rights and opportunities as everyone else living in America. Unfortunately, in Thailand, the same is not true for Westerners. In jobs, in work permits, in obtaining mortgages and car loans, in buying houses, in buying apartments – Westerners are discriminated against.

The Thai government maintains this happens to ‘protect Thais’. What they don’t seem to understand, however, is that all it actually does is persuade Westerners they’re not really wanted in Thailand. So Westerners move on to other countries, taking their Thailand-earned money with them. This, in itself, harms Thailand and its’ economy. If you’re a Westerner (farang) planning on coming to Thailand long-term, be aware you will be discriminated against in the following areas:

Jobs in Thailand – Most jobs in Thailand are blocked to Westerners (farangs) and to most other nationalities too. Westerners are not allowed to work in offices (unless they were hired as an expat worker), they’re not allowed to work in coffee shops (or any other shop for that matter), they’re not allowed to be receptionists, nurses, civil servants, drive a bus, or do any of the hundreds of thousands of jobs a Thai person could do in the US.

Westerners are allowed to be English teachers, and they are allowed to operate their own business if they jump through the hundreds of hoops the Thai government demands of them. Overall, if you’re looking for a job with financial security, promotion opportunities, or the ability to do any job you want, then Thailand is not the country to come to.

Buying a House in Thailand – Westerners (farangs) are discriminated against when it comes to purchasing houses. Westerners, in fact, are not allowed to purchase houses. They can buy a house if they own a Thai company, but the house will be in the name of the company and this option comes with much more expenses than just a straight house purchase would.

Of course, Westerners can buy a house if they are married to a Thai. However, that house has to be purchased in the Thai spouse’s name and, if the marriage goes belly up, guess who gets the house? It’s not often the Western spouse, that’s for sure.

The Thai rational for not allowing Westerners to buy a house is because Westerners are not allowed to own land in Thailand. Sure, you can lease the land on a 99 year land lease but, even so, the house still has to be in a Thai’s name. In most cases, buying a house in Thailand is a lose-lose situation. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Buying a Condo in Thailand – If you do decide to buy a condo in Thailand, for a Westerner the condo has to be paid for in cash and the cash has to come from outside the country. This means that any of the money you have earned in Thailand, even if you’ve lived here for years, cannot be used to purchase a condominium. Not unless you send it out of the country and then bring it back again. In the 21st century, it makes a lot of sense, right?

Work Permits in Thailand – Unlike in the US where, if a Thai gets a green card they can work anywhere, in Thailand each work permit is job-specific. What that means is you can only work at the job the work permit was given for. Should you want to work a part-time job you legally cannot (although many Westerners do).

Should you want to change your job, you have to cancel the first work permit, leave Thailand within 7 days, then come back and apply for another work permit. It’s possible to get one work permit transferred into a second work permit, but few people have managed it due to the time constraints.

If you want a country where getting a work permit is easy, Japan usually offers 3-year work permits and you can work at almost any company with them. Work permits in Thailand are also only valid for one year so you spend a lot of time every year down at the immigration office signing paper work in order to renew your work permit. Nothing is easy for Westerners working in Thailand, so why should getting a work permit be an exception?

Getting a Mortgage in Thailand – If you are a Westerner, it’s impossible to get a mortgage in Thailand. If you want to buy a condo, you have to have the cash upfront as it’s not likely a Western bank will lend you the money to buy one, and a Thai bank certainly won’t.

Recently, new regulations came in stating it was possible for a Westerner to get a mortgage through Bangkok Bank in Singapore. However, on closer inspection, the price of the condo (remember, a Westerner cannot legally own a house) has to be above US$200,000, which effectively prices many Westerners living in Thailand out of the market.

Again, Westerners can work in Thailand, they can save money in Thailand, they can bring money into Thailand but if, after working here for several years and paying taxes, a Westerner expects to be treated like a Thai, that’s never going to happen.

Getting a Car Loan in Thailand – In most cases, westerners and other foreigners are not allowed to get car loans either so, if you want to buy a car in Thailand, you have to pay cash up front. It is possible to get a loan if a Thai acts as guarantor for you, or if you own a Thai company, but these options come with additional risks so are not usually recommended.

Overall, out of the hundreds of thousands of Westerners that attempt to live in Thailand, few stay long-term because of the discrimination they experience. This is a huge loss of manpower and money for Thailand as the Westerners who work in Thailand take their Thailand-earned money with them when they leave.

Until the Thai government gives Westerners incentives to live and work here, it’s unlikely most Westerners will stay. Meanwhile, Malaysia and Japan love the Thai laws discriminating against Westerners, as these two countries end up with the better teachers and a lot more money coming in from overseas (namely, Thailand).