I often receive messages from men and women who read Tasty Thailand and are moving to Thailand. They ask about how to get a job, if certain Western food is available, if it’s easy to buy clothes that fit Westerners (Thais are very small compared to many of us), how to find an apartment and much more.
Most of the questions are pretty standard, and most of them are easy to answer. Here are answers to the Top Five questions people have when moving to Thailand.
How To Find an Apartment in Thailand. Apartment buildings are everywhere in Thailand, especially in Bangkok. The easiest way to find an apartment, is simply walk around the neighborhood you’re interested in living in and go into any buildings that look nice.
Someone at the front desk will almost always be available to show you an apartment and, in Thailand, there is not usually a minimum lease you have to sign, so you can stay for a month, three months, six months or more.
If you agree to stay longer than three months though, many apartment buildings will give you a discounted rent every month. Remember too, when you rent an apartment in Thailand the building management will require a deposit of two months rent plus the first months rent in advance.
One final tip if you’re moving to Bangkok, do not rent an apartment until you know where you will be working. Bangkok is enormous, so you don’t want to rent an apartment on one side of the city and then find you have to travel two hours to work each way every day. When you first get here, rent an apartment for a month. This will give you time to find a job and a new apartment if you need to move.
How To Find a Job in Thailand. Most normal jobs in Thailand are not available for foreigners. For instance, Westerners are not allowed to be secretaries, work in shops, do most corporate jobs and a myriad other things. Thailand is very protective of its work force and does not want Westerners to move to Thailand and take jobs from Thais. So your options are limited.
Most Westerners who move to Thailand teach English, own their own businesses, are journalists, or work in multi-national corporations but have been hired from outside the country as an expat worker. Other than these jobs, few other jobs are available to Westerners, so make sure the job you want to do is something you can do here legally before you move.
For teaching jobs, Ajarn.com is the website where many of the teaching jobs in Thailand are listed. For other jobs, you will have to literally knock on doors as few of them will be advertised for Westerners.
Buying Western-Sized Clothes in Thailand. Buying clothes that fit Westerners can be frustrating in Thailand. That’s because Thais are usually shorter than we are and often much thinner.
If you are a woman, who is larger than a US size 8-10, it will be almost impossible to get clothing that fits you off the rack at most Thai stores. The good news though is that you can get custom-made clothes in Thailand at one of thousands of tailors for cheap prices and quick delivery. A custom-made dress shirt for work for instance will cost around $20-30 and will usually be ready in 24 to 48 hours.
Also for women, buying bras that fit is a nightmare. Thai women usually have small boobs, so if you are a size 34 C, you will find your bra choices very limited. If you’re a 36C and up, you will find it even more difficult to get a bra that fits correctly. That’s why my mother mails most of my bras to me from the US, so you might want to find someone who can do that for you too.
For Western men, buying clothes is slightly easier than for Western women as there are a percentage of Thai men who are similar sizes to Western men.
If you are a Large size in the US or Europe or bigger, however, you may also have to have a lot of your clothing made for you.
Men’s T shirts are available in sizes up to XXL, but the Thai XXL is often much smaller than the Western XXL, so be careful when you buy.
A Thai friend told me his brother brought him back an XL t shirt from the US as that is the size he wears in Thailand. Imagine his surprise when the American XL t shirt went down to his knees. He wore it as a night shirt.
Western Food in Thailand. A lot of Westerners come to Thailand saying they love Thai food. Within a month, they are so sick of it they’re desperate for Western food. To put your mind at rest, Western food in Bangkok is everywhere.
Thailand has the usual Western chains like Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Au Bon Pain and a lot more. There are also tens of thousands of restaurants and cafes in Bangkok serving Western food, as well as every other type of food available.
If you want to buy Western food in the supermarket, basics such as pasta, cereals, soups, canned goods and breads are available in every supermarket.
For more specialized Western foods, Villa Supermarket, Foodland, the Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon, and Central Food Hall, all in Bangkok, sell most things.
Outside Bangkok, your choice will be more limited, but in the larger Thai towns there’s always somewhere that sells some Western food.
Salaries for Westerners in Thailand. People often ask me what salaries are like for Westerners in Thailand.
If you come as a true expat worker, you will be on an expat salary and your lifestyle will be amazing. Your company will often hire you a driver, you’ll live in a beautiful apartment, have maid service, your wife will be taken care of, and your kids will go to some of the top international schools in the world.
If you come by yourself (i.e.: not with a company), you will not usually be making a high expat salary. However, even with the salaries normally paid to Westerners, in most jobs you will make enough money to have a nice lifestyle – great apartment, be able to afford to eat out three meals a day, have a maid, get cable TV, go out for a drink a few times a week if you like – and still save money.
Don’t forget, Thailand is cheap, so even though the salaries might sound low compared to Western salaries, what you can buy with it here is much more than in most Western countries.
With the answers to these Top Five questions about moving to Thailand, you should hopefully have your mind put at rest. Remember most things are available here, especially in Bangkok.
Some Westerners arrive expecting a third world country and are surprised to see the sky train, underground system, huge Western shopping malls and more. Bangkok is a true cosmopolitan city and similar to most Western cities, so you’ll find, if you’re willing to pay the price, almost everything is available here.
Oh and for women, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to buy tampons at almost every drug store, so you don’t need to come with two years supply like some women do!
Come on over – it’s lovely!