With Bangkok being the capital city, it is not surprising to find that most expats choose to base themselves here. The city offers foreigners a large number of job opportunities as well as the chance to create a new life in a place that blends traditional Thai cultural elements with the fast paced modern world. Bangkok attracts expats for a number of different reasons, and while some come to discover the culture and perhaps embrace the naughtier side of life in the city’s go-go bars, others are attracted by the relatively low cost of living, which offers them the chance to live a better life.
Although there’s much more relaxing and cheaper places in Thailand to retire, Bangkok offers by far the best selection of foreigner-friendly services, discerning establishments, shopping, comforts and company. The Thai here are the most sophisticated and perhaps easiest to befriend, and the expat community is large and well supported by clubs and groups. The salaries and opportunities are also best here, though it can be considerably more expensive for basic living costs than the provinces.
Although the idea of moving to Bangkok might seem a little daunting at first, there are a number of things that make living here easier for expats, such as the large number of Western-style shops in the Sukhumvit area. Located on virtually every street in Thailand, 7-11 is a comforting convenience store that sells everything from bread and milk to beer and razors.
Those who are looking for creature comforts will also be able to buy non-Thai specialities at branches of Villa or Tops. There are several branches of these specialist supermarket chains located in Bangkok, while Paragon shopping centre also boasts an impressive supermarket on its ground floor. The Emporium on Sukhumvit Road is another mall that caters to an international taste.
One of the best things about staying in Bangkok is that it is possible to have a fully-loaded apartment complete with air-conditioning and shared facilities, such as a swimming pool and gym, right in the heart of the city for a surprisingly low rate. Despite the differences in culture and language, finding your feet in Bangkok is quite simple, as a large number of foreigners already call the city home and there are plenty of facilities set up for those who plan to make the city their home away from home. Of course, medical care is an important investment and there are various insurance companies such as Expat Health which specialise in those working overseas long-term.
However, things don’t always come easily here, and it can take a little while to adjust. Patience is needed not just when dealing with the traffic but also when approaching new situations. Losing your cool is seen as the height of rudeness in Thailand, and those who choose to vent their frustrations in public will lose a lot of respect in the eyes of others. To get a better idea you can trawl through the reams of comment from expats on the Thaivisa forum – by far Thailand’s most popular online community for foreigners.
Expats can release stress in various different ways, such as taking a trip to the local massage shops (for a proper massage that is!). The city also boasts a large number of Western-style pubs, where visitors can sit and drink a pint or two at the end of a hard day while watching a sports match on the big screen or listening to a live band. Needless to say, if you’re a single male, finding company, even for a night, isn’t difficult and it’s certainly one of the attractions that keep many in Bangkok.
The most Westernised areas of Bangkok are Sukhumvit and Silom, and this is where most expats tend to establish themselves. However, those who are looking for a more traditional Thai experience will also be able to find apartments in other areas of the city, and basing yourself in a completely Thai community is a great way to get a feel for the local language and culture.
Of course, there is a lot more to living in Bangkok than this, and those who are considering making the move will want to check out our living here section, which offers a wide range of useful tips and advice.
Work for expats in Bangkok
The easiest form of work for expats to get is teaching, as many schools in Bangkok try to employ at least one Western member of staff teaching English. Native English speakers who have a university degree and are well turned out should find a large number of teaching roles in Bangkok to choose from, while those who have teaching degrees and experience will be able to work in the city’s considerably more lucrative and demanding international schools. While in the past teaching has served as a way for travellers to extend their stay in Thailand and stretch out their budgets, these days are coming to an end and only those who have a passion for teaching should seriously consider this type of work.
Then there are the multi-nationals – Western companies who have branches in Bangkok and need foreign-orientated skills. Since it’s a hub of business in the region, and base for many Asian HQs, Bangkok provides plenty of opportunity for niche qualified professionals in the business, corporate, financial, legal and engineering fields among others. Although they are only supposed to hire foreigners when no qualified Thais can be found, these companies often have more confidence in hiring foreigners for certain jobs that require Western ‘soft skills’. With the right professional experience and some patience you can land these jobs and earn a very comfortable salary relative to Thailand.
While finding other kinds of employment in Bangkok is a little trickier, there are jobs available for those who turn their nose up at teaching. Visitors who speak a reasonable amount of Thai may be able to find work as a translator in a Western company, while Thai companies sometimes hire Westerners to endorse their products in English.
The European Young Professionals society organises regular networking evenings, although you don’t necessarily have to be European, young or, indeed, professional to attend these events. Their parties are a great way to meet other expats from a social, as well as a business, perspective and are usually held in a posh restaurant or hotels. They are free to enter and offer vast quantities of free food and drinks. Those hoping to join the party need to book their place in advance through the website.
Networking for Success arranges a source for latest business and networking events as well as a full calendar of monthly events.
Visitors who are looking for business contacts can also get in touch with their Chamber of Commerce, who should be able to point them in the right direction. The American Chamber (AmCham) and the Australian Chamber (AustCham) are particularly useful as they regularly host excellent networking events and you don’t usually need to be a member or nationality of the chamber to attend, although having membership will often get you a reduced entry fee.
Of course, one of the best and most entertaining ways to get involved in the Bangkok expat scene is by hanging out in one of the numerous bars and pubs that can be found around the city. Expats willing to talk business as well as pleasure over a pint or two of Guinness can be found in these bars and pubs at any night of the week, and all are welcome to join.
The Bangkok Post is one of the best places to hunt for jobs, and although the majority of the positions that can be found here are reserved for Thai nationals, teaching positions and others that aren’t suited to Thai people are also advertised. Another good place to search for either full time or part time teaching work is ajarn.com
Companies that are looking to hire a foreigner rather than a Thai native rarely advertise as there are several legal provisions in place that make hiring a foreigner rather tricky. Although a few agencies offer to help foreign clients find work, most positions tend to be secured by networking.