While there’s no doubt that courteous and well-mannered people move to the Land of Smiles, all it takes is one bad expat in Thailand to make us all look bad. Here are some of the cringeworthy things we’ve seen expats do during our time living in Thailand.
- 1 Representing Your Home Country Poorly
- 2 Negatively Generalizing the Thai Locals
- 3 Never Learning the Local Thai Language
- 4 Not Taking Care of Your Health
- 5 Chastising New Expats for Their Naivety and Eagerness
- 6 Resenting the Oddities of Thailand
- 7 Spending as Little Money as Possible
- 8 Not Living Life to the Fullest
- 9 How to Not Be a Bad Expat in Thailand
Representing Your Home Country Poorly
We’ve seen more than a few expats who forgot to leave their bad habits at Thailand’s borders. Things like regularly walking around in public dressed inappropriately (going shirtless; wearing cleavage-revealing tops or booty shorts; walking around barefoot) or getting drunk and purposefully picking fights, both which are no-no’s in Thailand. There are expats who spit excessively in close proximity to other people and lazily leave trash in public areas for others to clean up. We’ve even dined with expats who complain that the service isn’t up to par with Western standards. Well duh, we’re in Thailand.
Not only have these expats made themselves look like fools, but they’ve given the rest of us who haven’t forgotten our manners a bad name. Thai culture is generally accepting of foreigners but there are behaviors that are considered rude here. As an expat, it’s our responsibility to be aware of what is considered offensive now that we call Thailand our home.
Negatively Generalizing the Thai Locals
We’re pretty disgusted when expats say condescending things about Thais. Phrases like, “They’re just a bunch of blood suckers,” “They’ll take you for everything you have,” “Ignorant and lazy,” and our personal favorite, “Why can’t they just learn to speak English?”
Kudos to the Thai men and women who deal with foreigners’ poor attitudes day in and day out and keep those revered smiles on their faces. That bad expat in Thailand has clearly forgotten that he or she is a guest in this country. And as a (polite) guest, one doesn’t offend their host, right? And by all means, Thai people are about as polite as they come.
|NOTE: If an expat has reached a point in his or her life where they are consumed by bitterness about their host country, it may be time to move on or, at the very least, learn how to forgive and forget.|
Never Learning the Local Thai Language
When moving to a new country, whether it’s for a year, five, or infinitely, isn’t it fair to put some effort into learning the language? There are expats in Thailand who know nothing more than “hello” and “thank you” in Thai but they’ve lived here for years. Where’s the ambition or sense of adventure?!
We’ve had our own struggles learning Thai and it’s not an easy language to learn. And with so many expats in Thailand, it’s definitely tempting (and quite easy) to settle into a clique and never learn to speak Thai. Plus it’s possible to survive in the major cities without using Thai, although in the countryside it’s an entirely different story.
Making an effort to learn Thai shows that, as expats, we care about the country we’re living in and we have pride in connecting with its people. Emotions aside, learning Thai is practical! Asking how much it costs to go to the airport or ordering drinks at a restaurant in Thai not only gives us a sense of independence, but gives the locals a good impression of us. Or at the very least, doesn’t give a bad one.
Not Taking Care of Your Health
Medical care is generally more affordable in Thailand than it is in Western countries. And there’s usually no language barrier or lack of training because many doctors speak fluent English and have been trained in modern medical practices. Even so, we’ve seen expats who’ve stopped taking care of their mental and physical well being since moving abroad.
We get it. Without preventative medicine culture biting at your heels, it’s easy to get out of a normal healthcare routine such as getting regular teeth cleanings or taking care of that weird toenail growth before it turns everything green and falls off. We’ve seen some wicked teeth (or lack thereof) and talons out there as proof. Other expats have a rough time living abroad, and without the proper friend and family support system, they don’t get professional help to treat their depression, anxiety, or anger problems.
So when expats stop doing routine check-ups or they completely forgo the doctor when their health starts to deteriorate, that’s a serious problem.
Chastising New Expats for Their Naivety and Eagerness
Sitting across a bar, we’ve overheard older men take younger guys under their wing and tell them how submissive or crazy Thai women are.
We’ve seen hardened ESL teachers scoff at the fresh ideas and enthusiasm of first-time teachers.
We’ve also heard lifers tell new expats that they’re crazy to live here and to go back to their home country while they still can.
While there’s a time and place for being bluntly honest, twisting or skewing information or completely shooting down another person’s dreams is pretty low in our books and a perfect example of being a bad expat in Thailand.
Resenting the Oddities of Thailand
It’s not uncommon to have single ply toilet on restaurant tables but have no TP stocked in the bathrooms. There are several Thai holidays in which alcohol sales are banned. And sometimes there’s a dual price system that charges more for foreigners than for locals. All of these can be quite frustrating for expats whose countries regularly stock toilet paper in bathrooms, always sell alcohol on holidays, and never discriminate on pricing.
To many expats, Thailand is full of oddities, but as the saying goes – This Is Thailand. Rather than fight it or whine about things we can’t control, go with the flow. Once expats learn to accept it as is (or come prepared by always carrying a packet of tissues), they’re in for a much more pleasant time in Thailand.
Spending as Little Money as Possible
Living is cheap in Thailand, which is why we’re confused when people get drawn into a lifestyle in which they begin to pinch pennies to the point of unhappiness and boredom!
We’ve overheard expats complaining about their 600 baht ($20 USD) electricity bill. We’ve read forums in which people moan about a 30% increase in fresh coffee prices, when in reality, their latte now costs 40 baht, up from 30 baht.
One reason why people come to Thailand is because the cost of living is so affordable and they can stretch their money. But living cheaply can backfire when all an expat does is hole themselves up and spend as little as possible. Yes, for some it’s about survival, but others it’s an obsession about the (low) dollar figure. In the end, most expats who do this will only experience unhappiness and loneliness in return.
Not Living Life to the Fullest
For heaven’s sake we’re in Thailand! We aren’t stuck in some dead-end job, or far worse, in an oppressed country where it’s not safe to go outside. Use this as an opportunity to explore different parts of Thailand and it’s neighbors in Southeast Asia. Thailand has everything from beaches to mountains and a constantly growing infrastructure.
For expats who have lost their way, a good place to start is thinking back to what attracted them to live in Thailand in the first place.
How to Not Be a Bad Expat in Thailand
To end on a positive note, we encourage everyone to be a good expat in Thailand. Here’s how:
Do you agree?