For those of us who have been living in Thailand ten years plus, have had every kind of Visa, seen coups, floods and all other kinds of disasters batter these shores, and then witnesses the Land Of Smiles rise from the ashes each time, we all have our own way of surviving.
it is kind of amusing to see the first time tourist sit up the pub wide eyed listening to us ‘Long term career expats’ give our reasons as to why we live here and how we circumnavigate the forever changing landscape, manage to stay legal amid the constantly changing immigration rules which has spawned some of the biggest Facebook groups to try and keep ahead of the Visa situation, and actually make a living here that gives us enough time to enjoy the weather, the beaches the food and the people.
To me there always has been a distinct ‘ferang’ class system as in the:
This lucky soul who got a position in their company back in the West to work overseas, and took the expat package $100,000 tax free + the fully expenses paid move from their home to a lovely house, a driver who takes them everywhere to and from work each day and drops the children off at one of the International schools. These are the kinds of people who think nothing of spending 3-5,000 baht a night from the tax free salaries in one of the Irish style pubs in Bangkok Pattaya or any of the other resorts Thailand has to offer.
Then there is the other half; the salt of the Earth as my socialist father would refer to them as:
Teachers are further categorized into two categories:
The Degree teacher.
The fashion challenged bearded/ gingham Pinafore with safety pin wearing, (yeah okay a stereotype that’s what they looked like when I was at school) career teacher who gets a position at an International school, is on the higher end of the foreign teachers’ pay bracket with a recognized degree and experience then the:
The drifters who spent a week in Khao San Road then a week in Koh Samui Island, spent 500 baht a day and loved every minute of it, and 2-3 more subsequent holidays then decided I can get a TEFL certificate and then teach English to lovely well-mannered Thai kids.
Many have been doing this years at a great school who values them and gets them all the visa paperwork sorted makes them legal, pays them between 30-40,000 baht a month they live modestly and have a few thousand baht to spend each month on frivolities, but hey what do Teachers make? A difference! It’s not about the money for them.
Many Teaching English as a Foreign Language are also retirees who are pretty much financially secure and just fancy a mid-life challenge and do something different with their lives and enrich their soul.
But these are the lucky ones, for every TEFL Teacher that has a good school who care for their ‘English Department’ (Yeah we know it is just you!) you will hear of three others who are in a constant battle with the schools they work for to make them legal, there is so much paperwork to be done it is like another side hustle just to stay legal.
The TEFL community have huge networks online with many giving great support to one another.
Then we have the online workers or as the Thai government try to class us as
The Digital Nomads.
Digital nomads usually stay here on a tourist visa or retirement or Married Visas and supplement their life here by selling products and services online all over the world money gets paid into PayPal and or other ecommerce payment platforms and into Thai banks to spend here on the local economy.
Technically if you take money in Thailand from a Thai client then that is a very grey area even if the money goes out and comes back in albeit digitally.
Some paranoid expats will argue that you will spend 5 years eating cockroaches off the floor in the Bangkok Hilton Jail sleeping next to murderers and rapist if you get caught working online and living here! The more pragmatic of us will tell you that even the Government does not know how to classify the nomad, and has tried many times to offer an alternative whereby; you can be legal, work from a coffee shop, pay a little tax and enjoy the spicy food till you are pushing up the rice.
More often than not the entry requirements were so way off what is feasible for the average nomad that few if any took these visas up.
Most nomads and even the Immigration know that the 1,000 THB paid per month in cash in person on visa day at the local Immigration office to keep legal that the average a nomad pays each month is a decent little earner for the government and is why we call it ‘Ferang tax’ so for now it all remains a very grey area.
Whatever you do to stay here there are many communities online and some are really helpful to find jobs, salary talk, latest Visa information, without which there would be no real long termers to talk about because without the Internet and great forums we would all be in the dark about what is happening outside your own bubble
One great forum is Ajarn Loue R’s page (@TeacherLifeTalkswithLoue) where he has decades of experience across all nomad and Teaching industries across Southeast Asia and can give you many pointers along the way.
You can’t do it alone so come and join us.