How to Turn Your Dreams of Moving to Thailand into a Reality

Millions of People Dream of Living in Thailand

A guy in at a bar on Koh Chang once told me that at least fifty percent of visitors to Thailand dream about being able to return as a full-time resident. This person obviously pulled this statistic out of his arse, but it does kind of ring true. You only have to look at the unhappy faces in Suvarnabhumi Airport departure lounge to see that many tourists feel desperate to stay.

Suan Som Rayong

Why Do Some People Only Dream of Moving to Thailand

Only a tiny minority of those who dream about moving to Thailand are going to turn this into a reality. Here are the most common reasons people never get beyond the dreaming stage:

• For a lot of these people, the idea of moving to Thailand is just a whim – a symptom of post-holiday blues. They are mostly happy to return to their normal life, and they look back upon their sudden desire to move sticks to the ‘Land of Smiles’ as a kind of brain-fart.
• There are lots of dreamers who are waiting for the right time to move to Thailand. They fail to realize that there is never going to be a perfect time – there will always be another excuse to delay.
• The majority of people choose financial security above their own happiness. This means they are unlikely to ever do anything drastic like quit their job to start again in an unfamiliar country. The sad reality for these people is that their sense of security is often only an illusion – they can play it safe and still end up struggling.
• In some cases it just won’t be practical for the person to move to Thailand. The sacrifices they would need to make in order to turn this dream into a reality involve too high a cost for them.

Giving Advice to People Who Dream of Moving to Thailand

I regularly receive emails from people who are eager to move to Thailand. I used to work as a teacher here, so these exchanges usually involve advice on how to gain access to this profession. I do try to be as helpful as possible, but it is difficult to get the balance right between being realistic and not trampling on people’s dreams. My knowledge about teaching in Thailand is a bit out-of-date, so I tend to recommend resources like

I honestly believe that if somebody is motivated enough, they are going to be able to make a life in Thailand. The problem is lots of these dreamers have half-backed plans that sound likely to end in disaster. I feel particularly pessimistic when people tell me they want to move to Thailand to escape their ‘shitty life’ – I know from experience that we tend to take our shitty life with us.

I think it is a mistake to sacrifice too much now just to be able to live in Thailand at some point in the future. I’ve had guys tell me how they put in incredibly long hours at jobs they hate for years just so they can save up enough money for the move. It sometimes sounds as if these people don’t have any type of real life – all they do is work and dream about moving to Thailand. This is a real shame – as John Lennon once said, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.

Koh Samet

How to do More Than Just Dream of Moving to Thailand

Here are my suggestions for turning the dream of moving to Thailand into a reality:

• Create a definite deadline for moving to Thailand – don’t wait for the right time because it is unlikely to ever come.
• Do your homework and find out as much as you can about the expat life in this part of the world – online forums can be a good source for the latest information.
• Don’t view Thailand as a solution to your problems – sort your life out before you make the move.
• If you want to teach English in Thailand, it is best to always try to do things as legitimately as possible. You may be able to pick up some teaching work without qualifications, but your options are going to be very limited.
• It may sound boring, but it is a good idea to carefully plan your move to Thailand.
• The goal of moving country can be intimidating, so it may be best to break it down into smaller goals – e.g. you could focus on savings or getting qualifications for teaching first of all.
• Sometimes we have to change paths in order to reach a goal. Don’t become so attached to a plan that you continue with it even though it is leading you to failure.
• Do ask advice from expats and be open to what they have to say – this doesn’t mean that you have to believe their every word.
• Learn the Thai language before you come and get involved in Thai cultural events in your home country.

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18 thoughts on “How to Turn Your Dreams of Moving to Thailand into a Reality

  1. Lani is right Paul, too many expats already here 😉

    That being said, I have to agree with your recommendations. When I decided I wanted to move to Thailand I put a plan in place and followed it as closely as possible. It was a five year plan and I ended up moving in four years. That was probably a year too early 🙂 but I don’t regret it in the least.

    Truth is that all your problems WILL come with you, but…and this is a big but…if you can keep your wits about you once you get here life in Thailand is much better than in America (I can’t speak for the U.K., Ireland, Australia and all European countries). Less stress (even in Bangkok, where it seems some people insist on trying to add stress to my life), cost of living is not necessarily cheaper, but it is reasonable, the people are mostly cool and accepting, and it’s Thailand.

    Honestly, I didn’t find it that difficult to make the move and if it is that difficult then I suggest the potential expat re-examine his/her life and expectations. But then I could probably say the same of living in any country. It can be very good no matter where you are…it all depends on YOU.

    P.S. Why are the required fields above defaulting to right justified? Not a problem really, just weird.

    1. Hi Steve – I was actually meant to be moving to the US before ending up in Thailand. I’d been offered a green card on the basis of passing the NCLEX nursing exam. The thing that put me of was talking to one of the nursing administrators who told me about all the overtime I’d be expected to do. I told her I didn’t like to do overtime, and the reply was that it wasn’t optional – how can overtime not be optional? So maybe it is more stressful to live in the US.

      1. Paul,

        The overtime (and good hourly wage) is the reason many people choose nursing in the U.S. If you are a nurse and working less than 40 hours a week in the U.S. it is because you aren’t working in a hospital. Even working as a nursing assistant in the U.S. my wife was putting in 50-60 hour weeks. It is expected. And it isn’t only nursing. I worked 60-70 hours a week in the IT field. The truth is that it’s cheaper for employers to pay overtime rather than having another full time employee.

  2. Paul, I had not heard of this mandatory overtime problem before reading your comment. I looked it up and best I can tell, it’s a way that hospitals and health care providers hire fewer employees in order to keep costs down. I cannot understand why it is not made illegal! Here is one of the articles I found that explains:

    Thank you for making me aware of this problem.

    1. Hi Lynne, I got the impression it was normal, but it could have just been the contract I was signing. I was actually going to be working for an agency for the first two years. They paid for everything like flights to the US to sit the NCLEX exam and arranging the Green Card – in the end I had to buy myself out of the contract.

  3. I get what you’re saying about people wanting to get “away from their shitty lives” as an expat in india, i can say that your old life doesn’t disappear. although mine was far from shitty, i actually had a hard time moving b/c i loved home.. with skype and all the other social media sometimes people forget how far away i am, including me!! then i go outside and remind myself.awesome post!

    1. Thanks Rachel, I love home a lot more now that I don’t live there 🙂 The internet is so much smaller because of the internet. I love the fact that I can go to street view on Google Maps and walk around my home town any time I want.

  4. Hi Paul,

    You’ve got to have goals, and you’ve got to have determination. Before I moved to Thailand I’d been holidaying there for on and off 7 years. I knew I wanted to live in LOS but lacked the bottle. So I took a TEFL course and started chatting with Thai’s and expats online via the old bangkokchat in 2002.

    I simply told everyone with with whom I was chatting that I was going to teach English in Thailand starting early 2003. In other words I couldn’t find an excuse to back out as plenty of people would say.. ‘What happened to living in Thailand then?’ In short a complete loss of face for me. This is how I successfully turned a pipe dream into reality.

    I arrived in Thailand in Jan 2003 and worked as a teacher until Jan 2008. I returned to the UK because of the tightening of the visa laws + no degree. I started doing an OU degree and with a bit of luck will return to Thailand in the next 2 years.

    I’ve entertained ideas of simply moving and finishing my degree in Thailand, but as you said Paul illegal teaching gigs are a lot fewer and far between these days, I simply don’t want to risk it. Best to finish my degree in the UK first.

    1. Hi Mark, I love the fact that you are willing to sacrifice to make your dream a reality. It is too easy for us to just look for the quick-fix. You’ll be in a much better position when you come back with your degree. I agree with you about needing goals. I spent a small fortune a couple of years of study on a Post-Graduate Certificiate in Education but within a few years I’d decided that teaching wasn’t for me. I don’t regret doing the PGCE because it gave me something to shoot for during that part of my life.

  5. Hi Paul,

    You could think of the PGCE as a kind of insurance fallback. There’s a huge demmand for teachers in Thailand and ppl like you with a PG are in high demmand.

  6. Another great post. I am visiting Thailand early next year (very excited)! I moved to South Africa from UK earlier this year and as Rachel said social media and smartphone apps make it so easy to remain in contact. Still is not home but the sun and beaches make it bearable 😉

  7. very good advice paul. i met the women who became my wife here in petchabun eight years ago. teaching english didn’t pay enough here to support the family (wife, mother-in-law and daughter) so i went back to USA to work. for the next 5 years i avoided making any commitments, connections or obligations in the states, cause any day now the magical means to move to thailand and live forever would appear. so far, the magic business or job hasn’t appeared. i’ve worked, lived cheaply in the states, and come home to thailand when i saved enough to make a trip. a few years ago, i realized that if i was going to stay sane in while stuck in the states, i need to engender friendships, get involved in projects. so now i’m straddling two worlds. sigh.

    i would add to your suggestion list one idea. if you are thinking you’d like to live in thailand, save your money and come over here and live for at least three months. travel around the country. make friends here online and come visit them. you’ll know if this really is the place for you after being here for three months or more. a few weeks “vacation” is hardly enough time to get over jet lag and culture shock. cares…

    1. Great suggestion thaikarlha. I’ve heard from a few guys that split their time between Thailand and their home country – I think it is a good comprimise. I sometimes wish I could spend a bit more time back in Europe.

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