Skip to main content

Interview with James Donald – A Canadian expat living in Thailand

Updated 11 Feb 2020

James is an expat from Canada living in Buriram, Thailand. He teaches English in the day, and trains in the Muay Thai arena by night. James prefers the tranquillity of small-town life over the hustle and bustle of city life, and aims to explore Thailand outside of the “Western comfort bubble”.

Read more expat experiences in Thailand.

About JamesJames Donald Thailand

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Portage La Prairie, in Manitoba, Canada.

Q: Where are you currently living?
A: Buriram, Thailand.

Q: When did you move here?
A: I moved here In November 2019.

Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: Nope.

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I came here alone.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I came here to train at a specific Muay Thai gym.

Living in Buriram

Q: What do you enjoy most about Buriram? How would you rate the quality of life compared to Canada?
A: I don’t like big bustling cities, so this place is more my speed. It’s not easy to rate the quality of life compared to back home as my life here differs a lot. In general, life is 10 times more convenient when it comes to your basic needs.

Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: Nothing really. What do I miss? I guess just my family and friends, and some of the outdoor activities I enjoy that can’t be done here.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: Having to be more patient and less serious about everything was difficult at first. I didn’t experience much culture shock.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to Canada? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Thailand?
A: Well it’s at least 50 percent cheaper when it comes to food, travel and accommodation. My big cost is my Muay Thai gym fees. Gym fees here will be more expensive than most gyms back home as the training and coaching is longer, better and more in-depth.

Q: How would you rate the public transport in Buriram? What is your most memorable experience of using your city’s transport system?
A: Not sure, I never really use it as I have a motorcycle. But the Grab taxi service is everywhere, and super cheap.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Buriram? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: I’ve never had to go to the hospital, but from what I hear the quality of care is of a high standard.

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Buriram or Thailand? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Driving. If you don’t drive a motorcycle back home, don’t drive one here.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Buriram? What different options are available for expats?
A: The standard of housing is great. It is whatever you want really. I live alone so I keep it basic and economic. If you want to live like royalty and spend the money, you can live in upscale luxury for much cheaper than your home country.

Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Most expats should start inside the city. This is mainly for convenience. At least until they get the hang of the area, or acquire their means of transportation. 

Meeting people and making friends

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular groups? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Buriram?
A: Thai people, for the most part, are very friendly. They will go out of their way to help you. I have never experienced any discrimination myself, just minor communication difficulties.

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: I found it easy, but it depends on the person. For the most part, I met friends at the gym and through my various avenues of work.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals? 
A: I’m mainly friends with locals as there aren’t many expats here my age. I came here to culture myself, not stay in my “Western comfort bubble”.

Working in Buriram

Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: My visas are run through my language school. The only difficult thing I’ve experienced is sitting on long bus rides to the border. Do your research, ask questions from other expats with actual experience, and be cool and calm at every immigration office.

Q: What is the economic climate in Buriram like? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: Teaching jobs are the main source of expat employment here, and there seems to be no shortage of them. I like to show up and hand out resumes face to face rather than via email.

Q: How does the work culture differ from Canada? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Thailand? Did you have any particularly difficult experiences adapting to local business culture?
A: Thai people are less serious about time, so don’t expect everyone to be there on the hour.

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Thailand?
A: This isn’t your country or your culture. Learn, adapt, be friendly, and enjoy stepping outside your comfort zone. You will be glad you did.

– Interviewed February 2020

Expat Health Insurance

Cigna Health Insurance

Cigna Global Health Insurance.

Moving your family abroad can be intimidating, but learning about medical options such as family health insurance early on can help you settle successfully.

  • Comprehensive Family coverage, wherever you go
  • Paediatric coverage for well-child visits & immunizations
  • Access to dental and orthodontic care
  • 24/7 multilingual Customer Service

Get a quote from Cigna Global

Moving Internationally?

Sirelo logo

International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes from select removal companies now!