Looking to get away from the familiarities of life and challenge himself one more time, Matthieu (Matt) made the move to Thailand in 2016. As a French expat with experience living and working as a bartender in Australia, Matt initially moved to Bangkok and started an event planning company. These days, he works as a Marketing Manager and SEO Consultant for a local company.
Read more about expat life in Thailand in our Expat Arrivals country guide.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Tours, France
Q: Where are you currently living?
A: Bangkok, Thailand
Q: When did you move to Bangkok?
Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No, I also lived in Australia for a year back in 2010.
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved here without a plan, but looking for new opportunities. After starting an event management company and working remotely for different companies, I’m now a Marketing Manager for a company based in Bangkok and an SEO Consultant.
Living in Bangkok
Q: What do you enjoy most about Bangkok? How would you rate the quality of life compared to France?
A: What I enjoy the most about Bangkok is the weather, the people, the food, the energy, and the feeling of freedom you have when you live in this city.
It’s an exciting city with a lot of things to do, a lot of changes, and where everything feels possible.
Overall, I would say that the quality of life is way better in Thailand compared to France for me. Not only are services cheaper and more easily accessible, giving you access to more without breaking the bank. But I also feel like there are more opportunities for work, business, and to meet new people than in France.
Q: Any negative experiences? What do you miss most about home?
A: I don’t have a lot of negative experiences to share about living in Bangkok. I would say the worst thing about living in Bangkok is definitely the traffic. It takes some time to get used to it and to find the right solutions for you (move closer to your work or a BTS station, get a motorbike…), but it becomes manageable after that.
Also figuring out what visa to pick to stay long-term in Thailand when you’re not an employee can be a struggle. It can also be a complex and expensive process. I don’t miss much about France, except the cheap prices for quality French food and wine. You can find pretty much any product you want in Bangkok, but you have to be ready to pay a premium for it.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Bangkok? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: I have at least one culture shock every week, whether it’s positive or negative, even after more than seven years of living here. In Thailand, you have to learn to go with the flow and that your logic, or what seems normal in your home country, is different here. It took me a while to get used to a lot of things here, but overall I’d say it’s all a positive experience.
That’s in part why I choose to live in a different country with a different culture. It pushes you to distance yourself from what you’ve learned and how you’ve been raised, and it forces you to keep an open mind.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to France? Is there anything particularly expensive or particularly cheap in Thailand?
A: The cost of living in Thailand is way cheaper than in France. Even though Bangkok has become significantly more expensive over the years, it’s still cheap compared to other countries.
The prices for food, accommodation and utilities have risen quite a bit lately, but in my case, it’s still a lower percentage of my income than it would have been if I was living in France. The only things that feel more expensive in Thailand are going out, alcoholic drinks, festivals, concerts and some activities.
Compared to the general cost of living here, the prices for these specific activities can be quite high.
This is partly due to higher taxes on imported and luxury goods.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Bangkok? What is your most memorable experience of using your city’s transport system?
A: The public transport systems in Bangkok are quite good, except during rush hour when they are completely packed. During those hours, it’s better to use motorbike taxis.
I don’t have any specific memories of the public transport in Bangkok. My most memorable experiences in Bangkok have to be wild rides on either a motorbike taxi or a tuk-tuk driving fast through the traffic. It’s a must-try for everyone coming to Bangkok.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Bangkok? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regard to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: The healthcare in Bangkok is excellent if you have good insurance and are willing to pay for quality service. The quality and the price of the service can be really different from one hospital to the other or even between doctors within the same hospital. So regardless of where and why you go there, I recommend you always get different opinions until you find a place and a doctor that you can trust.
Based on my experience and those of friends, these are the three hospitals in Bangkok I would recommend:
- Bumrungrad International Hospital
- Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital
- Bangkok Hospital
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Bangkok and Thailand as a whole? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Thailand is relatively safe, and I’ve never felt in danger during the nearly eight years I’ve lived here. That said, using common sense is essential. Avoid picking fights, raising your voice, and getting involved in confrontations, and you should be able to steer clear of trouble.
While Thailand is generally safe, like any other place, it's important to be cautious. Some areas might be less safe at night, and tourists can sometimes be targeted for scams. But overall, if you take reasonable precautions, Thailand is a very safe place to live.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Bangkok? What different options are available for expats?
A: The standard of housing in Bangkok is excellent and offers a wide range of options to suit all budgets and tastes. You have a lot of options, from houses to condos, modern or old, luxury or budget-friendly. It’s not rare to have condos on the same street that are a couple of hundred dollars a month next to condos that cost thousands of dollars a month. That also shows how wide the wealth gap is in the country.
It’s also super easy to find a place to stay. All the real estate agents will help you find a place at no extra charge for you. All you need is to pay three months of rent (the first month of rent and two months for the deposit) and a copy of your passport to move in. This might be a bit different from what you're used to in other countries, but it's standard practice here.
Plus, most places are fully furnished. In many cases, you can sign a contract and move in on the same day.
So in terms of both variety and convenience, Bangkok is hard to beat.
Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Any place in upper Sukhumvit is a safe and popular choice for expats, especially between the Nana and On Nut BTS stations. I’d recommend the Asoke, Phrom Pong and Thonglor neighbourhoods for anyone who wants to be where the action is and hang out with expats.
For those looking for a quieter, more budget-friendly experience, Ekkamai, Prakanong, and On Nut are excellent options. These areas offer more affordable rent and are home to many local shops and smaller restaurants, giving you a more authentic Thai experience.
Meeting people and making friends in Bangkok
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there obvious discrimination against any particular group? Have you ever experienced discrimination in Bangkok?
A: I’ve never experienced discrimination in Thailand. Thailand is generally known for its hospitality, and the majority of locals are welcoming towards foreigners. All the issues I had with locals were due to misunderstandings because I barely speak Thai. I’d recommend that anyone moving to Thailand learn some basic Thai phrases and customs. Not only does it show respect for the local culture, but it can make day-to-day interactions smoother.
Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It’s super easy to meet people in Bangkok. It’s a lively city with a lot going on, so no matter what you’re into (sports, culture, food…), you’ll find events and groups to join. Plus, the expat community here is really welcoming. Go where expats hang out, go out with your colleagues, or join one of the online communities or Facebook groups.
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 don’t have a lot of local friends because I mostly work and hang out with expats or tourists. Sports and activities are a good way to meet and mix with locals though. And if you make take a step toward them, most Thais will welcome you with open arms.
Working in Bangkok
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: I’ve done all the visas you can imagine, from tourist to student and work visas. The difficulty of the process can be very different from one person to another. In my experience, using an agency or a consultant always helped. They can help you understand the application process, guide you through the required documentation, and even expedite the approval in some cases.
When you work here, it’s different. Your company is in charge of the application and renewal of your visa, so it shouldn’t be an issue. But it’s better to talk to a consultant or ask other expats if you have any issues picking the right visa for you or applying for it.
Q: What is the economic climate in Bangkok like? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: In Bangkok and Thailand in general, it feels like everything is always moving and changing fast. Although we could feel the economic impact due to the pandemic and a global economic slowdown, there are still a lot of opportunities in a lot of sectors.
In my experience in marketing, networking has been the most effective way to find a job. Consider connecting with other expats either online or in person, attending industry meetups, and don't hesitate to ask for referrals or introductions. Platforms like LinkedIn, JobsDB, and various expat forums are also popular ways to find jobs here. Personal connections have been invaluable for me, and that's how I secured my current job.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Thailand? Did you have any particularly difficult experiences adapting to the local business culture?
A: In Thailand, the work culture significantly varies from what you might be used to in Western countries like France. One of the primary differences is in communication styles. Thai culture is often about avoiding direct confrontation. As a result, you may find that your colleagues and superiors prefer more indirect forms of communication. It means you often have to read between the lines. This is quite different from the more direct communication style we are used to in France.
In larger companies, diplomacy and office politics can be more pronounced, so it's important to navigate these carefully. You may also encounter the concept of 'saving face,' which is crucial in Thai culture; understanding this can help you deal with some sensitive situations. Over time, like me, you'll learn how to adapt your communication style, pick up on social cues, and understand the unspoken rules that govern office life here. Be patient with yourself and others as you adapt, and don't hesitate to ask your colleagues and other expats for advice.
Family and children in Bangkok
Q: How has your spouse or partner adjusted to your new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for an accompanying spouse?
A: My French ex-girlfriend joined me in Bangkok two years after I had already settled into the city. At first, it was difficult for her to meet new people. While I had my job and a group of friends, she was starting from scratch, which was quite difficult for her. To tackle this, she used online platforms like Meetup to connect with both locals and expats. These events helped her get acclimated to Bangkok's social scene and quickly build a circle of friends.
For spouses moving to Bangkok, my advice would be to actively engage in the community, learn some of the local language, and make use of online resources to make new friends. Moving to a different country can be difficult, but if you take a step toward the local communities, you’ll find that most of them are very welcoming and interesting.
Q: What are some family attractions and activities that you can recommend in Bangkok?
A: There are a lot of family attractions and activities in the city, whether it’s going to the park, bowling, cinemas, climbing, and many other options. But also, don’t hesitate to leave Bangkok. Just a few hours' drive from Bangkok, you have way more options, from hiking in the mountains of Khao Yai to relaxing by the beach in Hua Hin or Chonburi.
Q: What are the schools like? Any particular suggestions?
A: Most of my fellow French expats who have kids are sending them to the Lycée Français International de Bangkok.
Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Bangkok and Thailand?
A: Connect with other expats online and in real life. Explore the online communities, the blogs, the websites, etc. There are a lot of great resources out there, and whatever you’re going through and the questions you have, it’s highly likely that another expat has already been through it and found the answers you’re looking for.
My other advice would be to learn Thai. You don’t need to be fluent, but it will help you understand the culture, make local friends, and navigate through the country to explore all the things that are reserved for Thai-speaking people.