Chances are for many working expats that at some stage they will return back to their domestic countries, some via their own choosing and others just a shift in market conditions giving them no alternative. Thailand has long been lauded by expats as the lifestyle choice, so I was keen to find out how three former Pattaya working expats have adjusted to returning back to the UK.
What do you miss about Thailand?
Keith: “Obviously the weather is the main thing, the sun rising and setting at the same time almost all year round. I miss not having the opportunity of taking short breaks when not at work to some beautiful islands with a couple of hours drive from my home, I miss the great friends and acquaintances I made in the 15 years I was there, I miss my dog a lot, I miss the friendliness in my village, I always had neighbours, all be it expats, that I could socialise with at almost any hour of any day of the week! I miss waking up on a day off, taking my dog for a walk in the sun, then taking my daughter for a dip in pool. I miss the sense of relaxation and the lack of tardiness of Thailand, it was laughable “Thai Time”, I don’t really miss the food, my Mrs makes Thai food everyday if I choose to indulge.”
Razza: “This is a difficult one as there are so many things i miss but if I’m honest the biggest things is the people, I mean the close friends I made over the 10 or so years. And of course the days/nights out all the lads used to have. Those days unfortunately will probably never be repeated. Obviously playing and rehearsing with the guys in the band, the weather and the laid back life. Never seemed to rush about as far as work went. And not spending so many nights in doors like you do back in the UK. Always something to do over there, even on a mid week night. “
Matt: “I miss the sun, the bars, beaches and markets.”
Was moving back to the UK an easy transition?
Razza: “It was stressful ! But once my Thai wife got her settlement Visa it all seemed to go OK. I’m just on with her settlement extension at the moment. Again a little be stressful but I’m sure it will all go to plan, they just need lots of paperwork and not forgetting another 2,800 quid. 1,000 (37k baht) for the NHS, 1,000 for the extension…robbing b*stards… and 800 to fast track the decision which is also ridiculous if you ask me.
Matt: “After being in Thailand for 12 years it was a bit of a shock coming back to the UK but things have been pretty easy and straight forward. It is a different way of life you get use to out there but to be honest I think it’s better over here for my situation with one 8 year old child and another one due in November for the education alone it was the best option. When they leave school in Thailand there is not much option for work, they can get a good job with a salary of around 15,000-40,000 a month but in the UK it will be much higher. I know it’s more expensive here but it’s a better standard of living and better infrastructure around us. The kids will both have Thai passports so can decide for themselves once they get to that age where they want to live. The food over here I think is better quality and more options in the supermarkets and retail shopping as well more options I don’t regret moving back to the UK at all now.”
Keith: “The transition of moving back has been quite simple, I had a job within 2 weeks, a job I enjoy and that pays reasonably well, but be prepared, there are hand outs until you have spent 3 months here, and still to this day, all I have ever received is child benefit, £82 a month, which every child with a British passport is entitled to, I heard a rumour that when I first claimed it would be back dated to when she was born, this was not the case! my daughter loves school, her schooling has advanced to a stage where her maths is as good as the kids she shares a class with, although her English reading and writing she is about a year behind, but catching up on a monthly basis, she is 8 now, year 4, only having spend one full year in an English school I think by the time she goes to secondary school she will have caught up!
My Thai wife originally came over with our daughter and me, but after 6 months had to return as we were not married. In January, I then applied for a fiance visa having satisfied the financial requirements, she returned on her fiance visa 6 weeks ago, so now we will get married in the next couple of months and apply for the settlement visa in the UK. As you can imagine, this has been a costly process, as well as paying rent and supporting myself and my daughter over her, I need to support my wife over in Thailand, flights back and forth, £1690 visa fee for her fiance visa, visa company fees, and I have it all to pay for again, plus the NHS fees my my then wife, in a few months time!! All in all I reckon I will have spent almost £7000 on visa’s and flights before the year is out, that’s not including supporting my Mrs for the 5 months she was in Thailand this year, or the original visa and flights for all of us 13 months ago!!”
Would you ever come back to Thailand to retire?
Keith: “I do like the idea of that, my first priority is to get my daughter established in wherever she wants to be when she is of age, I would love the idea of spending every winter in Thailand as I get older, time will tell.”
Razza: “We’ve been back 4 times in the 2.5 years we moved away to visit family and friends. Was supposed to be coming back at Christmas new year to visit but, that baht !!! 30 something to the pound. Might have to pass and go to Spain Portugal instead, so much more value for money at the moment.
Retire back there? Doubt I could afford to retire back there Dan. Unless something drastic happens to the baht, but I have 20+ years till retirement mate so who knows.“
Having listened to these answers it reminded me of the fragility of being an expat. All three of these were friends of mine here in Thailand and yet, for one reason or another, all three left Thailand and returned to the UK. It is a sobering thought. Of course, expat lifestyle is hard to beat and the friends we make will leave a lifetime of memories – but, at some point, it is also likely to change as many move on to pastures new and that will leave empty voids throughout expat communities everywhere.