I cannot remember in my lifetime a situation as grave as this across the world. Our daily lives have been ground to a halt and we are now self-isolating. When I read about what the future landscape could look like even the experts are just making best guesses. They have never had to deal with such an uncertain pandemic. From everyone I speak to online from expats across Thailand to my friends and family back in the UK, we are totally consumed with what will happen now.
From a working point of view, like many, I no longer go to my office in Pattaya. Life has very quickly morphed into something very different. I see a meme online joking ‘what day is it now?, and that feels about right. What’s interesting is how my family and I have adapted to ‘a new way of life’ with ease. In just a week we have a new routine.
Sometimes it is easy to be extremely worried for ones health, but it does appear those with pre-conditions are most at risks. Being in Thailand, although nothing seems to be confirmed, there was hope that the high temperatures were impacting the ability of the virus to spread. Rates being reported at this time do suggest that at very least it is helping. But, and a large reason for such fear among people is, we just don’t know. Hence why we are hanging on to any news report we can read online.
Thaivisa.com is currently operating around the clock on reporting the latest news and I would suggest you follow this site on Facebook to be kept up to the minute on updates – click here.
The big issue is no one knows just how long this issue will go on for. I am certainly in no position to comment, but would recommend an excellent article by a New York science writer, ‘How the Pandemic will End’ (click to read). It’s as interesting and informative as it is chilling.
Where does that leave us Expats?
For now as an Expat in Thailand we are in the same boat as people world over, when will this end or at least when will we be able to get a degree of normality back?
It has been a tough time for many Expats even before the coronavirus with tightening of visa regulations for retirees and a strong baht impacting on pensions. In turn the Western Expat market shrunk and put more pressure on business targeting that segment. Western business needed to increase their share on a declining pie or adapt and diversify. For many of these business though they don’t have the know how to do this, it’s not easy.
Now with this pandemic, business in Thailand has been hit hard. Tourist areas like Samui, Pattaya, Phuket and so on have become like ghost towns. With stricter rules in place to try and contain and restrict this virus – business is starved of income.
I spoke to a Pattaya restaurant just today and he said he had no choice but to let 2/3 of his staff go. A hotelier in Bangkok I spoke to has just put his staff on a 10 day a month unpaid leave. People are losing their jobs and businesses are just holding on. It is desperate times.
This is typical to not just Thailand but world over. I can only hope that my fellow working expats have enough money in savings to get through this as, for now, they are stuck. But they are not alone, Thais are having the same issues – as is much of the world.
It also begs two question when the world gets on top of this virus:
(1) What will be the worlds appetite to travel short term and,
(2) How much disposable income will people have given job losses and cut backs world over?
This means Western business in Thailand hoping for a influx of new tourists once we get a degree of normality back may not happen anytime soon. This could have an impact far longer than months but even years.
I am sure it will change us
Suddenly we are all in an alien and new environment and as concerning there is no ETA. I must admit that before this I was a little self-absorbed in myself. I was focused on work, new projects, hitting the gym, learning and my immediate family.
I rarely spoke to my friends in the UK and occasionally my two brothers also. Now, during such a crisis I have been in contact with them on most days to make sure they are doing well. Not that I worry really about them catching the virus, I just want to check their spirit is good.
This tragedy has brought out the best in me, and I am quite sure this is the case world over. Scenes of UK residents applauding the NHS staff on their doorsteps, to Italians singing on the balconies to each other. We are pulling together and the human spirit has never been stronger.
It makes me wonder if the local Expat communities in Thailand will become tighter than ever before. That this experience will remind us of ours and others mortality. A reality check of what is really important in life, our health and love of friends and family.
However, I must resist the urge to jump the gun and stop dreaming of when this is over as I feel right now that this pandemic has only just begun.
If we assume this pandemic still has a long way to go globally and here in Thailand, we are all unsure of the repercussions. What will be left of Expat business – Just how much damage will have been done? It could be massive. Expat business is often small independent, one man bands with a few Thai staff. The longer this goes, the harder it will be for the working Expat community to recover. What is not to say, many don’t just jump on a plane and head back to their domestic countries after that has finished? Remember, for many even before this virus they were finding business tough.
And if you think, oh well it’s just the market and dynamics at play then don’t forget also, less Western business and services mean less choice for you. A once vibrant location to live with lots of things for Westerners to do could be seriously compromised. I cannot help but fear many Western F&B could close for good if this situation becomes prolonged.
I hope this not the case and think we need to be stronger together to help each other.
When it comes to producing vlogs and blogs, to be honest I feel a bit redundant during these uncertain times. It was only ever intended as a casual hobby away from my regular line of work. As much as I want to write my positive upbeat accounts of life in Thailand, now does not feel the time.
We can all help fellow Expats
From my small part I will happily offer my advice for free on any marketing, sales or strategic issues any Expat business is currently experiencing and try to help come up with best solutions. You can contact me via this website and I promise to answer any question to the best of my ability. I spent 10 years at Coca-Cola Enterprises, two years developing business propositions for the Post Office and have over 15 years of working experience here in Thailand.
For now, we are all in relative lock down and still have no idea when this pandemic will ever finish. I wish you and your family stay safe.