It is well documented that for many foreigners whom come to live in Thailand that it ends up going horribly wrong. An expats life in Thailand needs some good initial discipline and awareness. Failed relationships with Thai partners, losing all their money, horrible accidents (such as on a motorbike) and/or becoming alcoholics.

Now I am writing this just as debate, rhetoric and general interest; just one mans observations on what could be going on here, and I wondered if applying Maslows hierarchy of needs to this could shed some light on why it goes so horribly wrong for some expats.

If we look at the basic needs,  then it is quite straight forward – finding a place to rent or buy to live in Thailand, just as you would anywhere else in the world.

I think where it all starts to go wrong is in our psychological needs. It is very easy to get in with the wrong crowd, you know the type, the ones that do nothing more than drink beer everyday or the guys that are always skint. Maybe you start lending some money here and there, it will never end well in most cases. The need to feel like you belong is perhaps more stronger when you are outside of your domestic country too. It would be easy to argue people try far to hard to fit in and fit in with whomever will allow them when in Thailand. People who would never be your friends in your own country can become friends too easily when in Thailand.

I discussed the subject of friendship with many expats in Pattaya and most freely accepted they do not consider their friends here close friends like they had back home. They said making friends was actually quite difficult and more over the in order to make friends they would need to drink in a bar. This of course means drinking, and if not careful, a daily habit forms in order to have friends.

An Expats love needs is possibly the biggest area for where it can go wrong. There are certainly good Thai ladies – they offer some very redeeming qualities – but there are also those you should never get into a relationship with. If you met your girl from a bar then be very, very careful. Another thing I never understood is how a 65 year old guy with Western views and values could ever think a relationship with a 20 year old Isaan girl from the bar was ever going to work. I had two relationships from a bar in my time here and it was never far from the back of my mind that it was just a dumb thing I was doing, but at the time I pushed these thoughts out my mind. However, I never had the huge age gap you often still see. How are these relationships, which include the huge age gulf, anywhere near compatible? Both have different needs, education levels and expectations. It is no wonder there are so many relationship problems. It can be an emotional and financial nightmare that ruins the expat. It is heartbreaking. All those years waiting for his retirement, working so hard to build his nest egg and move to Thailand, just to see a young, uneducated girl take him for all he is worth.

Esteem needs are very difficult, because what is the measure of success here? It probably answers the question for why there are so many ‘ex-SAS and Manchester United footballers’ now retired here. Telling lies to ensure your esteem needs are met makes sense. Put the fact that you are surrounded by people therefore not being straight with you and drinking too much makes for a very bad situation.

Before we move on, please don’t think I am tarnishing every expat as many – in fact, possibly the majority – are able not to succumb. But it is also very clear that a significant number do not, and I am not talking marginal either.

Finally, self-actualization means we all need to achieve things – which is why we see so many failed business. Guys setting up in an industry they are not familiar with such as selling real estate or opening a bar.

Get Your Ecosystem Right

It comes down to being very careful, streetwise and building your own circle – ‘ecosystem’ – to ensure your paradise dream really turns out that way. We need to choose our friends, love ones and activities wisely – and doing this rationally when alone in a new country can be very challenging.


Let Dan know where you need help and he will send you recommendations and help you get set up

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