Country of Thousand Smiles. Part 1
An interview with the owner of an apartment in Phuket
A habit of smiling – is it a sincere joy or just a mask? How not to get ten years in prison here and how you can become a lucky owner of a property having spent just half an hour? The answer to these and many other questions you can find in our interview below.
- John, why did you decide to move to Thailand? It’s such a long way from your hometown, The USA…
- It’s never been a problem to fly long distances for me, and a long way is paid off with a splendid climate and an opportunity to swim in the sea year-round. Over the years my apartment in Phuket has become a kind of "foreign summer home" for all my family. We come here every year.
- Did you consider any other options, except Phuket?
- It might sound bad, but I did not want to live next door to socialists, Muslims and too temperamental immigrants from Latin America. So I made a decision towards Thailand. I thought about India too, but I just don't like India that much. Having compared these two options, I came to the conclusion that the first option is much closer to me. The Old World is much more expensive in terms of property market. Otherwise I would probably choose some European city.
- Are the Thai really smiling all the time or is it just a cliche?
- You know, the usual atmosphere in this country is really very friendly. A smile here is not only expression of joy but sometimes showing hatred, on the contrary. Of course, you’ll learn how to deal with it but it takes some time and experience to get used to it.
- Did you have any language barriers?
- We call local form of English “Thaiglish”. It is simpler than the traditional British English, so you can easily learn and speak it, if you have some grammar and lexical basis, even if you are not a native English speaker. In case you have a lack of vocabulary, you can always show by gestures or even draw what you need – it is always funny.
Speaking about the Thai language, it is extremely difficult for learning, especially for a foreigner. So, some kind of language barrier is quite natural here. Although the openness and sociability of local people, their friendliness and willingness to help destroys all these barriers very quickly. Almost everyone here will be glad to help you and sincerely will try to understand you. Unlike the Arabs – nothing personal (laughs) – the Thais are very considerate, and if they are selling something to you, they would rather help than impose. It helps a lot.
- Besides language differences, there are cultural ones. How do you deal with this? Is it comfortable for foreigners to live in Thailand?
- Yes, indeed. I can give you just one example which was a real surprise for me. Homeless animals here are not afraid of humans; they are well fed and look quite well. On almost every corner there is a so-called Spirit house, a kind of sanctuary where people bring in food for different spirits, but finally animals are supposed to eat it. All kinds of local fauna come to these “houses” – squirrels, lizards, monkeys – and eat. That is a good sign if the food is eaten. Such attitude to the “wild world” is far more expressive than words, - it is impossible to imitate.
The Thais are religious people, devoutly religious. For example, when the bus is passing statues of Buddha, all passengers fold their hands in a special way as a sign of respect, and even the driver does so.
- And what is the attitude towards other religions here?
- It is quite good. At least I never had problems because of having a different religion. People of any denomination can live in Thailand quite comfortably. Thais are very tolerant. Besides Thai temples, there are a lot of mosques, Chinese pagodas, Protestant communities and even Orthodox Church in Phuket. The only thing you shouldn’t do by all means is to demonstrate a disdain for Buddhism. If you show any disrespect towards even the smallest-sized Buddha statue, you can get ten to fifteen years in prison, regardless of your religious affiliation. Of course, a well-mannered person will not allow himself to do so. I think, this is a correct attitude – every religion is worthy of respect.
- You mentioned the difference between “Thai” and “European” prices. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?
- Sure. For example, a dinner for two people in a quite expensive Phuket restaurant of European cuisine costs about 2500 THB. This is my own experience. As we know, generally foreign cuisine is more expensive than the traditional one. So, in this respect 2500 THB is not expensive, I think. In a Thai-food restaurant near my condo you can have a good meal for just 300 THB.
- How can you characterize the income necessary for 1-month living? What is the “minimum cost of living” for an expat?
- It depends on personal demands. For one person 1 000 dollars would be enough for a month, the other one might need 10 000 USD. In general, it depends on the level of comfort which is required for every specific person.
- What are maintenance fees for your apartment?
- Our housing complex is provided with lots of amenities – parking, tennis court, fitness club and a swimming pool. Maintenance fee is 500 THB per month, payment as per meter is about 1200 - 1500 THB per month.
- How comfortable for you was the procedure of property purchase? Did real estate agent help you with this?
- I was really surprised about the difference of this procedure here and in my country. I'm talking about property purchase. The entire process took about 2 hours. I signed papers, paid money, and got my keys – that’s it!
Another important point is the following – according to local laws, at least 51% of all apartments in an aparts house must be owned by Thais. You must obtain a special document which would determine that your purchase does not violate this ratio. Usually it takes a couple of weeks, but I had a good agent, he managed all things for just four days which, for the record, I spent at the beach.
So, I’m really grateful to the guys from the agency. They did everything very quickly and professionally, and were so nice to me.
- As a person who’s been living in the Kingdom for many years, what advice can you give to those who’s planning to move here?
Smile - this is the most important! Otherwise, locals will be very concerned about you and they might think that something happened with you. Besides, you should be respectful to everybody, without any exception, you should behave politely and respect local traditions. For example, you shouldn’t stretch your legs towards another person on the beach – it is not complied with local manners. And finally, you should understand to yourself what exactly you want from this beautiful and varied country. Then it will be easier to find what you need, and you will, for sure.