Downsides and risks of living in Thailand

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Last edited: June 24, 2023 at 15:55:10

Despite all its obvious advantages, Thailand does have some serious problems that can affect your well-being, your safety, your health or your investments. No matter how appealing life in Thailand appears to be judging from sunny holiday pictures or even during a long stay during a first year, one should not forget that in most aspects Thailand is still a developing country, despite what typical Thailand lovers tend to tell you. The fact that the underground in Bangkok is more shiny than the one in London doesn't mean that the country is really developed, nor the fact that you can get so many different types of cuisine in Chiang Mai. In a separate article, I address the question whether Thailand is in fact a failed state or not.

Disregarding what you call it, a first, second or third world country, sooner or later you'll come to experience some of the major downsides of Thailand whether you like it or not.

Thailand the perfect holiday destination
Judging from the perfect holiday pictures, some people think Thailand is a paradise


This is probably Thailand's biggest problem, because from low education levels everything else derives: a lack of awareness of what's going on, a lack of drive, a lack of depth, corruption and so on.

Education levels in Thailand are very low at virtually every type of school and every age group (from kindergarten to university). This is shown year after year by numerous international rankings but it should be obvious to you if you really engage with Thai people. You can notice from the lack of depth in the conversations, from the quality of work delivered and from the shallowness of Thai society in general.
There are 'universities' in nearly every small town and many young people you meet have graduated from a university but they end up working as a sales staff in Homepro rather than what they were trained for. I've met countless graduated university students of English or Business English completely unable to engage in any conversation.

The main reasons for low education lie in Thai culture and the Thai approach to education. Thai culture lacks drive, passion, competitiveness and curiosity. Instead it promotes social harmony, order, respect for parents, elderly and the teacher.
The Thai approach to learning is by repeating-after-me (the teacher), not by questioning. Students are not allowed to fail because 'the parents have paid', so they are given another chance and yet another chance until they pass.
If you have foreign teacher friends, they will tell you many stories about how frustrated they are not to be able to apply 'normal' educational standards, even though the school advertises a "Cambridge" standard.

This is not to say there are no smart people here, but they haven't been stimulated optimally and the ones that end up at the so-called top universities constitute the future elite, aggravating the de facto class society that Thailand is.

On average, Thai kids spend about the longest amount of time in school or in after-school tutoring in Asia, while Thailand is proportionally one of the highest spending countries in the world on education, but the quality of education is still poor. A teacher friend told me how children go home showing their parents a map of the world where they have colored each country differently. The parents are satisfied that their children learned so much about the world, but in fact the children don't memorize the countries, they merely used the map as a drawing.

Low education standards can affect you as a foreigner in many ways: it will be harder to find local friends to have a good conversation with, it will be harder to find a partner to have a serious relationship with, it will be harder to find good staff with knowledge and skills, and in daily life you may run into all kinds of problems, many of them can be derived from the problem of low educational standards.

Low education is a vicious circle because low quality teachers teach the next generation and ignorance is bliss. It is also a major factor in the political divide of the country, because with more education comes more equality and more opportunity for individual development.

Some foreigners claim that in their home country, people are also uneducated, I cannot comment on that, international rankings research a whole bunch of factors and can tell you more about that. But in practice and in daily life you can notice, and if you've been around in Asia you will tell the difference immediately. The Phillippines are poorer than Thailand but it's easier to meet educated people, probably because in general the command of English is better and so people have more access to international knowledge.


Thai people are happy and easily content, making them very relaxed and easy going. Some of the most commonly used words in Thai are sabai สบาย and maipenrai ไม่เป็นไร. The meaning of sabai is closer to being comfortable than to being happy, while maipenrai translates best as never mind. Thai people want to be comfortable, with enough money, playing with their phones, drinking coffee or whiskey. It is rather hard to meet Thai people with a target in life or a real passion, most are laid back, if they can enjoy today they won't worry about tomorrow. When I say target, I mean giving yourself a target and systematically and diligently achieving it every day, accepting what it takes to get there and working towards your long term target. In other words: going for it.
All Thai people have the dream or target to be rich, but not many accept the effort to get there, they'd rather accept something less to be more comfortable or dream that it somehow will be given to them. To change someone's MAIPENRAI mindset to a GO-FOR-IT mindset is a true quantum leap.


That is not to say that there aren't Thai people in Thailand who don't work hard / long hours. Some work very long hours, but the motivation, passion and drive for success aren't at par with for example immigrants from China who entered Thailand in waves in the past and mostly became successful with their businesses, with many in the top of Thailand's business community nowadays. Just working long hours doesn't mean having a motivation and getting somewhere, many Thai people work longer than 8 hours a day anyways.

I run a company with 50 staff. I have a standing offer to my employees that I pay for courses that will greatly improve their skillset. Normally, out of 50 staff, only 1-3 take the offer to benefit from free training, the rest rather stays at the same level that they always been. But over the years I managed to accomplish one big thing: a change of mindset. The staff who did the additional training were able to generate more income and some others have grown envious of that. So now, a significant number (but still not the majority) of them are willing to do extra training out of their own pocket. This is a major change of mindset from the original Thai mindset.

There are cultural, historic and probably geographic reasons for the lack of drive, lack of motivation and lack of passion that you often find amongst Thai people. I believe the main cause lies in their interpretation of Buddism, which makes them very apathic, lethargic, accepting their fate and the situation they were born in without wanting to try to change it and with a distant hope of a better next life. Geographically, Thailand is a very fertile country without many natural disasters or challenges, making it easy to harvest a bit of rice and vegetables even if you don't work hard.

Now for the foreigners in Chiang Mai, for the majority it's the same: they are laid back and feel attracted to the relaxed atmosphere. Only for smaller groups, such as entrepreneurs and digital nomads one could argue that they have a drive, but if you're a dropshipper living of 20k a month and can't afford to live anywhere else in the world, one could question that too.

The downside of all of this is that if you feel energized mixing with people with new ideas and inittiatives you will have a bit harder time to find them in Chiang Mai. And if you need local people to perform, for example while renovating your house, you may get disappointed.


Now even if you're kind of a hermit or don't really bother about how motivated and how educated people are around you, pollution is definitely going to affect you. When I talk about pollution it is not only air pollution, but also pollution in the water that you drink and in the food that you eat. Fact is, even if you're careful, you're going to get quite some in your body.

Chiang Mai is notorious for its air pollution especially in the period that foreigners call the Smokey Season: basically end of Feb until April or so. This is the period of traditional slash-and-burn of rice fields and woods all over the north of Thailand and the neigboring countries Laos and Myanmar. For a few weeks, Chiang Mai 'prides' itself in the world top, the world top of the most polluted cities in the world!
In the course of April and May, the worst of the pollution slowly fades away, but all through the year, there is still a significant local air pollution along all major roads. This is mainly because fuels used in Thailand are of inferior quality and cars are not well-maintained. Seeing complete black or white smoke coming out of the exhaust pipes of red cabs and normal cars is not an exception.
If your apartment is near a main road, check your exhause fan in 2 months: there will be a sticky black pollution on the blades. The same black sticky pollution sinks down on the surface of roads, and if you had perfectly white Sketcher shoe soles, I guarantee you that they'll be black with a week.

Water pollution happens in various forms. First of all, tap water in Thailand is not potable, quite the contrary: small amounts of chlorine are added to it as a lazy way to let it flow to households and businesses without major problems. Even if you don't use it for drinking, cooking or steaming rice, it still flows through your shower. The intake of pollutants from shower water through your pores is actually much higher than you can imagine, and people with sensitive skin may suffer. Have a look at the inside of the water tank of your apartment building, or open the tab again after a disruption and you see what brown filth is coming into your room. You can buy special water filters to purify your shower water but even those won't be 100% effective.

RO water is the standard water quality you get in restaurants and it is used to make ice blocks which are served in your glass, but it's dubious how really clean and healthy that is for your health. Some people have reported getting sick from ice blocks due to bacteria or unhygienic circumstances in which they were kept.

Read more about drinking water quality here

Finally, food safety. When living in Thailand, you will not be able to avoid intake of pesticides from vegetables and fruits. Every time you eat out, you will be eating veggies, meat and other food with some kind of pollutants in it. Even if you stick to so-called 'organic' food or restaurants, this is not strictly regulated and checked in Thailand. Realize that much of Thailands crops are not allowed to be exported to western countries because of this, and therefore consumed at home.

Advertisement for pestice free vegetables means that a lot of other vegetables
are treated with pesticides and have residual pesticides when sold.


It's of course difficult to get hard facts on how much people are lying and cheating in Thailand versus other countries, but from all the countries I've lived in and visited, it's definitely the one where it's most widespread.

Lying and cheating happen so often in Thailand mainly because of cultural and societal reasons. Thai culture doesn't like directness or confrontation, so a harsh 'no' is often worse than a polite 'yes' and then getting out of it with excuses. If you thought you had a date with a girl and she doesn't show up because she had to meet her sister, that's because she didn't feel comfortable enough to meet in the first place and didn't want to say no.
This is the type of lying that you may be able to accept when you understand enough about Thai culture because it's their way of trying to stay polite.

The type of lying that you may not be able to accept is when Thai people plainly break contracts on the grounds that 'the situation has changed' and the type of cheating that you will not like is when a friend or acquaintance 'borrows' money from you to subsequently disappear.

Lying in Thai society is so widespread that people often don't believe you when you tell the truth, in a way they already expect dishonesty.

The damage is small if your date doesn't show up, or if you lose a few thousand baht on someone you thought was a friend, but will be bigger if it concerns a property or custody of a child.

Unfortunately, Thailand also attracts less honest people, people who enjoy using the mazes of the law or corrupt the police. So the danger of being scammed does not only come from local Thais.

Read more about common scams in Thailand


In general, Thailand is a very safe country. There are hardly any real bad neighbourhoods or even no-go zones, such as in many countries in the West. People are polite in public, everybody always smiles and the chances of you getting in trouble on the street is very low.

This can completely change when you get into certain situations with local Thai people. Thai people are extremely peace loving, but if you get into real conflict, they will kill you over nothing. You won't be the first foreigner who gets stabbed by his girlfriend. Or it could be that you're dating a new girl and her ex shows up at your doorstep with a knife. It could be that you want to stop a local Thai from fighting in a bar and he walks to his car, grabs a gun and starts shooting.

Although guns are officially illegal for normal people, you can simply buy them online (!) and there are certain shops in Bangkok where you can just walk in to buy a gun. Recent (2022) figures suggest that one of our every six (!) Thai people owns a gun! There is a market for hitmen who will make an opponent (hopefully not you!) cold for 10,000 baht or so (depending on how high-profile the case is). 

If your new girlfriend brags about her father having a gun, perhaps it's time to re-examine what it really is that excites you in this relationship.

Any moment that you're giving Thai people leverage over you, you got to realize that one day they may use it to walk over you: you put a house in the name of your wife or your girlfriend, you have a child together, or you make her a beneficiary in your testament. Unfortunately, there have been many cases in Thailand where foreigners deceased soon after they made up their testament with a Thai beneficiary, and the police is quick to close the case.

No matter how much you trust your Thai friend, girlfriend or business partner, make sure you don't tempt them by putting them in a leverage position over you.


You may think that this is not affecting your every day life in Thailand, especially if you're just in Thailand for a short time, but in fact it is a hidden factor that influences everything already and only becomes more obvious to you when you run into certain situations.

It is because of incompetent governance and corruption that money doesn't end up where it is supposed to be spent and the government doesn't provide good facilities, infrastructure, clean water, justice and so on. The water from your tab and the air you breath aren't clean because Thailand didn't invest in high quality water treatment plants, doesn't enforce on discharge of unclean sewage water and doesn't stop people from burning. These are all given to a tourist coming fresh to Thailand and seem unrelated to incompetent governance and corruption but they are.

The incompetence of the judicial system becomes more clear when you run into trouble: buy a 'wrong" property, start up a business with the wrong Thai partner, be cheated by a 'friend' or abandoned by your Thai wife and you'll realize that in fact there is no real justice in Thailand. Thai Courts tend to favor Thais over foreigners and if you're rich and well-connected you have more chance to win.
Much, if not most, of Thailand's judicial system was copied and imported from overseas by a small group of intellectuals just about a century ago, making it a system with many loopholes that doesn't really suit with Thai culture and didn't have the time to evolve over centuries in conjuction with changes in society like much of Western European law has.


Traffic is no doubt a risk factor in Thailand, no matter if you live here short term or long term. Newbee tourists, trusting the rules, cross a zebra without looking left or right, to get hit by traffic. But even long-stay foreigners can get involved in traffic accidents. Thailand is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to drive year after year.

Read more about traffic dangers in Thailand


No matter how many years you have been living in Thailand, for locals you will always remain a foreigner or 'farang'. Of course, depending on your character and the way you interact with people, you can get great contacts and really enjoy living here, but there is a limit to real integration. That limit isn't as bad as in xenophobic countries such as Japan, but it isn't as good as more international multicultural places, such as Singapore or Hong Kong and modern Western countries.
It need not bother you in the beginning, but if you have chosen Thailand as your long term place to live in, it may get to you when locals still look down on you or discriminate you after you've been mingling with them for years.


On average, most Thai don't have a very high command of English. Reasons for this are a general lack of interest in the rest of the world and the fact that Thailand was never colonized. If you really want to get on with local friends, you really need to master some Thai, else you won't have much to exchange. Young Thai are often able to converse in written English, but their spoken English is on average still rather poor.
Thailand's proficiency in English is especially low if you compare it with Malaysia, the Philippines or Myanmar.

Unless your Thai is excellent, this limits your possibility of real connection to local people. There is always the language gap.


Thailand is often referred to as 'the Land of Smiles', but in a way could be better described as 'the Land of Comfort', because that's what it's really all about in Thailand, for most Thai and for most foreigners. The ultimate aim for most Thai is to be สบาย sabai. What Thai people want, is to be comfortable, with enough money for shopping, someone to take care of you, someone to love, your family taken care of, and without too much workload.

The human scale of emotions of Thai people is very narrow and shallow. This is not because Thai people are born with a lesser heart or with a lack of certain genes or so, no, it is because the social environment and culture in which they grow up do not allow them to express the broad spectrum of feelings that deep down there exists. Some claim that there is space for expression of feelings within families, but having lived in a Thai family for months, it is my observation that even within the family space expression of feelings is rather limited because all the norms about politeness and age still apply and people tend to live separate lives and avoid confrontations alltogether in the same way as in society. But even if expression of feelings is more allowed within families than outside in society, then that's still not enough.
Where one cannot sufficiently express feelings, one cannot acknowledge, develop and process them fully. The multitude of feelings humans can experience are being smothered in the pot of socially acceptable behaviour and so the main constant expression of oneself is to be, or pretend to be, sabai all the time.

This becomes evident from the sheert total lack of real arts, poetry and original music in Thailand. For example, there is hardly any poetry in Thailand worth noticing, let alone alive poetry, there are very few great actors or artists capable of conveying a rich human palet of emotions. You will encounter more and better expressions of art asking an artificial inteliigence machine like GPT4 than by living here for 10 years and interacting with countless people.
The Thai movie theatres hardly ever display any movies with depth, from the American blockbusters only those movies can be sold to the Thai public that have visible action in it (typically Superman movies, horror movies, shooting and violent movies and so on), not the movies with an interesting script.
This is not because of low income levels: the Philippines have a much lower per capita income than Thailand, but Philippino modern art is so much more interesting that what you can find in Thailand. (When it comes to ancient art, however, Thailand has much more to offer than the Philippines, because there are not many remains left of the past in the Philippines. This also suggests that there was a time that art, science and depth were taken more seriously in Thailand than now.)

This also explains why Korean soap and movies are so popular in Thailand: because Thai people are not able to express such wide and deep feelings.

Thai poem generated by artificial intelligence chat machine GPT4
ChatGPT4 can generate better artistic expresssions than thousands of Thai people in daily life

Living here, it means that you may experience a lack of passion and richness of emotions with Thai people, a lack of fine arts, a lack of contemporary culture, refiness of the human experience.
In fact, Thailand is one big Comfort Zone, and if you're fine with that, there's no problem, but if you are seeking a deeper experience of life, you may not find it here.


There are more than 400 temples in Chiang Mai alone, but there are very few people with a real understanding about spirituality. The roots of spirituality are ancient and deep in Thailand, but nobody knows the meaning anymore. People go to temples to make merit (ทำบุญ) on popular days or even make trips across the country along temples of a certain kind, but commit to cheating, lying and everything that the Buddha didn't teach them.
Perhaps some of the more spiritual places are those where you can study Vippassana meditation, but Thai people who come back from a meditation retreat typically say that they now understand how much their parents love them, while some Vippassana resorts have perhaps become more like a tourist destination.

A common misperception amongst foreigners, especially spiritually inclined people and relative newcomers to Thailand, is that Thai people are more spiritual than foreigners or Westerners. Thai people are calm and peaceful, always content with what they have and 'live more in the moment', is the idea that you can often hear from Westerners just coming from a yoga or Vipassana retreat, for example, while Westerners, on the contrary, are always striving for more, are restless, stressed and don't live in the moment.


This misperception is as much a misinterpretation of Thai mindset and behaviour as it is a condemnation of one's own cultural background and even if, arguably, there is perhaps a historical core of truth in it with Thai spirituality dating back longer than most Western spiritual traditions, modern day practice of spiritual concepts in Thailand has to a great extent lost touch with those roots.

To truly live in the present, one must be mindfull and mindlessness is what prevails in the everyday mind of the average Thai person, while he/she is browsing social interest stories on a smartphone all day. Carelessness, recklessness, shortsightedness and lack of planning do not equal living in the present. If a Thai worker is happy and content with the payout he got today and goes drinking to celebrate, not worrying about a bill to pay tomorrow, it doesn't mean he's living more in the present than you who gave him that money to fix your house expecting he'd show up the next day with even greater motivation, only to find out that he doesn't pick up the call because he's sleeping through his hangover.

Thai people can content themselves with little, that is true. Come a crisis and they simply pack their few belongings and move out to live with a friend or go back to their parents. But greed is everywhere in Thai society, it is more important to show off your wealth with luxury gadgets than to develop inner qualities. Precisely the greed and cravings ขี้เหร่ 'kee rey' that the Buddha advised to let go of play a very important role in today's society in Thailand. I would even argue that the lack of a comprehensive social security system in Thailand creates more emphasis on the need for survival, sustaining oneself and leads to more materialism than in countries which already have such a social security system, such as in Western Europe.

Another reason why the vast majority of Thai people do not live in the moment, is because they are in constant denial or avoidance of the truth, of reality. When something unpleasant happens, they don't talk about it but rather laugh or smile (one of the many kinds of smiles in the Land of Smiles), they don't face reality, in fact they don't even allow space in themselves to feel it. In order to truly live in the moment, one must fully embrace reality, not deny it, put it under the carpet or walk around it. Thai culture, with all its unease to face situations, with its structures of politeness and losing face, does not provide the best spiritual starting point to learn how to live in the moment.

Summarized, much of the so-called spiritual features that are ascribed to Thai people are an illusion, often held by foreigners who wish to idealize Thai culture as exotic or esoteric or who confuse lack of planning, lack of awareness and a seemingly worry-free style of living with living in the moment. Coming from a (Western) socieity where people typically forget their keys when leaving the house, the money from an ATM machine or even a baby from a car (!) because the mind is full of what comes next, it's understandable to see in Thai people a simplicity that resembles living in the moment. But Thai people have other reasons why they don't live in the moment.
The seemingly content Thai person who got laid off and moves to a friend's apartment is still dreaming of getting the latest iPhone (most likely not by saving up money diligently but by wanting and getting it NOW and paying it off with some financing scheme). Wanting something badly NOW and perhaps not even being able to pay it off later also does not equal living in the now, I'm sure Eckhart Tolle1 would agree with me. Instead, fully recognizing that you want something now, feeling the desire and the pain of not having it and then making a plan (perhaps with the mind) to put all your efforts into getting it over time OR if that doesn't work fully embracing that you cannot get it, comes much closer to living in the now.

Perhaps the most 'spiritual' feature I find in Thai people is their calmness ใจเย็น ๆ 'jai yen yen' and peacefulness, but one can argue if that truely derives from a spiritual state of being or real wisdom or if it is caused by societal needs not to cause disturbance or loss of face. If it has a spiritual origin, it could also partially come from the acceptance of one's fate, which then makes people lethargic and takes away a drive to develop oneself.


Living, or even visiting Thailand, exposes you to a number of risks for you health that you normally you will not be exposed to if you're from a safer country. Many of them could have been prevented or minimized if the government would have done its job, but unfortunately that's not the case.
A disease like dengue is usually highly underestimated by foreigners. Every year there are tens of thousands of people in Thailand who contract dengue, hospitals report it's one of the top three cases they get in certain periods of the year, in particular in the rainy season when there is more still water around for mosquitos to breed in. Unlike countries like Singapore, where the government has successfully clamped down on the occurence of dengue and malaria by imposing strict measures on leaving still water around your house (you can get fined for leaving a bucket standing in your garden that will collect rain water!), in Thailand the government does practically nothing and you will see still water literally everywhere.
Getting dengue doesn't make you more resistant for a next time, in fact you will have more risk if you get it a second time, so this is really a disease to avoid.
A lot of attention in Thailand has been going to covid-19, but the facts are that dengue has killed more adults and infants in every year that covid existed.

A lot of foreigners living in Chiang Mai develop all kinds of strange allergies, mostly due to pollution in the air or in water and food. Some decide to leave Thailand just because of that reason.
Other typical issues are skin irritations.


Obviously, this kind of article gains traction, because it is critical of things and there are always proponents and opponents of it. Everybody is entitled to his/her opinion and this article is just another opinion but aims to be based on observations and facts. If you wish to leave a comment below, it will be most constructive if that's based on real experience over time and if it can be detailed and mostly based on facts. Saying that 'all these things are the same in Detroit' means that you don't distinguish and clarify how things are fundamentally different between Thailand and Detroit and inability to distinguish leads to vague and unfounded claims rather than providing an analysis, insights and a deeper understanding of what are the differences, disregarding whether they are negative or positive.
(For example, one could state that Westerners are rude and also that Thai are rude, both can be seen as true, but they are true in a different way: Westerners can be 'rude' because they are so blunt or direct, while Thai can be 'rude' because they may not show up for an appointment that they confirmed but never intended to go to).
This article wasn't written to merely 'complain', it is only a counter article of why Thailand is great to live in elsewhere on this site.


1. In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle takes the example of being locked up in a prison cell: how can you possibly live in the present when you are in such a situation? Well, Eckhart Tolle reasons, when you're in a prison cell, you've got two choices:
A. Either put all your efforts in finding a way to get out or B. fully accept, fully embrace that you can't get out and stay with that. From this, a state of being emerges that is living in the now. There is nothing wrong with trying to get out.

What someone does who doesn't live in the now (or better said: what will less likely lead you to living in the now) is not really accepting that you are in a prison cell, every day dreaming of getting out, not taking any action to get out, and not fully recognizing your feelings of pain, loneliness, regret and so on while you are in the cell. Not fully realizing and accepting what feeling there is now and dreaming of getting out without the appropriate action is, sadly, what typifies many Thai people.

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What do you think about this article?

Mark Posted on July 05, 2024 at 08:44:22
Good and precise reading. My experience exactly. I dont trust Thais in general although there are a few exceptions. I be written a book on the family hierarchies here and making children into surrogate spouses
Morisco Posted on May 20, 2024 at 11:40:55
A great article; for someone considering a move to Thailand, this is a real eye-operner!
However, it also shows that, in so many ways, like lack of education and low ethical standards, Thailand and Thai society are no different to so many other countries in Asia or Africa.

metalomaniacs Posted on April 10, 2024 at 05:47:21
If you change Thailand for any country in the world, there is a 90% chance of this still being true. It is just as accurate as the zodiac in any journal.
Sparrow Posted on January 28, 2024 at 08:53:29
Thank you for your observations and perspectives. Even though they may be your own personal ones.... Some of which I will agree with and some of which I will agree with all people all over the world, Having these same human characteristics. Including yourself and myself... The human being is quite the conundrum, Nobody is perfect and we must have goodness in our hearts and forgiveness....
SB Posted on December 14, 2023 at 11:08:10
After reading this article, I recently realized that not being good at or understanding English is classified as one of the things that shows how low the level of education is.

We're sorry that we didn't communicate well with you in English.

But I would like to point out that Thai people are not shallow-minded like you think.
They just have problems because the language barrier prevents them from communicating fully.
Les Posted on December 13, 2023 at 05:54:39
As an Australian married to a Thai girl for nearly 18 years, and spending some considerable time in Thailand, I think this article pretty much nails it.
Particularly the bits about low ethical standards and lack of true spirituality.
I found it most confusing when I first came to Thailand: a person would straight-out lie to you, knowing that you KNEW they were lying!
This is so confusing to a farang, because to us black is black and white is white!
I had this rather strange phenomonen explained to me like this: you need to look to THE REASON they are telling the lie.

But being of christian faith I also found it so frustrating that Thai people (for the most part) are terribly ignorant of spiritual matters - even of their own Buddhist faith.
They WILL NOT read for themselves, preferring to simply copy what they see others doing. And so they remain ignorant - from one generation to the next.
By comparison; westerners are taught to question, and in regard to spiritual matters to 'search the scriptures' for oneself.
Of course this is a broad generalisation: there are lazy christian westerners also, but this widespread problem (stubborn refusal to investigate matters for oneself) in Thai society probably does stem from inferior education in the first place.
David Posted on November 01, 2023 at 11:22:56
Very Accurate, not that most Thais or expats would admit it.
David Posted on August 05, 2023 at 02:39:58
Great articles. I have learnt a lot. Thank you
Fifi Posted on August 03, 2023 at 16:33:01
It’s a shame that this article is based on opinion and anecdotal evidence. The opinion comes from a very discriminative stance as a westerner, ie comparative to one’s own culture.

If you choose to be comparative, you have already failed to comprehend anything about different cultures and it is simply judgemental.
Anecdotes mean very little given and cannot stand as a generalisation….which in itself is discriminatory.

Have looked at academic studies to back up your assumptions.
It would be interesting if anything you have mentioned is backed by empirical evidence. Furthermore, have you done your own research and canvassed others, both Thai and westerners on a significant level to discover potential trends.

Anyone reading this would assume that you are pretty bitter about your experiences in Thailand, amd maybe that has good reason, but don’t use it as a platform to denigrate a country and a people without some kind of evidence.
Long timer Posted on July 12, 2023 at 03:55:29
A great article, clearly carefully written. Ive lived in Thailand for 23 years and am married to a Thai.

Your article is a very fair evaluation and matches my own experiences.

Things are always changing, especially in Bangkok with the new generation of young, Thais with a more international outlook. But culture runs very deep here, if you wait for real change, you may be waiting for a long time.
MonsieurJZ Posted on July 01, 2023 at 14:18:37
Landed from France during my late twenties roughly 10 years ago. I can only recognize my own thoughts in this article and can feel that the author have a deep understanding of the modern Thai society. That's just how things are.
Turkey Neck Posted on June 14, 2023 at 03:11:16
@Everyone...U can tell by the way the author spells words, that he is not American. The apologists are super whiney in this forum. I don't think that the author was insulting Thai culture. He was sharing observation based on his own experiences.
Turkey Neck Posted on June 14, 2023 at 03:06:21
This article was 100% true. Wow! Impressive.
TTarps Posted on June 05, 2023 at 05:04:18
As a Thai-American and having both Thai and American extended families I am sorry for the foreigner’s negative perceptions and experiences of some Thai people. Of course when I’m there I blend in physically and not treated as a farang. Believe me Thai people mostly smile only at foreigners. I get the look over if anything. I disagree with the shallowness and inability to express deep feelings as these are usually kept within the family boundaries and spared to “others”. Who wants to share their baggages anyway? I’m not sure if farangs can go beyond the surface of the PR-overly induced touristy moniker “land of smiles” as your observation conveys there’s really nothing to smile about. But I know Thais know themselves and have feelings that come from the not so perfect (by western standards)conditions which they live in, and their personal limitations but they’ll never let “others” know it or show it.
Russell Posted on May 29, 2023 at 19:17:29
I've visited Thailand three times. My last visit was to Hat Yai, for a month. I haven't learned enough Thai to judge the character of the people. The trash bothers me, but the US is just as trashy, especially California where I live. What I find unsettling is the poverty, and the blame for that falls directly on the corrupt and ineffectual government. It's the root of so many problems in Thailand. What else gets me peeved? The packs of stray dogs everywhere. Thailand in many ways is not a safe place to walk or bike because your chances of being attacked and bitten are quite good, especially if you are in a rural part of the country. Many dogs are rabid. This is inexcusable. And who do you put this on, the government or the people? I'd say both. The government's efforts at control are weak and noneffective. The people don't seem to mind that there is a pestilence of diseased and dangerous animals in every nook and cranny of the country. The problem never gets solved. It's my number one reason for not living anywhere but Phuket, which has a bit more of a handle on the situation.
Gary Posted on April 18, 2023 at 12:05:04
I lived there for many years, I left. Everything here is true. But for me, I could handle everything but the pollution. If you cannot breath and it is killing thousands every year. What is the point.
Diego Posted on March 13, 2023 at 03:49:50
What the author said is pretty True!
I have experienced all these points over the last 2-3 years.

I will add other things, but they are already explained in the following:
"10+ Things you need to know about Thai people and Thai culture"
Diego Posted on March 13, 2023 at 03:43:27
@PK go back to point one!
Pk Posted on March 03, 2023 at 12:14:04
โอโห How dare you judge Thai people like this. ประเทศไทยกุคือแนว สบายๆ ใช่ค่ะพวกรัฐมนตรีที่คอรัปชั่นอะใช่ แต่คนธรรมดาหาเช้ากินค่ำเนี่ย We work very hard! I’m Thai and when I was in BKK I used to work until 2am sometimes. เอาตรงไหนว่าพวกกุรักสบายวะ
No wonder why this author never fit into Thai culture because he’s so judgmental, in a too negative way!
Hawk-07 Posted on February 27, 2023 at 08:34:00
Thank you for this article. This person is very knowledgeable and when you read this you can tell they have experienced Thailand on a deep level. This article has to be true. However America had its own problems too. Food , Education, Violence, Rascism and much more. Now people in America don’t even know who they are anymore and that’s very sad. We all need balance. I think Americans love Thailand because it relieves the stress they had built up inside for so long.
blackatx Posted on February 26, 2023 at 23:36:35
This article sounds strikingly judgmental and sound very American. Moving to some place and expecting the place and people to be American or americanized. I believe most of the downsides listed can be said of Detroit. Author comes a ross disgruntled and angry that Thailand did not immediately cater to his American culture and expectations, and this is a quite condescending opinion, revealing nothing objective or factual
Sandy Posted on February 26, 2023 at 09:17:32
Actually, I really want to go Thai just because of my IDOL, and if there's opportunity for me to work there. Id love to.
Niveck13 Posted on February 21, 2023 at 18:07:17
So you have a beautiful Thai wife. Are you happy. Is she loyal and servant type, like most American conceptions are of Thai wife.
Lyn Posted on February 05, 2023 at 19:23:11
Wife is Thai. Been there many times. Couldn't agree more with everything said.
Author Posted on February 05, 2023 at 08:49:29
@SolWings: Thanks for your opinion. It led me to add some more words about living in the moment in paragraph 11 on spirituality above. About your other points. You are right, there are some fine expressions of art in the ancient temples, but hardly any original ones in the new ones and too few too in modern day Thailand. One can dispute whether the so-called white temple in Chiang Rai is full of art or kitsch. Honesty, motivation and integrity are probably hard to objectively measure, it is my experience that there is more of a lack of that in Thailand but your experience may be different. However, saying that there is a lack of that anywhere in the world and that therefore it isn't a factor we can discuss ignores the importance of it and the possibility of (measuring) real differences between countries and regions. An indication of these things may be international rankings of corruption which are done every year and show Thailand isn't the most corruption-free, for example.
SolWings Posted on February 04, 2023 at 02:23:40
Perception forms how each person experiences the world around them, and this post is evidence of that. Thai's lack artistic expression, you say? Have you not seen the temples, the Sanctuary of Truth, the sculptures and ancient Siam adornments? A lack of honesty and motivation can be said about people everywhere in the world — a lack of integrity is a human problem that isn't exclusive to one or a few geographical areas. It's true that Thai people dislike conflict or even loud, bombastic voices, but I'm not sure why anyone would deem that a flaw. Westerners could learn a lesson in tolerance and diplomacy from the Thai people. Conflict rarely resolves problems, whereas a cool head and seeking to understand the other person nearly always does. This rule applies to anyone, anywhere. As for "Sabai Sabai" (one of my favourite terms), the Thai culture's approach to living in the present, appreciating what one already has and seeking comfort instead of constantly reaching, striving and struggling for riches, fortunes, and recognition is one of the most wonderful elements of the people, culture and immersing oneself in Thailand. If you allow it, it will infuse you with the wisdom that only comes from stillness and reflection. After all, we are human-beings, not human-doings! Moreover, aren't we all, deep down, just seeking contentment? No place is perfect, and if you keep searching for ideals, you'll always be searching. Instead, Thailand, like everywhere, offers you good and bad, which largely depends on how you approach it, your own long-held beliefs, and your own attitude and approach to living. If you come to Thailand expecting to feel like a VIP or big shot, you'll likely be disappointed. But if you come to Thailand seeking a lifestyle and pace that isn't forced, rushed or pressed, you -- like us -- will find it to be a beautiful place to visit or live with friendly neighbours and potential friendships at every turn. My partner and I came to Thailand without expectations (we didn't know what to expect), and we were happily surprised by what we found and what we learned. Thailand's dislike of conflict, calm pace and spirit of contentment reminds a bit of what we love so much about Maui. Aloha = Ruk.
Author Posted on January 23, 2023 at 05:49:47
@Danai: Which Thai actors do you consider to be highly educated? Even if there are some educated people in Thailand, that doesn't mean the vast majority of Thai people are.
Danai Posted on January 21, 2023 at 15:42:55
I was wondering if this the situation of thailand then why the thai actors are high ly educated?

CM Locator Posted on November 21, 2022 at 03:53:41
@Caliscrub: The kind of happiness that Buddhism talks about is a different kind of happiness than the superficial happiness that the vast majority of Thai people seek and display, despite them officially being Buddhists.
Buddhism is about a deeper kind of happiness that can be found by letting go of cravings and fears.
Most Thai people have exactly the kind of cravings that the Buddha discouraged: materialism is all over the place.
Caliscrub Posted on November 20, 2022 at 15:16:05
Buddismus talking a lot about happiness. I wondering if Thai people feel happy?
Buckko Posted on October 05, 2022 at 23:24:13
This absolutely the way thailand is and the thai people are I could of written a book but now I dont need to you have allready written it this should be posted on tourist sites for people to see the real Thailand thanks for that I knew I was not the only one here thinking this well done
John M Posted on August 31, 2022 at 10:06:53
Great site, and so grateful I found it as I am moving to Chiang Mail next month from Los Angeles; thanks for all the info

Go Meiljin.... The only differences I see to the US is the pollution is worse, and jaywalking will definitely get you killed.

Education? If you have watched Jay Leno asking questions to "not-so-educated Americans", it's a must-see

Thanks again
Meiljin Posted on August 12, 2022 at 13:12:09
To be honest I feel like that happens in America also. I experience the same thing but in USA. Also not all foreigners are good learning of the dharma. Thailand is a Theravada Buddhist country but they do follow animism which is traditional and mixed with Buddhism. Education level? Have you been to Los Angeles school? They can't even do arithmetic math for Christ sake! Also the English Thai people use is UK English.
Dhamma Posted on August 04, 2022 at 05:08:48
I lived in Thailand and was a monk at a notable forest monastery for six months.

In general, most Thais know very little of Buddhism and Ajahn Chah used to always say that westerners that practice Buddhism , practice in a way that is more authentic and true to the Dhamma than majority of how Thais practice it .
Jiang Posted on July 26, 2022 at 09:16:22
Most of what the writer described are what i experienced personally living in Thailand. Although Thailand is a Buddhist country, I was really really surprised (or rather shocked) that most Thais have hardly any knowledge of the Dhamma, what more of the practice. Most Thai men are not interested in going to the monasteries. It is mostly the ladies who go to the temples. They chant and pray devotedly, following rites, vows and rituals which are actually obstructions to the noble path. The lack of interest in the real teachings of the Buddha (Dhamma) is reflected in the characteristics of the modern Thais - lack of honesty, motivation and depth of contemplation resulting in poor understanding of matters that affect daily life such as corruption, pollution, accountability and poor motivation to learning and being better persons. The attitude of 'sabai sabai' is taken to such an extent that the Thais in general are too 'comfortable' to want to make much efforts to scratch the surface and get to the core of truths.
mm Posted on June 26, 2022 at 16:24:33
An example of Farang who lived in Thailand for quite a long time but still know very little about Thailand because all they see is themselves and they think the world evolves around them. Very shallow
Chansiri Posted on April 27, 2022 at 19:36:35
คุณน่าจะอยู่จุดจุดเดียว เช่น กรุงเทพมหานคร แล้วคุณสรุปความเป็นประเทศไทยของเราได้อย่างไร
Rudy Hodges Posted on December 17, 2021 at 04:36:34
Moving to Thailand
Rika Posted on November 13, 2021 at 06:00:26
Easy to be happy is not less deeper than western definition of happiness. One example, Buddhism that they embrace is a profoundly deep wisdom and practice, arguibly involve much deeper thoughts than the current science. It is just different way & value sets to approach life but it is not less than your definition/perception how happiness should be. As well as knowing that you dont need to toil your self, that work-life balance is important is not a downside too. Your experience depends on what kind of people you met. Btw I am not Thai nor live in Thailand.
Ton Posted on March 24, 2019 at 02:29:20
Every word is true. I've been living here professionally for 10 years now and gone trough each and every situation you subscribe.

On top of all of this, once you have managed to get some knowledge into the Thai brains, they become 1 eye in the land of the blind and you are no longer needed.
i love this website Posted on March 14, 2017 at 08:57:26
i love this website
nemrut Posted on February 23, 2015 at 09:52:33
How is this different from Americans obsession with achieving happiness...two sides of the same coin with one being more extreme?