Determining exact figures for the expat population in Thailand is not easy. Most figures are estimates, but there are certainly hundreds of thousands who are living legally in the country. These are from all over Asia, Europe and the US. There are few resources which represent an official census in Thailand so it is hard to keep track of the population.
Bangkok is one of the most popular areas for expats, mainly because there are plenty of work opportunities. The city has a great deal going on for expats and the cost of living is very low there. Other areas of the country such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket also have many expats living there. However, it is not only the busy areas which are attractive to expats.
Rural living also has its appeal and large parts of the country are rural, so it is not uncommon to find expats living in some of the smaller villages, particularly expats who have moved to the country to do volunteer work or teach. However, while you are sure to meet many other expats there, it is not the case that all expats stick together and live in the same areas. The regulations on condo ownership limit the number of units that can be purchased by foreigners in each development to 49%, so you will have Thai neighbours.
There are many reasons why people move to Thailand. One of the main reasons is the low cost of living. It is possible to live very comfortably in Thailand on less than $1000 per month and many choose to retire to the country in order to make their retirement income stretch that little bit further. Those who are on a relatively low income in the west can have a larger house and domestic staff for the same money in Thailand.
Another reason for people wanting to go and live in Thailand is the laid-back lifestyle. Choosing a rural or tourist area is the preferred option for those looking for a different way of life and areas such as Phuket. The Thai culture is one that is very peaceful and relaxed and offers an escape from a busier way of life in the west. The crime rate in Thailand is relatively low and there are very few instances of serious crimes involving expats.
There are many expats that move to Thailand each year to start their own business. One of the reasons for this is that hiring staff is reasonably cheap and renting offices and paying for utilities will also not break the bank. Businesses are not really restricted in any way and the opportunities are there for those who want to work hard and achieve success.
While there are some areas of Thailand in which it would be difficult to obtain everything that you could in the west, in areas such as Bangkok you can find everything that you need, from western supermarkets to broadband internet, so your quality of life does not need to change when you move to Thailand.
The infrastructure of the country is relatively good when compared with some other Asian countries. It is only roads in remote areas that are not in good condition and it is possible to get almost anywhere in the country by public transport. Travelling around the country is very cheap so those who want to see something of this part of the world can do so without spending a lot of money.
Despite the image that Thailand has had in the past, it is not a third world country and aspects of life there such as education and health are just as good quality as they are in some western countries.
Expats are generally made very welcome in Thailand. The laws in the country are very strict and anyone who does not show respect to the country or the monarchy there will soon find themselves on a plane home. The Thai culture is one in which people have been brought up to respect others and this includes those from other countries. As already mentioned, there are few instances of serious crime against expats and the people are naturally very friendly. It has long been the country’s policy to make immigrants welcome.