A place in the sun

Where is the grass greener?

Breathing the fresh air, punctual bus schedules, smooth and clean pavements and streets. Do you remember these simple joys when travelling abroad? I bet everyone entertains the thought of spending their last breath in a particular city that is not home. Within the span of few days, a Facebook group called "Let's Move Abroad" has become a viral online phenomenon as Thai netizens gather to discuss and share their aspirations to flee a place where they were born and raised.

At the time of writing, more than 950,000 Facebook users have joined the online community, searching for answers on how to start a new life away from Thailand in the hopes of a better quality of life. Many who blazed the trail living overseas have logged in to share their anecdotes on how to begin; the culture differences, monthly expenses and work opportunities, as guidance.

Whether you're contemplating moving out or staying put, let's hear from Thais who've decided to become expats or settled in Thailand after working and living abroad.

Sitthidaporn "Ruth" Naruephankulchai, 32

Data analyst

"I set my goal of achieving a master's degree in business management before turning 30. I worked in Thailand to save up money for this dream. My new life of living abroad started when I was an international student in a lovely city called Tilburg in the Netherlands. Who knew that I was going to end up here, in a strange city across the world from Bangkok?

"Where I live now is so different from bustling Bangkok. Every shop and restaurant mostly closes at 5pm while the city turns serene and silent after dark. So I kissed goodbye to my late-night snacks.

"When I fell sick for the first time, I had no clue that in the Netherlands, or at least where I lived, the hospital wouldn't accept patients with minor illnesses. You can't just walk in, instead you need to call and see a general practitioner (aka local doctor) first. And just as luck would have it, no GP was available that weekend. Fortunately, the university staff called the hospital for me. I had to drag my pale face back home to find a container for my urine test and then ride 15 minutes on a bike to get to the hospital.

"I stayed laser-focused on my studies until I noticed how quickly my savings were being depleted. Searching for a job in the Netherlands requires patience. My tip is to build your connections by visiting job exhibitions and make friends. I finally found a job at a local telecommunication company.

"After shedding blood, sweat and tears living in the Netherlands for three years, the Dutch mindset has taught me to be a world citizen, to open my heart to the world. Believe it or not, I have never been treated as an outsider or a second-class citizen just because I have a different skin colour or speak a different language.

"Sometimes, I'm still not used to how straightforward Dutch people can be when they talk. They are quite serious about living sustainably and clean energy, too; thinking about the consequences that their action may have on the future of younger generations. This is the reason why I fell in love with the country."

Rattapon "Guide" Sanrak, 35

Cannabis entreprenuer

"Don't bide your time while being stuck in a bubble. The world is much bigger than you think. I would say I support those youngsters who stand up for the idea of moving abroad. While the ship is sinking, fleeing to a better one isn't the wrong choice. You guys might think that a civilised country is always a land of milk and honey and that isn't always the case.

"I moved to San Francisco when I was 22 and lived there for five years. As a teenager who wanted to explore the big world, taste the freedom and live the American dream, I bought a one-way ticket. I would say I rolled the dice on every move I made. I arrived in the United States with enough money to survive a week while I spoke little English. Thankfully, I got a job as a cleaner in a restaurant. My colleagues came from different parts of the world: Mexico, China, Vietnam and more. Searching for a better life is what we had in common. But reality was a far cry from what they posted on job agency ads. I toiled away, cleaning the place from top to bottom. I was slapped in the face daily with insults since I am an outsider, but that hateful energy made me stronger.

"One night after finishing my night shift, I got robbed for the first time. I was waiting for a bus to go home while talking on the phone. I noticed a man walking toward me suspiciously. However, I didn't try to put my phone away. A huge African-American man attacked me, punching me in the face. I saw everything happening in slow-motion before I hit the ground. I could feel that he was trying to go through my stuff. Fortunately, someone called the police. Within five minutes, I heard the police's siren and the robber ran away. I was so surprised that the police worked so fast. After two days, the police came to my house and asked me to go to the station to identify the suspect.

"This incident did not make me doubt my decision to come here or want to go home in anyway. I was pleased that nothing worse happened, yet, it teaches me to be more careful in this place where everyone sees it as a civilised country.

"In the end, I came back to Thailand to take care of my ailing mother. Of course, I miss my life in San Francisco, especially the legalised cannabis. Still, I have a mixed feeling about going back to the States as starting over isn't that easy like before and I have my own business here."

Kittiphob "Toto" Jornsamer, 32

Barista/YouTuber on Daddy On Duty channel

"Let's go back to when I first visited Sydney, Australia, nine years ago. I was a fresh graduate and I was there for a short course to improve my English skills while working part-time at a Thai restaurant as a cook-helper. Once I experienced living abroad by myself, I decided that one day I would come back to Australia and never leave.

"Aside from the tough part of saying goodbye to my home, the way I prepared myself before moving to Australia wasn't that difficult. I had friends who had lived in Australia for a while, so they helped me find a place to live. My work and travel agency took care of everything else for me, in terms of paperwork. Now I've been living here for nine years with my wife and daughter, in a small town names Moss Vale, two hours away from Sydney. I now work as a barista in a cafe.

"The vibe here is quite peaceful as the town is surrounded by nature. If you live in the city, there is no need to buy a car because public transportation is convenient and accessible. Clean and safe pavements are available throughout the city for people who love to walk.

"Home-sickness isn't a big deal for me since I can chat with my family online, and Sydney is full of familiar Thai faces. My life in Australia wasn't always satisfying, though. I have learnt a pricey lesson from starting my own business here. After saving up money for years, I took the plunge to open a Thai restaurant with my friends. As a first-time businessman, my restaurant lasted only three weeks and I ended up losing almost a million baht. I try to be optimistic about it and tell myself that no amount of money can buy this lesson. You have to work for it!

"Despite that, I totally believe that my nine years of living abroad have been the right decision. Don't be scared to leave your comfort zone."

Kantharos "Dear" Kim, 42

Owner of a private tour agency

"My life abroad began with a love story. I met a friend on MSN. He's Korean and we were talking every day for years. The friend zone where I put him in fell apart the day he got so drunk that he asked me to marry him. I was so shocked and I didn't answer him right away.

"After two years of seeing each other, I decided to get married and move to Seoul, South Korea, to start a new life. My life in South Korea is quite comfortable. Getting around the city is very easy since public transportations are interconnected and we can use one card to pay for everything. Unlike cramped Bangkok, Seoul is well-organised in terms of urban planning. Living neighbourhoods are separated from the CBD district. Public spaces are clean and safe. And 70% of the country is mountainous, which makes trekking quite popular in South Korea.

"Finding friends was difficult back then because Facebook didn't exist. I met my first Thai friend via a local blog. Her name is May and she has been my best friend since day one. May helped me get a job at the office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand in Seoul. After working there for a while, I changed my job to work at a Thai tour agency. Unfortunately, the company shut down.

"At that point, I had been involved in the tourism industry for years so I decided to start my own private/VIP travel agency, which I've been running for nine years. The turning point was I experienced PTSD after my husband passed away. My soul just suddenly disappeared. I found myself having a hard time accepting his death. What's worse, I even attempted suicide to follow my husband. Thanks to my family and friends who have dragged me back from the void. The show must go on.

"Korean men are not always scary, as you heard from the news. There are good and bad humans everywhere. But what makes it different is the education system, social values and Korean norms are all based on patriarchy. How about the Oppa type from K-series? Yes, I have met one of them. What you should be aware of when dating a Korean is that they speak roughly and loudly when they're angry.

"Right now, I'm taking a long break in Thailand as my tour agency has been forced to temporary close since the pandemic started. Since returning to Thailand, I've seen more and more troubles happening here. I am focusing on my life in order to survive in this circumstance."

Chonlasuang "Chol" Pornsooksawang, 26

Marketing specialist intern

"I moved out from Thailand because I wanted to spread my wings, proving to myself that I can be more and do more. As you know, the Thai standard never freely supports the way people want to be or express themselves. There are still limitations on how people should think, speak and dream. As I have been raised to be open-minded and straightforward, I couldn't see myself growing in this conservative work environment. I decided to leave Thailand when I was 24. I moved to Moscow, Russia, to live with my boyfriend and we got married two months later.

"Then we started our new life in a small town in Sweden called Västerås because he got a scholarship to study here. I now work in a Swedish gaming start-up as a marketing intern. I think that working in foreign countries is more challenging than in Thailand. Finding the right job in the Swedish job market is pretty tough because I have to compete with locals and people from all over Europe, who are familiar with this job-searching game. Linkedin and TheHub.io are what I used to find a job.

"As for the Swedish language, I took free courses, including the SFI (Svenska för invandrare), offered by the Swedish government for non-natives. The cost of living is a pretty penny, I have to pay 25% VAT and 30% income tax.

"Still, I was amazed by the democratic mindset of people. Everyone respects your opinion and there is no strict seniority in the workplace. I feel that people are sincere and friendly. I would recommend this country to those who want to settle down and start a family. Swedish society puts its first priority on family while work is of lower priority. They allow you to take leave if your children get sick.

"I would say I'm contented with life in Sweden and I am so grateful that leaving Thailand has been the right decision for me. I have just started an internship for three weeks and it already feels like this is my place, where I can be who I want to be. My next step is to help Thais living in a box to get out. To share that starting a new life abroad is possible. Follow me on my IG @chonlicious. I have listed tricks and tips there.

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