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Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Survey: Expats Love Thailand, but the Thai Language Loses Out

 HSBC Expat report

No surprise, Thailand comes top for love

The latest HSBC report was emailed to me just this morning (thanks Lana)

Bangkok Post: Expats fall in love with Thailand but not the language.

Putting Thailand aside for now… I was not surprised to find that the UK’s scores were low, but I was surprised at how low they did go. Ouch. And while I agree with most of the UK’s ranking, I disagree with the results on food quality. Except for broccoli, as France has them beat.

Thailand, on the other hand, was not much of a surprise (does anyone disagree?)

Thailand country report:

  • Overall ranking: 3rd out of 26
  • Quality of life: 3rd out of 26
  • Ease of integration: 4th out of 26

Top reasons for staying in Thailand:

  • Length of contract (53%)
  • Career prospects (47%)
  • Better environment/quality of life for children (35%)
  • Lifestyle (28%)
  • The weather (24%)

Thailand falls looooooooooow on learning the Thai language, but climbs high on finding love:

Negatively, Thailand scored poorly when it came to overcoming the language barrier – over a third (38%) of expats in Thailand rated the language barrier as the top challenge while living in the country.

Despite this, however, over a half (58%) of expats have chosen to learn more of the native tongue and, not letting language get in the way, a staggering 76% of expats have managed to make local friends already.

However, the luckiest expats for finding love were found in Thailand – some 47%
admit finding love since moving to the country. This is in stark contrast to the
worldwide average of just 20%.

What I would like to know though, are the details of the expats contributing to the Thai survey: Male, female, profession, retired, long time tourist…

About the Expat Explorer survey: The Expat Explorer survey, now in its second year, is the largest global survey of expats. Commissioned by HSBC Bank International and conducted by third party research company FreshMinds, more than 3,100 expats were questioned between February and April 2009.

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

10 Comments

  1. Cat, I read this a day or so ago and found it very interesting. From what I’ve seen of many expat friends the language has become a barrier because where they choose to live they can get along quite well without it.

    I have friends in Pattaya and Bangkok that truly don’t even try to learn the language and some won’t even eat the food because they can get traditional English foods in so many places.

    If I rememebr reading right the one source I saw had the majority of expats interviewed as being British and male…I could be wrong but I believe that was it.

  2. British and male makes sense. In the survey, they also mentioned that almost half owned their own homes in Thailand, but they did not state of they were condos or houses. For me, this survey brings up more questions than it answered!

    I couldn’t imagine living here and eating mostly English foods. While the western restaurants have improved greatly in BKK, their prices have not gone down.

  3. I don’t think any survey ever really gives you the real deal.

    my one friend from England will not eat or speak Thai…he eats at all the English haunts he can find and pays anyone close to him to run to the store for his ciggys.

  4. Reading that report, expats are taking advantage of being able to delegate the more unpleasant tasks to others. And if I could just have someone else clean out the kitty litter once a week, I’d be a happy cat… but it is one of those chores that I just cannot seem to pass on (my choice). My fear is that it is not sanuk enough.

  5. VERY interesting article, Cat, thank you for writing about it. I’m unsurprised about the language. I think a huge barrier with learning Thai is the tones and the cultural nuances (like the Jai words and phrases you previously blogged about) that make Thai the unique language it is.

    It does depend on where you live – in Bangkok you can certainly get by just fine, whereas I had once met a woman who lived out in a village working for an NGO and nobody spoke English, so she HAD to learn Thai and fast!

  6. Amy, that is so true about being able to get by in Bangkok. And another thing I’ve found since moving from Borneo to Bangkok is that there is so much more to do here. So the availability of sanook/sanuk could also make it difficult to concentrate on studies.

    Thank goodness for New Years and the next round of resolutions ;-)

  7. Catherine sorry I’m late for class but I’ve been doing an extra paper round or two lately.

    A most interesting survey and I wish I had seen it when it was published, it’s a Thai bloggers dream.

    The Thai ranking for finding love doesn’t surprise me at all but I would be interested to see how those marriages rank in a divorce league table. I don’t think they would fare too well.

    The Thai ranking for learning the lingo is no surprise either as some of the major countries participating are English speaking and so those expats tend to put more of the emphasis on others learning their language. Add in what Amy P. says about tones etc. and the Thai language becomes a steep learning curve for many expats heading the opposite way in the twilight years of their lives.

    I wish I could have got hold of this survey, I would of assassinated it beyond recognition, the HD way of course. Best wishes and I’ll be taking the Daniel T. Murphy interview with me for my homework. Have fun in the sun lucky one.

  8. Hi Martyn, sorry to hear that you’ve been burning the candle over there. There are good candle times and bad candle times, of course.

    I had a bit of a giggle when I first read the survey. And the part where they mentioned length of contracts threw me. I don’t have a lot of experience with contracts but aren’t they typically two years? And having to go out of the country every year makes them seem like one.

    I’ve only heard about the Thai/expat divorce rate from someone quoting the British Embassy. It was quite shocking.

    But like any international survey, this one is not tailor-made for Thailand. I could have racked up the pluses, easily. Even with negatives, Thailand is a fine place to live.

    Fun in the sun? I’m headed to the land of the wimpy rain ;-)

  9. I had to leave Thailand primarily because of the language. I was trying to live in a rural area which made it much more difficult. However, even in in Chiang Mai I stuggled. The tourist area is no problem but a mile from down town and English is seldom understood.

    I spoke with expats in Chiang Mai who had lived there over 20 years and never learned to speak Thai. So it depends on how comfortable you are doing pantomimes and pointing a lot.

    Almost everything else about Thailand is very nice.

  10. Jim, I know it’s fairly easy to live in BKK or CM without speaking much Thai. I’m not much for socialising so I don’t get a lot of practice in English either.

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