1 August 2016

Steven LePoidevin - Expat in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Steven LePoidevin - Expat in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Steven LePoidevin is a 63-year-old former mathematics teacher who retired in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He is originally from Canada. He left Canada in 2008 after accepting a teaching position in Wuhan, China. Ten years prior to living in China, he worked in Scotland. After visiting Thailand several times, he enjoyed what the country had to offer and felt like Thailand was the perfect place to retire with his wife.

Mr. LePoidevin and his wife have lived in Thailand for one year, and he enjoys the warm weather that Thailand offers compared to the cold weather in Canada that he and his wife were used to. Mr. LePoidevin noted that one aspect about life in Thailand that was difficult was the language. “Learning the language is something I would like to eventually accomplish if we end up staying here long term. Because of all the English that is spoken here, I have not been that motivated to spend time learning Thai,” he added.

It is a common dilemma for expats to have some difficulty with learning the local language spoken in the country they have relocated to. Learning another language can not only make it easier for expats to find a job, but it can help when looking for accommodation overseas as well. One way to learn the local language is by seeking out clubs and associations which can give opportunities for expats to meet people and practice their language skills. 

Find out more about Steven LePoidevin’s experiences in Thailand in his full interview below.

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: Canada.

Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A:  We originally moved from Canada in 2008 when I accepted a mathematics teaching position at a large international school in Wuhan, China.  I had worked in Scotland ten years earlier and I thought it would be nice to have another gig overseas before I retired.

Q: Where are you living now?

A: We now live in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Our one year overseas turned into six years in China.  During that time, we had a lot of opportunity to travel. We had visited Thailand several times and really enjoyed it. When I decided to retire, we decided this would be a great place to live.

Q: How long have you been living in Thailand?

A: We have now been living here for one year.

Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in Thailand?

A: Since we had already been in Asia for six years, there weren't really any difficult experiences in moving here.  We actually adjusted to our original move to China quite quickly as well.

Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance was particularly difficult in Thailand? What was your experience with these?

A: As a retired person, it is fairly straightforward to obtain a retirement visa in Thailand if you are able to satisfy the requirements. It is necessary to have a pension of at least 65 000 baht per month or a savings account that maintains a balance of 800 000 baht. Although we could have done it ourselves, we decided to use an agent to help us with the transition and the visa process. For the small fee that is charged, we feel it is worth it.

Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I live with my wife. She loves it here.  We both really wanted to get out of Canada to escape the cold winters and look for new experiences. It is nice living in a fairly large city with all the amenities for small town prices.

Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialize with other expats in Thailand? How did you manage to find a social circle in Thailand?

A: Making friends here is very easy. So far, we have mainly been socializing with other expats. There is an active expats club that meets monthly with many other interest groups under its umbrella that meet weekly. We currently belong to an expat motorcycle club that goes on rides on a weekly basis into the surrounding countryside and beyond. We were active motorcyclists when we lived in Canada.  Many international holidays are also celebrated here, which gives expats more excuses to get together and socialize.

Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Chiang Mai has many activities available.  For those who are outdoor-oriented, it is easy to take day trips to the many nearby national parks and mountain villages. There are lots of commercial adventures available such as zip-lining and rafting, which are also fun to do on an occasional basis. A hiking group meets every Sunday for a new trek somewhere in the surrounding area. Chiang Mai is a large cultural center, so there are often theatre and music events to attend art and craft galleries to visit and several wonderful museums. It is hard not to find something to do.

Q: How does the cost of living in Thailand compared to your home?

A: A cup of coffee costs $1-2 dollars. It is easy to have a good local meal for $2-3. A typical Western style family restaurant will set you back $10-15 for a couple. There are a huge number of restaurants in Chiang Mai, including several very high end places. What would be considered a very expensive restaurant here would cost $75-100 per person with drinks. Wine is quite expensive because of the import duties. It is possible to find some bottles for $10 but I would say that most would start at $20. However, beer is not so bad at about $1.50 per bottle. Like everywhere in Asia, cigarettes are quite cheap. It is easy to find packs for as low as $1-2 but you will pay more for foreign brands.


Q: How do you find the local culture and people in Thailand?

A: I cannot speak for the rest of the country but the people in Chiang Mai are very friendly and helpful. As a person who was very involved with the arts in my distant past, I love the proliferation of arts and crafts in the region. Chiang Mai is renowned for its large variety of markets that feature hand-made items by local artisans. We have grown to love the Southeast Asian culture. We love the food, the energy and the chaos that seems to pervade most of Asia!

Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Thailand?

A: The positive side for us is the tropical weather after spending a lifetime in Canada. We both love the heat and don't mind the fact that the average temperature is in the high 30s C (80s or 90s F). The numerous local markets are also a great feature when it comes to buying inexpensive fruits and vegetables. We also love the fact that we can live in a beautiful condo in the heart of a large city with all its modern amenities on a budget of less than $2000 per month.

I suppose the negative side is the potential instability of the government. Although the current regime has brought in many positive changes, the country is still under military rule for all intensive purposes. As expats, we are not really affected by the political situation, but it would be nice to have a more stable and predictable government. Only time will tell if this changes in the future.

Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I rarely miss family and home. For us, home is wherever we have set up. We no longer have any possessions in Canada. We got rid of everything when we left seven years ago and haven't looked back. It is an incredible feeling not to have any "stuff" and be able to pack up and go wherever and whenever you want.  With Skype and email it is easy to keep in touch with friends and family around the world.

Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: We have no intention of ever moving back to Canada and have no interest in moving to the US, my wife's home country. There are far too many rules and regulations, it is too expensive for the kind of lifestyle we have grown accustomed to and it is too darn cold!  We really do love everything about living here, even the driving.

Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: The language issue is more frustrating than difficult but that would be the only aspect that I have found hard, if any. Learning the language is something I would like to eventually accomplish if we end up staying here long term. Because of all the English that is spoken here, I have not been that motivated to spend time learning Thai.

Q: What tips can you give other expats living in Thailand?

A: Spend time exploring the surrounding countryside and smaller villages. There is so much to see here that is not that easily accessible to those that don't have their own transportation. Get a scooter or motorcycle, and tour around a bit on the back roads. There is a lot of interesting stuff to see within a short driving distance of Chiang Mai and other major centers.

Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Thailand?

A: I like to randomly visit expat blogs about Thailand and other countries but don't really have any favorites at this point that I can think of.  For information purposes, chiangmainews.com is great. More info about current events for expats can be found at the Chiang Mai Expats Club site, www.chiangmaiexpatsclub.com, The BTS Group sites, livinginchiangmai.com and retireinchiangmai.com are a good start for those interested in moving here.

You can check out my blog at http://thaicanuck.com. I have been blogging for several years so there are articles about our many North American motorcycle tours, our life in China and now our new adventures in Chiang Mai. Maybe it will give some people a little inspiration to try their hand at living overseas when they retire.