21 July 2016

Anna Power - Expat in Bangkok, Thailand

Anna Power - Expat in Bangkok, Thailand

Anna Power is a 34-year-old freelance writer and social media consultant who currently lives in Bangkok, Thailand. She is originally from the North of England, and was born in Liverpool but lived in Leeds. After working as a lawyer for ten years, Ms. Powers wanted a new challenge and decided to move to Thailand with her then-boyfriend when he was relocated there. She liked Bangkok so much that she chose to stay even after she broke up with her boyfriend.


Presently, Ms. Powers has been living in Bangkok for two and a half years now, and said that the hardest experience she’s ever had as an expat happened when she was diagnosed with a mild case of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes numbness, pain and paralysis in the limbs. “I was off work for three weeks, had an MRI scan and was on a lot of medication,” Ms. Powers recalled. “It was very scary feeling sick and being so far away from my family. I was very lucky to have many supportive friends in Bangkok who helped me through it,” she said.  However, she noted that she had no issues with health insurance, finding it “relatively easy to obtain,” she said. Ms. Powers also added that she found it very difficult to make friends at first, but was able to eventually have a great circle of friends. “Social media is a great way to meet people,” she said. “There is a large presence of Bangkok expats on twitter and we arrange a lot of social activities on there that all are welcome to join whether you have lived in Bangkok for 10 years or 10 days.”


While Anna Powers had some medical problems that caused her to miss a few days of work, she had health insurance, which may have made it easier for her to deal with medicals costs. Those who are planning to relocate overseas for work will find that it is best to consider obtaining international health insurance in the event that health issues are encountered while overseas. Similarly to Miss Powers, it can difficult for first-time expats to settle in and make friends after arriving in a new country, so it is important to consider looking for clubs and associations which  can help expats find contacts and make new friends.


Find out more about Anna Power’s experiences in Thailand in her full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I am originally from the North of England – I was born in Liverpool, grew up in Cumbria and lived in Leeds for ten years before becoming an expat. 


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

A:  I had been a lawyer for ten years and was ready for a new challenge. I had always not travelling after university and so when the opportunity arose to move abroad I knew I would regret it if I didn’t give it a go. 


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Bangkok, Thailand.


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

A: My boyfriend’s job was relocated there. We are no longer together, but after we split up I decided I liked my life in Bangkok, and so decided to stay.


Q: How long have you been living in Thailand?

A: I have now lived in Bangkok for two and a half year.


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

A: Earlier in 2014, I was diagnosed with a very mild case of Guillain-Barre syndrome (numbness and pins and needles in my hands and feet). I was off work for three weeks, had an MRI scan and was on a lot of medication. It was very scary feeling sick and being so far away from my family. I was very lucky to have many supportive friends in Bangkok who helped me through it.


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: I have had no issues with health insurance – I found that relatively easy to obtain. Visas are a tricky issue in Thailand. If you are working there legally they are no problem. If you are not working and are what is commonly referred to as a “trailing spouse” but are not married to your partner, or work online they can be harder as Thailand is now cracking down on back to back tourist visas. 


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: Alone.


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: I initially found it very difficult to make friends as I didn’t work and didn’t have children which both would have presented opportunities of meeting people. I am now very lucky as I have met many lovely people and have a great circle of friends. Social media is a great way to meet people – there is a large presence of Bangkok expats on twitter and we arrange a lot of social activities on there that all are welcome to join whether you have lived in Bangkok for 10 years or 10 days. I have also meet a lot of people via my blog. My friends are predominantly other expats, but I have also made friends with a few Thais who I consider to be amongst my closest friends.


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

A: The best thing about living in Bangkok is that there is so much to do both at day and night, whether that be soaking up the culture of the temples, generally exploring the city or enjoying happy hour at one of the many roof top bars. I have also had some many opportunities to travel and have seen places that I just wouldn’t have if I were still living in the UK.


My advice to future expats would be to think very carefully about where you choose to live – ideally you want to be near a BTS sky train or MRT underground station – traffic in Bangkok is a nightmare and you can easily be an hour in a taxi and barely move. Also get to know people as soon as you can – it will make your life a lot easier.


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

A:  A good cup of coffee is around 40 THB, so 80 pence, while a meal in an inexpensive restaurant costs around 2-300 THB (£4-6) or a decent street food meal starts from 30 THB (60 pence). A meal in an expensive restaurant in a city like Bangkok, there is no limit, but I think the most I have paid is around 4000 THB, so £80, but that would have been for very good food and drink. Many of the fancy hotels offer a Sunday brunch with excellent food and free flow alcohol – the one at the Four Seasons is my favourite and is 2700 THB with tax and service on top, which at around £60 is excellent for the quality of food and drink that is served.


Wine is very expensive in Thailand because of import tax. The cheapest wine is around 295 THB, so just under £6, but the wine I would drink in the UK and would pay around £5 a bottle for is closer to 1200-1600 THB - £14-18. I don’t smoke, but friends who do tell me a packet of cigarettes is 92 baht, so just a little under £2.


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

A: On the whole very friendly. The one thing that can be frustrating is that Thais are very big on “saving face” so if they don’t understand you instead of saying they don’t they pretend they do which can lead to much confusion and wild goose chases.


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

A: Without a doubt the positives are the lifestyle – I live in a condo which has 24 hour security, a gym and a pool and I pay just over the equivalent to £300 a month in rent – I dread to think what that would get me in London. The negatives I guess are the same as any expat – I miss my friends and family in the UK a lot and I do find the language barrier hard – Thai is not an easy language to master.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: All of the time!


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I think it is much easier being an expat now than it would have been ten or fifteen years ago. I rely a lot on what’s app, Face time, skype, email and social media to keep in touch and see what people are up to at home.


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

A: Not for the foreseeable future.


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

A: Being sick as I mentioned already was really hard to deal with, but the hardest experience happened 9 months after I moved to Bangkok. As I mentioned I moved to Thailand with my partner, but he broke things off very suddenly and out of the blue with me just prior to me getting on a plane to come back to the UK on holiday. Not only was I devastated and heartbroken, I was forced to make a lot of quick decisions about what I was going to do with my life and whether to live in Thailand or the UK. It was extremely difficult coming back to Bangkok when my emotions were still very raw and creating a new life for myself.


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

A: Make the most of it – you never know when your expat experience might come to an end.


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

A: I obviously wouldn’t anything as shameless as to say my own (inserts smiley emoticon) but Richard barrow is a valuable source of information and I also really enjoy reading my friend Nikki’s blog A British Girl In Bangkok.