How to stay comfortable and sane living in rural Thailand.

Country lane line with coconut trees in Thailand
Photo by The author Tracy

Quick version

  • Learn some Thai
  • Change your view of the world
  • You’ll never be a local
  • But you can live like a local

Learning a new language is fun, and you learn quickly by immersing yourself

It always blows my mind when people go to non-speaking English countries and don’t try to learn at least a few basic cordial greetings.

I’ve seen it many times where a foreigner tortures a poor local by forcing the local to communicate in English.

When I go to a new country, I spend a fair amount of time learning the basics. Being able to communicate goes a long way.

Counting money in a foreign land is super important too.

There is nothing more frustrating than buying something by pointing at it and then handing the business owner a bunch of money and hoping you get some change back.

For the most part, Thais speak excellent English, especially in the big cities and tourist areas. But when you’re out in the sticks, good luck communicating in English.

When you’re out in the sticks, you will have plenty of time to refer to that language book you’ve brought along.

Unfortunately, the Thai language is not included in many online language apps.

But if you want to learn Thai, the best way is to immerse yourself in the culture. You do that by Surrounding yourself with friendly, familiar faces and interacting with them in group settings.

Listen to them talk. You’ll be picking up words and phrases in no time.

Depending on where you are in Thailand, the local language may be different from Thai or have a different Thai dialect.

So, maybe that Thai language book you’ve packed might not be as helpful as you want after all.

Old women selling fruit in Thailand
Photo by Norbert Braun

Change your view of the world

Thailand is unlike any other country on the planet. Thais are fierce in defense of their culture.

A culture that’s been primarily intact since the 10th. Century.

And like I say,” you won’t change Thailand. Thailand will change you.”

It’s critical to any long-lasting success here to put aside your views of the world.

Thais don’t get caught up in world politics too much, and as I write this article, Thailand has maintained its neutrality in the Russian Ukrainian war.

The Thai government has had numerous coups over its existence, and I would advise any foreigner to refrain from bringing up any domestic political views.

Thais accept being confined to uncomfortable sitting positions on long bus and train rides or waiting in long lines at government buildings.

Thais have a tremendous amount of patience when dealing with difficult people or situations.

The outbursts you see in the west rarely happen in Thailand.

And above all, never ever insult or joke about the monarchy. The government has lese-majesty laws (treason) that could land you in prison for many years if you’re found guilty of insulting the royal family or institutions.

You have to let go and let the circumstances unfold and let life unfold as it will.

Three headed Buddha statue
Photo by Alice

You’ll never be a local

Many ex-pats brag about how many years they’ve lived in Thailand or how many long-lasting business connections they have.

They like to put out the attitude of “ I’m a Thai just like any other Thai because…”

Well, that ego-based thinking is just plain wrong.

No matter how long you’ve lived in Thailand or your social status, you’ll never be a local if you are not born in Thailand with their unique genetic lineage.

In fact, you are a Farang (foreigner) and will be forever.

You’ll hear that term a lot but don’t worry it's not meant to be derogatory.

Thais physically move differently than westerners, and the traditions are so ingrained and so subtle I doubt any westerner would ever be able to crack the “Thai code.”

Rice farmer in the field in Northern Thailand
Photo by Pat Whelen

But you can live like a local

There is a way to survive and live comfortably in rural Thailand.

That is to live like a local.

All those delicious hamburgers, pizzas, chicken Ceasar salads, and tacos we enjoy in the west, for the most part, are non-existent in rural Thailand.

Even if you find those foods in Bangkok, they just don’t taste the same as back home.

If you’re fortunate enough to find decent farang food, you’ll pay the same or more that you pay back home.

Another mistake I see farangs make is they try to build their houses in Thailand like the houses back home.

They are usually built with beautiful gardens, driveways, architecture, and modern appliances.

But the thing is, those modern features are usually built with sub-standard Chinese crap for the most part.

Building materials are the same price as back home, so you won’t be saving money there. Only the labor is cheaper in Thailand. (Unfortunate for the locals).

The best way to succeed in rural Thailand is to eat what the Thais eat, drink what the Thais drink, and live in houses as the Thais do.

By learning some Thai, letting go of your ego, realizing you’ll always be a foreigner, and living like the Thais, you too can live comfortably and sane in rural Thailand as I have for the past 20 years.

Reach out to me if you want to learn more about living in Thailand.

Tracy the author and 3 girls watching him fly a drone over a temple
The Author Tracy with Three girls watching me fly a drone

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