Striking out to a new land with a move to Bangkok

Move to Bangkok and enjoy night scenery

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at

I’m sitting at the balcony of my new apartment in Hwai Khwang, Bangkok, taking in the night scenery: we’re 23 floors up, with a gorgeous city view, and I found myself admiring the neon signs and the hustle and bustle of Bangkok city (the street below us becomes even more alive at night with its mix of eateries and a nearby night market) when a little voice in my head went “so how did we end up here?” What brought on this move to Bangkok?

I’d left Singapore with the wife when she got a new job at an international school, and to be honest, I found the change of environment somewhat refreshing. I was getting a little jaded with life back in my home country, and the challenge of a new city in a new country seemed to ignite a spark in me that, quite frankly, I hadn’t felt for a while since I sold my last business venture some 3 years ago.

So anyways, we started planning the move to Bangkok some months back, and I thought well, the city would present new opportunities, and so I came up with the idea of starting a whole new business venture in Thailand again. And with that, I found once again the energy and excitement that I felt when I started my first executive search business in 2006.

Change the Scene.

I’ve heard enough from friends and people close to me about how they seem to go nowhere in their professional development and careers, and what with rising costs of living (Singapore was ranked the most expensive city in the world to live in recently) and such, things can get really stifling and stressful — and I agree: I felt the same stifling sensation over the past couple of years, and decided enough was enough. Hence when the Wife got a new job, we were really excited about the move to Bangkok.

And the thing that got me thinking was that sometimes, you just had to change the scene and take your game to a different location and level. Especially so when you find yourself in one of those situations where you’re thinking “there’s really nothing more here for me.”

I mean, think about it: the world is a lot bigger out there, and with the whole global citizen thinking, you don’t have to resign to being the proverbial frog-in-the-well because there are so many other places you could plug yourself into if you thought through enough.

“But what if I can’t find a job?”

That’s the one gripe I often hear people say when I challenge them to think beyond their geographical boundaries in search of their own greener pasture: what if they can’t find employment when they move to Thailand?

Well call me optimistic, but having gone around and worked on executive search and recruitment projects in and around most of the Asia Pacific, I’d say there’s always an opportunity waiting for you somewhere, and in fact, there’s a high probability a company or organization in a new land is more than happy to speak to you with regards to employment opportunities.

And if you’re worried about schooling for the children, well, there are international schools you can put your kids in to that offer a selection of curriculum and syllabus, and I personally don’t think it’s that big an issue.

The real challenge for most people, I feel, is getting over that initial hurdle of actually wanting to relocate, because it would then mean you’re making a commitment to making a drastic change.

And change is always a big hurdle to overcome; most people are adverse to changes, and a relocation is probably too large a change for them to handle.

But here’s the Catch-22: there you were, feeling frustrated that you were going nowhere in your home country, and when an opportunity presents itself in a foreign land, you start to make excuses not to take up the opportunity. If that’s the case, the only thing left for you is really to go on complaining, and before you know it, another 10 years zipped you by, and you’re close to retirement and the resentment builds up and you’re left wondering if you could have had things better.

And that’s what it really is, isn’t it? Finding excuses to justify the need to keep things as they are, so you don’t have to face the possibility of failure or avoid painful changes altogether.

Managing Expectations

Of course, there’s no sure guarantee that even if you moved someplace else, you’d be happy and achieve your desired lifestyle. As with everything else, coupled with the courage to embark on a new trail, you’d need to manage expectations.

Take my own experience, for instance. Thus far, Bangkok has proven to be far more pleasant than I had expected, because having come from a country that boasts itself to be “world-class” in just about everything, I’d thought the Wife may find herself with adjustment issues given how many people think Thailand is nowhere as “advanced” as first world Singapore.

Not true – Thailand, in particular Bangkok, is proving to exceed our expectations because in many ways, the Thais are actually more forward-thinking than in my own country, and I’m not ashamed to say it. We’d thought for one that language would pose to be a challenge, given we both don’t speak Thai, but reality is a lot different altogether: you can get around conversing in English and get away with a lot of things simply by saying “Phoot Thai mai dai” (I don’t speak Thai), and the locals, ever so helpful, would be more than understanding in their own little ways to accommodate you. Even in cosmopolitan Bangkok, where people are just as concerned with everyday sustenance as back home in Singapore, but with one big glaring difference: people are a lot more polite here, at least superficially, and you don’t get that feeling you’re not welcomed.

The one big adjustment we have to make though, is that in terms of income, there is a huge difference (about 40% less than what we both would expect in Singapore), but when you reason it out, you’re still living comfortably because the costs of living are way less too.

So really, it all boils down to managing your expectations, and while you could end up making less in terms of gross remuneration packages in countries like Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam, remember that things are a lot more affordable too.

Begin, be Bold and Venture.

And no, I’m not shamelessly promoting Bangkok just because I’m now based here and running an executive search business. I’m only saying for the so many out there feeling jaded, lost and wandering around that if you cast your horizons further and be more open to opportunities that transcend national boundaries, there’s literally a whole new world to venture, and the world is your oyster.

Okay, here’s the shameless publicity bit: if you are starting to think about moving someplace else to find your own little niche in a new environment, there are always headhunters you can hook up with (ahem) and explore options. Particularly if you were one of those who needs that added security of knowing you have a job waiting for you when you land and disembark in a whole new territory.

Go on, take the plunge, be brave. And who knows, you and I could be having beers some day atop iconic Sky Bar on a nice weekend together.

Author: Roy P
Originally produced for Bangkok Headhunter