Berthe is a Dutch expat who moved to Thailand’s island of Phuket with her boyfriend. Having travelled to Thailand a number of times, they loved it so much they decided to move there. Berthe loves to explore Phuket, and she also runs a social group for expat women in Thailand called Chicky Net.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am from Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Currently I am living in Phuket, Thailand.
Q: How long have you lived here?
A: I arrived around Christmas in 2008.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: I moved to Thailand with my boyfriend. We have no children.
Q: Why did you move to Thailand; what do you do?
A: We wanted a change of environment and we had travelled around Thailand a couple of times before. Since we loved it over there we thought why not move to Thailand and see what happens!
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A: Phuket is a beautiful tropical island and I love to ride around on my motorbike to explore. I live in the South of the island which is not yet too touristy and where you can still enjoy the local life. I love the food, as most people do, and I love that most people smile. Life is more affordable than back home which allows you a bit more luxury lifestyle.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: A negative for me would be that because Phuket is an island it misses the vibrant life that cities have to offer. There is also not much work for foreigners. Phuket to me offers great tropical island living but don’t expect too much in terms of your personal and professional development.
Q: Is Phuket safe?
A: Phuket is safe as long as you use your smarts like you do back home. In the newspaper you do read about a lot of violence but this is not really geared towards tourism or foreigners but they are more local problems. Sometimes bags get snatched when driving on a motorbike so my tip is to always put your bag in the seat.
About living in Thailand
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Phuket as an expat?
A: Phuket is a relatively big island that is roughly divided in North, centre and South Phuket. The North has the reputation of being high-end and the South of being more laidback. The central area and especially the West coast is mostly focussed on tourism. There are expats in the middle area but most of them live either in the South or in the North depending on what kind of environment they prefer.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Thailand compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Compared to many countries life in Thailand is cheaper but it’s not as cheap as most people think. Phuket is also the most expensive area in Thailand. Your biggest cost will be the rent of your home and the electricity, which is in comparison expensive.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: The local people are super friendly but most expats here mix only with expats. The language barrier poses a problem but as a foreigner you will also not have easy access to the more educated Thai. The people that you as a foreigner encounter are the people who serve you in restaurants, supermarkets and shops.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Thailand?
A: When I arrived in Phuket I actually found it pretty hard to meet new people and especially other women. I therefore created my own social group on Facebook called Chicky Net. There was apparently a big need for a group like this because three years down the line the group now has its own social network and caters to over 2,000 expat women living in Thailand.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Thailand?
A: The healthcare in Thailand is excellent and to our Western standards very affordable. If you have enough money anything that you could think of is readily available to you.
About working in Thailand
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Thailand?
A: We arrived here on a tourist visa. I have also studied Thai on an Educational Visa. But to be able to run my social network commercially I have had to setup a Thai company and via this company I applied for a work permit. Because of the language problem setting up a company or doing anything legal completely puts you in the hands of the lawyer or accountant that is helping you and because of language problems and cultural differences this can put you in a delicate position.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Phuket, is there plenty of work?
A: In Phuket there is not much work for foreigners and jobs are limited to diving, teaching and hotel management kind of jobs. Many jobs like working at a reception, as a waiter, as a hairdresser are not permitted to foreigners.
Q: How does the work culture in Thailand differ from home?
A: Thailand’s hierarchy is very different than back home in the Netherlands where everyone is (supposed) to be equal. The way that Thai will deal with things will be different than back home. Many people can find this really difficult to deal with. But don’t try to change it. This is the way that it’s done.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: No we arranged for everything ourselves. This was not much work as we stored our things back home and only arrived with our suitcases.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Learning Thai language is a must and it will really help you to settle in better. But you must realize that it’s a major challenge that most expats started but eventually gave up. Also join social groups like Chicky Net as they will allow you to meet people more easily.
~ Interviewed May 2012