I’ve lived in Thailand for eight years now. I would never live in the US ever again. Of course, I’m also married to a Thai citizen…and you couldn’t make him live in the US for a million dollars. He’s been there once and couldn’t stand it.
This is not to say I don’t love my home country. I know it’s a great nation and I salute the flag. My father is a veteran, as was my grandfather, and great-grandfather. It is a great place.
But there are a few reasons Thailand is better. Some may seem frivolous, but others may make you think.
1. Full-service gas stations. When you drive up to a gas station, an attendant comes out and asks how much gas you want. Several others clean your windshield and mirrors while you fill up. They take your money or credit card and bring you your change and receipt. You never have to get out of the car.
If you’re on a motorbike (like a majority of the population), you do have to get off just to get to the gas cap, but the attendant will still pump the gas for you. In fact, it upsets them if you try to do it yourself. There’s an unspoken rule among Thai’s that you never EVER do someone else’s job.
This phenomenon amazed my mother, who discovered the next great thing about Thailand.
2. Everybody works! We have several conductors on each public bus. Gas stations are full of attendants. Walking markets are full of vendors. Even the disabled will play music at night markets for their living.
There is no welfare here. No free ride. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.
3. The family (not the government) is expected to take care of you. This is true for young children, aging parents, and the disabled. My mother-in-law lives with us and does the cooking, cleaning, and provides child care. In exchange, we take care of her in her old age so she doesn’t have to work in the rice fields. Benjamin, our nephew, was abandoned when his mother ran off to marry a guy from Malaysia. We took him in as our own. It is our responsibility to do so.
I am often asked who is taking care of my parents, since I live here. I’m glad I have two sisters, one living at home and another not far from my parents, as I can give a suitable answer. They wouldn’t accept the idea of me leaving my parents to “gasp” fend for themselves.
4. The pharmacy is part of the hospital. I recently talked to my mother, who told me how she had to go to Walmart to fill a prescription because CVS didn’t carry it. My husband was puzzled by this story until I told him, “American hospitals do not have a pharmacy attached. You have to go to a different place to get your medicine.”
He found the idea ridiculous. At every hospital in Thailand, even the poorest and most run-down government hospital, there is a pharmacy counter. After you see the doctor, you wait for the pharmacy to call your name (or your number) and they give you your medicine (although you may have to report to the cashier and pay for it first).
5. There’s no such thing as a “deductible.” When we had my first child, I had to explain to my husband that my insurance company required that I pay a deductible before they would cover my hospital bills. He found this to be as ridiculous as there not being a pharmacy in the hospital.
Thai insurance companies have no deductible requirement. If you go to the hospital, and meet the requirements in your plan, the company will pay your bill. But there is a chance they’ll claim your plan doesn’t cover your hospital stay, so make sure you know what it covers. I don’t have Thai insurance myself as they don’t cover childbirth, as they believe childbirth is always “planned” and does not required insurance coverage. My husband and son have Thai insurance though (as I doubt either one will be giving birth anytime soon).
6. Insurance is not tied to your job. While we’re on the subject of insurance and how it works, I might point out that Thailand has government insurance. But the reason government insurance works is because EMPLOYERS DO NOT PAY FOR IT. Therefore, it has not driven businesses out of the country.
7. Excellent PRIVATE hospitals. Thailand is actually famous for it’s high quality and low cost health care. At least, it’s a lot cheaper than it would be elsewhere.
Special note here. If you are on the government healthcare plan, you can ONLY use a GOVERNMENT hospital. And the government hospitals are run like most other government offices (think the DMV in the US) with long lines, not enough staff, not enough beds, dingy lighting, and dirty floors. The one in Pai doesn’t even provide soap in the bathrooms.
It is the PRIVATE hospitals, i.e. the ones you pay for, that are excellent and high quality. Foreigners and Thais who purchase private insurance are able to use these hospitals. I had one friend who changed from a government hospital to the private one next to it and found it was the exact same doctor. He would serve PAYING patients at the private clinic first and make the others wait in line.
8. No regulations. Thailand is a very laid-back society. You can build on your land without needing a permit. You can open a shop in your yard to sell noodles without a business license. You can burn leaves in your yard without the Homeowners Association sending a nasty letter (although your neighbors are still free to complain about it).
9. You don’t ‘need’ to have a car. My husband was amazed that in my hometown in Kansas, you simply couldn’t get anywhere if you didn’t have a car. A motorbike doesn’t cut it, as we have snow and ice in the winter. But unless you live in a big city, there’s no public transportation. You either have a car, or you’re stuck.
Thai’s mostly use motorbikes. Or else they just walk. And they can walk a pretty long ways to get to the market from the village or from one village to the next. If one person in the village has a truck (like us), it’s not uncommon to take half the village to town on market day.
10. Pre-paid cell phones. Thailand skipped the age of phone lines and went right to cellular. Cell phone towers are a lot easier to put up than phone lines. A basic cell phone is dirt cheap and prepaid, so you don’t get hit with any texting or roaming fees on your bill. When you run out of money, you’re out of money. Refill it at 7-11, as there’s one on every block. They have to keep the service cheap as a cell phone is a MUST HAVE for even the POOREST people in the country.
By the way, the cheap phones often work better and last longer than the fancy expensive ones. Don’t waste your money. Get a cheap and sturdy phone that will actually receive calls and get something else like a tablet if you want to play games or use wifi.
There’s actually a great many other great things about Thailand, but I will leave it at ten for now. Yes, America is great and I miss having hamburgers and chicken fried steak and a house with air conditioning. But Thailand is also a great place to live and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.