Hi, my name is Su. I am married to an Englishman and we’d lived together in Thailand for several years.I had been to England three times on holiday (always during the UK summer months)but we decided to move there permanently because my husband had to go back on business for a year. We moved to Telford, a fairly large industrial town situated in the middle of England, where my hus band had lived before moving to Thailand.
First impressions of the UK are that is generally very clean and tidy, organised and orderly, with good quality roads (and almost no motorbikes). Because I had been to the UK before I already knew my husband’s family quite well, along with some of his friends and a few Thai people already living inTelford. So,for me, settling in was quite easy. We have to register on the local Electoral register with the local government(council) which is similar to the Tabien Baan we have in Thailand and organize the utility services (local Government tax, electricity,gas,water,internet,telephone,etc). And here’s where the first indication of the cost of living appears. Renting a house costs £500+per month, local council tax is about £1500 pa, gas and electricity is £1000 pa, water is £400,internet costs £180 while a mobile phone bill will vary from £12 to £20 per month. So, before thinking about food etc we needed around £775(over 40,000 baht) just to pay the bills. In fact (almost) everything is more expensive. Paying bills is either done(preferably) by direct debit from our bank account or paid at a bank or post office. There’s no ‘convenience option’ of paying at the local 7-11 and Tesco’s style shops that we have in Thailand.
The first big difference I noticed though was the absence of any markets, street vendors and cheap restaurants/cafés selling ready cooked food. Apart from the odd fish and chip shop and café doing basic snacks there are none. British people cook/prepare and eat all their own food at home, all the time.Most large super markets have an ‘Asian’ section where you can buy a reasonable variety of Thai food, plus most areas have a local Chinese shop that also stocks a reasonable variety of all Asian food, including Thai. Most areas will have an authentic Thai Restaurant, owned and run by Thai people. But again,you can’t compare with the cheap food we have in Thailand, these restaurants can be expensive and, while the food is good, the spicy flavours are usually toned down for the British palate. Generally, supermarkets and shopping malls are similar to the ones we have in Thailand although there are not many small, family style shops in the UK.
Most families in the UK have at least one car and,although expensive to maintain and run, that is a necessity because public transport is also more restricted and less readily available. There’s the normal, good quality,taxis (both metered and unmetered ) and (usually) large buses that run on a regular route. But these, although of a high quality, by Thai standards they’ re expensive and don’t run very often. It’s not unusual to wait twenty to thirty minutes for a bus. There are no Motorbike taxis, Songtows or anything similar in the UK.
The Weather in the UK, as every body will know, is much colder than Thailand. A good, hot summer’s day in the UK is about the same as a winter’s day in Thailand, while winter can be very cold, much colder than we’ve ever had in Thailand, and during most winters we will see some snow. Seeing, and playing in snow for the first time was special. Some how we didn’t notice the cold,we just had a great time throwing snowball sat each other and making snowmen.The weather is always unpredictable as well so planning a day out is never that easy.We always had some cold, rainy summer days and (quite) warm sunny winter days and it changes from day to day. It was very strange at first to see the days staying light until after 10:00 pm in the middle of summer but go dark by 4:00 pm in the middle of winter. The cooler weather did mean we were more comfortable when we went out, we didn’t have the Thai heat to worry about.
Although British people seem to have more leisure time, daily routines do seem to be more of a rush, seem to follow a timetable and do everything by the clock. Most of our leisure time in the week was spent shopping, watching TV and doing chores around the house and garden. We could watch Thai TV via the internet. Most Sundays we had a Thai Day’. Some Thai friends and their family’s would come round and we’d cook Thai food, talk Thai, play Thai music and videos and generally turn the house into a ‘little Thailand’ for the day.I think generally, apart from family, we tended to socialize more with other Thai/English families than just English.
Work was the next big thing to organize and here I think a lot of Thai people could be disappointed. Firstly, most jobs are only available(initially) via employment agencies and they usually only have basic employment regulations and pay the minimum wage. Secondly, they don’t recognize Thai qualifications so, regardless of what you did in Thailand, you were likely to only be offered menial jobs such as cleaning or stacking shelves, etc. For example, I studied science/electronics in Korat University and was a manager in an electronics company but that counted for nothing and I was only offered jobs cleaning in a supermarket and working on the line in a factory making chocolate.The only alternative all my Thai friends found to that was working in a Thai restaurant as a chef or waitress. I got on well with the people I worked with though. Almost everybody was friendly and I made several good friends as a result.
One big advantage is for Thai people sending money home to their family. Because of the high UK salaries, saving £25 per week is only about four hours work, but that’s £100 per month, over 5,000 baht,and that would make a big difference to the average Thai village family.
All in all I would say English and Thai culture is very different. English society seems more rigid and controlled. The standard of living is definitely higher in the UK but standards in Thailand are catching up and, generally, Thailand’s a more relaxed atmosphere. Thai people should not go to the UK thinking they are going to become rich over night.Yes, wages are higher but so is the cost of living, especially the essential costs. If you go to the UK with an open mind and be prepared to change you’ll enjoy yourself much more.
For us, we had the opportunity to return to Thailand after about two years and, as we both prefer Thailand, that’s what we did.The Thai friends I have in the UK all said they were really homesick at the start but that slowly improved and the ones that have now been there for more than about seven/eight years are now unsure whether they want to return to Thailand on a permanent basis.