New Country & New Obligations

How did I assimilate into my new surroundings and culture? There are some important things that helped me (and us) settle into this new environment and the following explains some of those that I faced.

Thai language – Without a grasp of the language, this can be a challenge to carry out detailed business.  Due to the amount of tourism in Chiang Mai, it is fairly easy to manage the routine living, survive, eat and get around.  The Department of Land Transport for licenses has a good English speaking help desk.  Major hospitals have some level of English but many doctors are fairly fluent.  Clearly, I am lucky with my partner speaking Thai to handle the detailed requirements we deal with.  My Thai is not improving nor have I tried hard to learn.  A task for a few years later I think.

Immigration Requirements – this can be somewhat of a frustrating routine.  I have been on a retirement visa that requires a renewal annually.  Also, you have to report your address to Immigration every 90 days – but there are options for using the mail, online system or in person.  I have chosen to use the mail as it is simple and an easy process involving filling out the form, making copies of certain passport pages, your departure permit, and copy of previous 90-day report.  For the annual renewal, I have done it myself by simply filling out the application form, making copies of the necessary documents and providing the necessary financial documents.  There is also a new obligation to comply with involving a reporting form TM30 that must be filled with immigration every time you leave your residence and stay elsewhere overnight (either in or out of Thailand). If all this is too much you can use a visa agent to help you through all this – there are a number available for a fee.

New Vehicles & Drivers licenses – I had my Australian car license and an International Permit.  This is technically good for 90 days if you a staying permanently.  It was easy to get my Thai license.  Just went to the Department of Land Transport and spoke to the reception desk.  The lady provided an application form, I required a residence certificate that was obtained from Immigration, a medical certificate from a doctor or hospital and the cost.  A quick traffic light sequence color test and off to get my picture and new license for a nominal fee.  It was good for a year and then I had to reapply for a 5-year license.  A similar process to the original except this time I had obtained a residence yellow book so didn’t require a residence certificate.

Ace didn’t have any current license so went through training and testing and the process to get both his motorcycle and vehicle license.  A requirement for insurance coverage.  Many Thai’s drive without a license, happy to pay the small fine if caught but aren’t covered by insurance in most cases.

Our vehicle fleet was purchased from local dealers.  We had ordered our Isuzu MUX 3 months ahead of our arrival so it was ready when we arrived in March 2014.  We subsequently purchased a Honda PCX150 motorcycle and then a smaller Mazda 2.  Both the bike and Mazda are handy for quick local trips or around the narrow streets of Chiang Mai.  For longer road trips or when there are a few more passengers, the MUX does the trick.

Health Insurance – this is an optional requirement and much debated amongst Expats.  Depending on your age the cost can be reasonable or very expensive.  Depending on when you purchase insurance it may cover you for life or only until a certain age with costs usually escalating annually.  Some chose to not pay annual premiums and pay health costs as they are required.  Medical costs are generally less expensive here than overseas but can be substantial for major medical issues.  Insurance is a personal choice – I have taken it out to give me greater peace of mind.

Banking – this was simple for me with Ace as my guarantor – having a Thai to sign your account application makes it simple.  Without this, you can still open an account but each Bank seems to have their own policies and obligations they require. Banking is a bit more complex and less streamlined than what I was used to.  While ATM and online banking are available and convenient over the counter transactions still rely on a bank a passbook to deposit and withdraw funds.

Connections and Belonging – prior to moving to Chiang Mai I had done research and found there was a vibrant and busy expat community to get involved with.  With Ace, we had a connection to Thailand more easily and quickly.  For me, I joined:

  • Chiang Mai Expat Club – this provided some social interaction and events and a way to meet others living here.  It was also a source for information on living here in Chiang Mai.  They have a number of outside group activities to cater to a range of hobbies and interests if you choose to join.
  • Rotary – I initially joined this English speaking club that provided ample additional social time and engagement in community support activities for those less fortunate.  They have a number of activities they fund and support each year that you can get involved with.
  • LGBT – we found this group and have attended a number of their events and outings which has allowed us to meet other couples and singles here.
  • Dinning Out Group – this group goes out to different restaurants every two weeks and was a good way to find some different dining establishments and to meet people.
  • CityLife Paper – this English language online media provides news and social context to our city.

Recreation & Leisure

We have a community pool and sports complex at our housing estate that provides facilities for exercise and cool dip on hot days.  Gardening, walking the dog, bicycle riding, going to the movies, shopping and dining out all keep us fully occupied.

Once settled it was enjoying life and doing some exploring of our surrounds and farther afield.  For what that involved see the page on Life, Travel, and Adventure in Thailand and my Thai Blog Posts.