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Thoughts on Bangkok and Staying Productive Abroad

Thailand is one of the Internet Marketing capitals of the world.

Every day I hear of another affiliate moving here.

It’s an exciting place to come, but there are obvious challenges.

Most notably… The P word.

Productivity.

This post outlines some of the impact living in Thailand has on your productivity.

Needless to say, if you are a 60-year-old sexpat who spends his days propping up the bar in Nana — productivity is the least of your concerns.

Please exit this blog and return to ThaiVisa Forum.

Advantages

Let’s start with the advantages.

These are my net gains compared to London.

It’s Easy to Be Healthy

salmon-royal-oak

If you can’t live a healthy life in Thailand, you should probably stop trying.

As people who know me can confirm, my middle name has never been Mr. Vitality.

It used to be simply: Village Pizza.

The guy who would order a Meatfeast, whilst still at the pub, then sprint off in to the darkness after spotting the delivery bike, caught perilously at a red light, enroute to his empty home.

I’m over that shit.

In Thailand, my diet is much improved.

I eat well. I swim and exercise daily. I sweat out enough toxins to drown a small kitten in a bath of poison.

Because it’s so easy.

This country provides the perfect building blocks for a healthy lifestyle: bar a shit load of traffic fumes, and the constant threat of decapitation via motorcycle.

It’s easy to feel great when the tools to defeat inertia are sitting on your doorstep.

That inertia bossed my suburban life in London.

I barely made it to lunch without a trip to the local petrol station for a muffin and a Costa Express.

Think Alan Partridge’s life choices infected by the apathy of Keith from The Office.

Vitality is important for any job, but especially one with such high demands on your decision-making.

When you move here, your general health will improve.

It will have a positive effect on your work performance.

Thailand is Buzzing with Young Go-Getters

One of the more demoralising aspects of Suburban London, for me, is the infectious dawdle of life as it meanders from one season to the next: from childhood, to graduation, to getting a job, to marriage, to kids, to retirement, to a care home, and eternal buggery.

On an eventful day, I’d look out my window and what would I see?

A granny capsizing in a pothole as she battles to collect her pension. A few mums returning from their school run. Then little else for miles.

By contrast, Bangkok feels alive.

The young crowd is here by choice.

It’s like New York City.

Aspiration wafts through the street stalls and creates an environment where you can taste the hunger of other expats, all driven by the same core values: to escape the predictability of their childhood homes; to live for now.

If you are an affiliate, you’ll be shocked by the number of us that are already here.

Thailand is a melting pot of affiliate scumbaggery.

It’s fitting that the biggest conference in our industry’s history will be held in Bangkok this December:

Affiliate World Asia

Plenty of Co-Working Opportunities

I know many affiliates are put off by the idea of living alone in a foreign city, and especially working alone.

It’s not that bad.

The large Internet Marketing community provides opportunities to network and meet people with the same daily struggles.

There are a ton of co-working spaces, like The Hive, where you can leave your apartment and leverage the buzz of an office environment to get more work done.

You’ll also find plenty of Skype groups with a constant stream of spare desks offered.

The good thing about this community?

It shares the same work genes.

The networking opportunities are there — both social and professional — if you want them.

But there’s no pressure to conform to the nomadic playboy bullshit so often spouted by know-it-all degenerates on their first journey out-of-state.

“Bro do you even travel?”

If you want to stay in your man cave and focus on work, that’s fine.

The Perfect Base in East Asia

Bangkok on map

There are many countries in East Asia that are great to visit, but the trade-offs of living in them are higher — or complicated by visa accessibility.

China, Japan, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam etc.

Thailand is a perfect storm of Asian culture meets Western comforts.

You can settle quickly.

The infrastructure is designed for tourism, meaning you can live as you would in any other major city.

English is widely understood.

Communities of expats have been embedded over decades.

My girlfriend tells me that Jakarta is the ‘next breakout city’ in the mould of Bangkok.

That will be interesting to see.

Until then, Thailand is the perfect base to explore the rest of Asia whilst having somewhere that resembles a home.

Some people can travel from country to country with a laptop in tow.

Try it if you fancy.

My dogs would disown me.

Disadvantages

Thailand isn’t quite paradise yet.

Once the honeymoon period is over, you will have to contend with some cultural differences that can be hard to reconcile.

Foreign Investment is Smothered in Red Tape.

Thailand treats foreign investment like a plane carrying Ebola.

Want to buy a condo freehold?

You can, but only if 51% of the units in the building are Thai-owned.

Want to get a job?

You can, but only after submitting an essay titled “Why This Job Could Not Be Performed by a Thai”.

Any business must then abide by ‘homegrown workforce’ rules:

For every foreigner hired, the company must employ four Thais.

It can be baffling to witness a situation where a) the company wants to hire a foreigner, and b) the foreigner wants to work for that company, but in order for a work permit to be issued… an arbitrary four new jobs must be created.

My girlfriend had a media visa refused after the embassy decided it would no longer apply for both newspapers and magazines — only newspapers.

The rule was changed 2 days prior.

The advice given?

“Apply again next month, we change the rules back.”

If you are not Thai, you are treated with suspicion, or forced to jump through any number of hoops.

This passive aggressive obstruction of un-Thai development is understandable for anybody who has stepped foot in a soulless metropolis, like, say, Dubai.

But as Bangkok rolls out its umpteenth luxury shopping plex — built-to-order, the chrome guise of an Arab’s wettest dream — I find myself asking:

What part of Thailand is the endless red tape designed to preserve?

The more time you spend here, the more likely that bureaucracy will get in your way.

Inevitably, visa issues will affect your productivity.

Decision Making is “Thailand Only”

There’s a saying in this country used by the natives to express their bemusement over shit that passes as normal:

“Thailand Only”

Thais are known for their great hospitality.

They are fiercely proud of their country.

Whilst they will welcome you with open arms, any suggestions on what might be improved are likely to go down about as well as a busker sipping Chang at Emquartier.

Thais will acknowledge problems, but they will often shrug at the solution.

Chains of command are rarely broken.

To question too loudly, or to criticise and cause one to lose face, is the ultimate sacrilege.

This can leave the average westerner scratching his head at some of the remarkable inefficiencies on display.

You have to accept:

There are plenty of ways to improve Thailand, but Eastern collectivism is a different beast to the individualism we celebrate in the West.

You won’t change a culture that has such contrasting values at its core.

Don’t take it personally.

“Thailand Only.”

The Heat is Sapping

When I post on Facebook that it’s too hot, I’m met by ridicule from Brits back home.

“You’ve got a problem with 40 degrees, have you? Felt the need to post about it, did you? Fuck off, you twat. Don’t come back.”

I love a scorching day by the pool, yes, but sweating buckets is not the optimal state for productivity.

At best, it’s a recipe for a gigantic electricity bill.

I spent 13,000 baht (about £250) on my AC last month.

If you take a trip out for lunch, the ferocious heat can wipe you out for the rest of the day.

I make a conscious effort to get the bulk of my work done in the morning before I expose myself to the elements.

The Thai summer is b-r-u-t-a-l.

The Traffic and General Lateness

Bangkok Traffic

Oh my god, the traffic.

As a general rule of thumb, if you have made plans for the evening, and those plans involve catching a taxi near Sukhumvit Road at 7pm… cancel your plans.

Go home.

Read a book, have a wank, or paint your nails.

The night is over for you.

Likewise, if you are one of those guys who arranges his schedule in to 15 minute chunks, Jenga’d together, and endangered by one wet fart… don’t set foot in Bangkok.

This city will eat your best laid plans for breakfast.

Sometimes I emerge from my apartment in awe that Bangkok is actually beneath me — and not 15 minutes away, running late, with a gob full of street food.

Want to measure the priorities of a city?

Look at how fast people walk from A to B.

A tortoise could migrate up Everest with greater zest than a Bangkokian between meals.

There is simply no rush.

If you value punctuality, be prepared.

This country will leave you sweaty, angry, and ten degrees hotter than the laughing locals.

Conclusion

You know what?

Fuck it.

Move to Thailand.

Any criticism I have is not borne out of dislike.

I believe if Thailand fixed its flaws, it would be the best damn place to live in the world.

I’d probably never leave.

The good far outweighs the bad.

There is so much that is right about this country.

The shit that is wrong stands out like a Japanese tourist lost at Nana Plaza.

Would I recommend this place for everybody?

No.

You have to be at a certain point in your life for moving abroad to hold appeal.

For many people, that moment never comes.

For others, Thailand is an assault on the senses. It’s too crazy.

Personally, I love it here.

But I know I won’t be in Thailand forever.

I try to use that as the lens for how I view my productivity.

Even if I get 10% or 20% less work done, it’s a period of my life that I’ll never forget.

Isn’t that supposed to be the point?

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About the author

Finch
Finch

A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.

20 Comments

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  • Mate, no offense, but a couple of years ago Thailand was shit and the mid-west of America was the best place to live. Why did your change your mind?

  • I’ve never said Thailand was shit. Only that it didn’t fit my lifestyle at the time. I was 21 when I first lived here. I made a lot of mistakes. I’m 27 now and a completely different person.

    As for the American Mid West, again — different priorities.

    I was in a relationship with an American girl who had family and friends there. When that relationship ended, so did any future I saw there.

    No doubt I’ll have completely different preferences 10 years from now.

  • Hahah awesome post Finch, was laughing the whole way. Sums up how i feel about Thailand. Overall i love it.

    Best line
    “A tortoise could migrate up Everest with greater zest than a Bangkokian between meals.”

  • Finch another great post. Me thinks though you are a tad masochistic.(I’m beginning to think that Thailand is the OZ for affiliate dorks that can’t get a relationship.)

    Hope your post isn’t a rationalization of a bad decision. I’m reminded of what I used to tell my parents defending the “great” bad boyfriends I dated. Haha

    Great cracking on those books you have in you lest your legacy is relegated to the King of porn banners and landing pages. Rudyard Kipling reincarnated…instead of India it’ll be Finch in Thailand working on the future Kindle best sellers;The Bangkok Jungle and AffiliateGrinder Din 🙂

  • Good, honest recap of Bangkok.

    What’s helped me most with productivity in Bangkok is establishing healthy, work-like routines. Funny you mention The Hive – I work here everyday on the 2nd floor. Swing by and I’ll buy you a coffee at their shop.

  • You have to be deep into masochism to wanna live in BKK…or in most of Thailand…The Thai smile only widens as you open your wallet wider, and English is widely spoken since when??
    Thailand was quite cool in the nineties, but I was there ten years ago, and won’t mind staying away for another ten or twenty, specially since I had a gun pointed at me twice, and also got attacked in a coffee shop with a big knife on a Sunday morning reading a newspaper!
    And yes, 3 of my friends have already died in Thailand, kinda in non unique ways, one of course ODd…being Ozzie and all I supposed that was expected.
    The second, Brit, got hit by a car on the wrong side of the road driven by a 16-year old kid, drunk outta his skull in rich daddy’s car…wrong side of the road for the kid that was…and he got fined 200Baht for the whole deadly little episode..
    Friend No3, from SA same as me, got thrown off a train…
    “They” almost tried the same trick on me…didn’t work…
    Real paradise huh, BUT the ONLY real paradise in Asia is PHILIPPINES…you will stop wetdreaming about Thailand in about 2 nano-seconds…don’t take my word for it, check it out…AND, the last GOOD part of the Philippines, which translates to the last good part of Asia then…is…Mindanao!!
    Don’t take my word for it…

  • “You have to be deep into masochism to wanna live in BKK”

    Yes, because all of us know three people who died here.

    Sorry for your bad experiences, but I’m still going to enjoy my weekend.

  • If I found myself in a position where the bad experiences outweighed the good, I wouldn’t use a blog post to convince myself otherwise.

    I’d just buy a plane ticket and go someplace else.

    As for affiliates moving here to chase girlfriends, well, I can’t speak for them.

    From what I’ve seen, only a very small percentage of the BKK affiliate community is interested in settling down. The reason they’re here, in my opinion, is a direct consequence of being young, single and able to work anywhere.

  • You are absolutely missing the point…
    BKK or Thailand for that matter, does not solely suck because of three deaths of friends, or even the fact I myself could have easily lost my life several times, or the fact that about ten Farang a day go that way, and that is only in Pattaya, no!
    It sucks in so many more ways than one, as you yourself mention explicitly.
    Useless, time-consuming and mind numbing red tape, traffic and pollution, bone-headed visa policies, bone-headed Thai non-logic and paranoia in general, language barrier and rip-offs, crime, the whole wanker our-king-is-god BS!
    The fact is that Thais hate Farang but love your cash…this schizo-paranoia is very unpleasant to say the least.
    The easiest way to find that out is bumping into the local femaledom!
    Which brings us to nightlife, which sucks!
    A kindergarten attitude to drinks and closing times, but hey, if you from US or somewhere like that, then you must feel right at home!
    There may or may not be extenuating circumstances like the cuisine, although I don’t like chillis or insects in my diet which kinda cut out 90% of your choice right there.
    I already mentioned the paranoid attitude to drinking, and I don’t do drugs, that leaves the women…
    Well, I can only advise you to stay clear of the women, and no, not just for example because I was drugged on my very first nite in BKK, waaaaay back, and had 50K B ripped right off me, there are many other reasons to steer clear of the ladies there, too many to mention but my sole advice is to find yourself a Filly and you will be in real paradise!
    I have met several hot Foreign girls there though and that is one goody.
    In short and summing up, Thailand is HELL, that is WHY I recommended Philippines, which I do again.
    Everything is exactly the opposite of Thailand.
    People are REALLY friendly and smiling and welcoming.
    You can really life the life you choose…
    Yea, I know, you are young, dumb, fulla cum kinda guy…so don’t take my words for it…one day you will arrive and kick yourself…

  • Your sole advice of ‘finding a Filly’ is irrelevant to me. I already have a girlfriend. (She’s British before you ask.)

    “You can really life the life you choose…”

    Yes, exactly. The life YOU choose.

    If you’re having the time of your life in PH… good for you.

    Ranting about Bangkok as if you’re going to change somebody’s subjective experience of it — is pretty fucking retarded. No offence.

  • I’m struggling to jive with the “healthy” thing (admittedly I’m not currently in BKK), but from what I am experiencing, everything is sugar-laden, most carb-laden. I’m struggling to find any healthy drink in 7/11 other than water. I’m struggling to get lots of greens (spinach, kale and broccoli is abundant and cheap on every corner in London, here morning glory is OK, but broccoli aint liking the heat). Some stuff is cheap, but I question it’s quality. I could probably get 10 eggs for 56 baht equivalent in UK, but they would be battery crap. I’m not sure what I’m eating here. So any tips /a post / something on healthy options would be great (but at Thai prices, I can get anything I want paying London prices). Thoughts?

  • Its the best co-working space in Bangkok and I’ve tried them all. Fast, reliable Internet, plenty of outlets and all the water you can drink. They have a nice rooftop as well with a bar, cafe and comfy seating. Its a real pleasant work environment.

    Oh yea, they also have 200 baht foot massages on site. They give you an outlet and a pillow for your laptop.

  • I use FourSquare and have done for years, it doesn’t help with the things I’ve talked about. Thai food is based on sweetness as a key element so everything has a lot of sugar in it. Most dishes come with rice etc. Still interested to hear from Finch if he reads this!

  • I was just in Bangkok last week for the Affiliate World Conference there.

    Staying there for some time definitely crossed my mind.

    Thanks for writing this and letting me know what to expect!

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