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.
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.
Let’s start with the advantages.
These are my net gains compared to London.
It’s Easy to Be Healthy
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:
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
You know what?
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?
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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I was just in Bangkok last week for the Affiliate World Conference there. Staying there for some time definitely crossed…