WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ENGLISH LANGUAGE WRITERS IN THAILAND?

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ENGLISH LANGUAGE WRITERS IN THAILAND?

 

WHY ARE THERE SO MANY ENGLISH LANGUAGE WRITERS IN THAILAND?

As a writer living in Bangkok, I am constantly meeting other writers, fiction and non-fiction. Most live here in the Capitol, but there are noticeable communities elsewhere, particularly Chiang Mai. I am a member of a writers’ group, Keybangers Bangkok, and we have English language writers from all over the world, including several Thais. (Ashamed to say my Thai colleagues have a better grasp of English grammar than most native speakers).

What is it about the Kingdom that attracts so many English language writers?

Take a look at the photos I’ve included and an answer is suggested. Writers and other artists are attracted to exotic, beautiful and relatively peaceful locales. Thailand boasts many different environments and cultures and there is no end to the joy of discovering something new and stimulating. Travel within the Kingdom and to neighboring countries is quick, easy and cheap. No reason for anyone to be bored in Thailand. Boredom is not helpful to writers.

Another reason, the pragmatic one, is the low cost of living. Writers and other artists do not always earn the equivalent of their true worth. A writer, like any artist, should love what they are doing because their efforts may not always pay off with fame or fortune. In the U.S. or U.K., a writer would be faced with high costs for rent, transportation, entertainment, even basic food. Here in Thailand, those expenses are a fraction of what they would be back home. This allows writers to avoid most of the economic stress that would plague them elsewhere and allows them to focus on their craft. If they do have jobs, they are most likely not as stressful or unpleasant as in their home countries.

I did not choose to live in Bangkok for purely financial reasons. When I retired my wife and I could have lived almost anywhere we wished.  I don’t scrimp while I am here. No doubt comparable levels of luxury would be far more costly in the West, but that is not what drew me to Thailand.

The main attraction for me is the Thai people. I cherish their lesser stress, their generally calm demeanor and the Thai  ethos that eschews conflict and argument. Most Westerners  visiting or living in Thailand (called “farangs”, pronounced “falangs”) feel the same. There are many who claim it is difficult to get to know Thai people. I will address this in a different post, but for now, it is sufficient to say that this is simply not true and is more a function of an unwillingness to learn and understand a different culture.

In today’s cyber-world, a writer can live anywhere and stay in touch with magazines, publishers, agents and fellow writers. We can work on our fiction wherever we choose, and with a click of the keyboard submit it for publication. (Okay, there are a few Luddites who insist on hard copy, but fortunately, the Thai postal system works just fine.)

There is another reason why writers leave their homeland and venture abroad, and it has nothing to do with economics or technology. Indeed, writers have embraced expat life for centuries. A change of location allows a writer to escape what distracted them at home and to clear their minds for creative work. When I retired as a lawyer, I decided that I did not want to be one of those who spent their retirement dropping by the courthouse and the same coffee shops I had visited when practicing, and wanted to avoid the  technical and boring discussions about the intricacies of law. Once I stopped practicing, I had little interest in these topics. For the first year of retirement I never wrote about the law, other than some character portraits of unhappy, stressed-out attorneys. Now, with distance from my former profession, I have started to write more about the lives of lawyers; that too shall be addressed in a separate post.

It is not necessary to turn one’s back on their native land  to enjoy life abroad. I intend to split my time between Thailand and America, mostly in the Kingdom but with extended stays in my home in Tampa, Florida. When we retired, my wife and I relocated from Marin County, California to the Gulf Coast. Thanks to the internet, I can read my favorite American newspapers, watch CNN, BBC and  Bloomberg on television and listen to NPR, MSNBC and (very occasionally) Fake-I mean Fox-News on satellite radio.

I cannot speak for all English language writers in Thailand, but my experience informs me that nearly all have come for one of the reasons I cite. As a result, we enjoy as rich a creative life as we would back home, with the added benefits of constant stimulating  new experiences.

 

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