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Foreigners In Thailand
How many are infesting and investing in the Kingdom

"Thailand is unique among Asian nations.  Individually, the country brings in a sizeable influx of foreigners from more affluent nations through the informal Three I policy of impregnation-integration-investment.  Here's how it works.  The foreigner, usually male, Impregnates a Thai female, then wishes to Integrate himself into the laid back Thai living environment by Investing in a bar or restaurant."  Doug Knell, Doug's Republic

Men, usually older ones, find it easy to score here.  Indeed, you could be mentally retarded and be born without a nose and still be able to pass on your DNA in the Kingdom.  The easier lifestyle encourages them to stay, and a bar/restaurant is the simplest way, they deem, to fund the laid back lifestyle. This was discussed in detail here.

The Three I segment forms a more sizeable group than it would in the majority of other nations, but not all foreigners living in the Kingdom are older males and impregnation pros.  Some are entrepreneurs, others English teachers, others expats working for multinationals, and still others on retirement visas with spouses they met while still in their homelands.    

foreigners in Thailand

                          In Thailand, foreigners certainly differ from the locals.  On the whole, they're older, fatter, drunker, richer, and male

So how many foreigners actually live in Thailand on a full-time basis at least part of the year?  These figures are almost impossible to come by.  Thai Immigration isn't secretive about the number of foreign tourist arrivals each year, and the Tourism of Thailand regularly publishes these figures.  But what those figures don't tell you, on their own, is:  

  How many of those are unique tourist arrivals?  If I arrive in Thailand on January 1, 2011, visit Malaysia on March 15, and then return to Thailand, I count as two tourist arrivals.  

How many of the official tourist arrivals are really transient tourists?  For my first four years in Thailand, I had to exit the country every 3 months.  Twice a year I had to visit a location in which a Royal Thai Embassy was located in order to procure more "tourist" visas.  Officially I, like many others, was living here, but the official stats would list me as a tourist, counting as four tourist arrivals per year, and not as a resident. 

Foreigners entering Thailand on other types of visas -- for education, work, retirement, or just residence -- aren't counted in those foreign tourist arrival figures.  However, to my knowledge, those figures aren't released to the general public.  They, too, wouldn't be completely accurate.  Yes, officially X thousand Japanese, Americans, British, Dutch, etc would be in the country.  The reality would be more, possibly far more. 

I can give you a real life example.  I enrolled in an intensive Thai course.  Our first week in class, our teacher taught us how to say "Our visa expires in . . ."  Only four out of the eight students, including myself, had visas valid for at least a year.  The other half were seemingly here on tourist visas, although they all seemed to be working or married to someone working.  The person they were married to would also not have possessed a long term visa because then the spouse would be entitled to one as well. 

Everyone in my class by the accepted definition of 'resident' would be considered a Thai resident.  Legally, five of them were not.  Two of the 'illegals' were Korean, one Japanese, and one German.  The German was actually of Thai descent but had left as a child and obtained German citizenship, and so was German as far as the Thai government is concerned.  

Coming Up With Some More Realistic Numbers

Wikipedia drops some numbers for Bangkok.  None of this data, like much of what is said on Wikipedia, is backed up with any authoritative citation, but it is a place to start.  2010 stats report a registered Bangkok population of 6.9m.  Let's accept that as a fact while acknowledging that many unregistered residents are not accounted for.  The demographics of the registered are broken down as Chinese (3.45m), ethnic Thais (3.14m), Thai Indian (138,000 to  207,000), Whites (70,000 to 140,000), Japanese (70,000), other East Asian (70,000), Africans (35,000), and Arabs (35,000).  The Chinese stats are deceiving because they refer to Chinese Thais, who are Thai citizens.  The Thai Indians, likewise, are also Thai citizens.

Wikipedia goes on to say that there are 250,000 long-term mainland Chinese; 105,000 Indians, most of them Sikhs and of which 80% hold dual Thai citizenship; 44,000 Japanese, 25,000 Americans; 75,000 Europeans not broken down by nationality; 15,000 Taiwanese; 20,000 South Koreans; 7,500 Australians; 12,000 Arabs; 20,000 Malaysians; 4,000 Singaporeans; 5,000 Filipinos; and 800 New Zealanders.  Very few of those numbers are substantiated.  Some contradict the other numbers offered.  How can there be both 70,000 Japanese and 44,000 Japanese?  

Dutch Korean Japanese Swede Aboriginal alien
Flooding into the Kingdom (l to r) are all types for all reasons:  a young Dutch girl looking to par-tay 24/7; a Korean mover and shaker seeking to colonize new nations; Japanese women doing high end 'hosting'; a liberal Swedish lass likely to get impregnated by a Thai man; Australian Aboriginals teaching their unusual version of the English language; a creature from another planet who heard that Thailand was a great place to do easy pick ups and drink cheap beer

I scoured the internet.  Data was incomplete or nonexistent.  The Australian data indicating 7,500 and only in Bangkok was from 2001.  The last American estimate was a complete list of Americans abroad in all countries and dates from 1999.  I could find nothing on Germans, Swedes, Dutch, and other nationals living in Thailand. 

Being the ever resourceful guy that I am, I was able to generate my own estimates, using what concrete data I could find and making a few logical suppositions.

 TOURISM IMPACT FACTOR.  The number of foreign residents from a given country living here is dependent, in part, upon how many nationals from that country are visiting as tourists.  If Thailand has 0 tourists from Papua New Guinea coming to visit, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Thailand has a paltry few Papua New Guineans as residents here.   Most foreign nationals won't decide to relocate to Thailand until they first visit on a holiday; and in Thailand's case, many of these foreign residents continue to reside here, officially, as tourists.

BILATERAL IMMIGRATION FACTOR.  The number of foreign residents living here from a given country will be impacted by the number of Thais resident in that foreign country.  350,000 Thais live in the United States; 150,000 in Australia; 38,000 in the United Kingdom; and 28,700 in Sweden.  A good many of those Thais would be married to citizens of those countries.  A Dutchman married to a Thai woman and living in Holland has a greater chance of coming to Thailand to visit regulary and possibly live permanently with his wife and family than does the average Dutchman with no family attachments to Thailand.  In many other situations, the Thai married to a foreigner and living abroad later divorces and returns to Thailand, now wealthier and with a foreign passport.  A Thai returnee, but now an American citizen, thus boosts the number of Americans living in Thailand. 

WILLINGNESS TO LEAVE THE MOTHER COUNTRY.  BBC News had an article from 2006 how 10% of Britons live abroad, the highest percentage among OECD countries.  Germany is right behind in the #2 spot.  5.2% of Australians are estimated to live abroad. By contrast, the U.S. State Department estimates that less than 2% of Americans do so.  North Korea's government doesn't bother to estimate.   They just don't let North Koreans travel freely.  It follows then that Brits, Germans, and Australians have a higher percentage of living in Thailand than Americans who, in turn, have a much higher chance of living here than North Koreans.

BUSINESS TIES.  In 2010, Japan was Thailand's largest investor.  In the past, the Netherlands was a huge investor in the country.  Phillips, ING, and Heineken remain big brands in Thailand.  Naturally, locals from those countries would be relocated to Thailand by the mother country more so than locals from countries that have weaker business ties with Thailand.   You would expect more Japanese, Dutch, and British than, say, Egyptians, Mongolians, and Nicaraguans.

COMMON SENSE.   Walk around Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, and other locales and what do you see?  Peruvian restaurants and Spanish language signs?  Of course not, because there are negligible Peruvians living in the country.  What you will see are numerous British pubs, Japanese department stores, Japanese and Korean restaurants, and German bakeries.  When I was searching for apartments in Bangkok, I came across entire buildings where 75% of the residents were Japanese. Businesses and neighborhoods reflect the nationalities of the people who are here.  

ANGLOPHONE EDUCATION GRAVY TRAIN.   According to the BBC, 1.3m Britons live in Australia, the largest number of Britons anywhere and the largest foreign-born community in Australia. A similar number live in the U.S. and Canada. The UK and the US top the list of destinations for emigrating Australians.  Over a half million Americans live in Canada, and another two hundred thousand plus in the UK.  People are most likely to migrate to another nation which shares their culture and language.    

India has reasons for attracting Anglophone companies and nationals, as it was once a British colony.  Thailand does not.  Yet with everyone in Asia wanting to learn English today, there is a huge demand for teachers from Anglophone nations in all segments of the market place, from lowly private institutes to English education chains to expensive international schools.  You would, therefore, expect more nationals from affluent Anglophone nations to be in Thailand -- or in any other Asian nation -- than would otherwise be if English was not the world's lingua franca.

The criteria I've listed above are used to suggest numbers for residents in Thailand of affluent countries located some flight distance away, here on both official resident permits or staying unofficially on tourist visas.  The resident patterns will differ significantly among citizens of poorer countries or citizens of countries located close to Thailand.  For this reason, I did not bother trying to estimate the number of Laos, Burmese, Filipinos, Malaysians, Singaporeans, or Vietnamese resident in Thailand.  

Since these are all estimates, I have rounded the number to the nearest thousand. Using numbers like 15,367 or 45,239 would look pedantic and discredit Doug's Republic, and Doug should get nothing but respect for putting this table together. 


Japan contributes the greatest number of tourist arrivals to Thailand, as of 2010.
  Sweden, followed by Australia, contributes the greatest number of tourist arrivals relative to its population.  Sweden sends, per capita, 19 times more travelers to Thailand than the USA and almost 5 times more than Japan.  Australia is not far behind Sweden per capita.
  The USA is the home to the greatest number of expatriate Thais.
  Australia, followed by Sweden, has the greatest number of expatriate Thais relative to its population, dwarfing any other rich nation on the list. 

Country Tourist arrivals 2010 % of total arrivals % of visitors relative to this country's population # of Thais living in this country % of Thais relative to this country's population # of residents in Thailand
Japan 993,674 6.24% 0.78% 53,221 0.04% 60,000
UK 810,727 5.09% 1.30% 38,000 0.06% 55,000
Germany 606,874 3.81% 0.74% 37,000 0.05% 35,000
Korea 805,445 5.05% 1.64% 19,000 0.04% 32,000
USA 611,792 3.84% 0.20% 350,000 0.11% 30,000
France 461,670 2.90% 0.70% 97,000 0.15% 27,000
Australia 698,046 4.38% 3.08% 150,000 0.66% 25,000
Sweden 355,214 2.23% 3.76% 28,739 0.30% 17,000
Holland 196,994 1.24% 1.18% 13,500 0.08% 15,000

Have more accurate data?  Instead of flaming me, send it my way along with the references used to arrive at your sexier figures. If your figures are convincing enough, I'll list them here and I might just give you credit.


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