My name is Willy Thuan, I’m French, born in France a very long time ago but I have spent more time in Thailand than I did in France. I share my time between Phuket and Bangkok since 1994.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I probably was mistakenly born in France. While I think France is beautiful and fun to visit on holiday, I realized very early in my life that I didn’t belong. It took me a while to find an opportunity to start travelling seriously, but once I did, I knew I was never coming home. I found many good reasons to live in Asia and not many to go back to France.
2. How do you make a living?
I worked for Club Med as a stage designer for few years, travelled the world a lot until I reached Asia. My plan was to settle and work in Japan but economy was not great over there, so I decided to find a temporary job in Thailand. I started as a resort host in a luxury hotel in Phuket. My salary was tiny but I was really happy.
I discovered computers in that hotel and started to draw small things with it (Microsoft Word!). People asked me to draw more and more layouts and within 2 years, with no prior experience, I opened an official graphic design company. I hired staff and we became really busy! I then discovered internet and designed my first travel websites. Things changed enormously since the first steps of internet, but I still do this today. I now work for a huge international corporation and I do what I love most: I still build online travel guides, supported by a great team of writers and designers.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Not often, but social media is great to stay in touch with family. I go back once a year on average.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Thailand?
Everything. No matter how people see and judge Thailand from the outside, through TV or internet, life is great here. Weather is easy going, landscapes are amazing (I’m a photographer), food is fantastic and you can basically find anything you want in Bangkok without much effort. It’s also a very safe country to live in (within the limits of common sense of course). Most of all, people are great. They are friendly, open minded, polite and respectful to each other. And they are great to work with.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Thailand?
I would say paperwork, but I’m lucky enough to work for a company that support expat very well. Maybe I don’t consider myself an expat anymore. Driving is really tricky and you have to learn how to adapt, and be always on alert. I only had one minor accident in 24 years driving.
6. What do you miss most?
Not much… Spring time maybe. And some homemade dishes you can’t really find in restaurants here.
7. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Thai people put ice in their beer! Eventually I got used to it, but restaurants would do it without asking you first. It’s a lot of fun to see visitors’ faces the first time it happens to them.
8. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It always has been natural, even with my poor Thai speaking ability (sorry, but it’s hard!). People are always welcoming. Do what they do: share small things, enjoy food with them (sharing food is part of daily life), respect their traditions and basic Buddhist principles, smile and go with the flow. Of course, it’s not always pink but overall, Thailand is a fantastic place to live in.
9. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
It’s a lot, lot cheaper in Thailand than in any country I worked in. But social status being so important in Thailand, you can start spending a lot if you want to buy cars, proper houses, fancy restaurants and living in the fast lane. Cars are incredibly expensive in Thailand!
10. What advice would you give other expats?
Respect people. Come, observe, learn and blend in. Don’t try to bring your homeland principles here. Drive safe, it’s like nowhere else. Most of all, don’t become bitter and enjoy life as much as you can.
11. When and why did you start your blog?
Phuket has always been a superb island and Phuket101 was a chance for my wife and me to share our explorations and photos, to help people planning their holiday. We don’t do it for money, we do it for the satisfaction of sharing and learning. We personally review and try everything we write about. We pay for our restaurants, hotels and trips. We don’t get any special treatments and we come unannounced. This allows us to be true to ourselves and say what we really experienced, and it’s not always perfect!
Yes, Phuket has changed a lot in the past decades and some beaches are now very busy, but there is still an incredible number of hidden places and beaches with no one but you on them!
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