Want to Move to Thailand and Start a Business?

Working in your home country is so depressing. You’ve finally found the perfect place to live. Maybe it’s time to live abroad and open that business you’ve been thinking about, or is it?

You’ve gone on vacation in this beautiful tropical paradise, full of sun, sand, beautiful friendly people, and great times. Suddenly returning home seems like such a drag. Back to the grindstone in the cold, depressing West.You know what you should do? Move to Thailand and open a business. What a great idea, right?

Hi, my name is Mike and I’ve been in the private investigation business for years. Through this experience, I have encountered many scenarios in which starry eyed dreamers fell in love with Thailand, had some seed money saved, moved to Thailand, and lost everything. Are you thinking about it? Here’s what you should know before you make the leap.  

1.You see an existing demand

You have a lot of experience, business acumen, and some niche knowledge that’s definitely missing in Thailand. They’re just aching for this product or service here! You can be the one to provide it, right? What you don’t know is that several people have likely come and tried to do the same thing and were marched out of the country after endless setbacks, and no experience in this kind of environment. Doing business in Thailand is about more than good ideas and hard work. It’s a shark tank filled with pit vipers. Barbarous and cruel. Like a good boxer, protect yourself at all times. 


You’re of course aware that corruption is a challenge which can exist in developing nations. It exists in developed countries as well, after all. Besides, maybe you can use it to further your own ends. When in Rome do as the Romans, right? Surely someone as crafty as you can outwit your foes by handing out a few envelopes? Wrong. Corruption is all about your contacts, but you won’t know the real ones from the fake ones until you’ve lived here for years, and even then you may find yourself taken for a ride on occasion. You will find people left and right who appear to have money and claim to have been high school classmates with this politician or that military general. Give them a few thousand dollars and they’ll definitely help you clear that hurdle that’s been in your way. Then prepare yourself to be told that the favor you asked for will be done two weeks from now, every two weeks for the rest of your life. They will exhaust you with every excuse in the book while you slowly learn how little recourse you have.

3.Contracts are difficult to enforce

In your home country, you know how to negotiate a mean contract. You can use logic, confidence, and a little bit of mind games to get your opponent to agree to the right terms and conditions. If they don’t follow it, you can trust that you will get your way if you dot your i’s and document everything. In Thailand you might be surprised how easily your negotiations go. What comes after, however, may not be as you planned. It’s common knowledge here that contracts can take tens of thousands of dollars, and 2 to 3 years in court to have an outcome, and that’s if your legal opponents play fair. You may find in some cases that you can’t even trust your own lawyers. What is the point of a legal system in such conditions? Surely there’s a good reason for it, no doubt known by wiser people than ourselves.

4.The law is difficult to enforce

Heaven help you if you have a fraud case on your hands. The police won’t even move without some encouragement, followed by a several year long, tropical themed Game of Thrones remake. Reading Thai news, you will see various instances of law enforcement goofiness on the daily. Even if the people you’re dealing with are honest, they might have lost your money or product after getting defrauded by others. Or maybe it’s an excuse. That’s the fun part, you’ll likely never know which, and nobody is very interested in helping you figure it out. You go to the police station to fill out a complaint, and get sent to the official licensed translator who charges you 500 baht per page. Then you run in between the two half a dozen times as you’re told to fetch various new required pieces of documentation they forgot to tell you about last time. Word to the wise, consider investing in thorough due diligence with a qualified investigator before handing your hard-earned money out!

5.Sneaky employees

If we had a dollar for everytime we heard about trusted, tenured employees stealing from the till, we’d be rich. You wouldn’t believe all the creative schemes and machinations we’ve heard of. Keep your eyes peeled on all the processes, records, and receipts. That’s not to say this is exclusive to Thailand, it’s certainly not, but it does seem obnoxiously common. Do you have some construction being done? You’d better have someone you trust sit around and watch them do it. Missing supplies, tools, and materials will suck your wallet dry. Like Stalin said, “trust but verify.”

6. Cultural differences

  • Honest employees, business partners, vendors, and merchants all exist in Thailand too. That’s not to say that you won’t have challenges. You will often hear that logic in SouthEast Asia works differently. It is not a lie. Marvel at why your employee brought a case of Fanta when you specifically asked for Coca-Cola. Reasoning here does not work in a linear path, but a big meandering circle; like those little scamps in Family Circus cartoons of yesteryear. It can be a fun challenge when it’s not inconvenient. Just wait until you get into the concept of face, or why people always say “yes,” when they really mean “no.” Even when the people around you are acting in good faith, challenges abound!


All of this may sound overly negative. It may sound as if we’re trying to dissuade you from following your dreams of success and freedom in a beautiful country. Rest assured we are not. Carefully prepare, measure your risks, take control of your future. Just make sure you cover all your bases if you do. We can help you be ready, or assist you should you find yourself getting swindled.