Let’s be honest. As a westerner, living in China vs. Thailand is an unfair fight. Thailand will win any day of the week because it’s geared toward outsiders and China is geared toward the Chinese. But before you totally discount China as a viable living alternative, you should consider a few things.
Thailand and the USA have been allies for 180 years. Relations between Thailand and western society are stronger than in China, largely due to that fact that China is a historically isolated country with far less dependence on tourism. From 1949 to 1974, China closed its doors completely to all foreign visitors. But now fast-forward four decades, and today, China is the third most visited country in the world.
Buddhism, the official religion of Thailand, is a compassionate and tolerant religion. This reflects on Thai culture, so Thai people are very respectful of the values and religious beliefs of others.
China has no official religion, and while religious tolerance is protected under its constitution, the country doesn’t seem as keen to the idea of religion or worship as its overwhelmingly Buddhist counterpart. In other words, China generally thinks that a successful politician shouldn’t rely on prayer.
Do I even need to talk about this one? Everyone with access to the internet knows that China’s economic dependence on coal factories has effectively bent the atmosphere over. Living in Beijing is like living inside of a steam sauna, but without all the exfoliating benefits. Plus, everybody in China smokes.
Thailand is far less polluted than China, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own garbage. The cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where most western expats dwell, aren’t exactly meccas for clean freaks.
Bottom line: If you want to live in a big city, you’re going to be dealing with pollution in either country. But if you choose to live in a smaller rural town in Thailand or China, you’ll escape the treachery of smoggy air and trash-littered streets.
China easily wins this one. While it’s bathrooms are usually stinky and dirty, at least they’re everywhere. If at any point you need to go to the bathroom while you’re out in China, you’ll quickly spot a sign with that familiar stickman and stickwoman.
Thailand is seriously lacking in toilet terms. If you’re walking the streets of Thailand and nature suddenly calls, good luck my friend. You’ll be squeezing your legs together for miles before you find a place to urinate in privacy.
“It takes a brave man to fart in Asia.” -Joko, a friend living in Thailand. Check out Joko’s blog, Leaving Amerika.
You drastically increase your odds of sharting when you east Asian street food, so it’s wise to be near a bathroom. Now that I’m living in China, it’s safe to say that the PRC sympathizes with our western intestinal disposition more than Thailand.
Thailand wins this one due to its overwhelming saturation with western tourists and expats. You could honestly get away with living in Bangkok and never learning a word of Thai. That would be undiplomatic and uncool, and I don’t recommend you do that. All I’m saying is that it’s possible.
Hop into a taxi in Bangkok, Thailand, and you’ll often get to where you want to go just by speaking English. Taxis in China are so learn to speak Chinese. Or have the address written down in Chinese from a friend.
To show respect, Thai people wai each other. If you plan to plan to live in Thailand, you should learn how to wai properly. Chinese people simply shake hands just like we do in the west.
I feel safer in Asia than I do in the USA. Thailand and China are both safe countries, but I think I’m gonna lean more toward China on this one. I never once had a serious encounter that had me scared or worried in either country. Just avoid the common tourist traps like the cab driver that doesn’t run the meter, or tea shop scams.
In bigger cities in either country, you’re more likely to run across scammers and pickpockets. I let my guard down in Beijing and got scammed by two friendly little Chinese women. People like this exist everywhere, so just be vigilant.
China wins by a landslide. In today’s global economy, China is a dynamo. Because of the rapid growth taking place now in China, having a working knowledge of Chinese language and business culture could be a huge advantage in coming years.
Since reopening its doors to outsiders four decades ago, China has risen to become the third most popular country for tourists to visit. And as the world leader in both population size and global exports, China’s potential as a global superpower grows stronger every year.
Thailand may be the world’s leading exporter of rice (golf clap, everybody), but the global economic advantages of understanding Thai business culture and language are trumped by that of China.
Don’t get me started on this one. If you’re interested in learning my opinion about which country’s food is better, read the full story here. This is a very sensitive subject for me as I love both Thai and Chinese food dearly so don’t ever ask me to pick one over the other. Ever.
Living in China vs. Thailand: Conclusion
For westerners, living in Thailand is a better option than living China. With a characteristically friendly culture that embraces tourists and expats, Thailand wins my overall vote… Today.
China just needs time. It’s a rapidly developing country that’ll look very different five, ten, twenty years down the road. China’s modernization is transforming an ancient culture into an urban jungle right before our eyes, so there’s no telling what it’ll be like for westerners decades from now.