Koh Samui living guide for expats

koh-samui-expats_sMore and more foreigners are choosing to up sticks in their home country and settle in places like Koh Samui. Well, can you blame them! Look around Samui at the wonderful tropical paradise and you can soon understand why ‘second-home’ villas are going up everywhere. Many have started businesses on the island, while others have built houses to retire in.

Many of the foreigners living on Samui only spend part of the year there; closing their businesses during low season or renting out their houses and villas during peak periods. People from most European countries can be found living on the island, with English and German the most common. There is also a significant expatriate population from India, many of whom run tailoring businesses or restaurants.

The foreign community on Samui generally gets on well together, although there are clear distinctions between different interest groups. In business, however, relationships are not always so relaxed, with incidences of foreigners ripping off other foreigners all too common, and visitors should be as careful entering into business with a fellow farang (foreigner; us) as they would be with a local Thai person.

Because many resident foreigners run bars, restaurants and hotels, the expat scene regularly crosses paths with the tourist world and there are often events and launch parties held the various locations around the island. There are English newspapers and magazines here, as well as a handful of clubs and organisations specifically aimed at foreigners living on Samui.

In fact, Samui has one of the highest concentration of expats and foreigners in Thailand; being a predominantly tourist island and popular place to live. This means supermarkets are well stocked with exotic foreign items, and many business services, such as lawyers and property agents, are geared to serving their needs and expectations.

Bet you didn’t know that!
More than 200,000 foreigners have settled in Thailand, with the number growing by more than 10 per cent a year. Many come to retire here, others work for multi-nationals in Bangkok or establish businesses in the tourist trade. Only a limited quota of permanent residence permits are issued per year, despite the fact there are more Thais reckoned to be living in California than farangs staying in all of Thailand.

ROCKS (Rotary Club Koh Samui) is an international organisation and boasts members in over 160 countries worldwide. Their motto is ‘Service Above Self’ and, on Samui, members organise fundraising events and co-ordinate charitable activities both on and off the island. ROCKS played an important role in providing direct relief to tsunami victims on the west coast, and the organisation also provides help to local schools and other community services. The membership is largely made up of local business people (Thais and Foreigners) and the club holds weekly meetings to discuss and plan its projects.

Koh Samui Expat Network hold regular meetings to discuss island issues, build business relationships, and generally provide help and information to foreigners living on the island.

Samui Culinary Circle is a network of food and beverage professionals who work in resorts and restaurants around the island. It boasts in the region of 40 members – mostly drawing on executive chefs, FNB managers, and restaurateurs – and all the main hotels, as well as many of the island’s top restaurants, are represented.

Samui is one of the most popular places in Thailand for expats to settle and we’ve created a whole section on ‘Living Here’, which details information on visas, schools, property, costs of living, and more.