A lot of people choose to move to Thailand to spend their last years abroad. And who can blame them? How festive is November in Denmark, when you in Thailand have the swaying palm trees and the crystal blue water. It is attractive to reside in Thailand, but there are some things you need to consider as you get older.
First of all, the safety net back in Denmark is no longer there to depend on when things go wrong. That is the Danish health insurance and what it brings like hospitals, doctors, care and supplies. All that is no longer there to fall back on when you move out from Denmark.
You also have to ask yourself: For how long do I want to stay? Will I stay here until I will need the Danish hospital sector? And then, what do I have to come home to? Do I have accommodation, are my finances in control, so that I can actually exist at home?
So, yes, it is great to settle down in Thailand if your health is on point and your economy the same. But if one of the two starts to crumble, the joy will most likely disappear.
Birgit Sarah Kondrup-Palmqvist, Consul at the Danish Embassy in Bangkok, has some advice for Danes wanting to relocate to Thailand.
The legal stay: Visa
To begin with, you have to make sure that you are legal resident in Thailand. Most people arrive on a 90 days’ visa, and then they apply for some kind of residence permit. Most of the times, people apply for a retirement visa, where you first of all have to be aged over 50 years. But there are also some financial requirements – whether you are married or not. The Thai authorities demand married people to have a monthly income of 40,000 THB, and 65,000 THB if you are unmarried. Another possibility is to have 400,000 THB in your bank account if you are married, and 800,000 THB if not. These amounts must have been there for a couple of months before applying for the retirement visa which lasts a year. It can also be a mix of the amounts, i.e. some income and an amount on the bank book.
According to Consul Birgit Sarah, not everyone remembers to get their visa in place, because they do not think about the importance of it.
“If you get caught in Thailand on overstay, the hammer falls,” she says and explains that getting caught without a valid visa, you will be put in the immigration’s detention. She explains that this a terrible place to end up – you can be up to 100 people in one cell, and the space is so limited that you can’t even stretch your legs and almost have to spoon the other detainees going to sleep. And also, there is a risk of catching illnesses due to the tight gathering of so many people and the almost non-existent hygienic conditions.
“Here, you can sit as long as it lasts before you can present a one-way ticket out of the country. And then, the police will drive you all the way to the airport and walk you all the way inside the airplane,” Birgit Sarah says. Furthermore, you might be blacklisted from entering into Thailand ever again, depending on how long your over-stay is.
You may have arrived safe and sound, found a place to live and are ready to start your life in the tropics under the southern sun. But at some point, as we all grow older, one can then not be certain that the good health will come along. In this situation, Birgit Sarah explains that it is very important to have a health insurance.
“No health insurance; no treatment – and if you die, you cannot get buried,” she says explaining that this is unless you are willing to pay for the hospital and funeral yourself. Birgit Sarah further explains that if you want to make sure you receive proper care, you often have to find a private hospital. Here, the daily bill can end costing 50,000 THB, and you have to pay for everything; bed, bed sheets, medicine, care, food and equipment.
“If you don’t want to pay for the hospital or your repatriation after your passing, then nothing will happen, unless others are willing to pay for you. If not, you will end up at the hospital without further treatment, and when you die, you will end up as an unwanted corpse,” she says knowing that it is a harsh but true message that needs to be told.
Birgit Sarah explains that it is a good idea to get the health insurance in place when you get here and not wait until you are 75 years old or more. If you wait and some minor infirmities start to appear, you may risk that no insurance company want to insure you, and then there is nothing left to do.
So, Birgit Sarah advises everyone to take out an insurance which can be done either locally in Thailand or from Denmark. What you need to ask yourself; if I get ill, do I want treatment in Thailand or Denmark? And if you die; whether you want to be buried in Thailand or Denmark.
“I think that the majority of the people living abroad still have a connection with their home country – it may well be that you do not want to stay in Denmark whilst being alive, but at least you want to be buried in Denmark when you die,” Birgit Sarah says.
Keep in touch
At the Danish Embassy, they often experience Danes having left home and at the same time burned all their bridges behind them. This can be due to a failed marriage where the children have chosen the other parent, it can be family disputes with the mother and father, and so on.
When a Dane is hospitalized in Thailand and in need of economic help, the Embassy asks if there is anyone they can contact who can help them. Often they do, but, according to Birgit Sarah, the people on the other end of the line are not willing to help.
“In 90-95% of the cases, we are told: ‘Well, he has burned the bridges behind him – we haven’t seen this person in decades, why would we want to help a person who hasn’t wanted to speak to us in all these years?’” she says explaining that it may be that this situation has repeated itself so many times where family and friends may have helped in the past, but cannot do it anymore.
So, do travel to Thailand and settle down here, but it is also important to remember to keep in touch with the people back home. There may be a situation where you will need them badly.
Entering a relationship
“It is not good for the man to be alone,” it says in the Bible. And Danes do not only experience bad things moving to Thailand; many of them end up finding a partner here. And this often leads to the Dane buying a house here – but as a foreigner in Thailand, you cannot own your own property. This means that the house often ends up registered in the Thai partner’s name. Birgit Sarah explains that here, you have to be aware that if the relationship breaks, you have no rights concerning the house, even though you are the one who bought it.
Another thing concerning relationships is the inheritance. You might have found the love of your life in Thailand and want this person, who often is younger than you, to inherit from you. Here, it is not enough to have been living with this person for a certain number of years, as you will see it other places. In Thailand, they only care about whether you are married or not when it comes to heritage.
Furthermore, you also have to be aware of inheritance law. Generally, it is the case that if you have left Denmark and taken up residence in another country, then it is this country’s succession arrangement that apply. But what you have to be aware of is that you may have life heirs in Denmark in the form of children or a husband or wife – if you are still married. These heirs must always inherit according to the law. This can be a percentage which they have to receive, and then you can bequeath what is left. This is why, Birgit Sarah at the Danish Embassy advises Danes to make a will.
Be careful with sensitive information
When you have found the love of your life and trust them with your heart and soul, you may be tempted to give them your credit card information. Here, Birgit Sarah explains that you have to be very careful.
“If you hand out your password to someone else, then this person can go to the nearest ATM and empty your account,” the Consul says describing that this is something they experience frequently, unfortunately.
“This is why,” she says, “you have to be very alert to what you give other people access to. That you don’t just give someone the key to the cash box and say: ‘Please help yourself’.”
According to Birgit Sarah, worst case scenario is that the account is emptied, the partner has gone to a place far away, the money is gone, and there is nothing you can do.
What will happen if you become so old that you no longer can take care of yourself? In Thailand, they do not have elderly care as we do in Denmark, so when facing this situation, it is up to each individual to find their solution.
If you have the money, you can buy your way to home care here in Thailand. And if you have a Thai wife or husband, you can put your trust in them to take care of you. Birgit Sarah’s advice in this situation is to go back to Denmark.
“I think that it would be a good idea to go home. But of course, it is a problem if you are married to a Thai person and want to stay here even when you get old and care-dependant; then it’s something you must decide for yourself,” she says.
If the Dane decides to go back to Denmark, Birgit Sarah explains that it is up to him or her to take care of the Thai wife or husband that maybe used to live off the Dane’s pension, but is left behind. Here, the Dane must ask himself if he still wants to, and is able to, provide for his family in Thailand.
Register as a Dane living in Thailand
Birgit Sarah stresses the importance of being registered as a Dane living in Thailand. This is for the Dane’s own safety, as she mentions different things that can happen in Thailand. This can be political in the form of a riot between different fractions, or it can be a natural disaster in the form of an earthquake in northern Thailand or a tsunami on Phuket. If something like this is to happen, the Embassy will know who to look and care for.
At the Embassy, they know that some people do not want to register themselves because they think that the eventual extra supplement they receive to the pension will be noticed by the Danish Social Services. This, Birgit Sarah explains, is not the case.
“These people need to know that they commit social fraud which is a really bad idea. But this is their own problem. We don’t go through the list, we don’t have those kinds of resources,” she says.
Especially in these times with the Royal succession issue unclear and uncertainties around a coming general election it is a good idea to register as a Dane living in Thailand. You can register via the Danish Embassy’s website, and you should do it for your own sake, Birgit Sarah adds.