This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jeffrey Ogden a 75-year-old former offshore oil and gas consultant from Watford, United Kingdom. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I’ve always traveled and been around people from other nations — American, German, Swiss, French, and many UK people. Two years ago, when I was 73 and living in Spain, I started exploring my long-term retirement options.
I had a place in Spain for nearly 40 years. My father was in a care home there. It had all the amenities and the support, but I’d never been able to make Spanish friends. That, and the cost, made me decide not to retire to Spain myself.
Choosing where I wanted to retire abroad was difficult
I decided against a care home in the UK for myself. Some can be very good; some can be very bad. I also found it too expensive. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, folks had respect for their elders. That has changed in the UK and could impact the care you’d receive in a facility.
I then spent six months in the Caribbean, but I found that to be very expensive.
America, Australia, and New Zealand were very nice but expensive. If I wanted to retire somewhere I could save my pennies, Thailand came out on top.
Before I decided on Thailand, I did a bit of a tour of other Asian countries. I traveled to Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. I’d also worked all over Asia from around 1975 for 20 years as part of my job in oil and gas and building hotels.
I’ll see my family less, but it hasn’t influenced my decision
I have three grandchildren: two 19-year-old boys and a 15-year-old girl. But they want to do their own thing, even when you visit. I only saw them once a week when I lived in the UK. My family’s reaction when I said I would retire in Thailand was, “We can’t come to see you. It’s far too far away.” You can’t say anything to that; they’re quite correct. But I will visit back home once or twice a year.
The people here are very respectful. They respect their elders, whereas you don’t get that in other European countries. In Thailand, when I’m just getting on and off the bus, younger people say, “You sit here, and I’ll stand.” It can happen in the UK, but people generally will not move. Plus, when it comes to food in Thailand, you have a great selection — with Thai food, the world is your lobster.
There are different visas for people wanting to move to Thailand. I have a retirement visa.
I had to consider medical facilities in Thailand when finding a home
Each town’s population should be considered when making a choice. The main areas expats live in are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, and Pattaya. In the main towns, lots of people understand English.
You have to consider the hospitals in these areas because we’re a bit older. Private medical insurance is very easy to sort. In the UK’s smaller towns, you always have to queue. In Thailand, you walk straight in and straight out.
As a retirement and care facility, they also help you get set up with medical insurance. I’ve had a couple of accidents, and within minutes, the on-site staff are with you, looking after you, taking you to a hospital if needed.
I chose the city of Hua Hin because it has many weekend visitors from Bangkok and other folk so there are more services and amenities.
I moved into the Sunshine International Retiree Resort in September last year. The resort offers private rooms with medical care packages should you need them. Then there’s a free shuttle into the town, a pool and restaurant, room service if you want, and different activities each evening like barbecues and cocktail nights.
My friends out here are mainly British
I’ve made a few Thai friends, but generally speaking, in the resort, folk keep to themselves, which goes around the world. You have a German group, a French group, and a UK group — my friends.
On an average day, I generally make my own breakfast and swim and sunbathe because the temperature is 27°C to 30°C every day. You certainly don’t get that in the UK. Even in Spain, it’s quite chilly in January. But as a retiree, your daily life is generally the same wherever you are in the world. I don’t do much else other than swim, sunbathe, and sleep.
The only thing I miss from the UK are historic British buildings. There are temples, but you can’t find medieval architecture here.
In terms of my friends in the UK, most of them aren’t with us any longer. Even when I was back in the UK, I didn’t get invited to things as a single person. At the resort, you can meet people and share a drink.