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Where do Thai people get the money

Every time a see some uni student with an Iphone I shake my head with amazement at how they can afford it. Honestly where do Thai people get the money to buy things and even get by day to day is an utter amazement and achievement on their part. Think about it, the average salary here is what 7000 baht a month? Maybe, in Chiang Mai it's more like 5-6000 baht a month. An Iphone costs 15,000 baht so that's like 2 a half months salary. Imagine an Iphone cost you 2.5 months salary there is no way on earth a westerner would pay that for a damn phone!

Take for example a girl I know works for reception at a 5 star hotel down the road from me. Her salary is about 7500 baht a month. She has to live with her mom who takes care of her 2 year old baby. Mom doesn't work so really she's supporting 3 people on the one salary of a measly 7500 baht a month. I've never been to her place probably because it's basically a shack in the Nong Hoi area which is probably the cheapest areas near the city. But she does drive a motorbike and carry an Iphone. How does she do it? How do any of them do it?

Obviously if you are living on a paltry sum of 7500 baht a month you are just living day to day. A sickness breaks out and pretty much you go into debt. Actually your probably already living in debt, you can get one of those damn Iphones on credit and pay something like 1000 baht a month to pay it off, what a joke. There's no way i'd pay 2 months salary for a bloody phone. The only thing you should get credit for is a car and a house.

So is everything you see in Thailand on credit? Sure is, houses, apartments, cars, motorbikes, cell phones are just what you know about but there are so many other types of credit too. It's very common to get credit from the place you work advances on your salary when you need it, people borrow from friends and family, in fact borrowing of co-workers is so chronic in Thailand people actually lend to coworkers they have only known for a week if that in the hope that when they need to borrow in return they are able to. You can get credit on food down at the markets even the guy who sells me chicken and rick for 25 baht gives credit to customers!

In every single shopping mall in Thailand there is a payday loan shop where people go to get an advance on their pay. Sure these places are everywhere in America but here in Thailand they are so busy you have to take a number and wait half an hour before you can talk to someone.

Where do Thai people get the money to....

Thailand loan sharks

If you take a look at newspapers telegraph poles magazines pretty much any publication and website you'll see advertisements like the one above advertising loan sharking services. While traditionally you'd go to the bank and get a mortgage on your house Thai's frequently seek more affluent Thai's whom they have relationship of trust with to hold the deed to their house in exchange for a cash advance. Many times this can go wrong especially if that person of trust dies and their family inherit the deed and has no relationship with that person. I've seen it time and time again Farang arn't the only ones who get cheated in Thailand more often it's Thai's cheating Thai's.

There is no way to measure the amount of borrowing that goes on in Thailand or how much Thais are really in debt. I would have to say it's more than 4 times what the government and banks estimate. But one thing is for sure, ask most working class Thai people and they would have borrowed money more than 5 times in the past 6 months.

So now we know that Thai's are using credit, loan sharks, friends and family to get money they don't have and most times can't even pay back what are they spending it on? Well normally when a Thai person borrows money it's because they need it to buy essentials typically rent, food, health etc. But the reason why they need it is because they have spent the money on frivolous things like Iphones laptops or too many bottles at the local nightclub!

Now i'm definitely not the person to be giving advice on saving money and spending wisely but one thing is for sure, there is no way in hell I would spend 2-3 months salary on a damn phone!


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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. In 2017 he stopped writing new content (although does update the site) and is now focused on writing for his new website SlyNomad.com.

10 Responses to Where do Thai people get the money

  1. Rish December 16, 2011 at 2:24 am #

    Yes Chris, the loan sharks have a great business here – my friend borrowed 3000 baht to buy designer sheets (crazy), and the guy comes around every other day to collect 100 baht from her. She said he loans to everyone in the neighborhood – and she will pay him back 3500 baht – so that is a 15% return for him in 30 days. Maybe there is a niche here for ex-pats who have loan sharking experience since it is not technically ‘working’ — but guess how the girls would try to pay us…5555555..(not in cash)

  2. Ray December 16, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    Basically everything exists on credit here. I earn about 3 times as much as the average Thai (which isn’t a lot, about 40,000 baht per month) but I still don’t have a car, motorbike, iPhone. Why? because I can’t get credit. So if you want to live the affluent life here, go gotta get smart. I’m currently looking into ways to make money online…
    On the positive side, it kinda makes you get smart; it’s far too easy to be spoon fed back home in the western world..time to get ruthless and start scamming like the Thais, no?

    • Chris December 16, 2011 at 7:31 am #

      I’ll admit it, I went down the road scamming farangs in one month I made 60,000 baht you can read about it in the scams section on this site. In the end it wasn’t worth it and didn’t feel good about it so I stopped. There must be a better way. Sometimes I wish I could get credit but it’s good that we can’t too.

  3. Dave December 16, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Nice points here, Chris. It is interesting that the concept of face in Thailand is very strong in terms of Thais needing to show off luxury items in public (iPhones, cars, Gucci handbags, etc.), but not when asking others, such as acquaintances, for money. Personally, as a Westerner, I would feel too embarrassed and ashamed to ask my employer for an advance, unless I was facing extremely difficult circumstances (such as a being gravely ill and needing money for health treatment). Asking an employer for an advance for an iPhone would seem like admitting financial irresponsibility. But anyway, I would advise all farangs in Thailand to be careful with money. Safeguard your assets. Are you getting married? Get a Thailand prenuptial agreement. Don’t take any chances. Even if your spouse has good intentions, there’s no way of knowing what might happen down the road.

    • Chris December 16, 2011 at 7:21 am #

      Your right, I would too feel embarrassed to ask my boss for an advance on my pay or even asking a coworker. Maybe for lunch if i left my wallet at home or something but it’s amazing with all the saving face thing when it comes to money Thai’s seem to forget about it. As westerners it’s not face but guilt and embarrassment that would keep us from borrowing money.

  4. Rio December 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Why do you think the national debt is 43% of Thailand’s GDP (gross domestic product)? The entire nation is in debt up to their ass

  5. Ron1947 December 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    I knew a couple of Thais who borrowed from loan sharks and ended up fleeing to the country-side as they couldn’t repay the principle because of the high interest rates. Once the heavies started turning up on motorbikes, it was time to prepare for truly bad injuries, they had no choice but to run.

  6. bibblies January 3, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    You forgot another big reason why Thais borrow money – to pay back other loans! The rate’s usually 20% a month but I’ve heard of up to 40%. And yet they still borrow it. And they still think about getting a new phone every year…

    Thais doing this for reasons of irresponsibility (to buy ridiculous non-essential items for face or simply to gamble or have fun or whatever) explains why prostitution is so big here. That, the having a kid without a father, the (over)obligation to family members who take advantage and the simple addiction to goods for ‘face’. It’d be interesting to compare each country’s Iphone sales to their respective GDPs. I bet Thailand has more Iphones than the UK or Germany, for example.

  7. bob February 13, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    yes, how many girls in bars i have asked why they are prostitutes: “to buy an iphone, blackberry or other goods like this”…

  8. The Professional Bum January 3, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    spot on. i heard of all this mortgaging OTHER people’s property thing even on the Lakorns!

    You know whats worse? shabby 11-12 year olds wielding Iphones. good luck to the parents who spent 2 months salary to get that…. next up the kid is gonna grumble about not having an Apple ID to install Candy Crush n Angry Birds.

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