Darryl Daugherty is a private investigator and due diligence specialist in Bangkok, Thailand. He provides unique and expert insight for individuals and businesses relocating to Thailand.

What catches out foreigners most often when coming to Thailand?

If you’re referring to people who intend to resettle here, there really are two main issues. First is the tendency for people to visit once or twice and then decide to take the plunge and move here when they really haven’t spent enough time in-country to know if it’s going to suit them in the long term. The second is an income or cash reserve that really isn’t sufficient for them to enjoy the lifestyle they were anticipating, especially if they face a health crisis or other unexpected, high-cost life event.

For those intending to start a business here the regulations can be a bit byzantine, and some of the requirements and restrictions may seem formidable. But it’s always worth the minor additional costs to retain a business start-up specialist to make sure that the paperwork to found and operate the company is done correctly, and that all the right permits are obtained.

How should they deal with local authorities if they get into trouble?

Respectfully! Certain foreign elements and their behaviour have prejudiced some parts of the Thai bureaucracy into thinking that all foreigners are boorish, loud, and hard to deal with. Show a bit of respect for the rank or title of the person you’re dealing with, keep calm, and dress nicely and you’ll get a lot farther in your dealings with officialdom.

And given that most tourists speak no Thai, and some expats very little, always seek language support from any source that you can. This is especially important in a criminal matter whether one is the victim or the accused. If accused and particularly if arrested, seek immediate assistance from your country’s embassy or consulate. And never sign anything in a police station that you cannot read!

When is a “grease payment” suitable?

Let’s be honest and recognize that Thailand scores somewhat poorly on many corruption indexes as presented by international organizations. But what goes unreported is that there’s an entire generation of new police officers and bureaucrats who very much want to change that. Because of internal politics they perhaps can’t be quite as assertive as they’d like, but Thailand is changing in this regard.

The no-receipt spot fines for dropped litter or traffic violations (real or imagined) are legendary, but most foreigners can just write it off as a sort of nuisance fee given the trivial amount of money involved. As to larger amounts in more serious matters, my view is that one should never reward corruption by paying a bribe. Doing so only perpetuates the venality that holds the country back.

Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?

Too many to mention, but a fairly recent one comes to mind. A client came to me intending to start a business here in a certain business sector and location. I was able to document for him that most foreign-owned firms in that location had very short life spans, and suggested other similar locations where he could be first to market and ahead of the crowd.

Which areas would be suitable for a family to move to?

Quite a lot depends on the family’s means and especially on the age of the children, if any; what might suit a retired couple often won’t do for a family with school-aged kids. Bangkok is a wonderful city with some very good international schools and there are many very safe, quite neighbourhoods which would permit a family to take advantage of those educational choices. Chiang Mai could be another good choice.

I would generally recommend against moving a family with kids to the more developed resort areas. While living in proximity to the beach may sound wonderful, especially in a built-up place with all the modern conveniences, one should keep in mind that there are also lifestyle and social forces at work in those places that one might not want their children exposed to.

Is there anything else people should know before moving to Thailand?

Thai culture is very different from those of the West. It moves at a different pace and assigns different priorities to things. On the one hand there’s more emphasis on interpersonal relationships, but on the other there’s a lot less respect for common space (litter and the state of the public roads are two on-going problems). If you want to be happy here, you have to learn to live by a somewhat different set of values. If one gets caught up in comparing everything to the way things are done back home it’s not going to be a very rewarding experience here. This doesn’t mean someone should deliberately seek to “go native” in all things, but just to be flexible in ones thinking and the way you relate to others.