As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Vici: an expat who made Koh Tao island her home
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
My name is Victoria Tanner. I left the UK when I was 26, back in 2004, and have lived in 6 different countries since then. Most of my time has been in South-East Asia, but I also spent nearly 4 years in the Caribbean. I had my first child back in 2011 while living in Thailand, and my second child when we were living in Bali. When my youngest started playgroup full time, I was completely lost, living in a country where it’s almost impossible to get a working visa, but I had so much more free time on my hands and didn’t know what to do with it.
To fill that time, I started a blog a “small” bi-weekly children’s book swap that is now a full-blown mini-library with over 500 books and 40+ members. I am now also a fully certified life coach, supporting ex-pat women as they navigate the emotional roller-coaster of motherhood abroad. Here is my FB page.
Why did you move to your current country?
I left the UK initially because of my now-husband. He was already living in Thailand, so I went there to be with him. At the time I was working as a legal secretary in London and having someone already settled in Thailand, meant I could move out there confident that I’d know lots of people and it wasn’t all going to be entirely foreign to me. I’d already been there on holiday and as my husband was a scuba diving instructor, I spent my time in the ocean, learning to dive, partying, meeting people, sunbathing, drinking cocktails, and traveling around Asia. There was nothing stopping me.
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
My husband was a scuba diving instructor, so as soon as I moved to Thailand (Koh Tao to be precise), I learned to dive. Once I was certified as a Dive Master (the first professional step in diving), I was able to get a job (my husband had been on the island since 1999, so he knew a LOT of people – made it much easier for me). Most people working on Koh Tao work as scuba divers or in a bar/restaurant.
It’s extremely Western, and there are also many people who have set up their own businesses – gyms, health food shops/cafes, wedding planners, bars, dive centers, tour guides, etc. In order to work in diving, however (as I did), you must be a Dive Master or above, so I would suggest doing your Dive Master course on Koh Tao (which takes around 6 weeks). That way, you become immersed in the diving industry and get to know everyone, making it more likely you’ll be hired at the end of your course.
If you’re already a divemaster, bring other qualifications with you. There are HUNDREDS of divers on that island – you need to stand out, and languages are probably the best way. If you can teach diving in another language it’s a massive help. Good news is, people come and go a lot, so if you can stick it out for long enough, a job will come up eventually. This is a really good website for info on Koh Tao.
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
The social life on Koh Tao is second to none!! It’s so easy to make friends everywhere you go. People socialise, dive, party, dive, party, socialise, and dive some more. There are soooo many great people there. I’ve made friends there that will be my best friends for life. It’s a real community. If partying isn’t your thing, there are also plenty of ways to stay fit and healthy. Thai boxing, gyms, CrossFit training, hiking, healthy juice cafes, vegan restaurants. All very sociable activities, so making friends is a breeze.
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
If you want to learn to dive or work in the diving industry, Koh Tao is the place to go. It’s one of the highest certifying locations in the world, so you can gain a LOT of experience. I absolutely loved it there and can say it was one of the best times of my life. I loved diving, I loved meeting people, I loved the relaxed, social atmosphere, I loved all the friends I made. As I already mentioned, it was a real community. People came together and helped one another in a way I’ve never experienced before or since. We were one big Koh Tao family. On top of that, it’s absolutely gorgeous. The hiking views and majestic underwater life are just outstanding. The beaches are gorgeous, clean, and safe. It’s a dream location.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
Unfortunately, because Koh Tao is such a small island, they don’t have any property agents or job agencies. You need to actually go there and speak to people. As I said, there are so many people there looking for jobs who have previously completed dive master courses or been on the island for a long time, you would be hard pushed to get work there without anyone having met you. Once you’re on-island, people are coming and going all the time, and accommodation and jobs come up quite regularly.
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
There are lots of clinics on Koh Tao that can deal with all minor problems, but if you need to visit an international hospital for any reason, you need to go to Koh Samui on the boat. It’s all quite reasonably priced, but as with all traveling, it’s highly recommended to have health insurance as this will cover all costs if you need any major treatment at the hospital. I always felt extremely safe on Koh Tao – there were always so many people around, I was never worried. I would always be mindful of walking anywhere on my own at night or in secluded locations, but that’s the same no matter what country I’m in, whether it be Asia, the UK or anywhere else.
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
Koh Tao is pretty cheap to live. The average rent for a 2-bed house (no pool) is about AUD$1,000 – $1,500 per month. To rent a scooter or motorbike (you can’t rent cars) it costs approximately $100 per month. Taxis are expensive – minimum trip is $20. Food can be as cheap or expensive as you like. Local Thai food (chicken/beef/pork/veg and rice) is only about $2 a meal. If you want to treat yourself, there are some beautiful restaurants where meals cost $20 – $30 per meal. Beers are approximately $4-5 each.
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.
Before I had my daughter, there was no downside to living on Koh Tao. I loved every minute. However, when I became a Mum, things changed for me because there isn’t much to do, full-time, with a baby. My only options were taking her to the beach or a hotel pool. I know that sounds idyllic to some, but it got a bit repetitive EVERY DAY. Furthermore, it was always 35+ degrees with 90% humidity, so it was a tad hot, to say the least.
At the time, it was also difficult if my daughter got sick because we had to travel on a 2-hour boat journey to Koh Samui if we needed an International hospital. There are a lot of clinics on the island that can deal with most things, but the closest international hospital is on Samui.
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
You can’t visit Koh Tao, without scuba diving or free diving. The best dive sites on the island are South West Pinnacle and Chumpon Pinnacle. There’s also Sail Rock, but that’s a slightly longer boat trip and not somewhere the boats visit every day. At all three of these dive sites, it’s pretty common to see the amazing Whale Shark – an experience like no other and one you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Did you find Vici’s experience useful? Then check out the upcoming expat interviews in other cities!