A Swedish Drupal Developer Dreamt of a Job in the Sun – How Did He Snag One in Thailand?
Nine months in Chiang Mai taught this Swedish developer how to live in the moment and be more mindful. Working in a villa with a pool didn’t exactly suck either. Jaime’s story is a good reminder that if you can dream it, you can also do it!
Jaime was born and raised in Stockholm but one day he decided he’d had enough of Scandinavia’s slushy winter darkness and sub-zero temperatures. It might have had something to do with his father being a Spaniard. “When I found Jobbatical, I wasn’t actively looking for a job but I did dream of an opportunity in a warmer climate,” Jaime admits. “I registered and checked in from time to time. Then one day I noticed a job opportunity in Chiang Mai, Thailand and the employer specifically listed Drupal as a requirement – this is what I’ve been working with a lot – so it was a match made in heaven!”
Swedish Developer Lands a Dream Job in Thailand
Jaime joined BUZZWOO!, a digital agency developing cutting-edge tech and software for major international brands (Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, and Red Bull, for example) as a Senior Drupal Developer. Can you imagine that BUZZWOO! was actually experiencing a senior talent shortage because of their paradisiac location. True story. So they were relieved when someone like Jaime, “a very technically minded and quick learner” joined. Jaime’s experience in the restaurant industry added a unique perspective to his contributions.
Jaime remembers the hiring process being ultra-quick. “I sent an email to BUZZWOO! and they replied a couple of days later and wanted me to start in 2-3 weeks. But I needed a bit more time to get my affairs in order – to quit my job and break the news to my family.” As these things go – Jaime’s Mom wasn’t the biggest fan of the idea of his son moving to the other side of the world but she came around eventually. “Most of my friends and family thought it was awesome though. Some even expressed a bit of jealousy – oh, this is what I’ve always wanted to do, too!”
Apartments Without Kitchens
BUZZWOO! took care of all the necessary paperwork and arranged Jaime’s living for the first month. Foreigners moving abroad often worry about the prospect of finding a place to live, but for Jaime the process was smooth. Chiang Mai is one of the spots for digital nomads and the real-estate market has grown alongside the ballooning expat community. There’s just one not-so-known lifehack one should master when looking for an apartment in Chiang Mai. “All the planes from the airport fly over the city, so you have to look hard to find an apartment where they don’t fly over your house as often,” the Swedish developer says.
Also, most apartments come equipped with AC (of course) and in 90% of the cases, the apartment building has a pool. Surprisingly, most apartments do not have a kitchen. “They have a very social culture – most apartments don’t have a kitchen because everybody goes out to eat,” explains Jaime, and adds disapprovingly: “Not like in Sweden where people tend to be at home a lot because it is quite expensive, and, well, cold for a big portion of the year.”
Break a Leg, Literally
Jaime’s first month in Chiang Mai turned out to be a bit of a hassle. He managed to crack his heel during a party, you see. “After vigorous dancing, no doubt?” I ask to which he chuckles: “Sure, sure!”
Jaime ended up in a hospital where he had to get a cast for his leg. Everything went swimmingly at the private hospital he went to, and due to the fact that Jaime had come prepared with health insurance. “I’d heard of people getting almost bankrupt after accidents in foreign countries.” The private hospitals in Chiang Mai are slightly more expensive than the public ones. “But it was less expensive than I had thought. All in all 200 euros,” Jaime says. The difficult part was getting around afterward. Everybody in Chiang Mai rides a proper motorbike or a scooter to get around, so he had to hitch a ride from colleagues when the team went out for lunch or rely on Uber – which is luckily cheap there.
Public Transport Without a Fixed Schedule or Direction
There is something resembling public transport in Chiang Mai, too. The shared taxis called red trucks or songthaews which are essentially pickups with seats in the back. The red trucks don’t have a fixed schedule, you just have to go out, find one and hope it’s going your direction.
When a red truck shows up, people just raise their hand and wave a bit to the driver. A valuable tip from the expats and locals – never ask the driver how much it costs to go to X. Instead, you should put on your best poker face and just name your destination and the driver will either respond yes or no. Or he might say he doesn’t understand you. In this case, it can be useful to have an offline map where you can show the driver the place you want to go. When the driver says yes, you’ll jump in the back of the truck. When you’re at your destination, it’s time to pay the driver.
After Jaime got his cast off, he got his local driver’s license sorted. To get a driver’s license as a foreigner in Chiang Mai, Jaime had to get a letter from the Swedish consulate confirming he has one in Sweden, a quick health check and sit through an hour of video footage about the traffic rules in Thailand. “The rules are basically the same, you just drive on the “other” side of the road,” explains Jaime. “It’s just that the rules are more like recommendations, not something people actually follow. It can be quite crazy – people drive fast and a red light is not a sign to stop, they’ll just drive through if they can.”
Also, if the local police see you’re a foreigner driving in Chiang Mai, they’ll stop you often. So a local driving license makes things easier. Speaking Thai also helps, and Jaime now knows a bit. “It turns out I pronounce some of the words pretty well. Once when I got stopped by the police, I understood what they asked me and answered them in Thai. Apparently so well that they went on in Thai. Which of course I couldn’t understand in so much detail anymore.”
Language proved to be the only difficulty while living in Thailand. “Many people in Thailand don’t speak English. Which sometimes makes things awkward. And many times they assume they got it right, even if they didn’t. Which can cause a whole other set of problems.”
Apart from being a little lost in translation at times, everything else about Thailand pleased Jaime a lot. “I like the nature, the jungle. The weather is just so good there. It makes it easier to do anything, really. Even if the roads are worse than in Europe, it’s still easier to just go anywhere. It’s cheaper and you end up not requiring as high standards that you’d require in Europe. I mean even a bad hotel feels worse in Europe than a bad hotel in Thailand.”
Office With a Pool, and Curious Cows
The sweet climate of Chiang Mai enables BUZZWOO! to have a really cool and chill office. “I’d been used to proper office buildings and open offices in Sweden, in Thailand we were working from a villa with a pool, with dogs and cats living in the front yard.” And the neighbors – well, they had a whole field full of cows! “It was an everyday sight – cows walking around and peeking at us over the fence.”
BUZZWOO!’s team in Chiang Mai is quite international, employing team members from more than 15 countries around the world, in addition to the Thai staff. The working standards are international and the organization itself flat – there’s no Important Boss in the corner office.
Jaime loved the diversity of their team. “All of us coming from different places, having grown up in unlike environments was so interesting because you get to know so many mindsets.”
Now that his stint is over, this Swedish developer is ready for another one. “This experience made me open to take work in other countries and allows me to think bolder – maybe I’ll go and work remotely from somewhere warmer, maybe I’ll become a real digital nomad?”
Working in Thailand taught Jaime quite a few things about himself. “I learned that I really like to travel, I learned it is okay to take it easier at times. To be more mindful and go with the flow. In today’s society, it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern, we’re taught from early on how we should be. But this “how we should be” varies from place to place and that is a big insight for me.”
Jaime couldn’t recommend living and working abroad more. “Just do it. It expands your mind, you’ll get a better understanding of people. It’ll do you a ton of good to see new places.”
It is only fitting that he’s chosen this motto for his Facebook cover photo: “You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.”
Would you like to snag a job in the sun, too? Jobbatical features jobs in warm weather countries like Singapore, Thailand, India, Spain, and more. Find your dream job