There are probably a couple of thousand farangs in Thailand right now chasing a handful of middle and senior executive posts in a still shrinking economy. Most rely on newspaper ads or contacting employment agencies. One bolder soul was recently driving around Pattaya with a notice on his back windscreen, "Farang, 45, requires employment in sales projects or production management. Qualified to degree level." After two fruitless weeks, he changed the information to, "This car for sale as owner leaving country."
Stairway to heaven
A word of explanation
Extract from a letter received by a Pattaya house and flat rental company. "Frankly, we are disappointed. The Thai flush lavatory is broken in half and is now in three pieces, but it is still blocked which is caused by the house next door throwing their balls onto the roof. So where do we stand on this? Also I am still having trouble with a smell coming from my built-in drawers and I want your permission to remove them. Finally, you need to note that when I turn the oven on, my knob becomes very hot and we still cannot get BBC World."
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My ex-boyfriend just threw me a total curve ball last night. He stopped by for my birthday, and we were talking. He looked like he was going to cry when he was telling me how much he misses me and he kept stopping himself from saying certain things. He also brought up feelings and the past almost constantly. I replied with brief answers, so I didnt give him too much information. He kept touching my leg and staring at me. It was very emotional. He told me that he still looks at me like Im his girlfriend and that he always thinks about me. I asked him if he was happy, and he didnt even say yes. He just shrugged his shoulders. I know that he is very confused and I know we wont be getting back together, because he has too much to lose if he came back to me. Hes set up an image for himself and is experimenting with drugs and alcohol (we are both 18, but hes never been involved with that before). I also think that hes told too many lies to people about what happened and theyd figure that out. In short, if he went back to me, hed be loosing his newfound status and popularity and all of his "friends". (These people treat him like crap and really only party with him.) I honestly believe that he would come back to me if it wasnt for everything else.
One major thing he said to me was that he does the same things all the time - work, school and party. He said he feels numb and I am the only one who makes him feel feelings. He called me 4 times yesterday, but of course he ignored me today at school.
How do I handle this situation? Ive backed off totally. I never call him or talk to him in public. Ill talk to him briefly if he calls, but I basically follow his lead. Before I used to be really bad - harassing him etc., but Ive totally stopped. I dont want him to think he can treat me like I dont even exist in public, but then give me all of his attention, and say all that stuff in private. Do I have to break off all contact, and not talk to him when he calls? I have a new boyfriend already and I am strong enough now to understand - and accept the way he is treating me, so its not like I get upset and confused and hopeful (that hes coming back). I just know that he is super confused and hes trying to figure things out.
From the tone of your listening, I think you know the answer already. Its probably a better idea to make a clean break from your ex. You probably dont want to hurt your ex-boyfriend and his upset is tugging at your heart. Its probably better for you, your new boy friend, and your ex-boy friend in the long run to try to break it off sooner than later. Itll be the toughest for the first 30 days, then it usually gets a little easier. It is also quite dangerous for you if your ex is involved in drugs and alcohol now. He might be already addicted and it would be very hard for you to help him to get out. When he called you the other day four times - and afterwards didnt look at you at school, might be because he feels ashamed of showing you his true feelings. On the other hand, he was probably only looking for some sympathy at that particular time and hoped for yours. You never know if he would have stayed with you if you were listening to him or if he would behave the same way as he does now.
Something that might help you in your present relationship with your new boyfriend as you break things off with your old boy friend is to tell your new boyfriend: "This really hurts to let go of someone thats been such an important part of my life. Has this ever happened to you?" This will give you and your new boyfriend an opportunity to share painful experiences and it will help the two of you to become closer.
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Hunger isnt an emotion, its a condition.
This is not as confused as it sounds. The Thai people, ever conscious of alimentation, realise that if affects all facets of our lives. Have you ever noticed how you feel edgy and may snap at people when youre hungry?
The Thai language has a word for that feeling. Moho-Hiw, or anger which is caused by hunger.
EXAMPLE: Why are you so
Im NOT irritable, so just shut up!
I think youre Moho-Hiw. When did you last eat?
About two weeks ago. Now, leave me alone.
Were going to get you some noodles.
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Family Money: Safe as Houses?
I often meet people who are looking to buy property. Some are looking to buy a home here in Thailand; others an investment property elsewhere. Most ask if property is a good investment.
The answer is not as simple as "Yes" or "No" because the question is so subjective. It depends on where, when, and why.
In many countries, such as Australia, Canada and the U. K., there is more supply than demand. Thus, there are bargains but whether these will ever produce a real return better than alternative investments is unlikely.
Most people born after World War II believed that property was the one investment that could never fail. Everyone sung the same song: "Safe as houses!"
Back to the 80s
Then in 1970, there was a global property price collapse. During the late 70s and all the 80s, most economies were hit by inflation and tangible assets increased in value. At the end of 1989, the world-wide recession struck with stunning force and caused job losses, created an over-supply of housing and many other evils. Many people who had bought properties when prices were high found themselves having difficulty meeting their mortgage payments and rising interest rates, and quite a number who couldnt keep up the payments lost their homes to the banks.
This cycle is starting again in Asia. With the current economic crisis and an over-supply of property and an under-supply of cash, property prices will tend to devalue further as people desperate to find cash put their property on the market to fend off their creditors - including the banks who eagerly lent them the money to buy the property at rapacious rates of interest which the borrowers now cannot afford to repay, and which the banks desperately need to boost their depleted reserves. Even if the banks foreclose on the mortgage, to whom are they going to sell these properties? Its a vicious cycle like the snake biting its own tail.
Owning or renting?
In Asia and worldwide, from an economics point of view, renting is cheaper than owning. When you buy, closing costs are high and, even if the house appreciates 4% per year, it can take two or more years to recover transaction costs. If the property depreciates 4% per year, and it is mortgaged, the mortgage could become greater than the house is worth. When you own, the costs of interest and mortgage and maintenance can be very high.
Every in-depth study shows renting gives more financial security than owning. At best, owning is always a loss in the short term. If you buy your house, you will only break even or make money with long-term ownership.
Property as an investment today in developed economies is invariably achieved with borrowed money. It will only be profitable if the rental - after subtracting inflation, maintenance, taxes or rates and all other costs - exceeds the amount the same investment capital would have yielded elsewhere.
In Hong Kong, as an example, it is more difficult to make a profit because of the unusually high cost of mortgage money, plus 10% inflation which takes a big slice from the rental profits. The other side of the coin is that if real inflation in Hong Kong continues indefinitely to be double-digit, home owners probably will never have to pay the mortgage since inflation will pay it for them. They will pay back the mortgage with lower-value money.
Opportunities in the U. K.
Some people see relatively stable British residential property prices as good investment opportunities.
The question of whether to buy depends on which category of buyer you fall into. If you are buying for sentimental reasons or with a view to finding a future home, now may be a good time. Prices fell by over a third in the early nineties and in most parts of the country havent risen faster than the relatively low inflation rate since.
If, on the other hand, you are buying for investment purposes, the decision can be tricky, with experts divided on the issue.
Estate agents boldly announce that now is the time to buy. But then they were hardly likely to turn clients away.
Many Hong Kong Chinese investors were eagerly buying up property in and around London in the period leading up to Hand-over of Hong Kong to China.
But this reflected a pragmatic desire to park their cash in a safe haven "just in case", rather than a real desire to own a London home.
(They had also been buying up property in Canada and Australia, but more usually because they were emigrating there - at least for long enough to acquire citizenship, with the intention of then returning to Hong Kong with their foreign passport-parachutes safely tucked in their pockets, to make more of the most worshipped of all the Chinese pantheon - Money.)
Added to which, Hong Kong people are avid believers in property - after all, their own enclave is the most expensive real estate in the world, and for years it looked as if this property bubble would go on expanding for ever.
The younger, increasingly-affluent generation were no longer willing to live with their parents and grandparents in a cramped 50 square-metre shoebox, and the constantly increasing demand outstripped supply of new properties which was deliberately restricted by HK Government policy to keep property prices "stable". Thus the bubble expanded inexorably, and speculators kept prices soaring as well.
It is interesting to note that according to one study, property in Japan prior to the 1987 "crash" was valued at 50 trillion US dollars - fifty percent of the worlds property value on roughly half-a-percent of the worlds land area.
This speculative bubble was obviously unsustainable, and sure enough, burst, bringing down with it some of the worlds biggest banks and insurance companies which were holding enormous holdings in over-priced property on their books.
The Nikkei Index lost over one-third of its value, and is still wallowing at about 30% below its pre-crash highs (although to be fair, revalued property is only one of the causes of this.) It would be interesting to see the results of a similar study on Hong Kong...
Britain is still one of the few major tax regimes which generally allows non-tax-resident property speculators to make gains free from capital taxes. With a qualifying loan, even non-residents may claim the interest on their mortgage as a deductible against tax liability on rental income.
(But non-resident property owners please note that you still have a liability to pay U. K. tax on rental income, which may or may not be deducted and paid by your property agent on your behalf - a point worth checking.)
The property sector was a major casualty of the recession Britain suffered in the early nineties. Repossessions and mortgage arrears reached record levels. In 1991 alone, there were more than 100,000 repossessions, despite the ruling Conservative Partys pressure on banks and building societies not to repossess.
With substantial falls in interest rates in the early 90s, banks and building societies were offering a variety of borrowing schemes including Fixed Rate Mortgages which were tied for a minimum period of one to 10 years, with rates starting as low as 9.4 per cent. Even greater preferential rates were being offered to first-time buyers, with those borrowing less than 90 per cent on more than £100,000 finding rates as low as 8.24 per cent.
These incentives brought some encouraging signs in 1992, with a dramatic increase in the number of people wishing to invest, particularly at the lower end of the market. However, investors needed definite signs of economic recovery to encourage them to come back into the market, and it was not until the general election of 92 that confidence started to be restored. Since then property sales have been relatively steady, but generally sluggish.
Even now, there are still thousands of first time buyers with mortgages greater than the value of their homes. This is because so many people bought towards the top of the speculative market in the mid-eighties, borrowed most of the purchase price, and then saw the value of their properties fall after 1988. In some areas the value of property has still not caught up to the pre-drop highs.
During the past ten years the rental market has prospered, with overseas and British tenants preferring the flexibility of the rental market rather than buying property.
Todays rental yields can vary from 10 to 14 per cent compared with levels of 7 per cent in 1987.
(To be continued next week.)
If you have any comments or queries on this article, or about other topics concerning investment matters, write to Leslie Wright, c/o Family Money, Pattaya Mail, or fax him directly on (038) 232522 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details and back articles can be accessed on his firms website on www.westminsterthailand.com.
Leslie Wright is Managing Director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd., a firm of independent financial advisors providing advice to expatriate residents of the Eastern Seaboard on personal financial planning and international investments.
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Health & Nutrition Facts: UP IN SMOKE
by Laura Zubrod,
What does smoking have to do with nutrition? Smoking and smoking cessation definitely affect food intake, metabolic functions, and nutritional status.
Most smokers have been shown to have lower body weight and less body fat than nonsmokers. This is partly due to smokings apparent ability to increase metabolic rate, or how fast the body uses energy. Although nicotine does not suppress appetite, it may enhance feelings of satiety following a meal. This enhanced satiety could delay the return of hunger and reduce snacking prior to the next meal. In addition, a smoker will often times reach for a cigarette instead of a piece of chocolate in times of stress.
Youve probably heard about the gain in weight that typically accompanies smoking cessation. Smoking 24 cigarettes a day causes a 10% increase in calories burned, according to one study. So stopping smoking can lower metabolic rate by at least that much. Also, quitting smoking removes its ability to make meals more satiating and can therefore lead to increased snacking between meals.
While a shift in metabolic rate does contribute to some of the weight gain, stress-related eating also adds up. When kicking the habit, many people turn to food, and especially sweet snacks, to soothe their nerves during nicotine withdrawal. Others find food a good substitute for that habit of having a cigarette in their mouths or hands. Munching on carrot or celery sticks, chewing gum, or sipping water can keep calories intake minimal while adapting to the absence of a cigarette in your mouth. Keep your hands occupied doing a crossword puzzle, writing a letter, knitting, giving yourself a manicure, taking up a new hobby, or simply holding a pencil.
The good news is that not everyone who stops smoking gains weight. About one-third stay the same weight, while one-third gain weight and the other third lose weight. The average weight gain is 2-5 kilos. While smokers weigh less and have less body fat than nonsmokers, several studies have found that heavier smokers tend to weigh more. Heavy smokers are more likely to be described as overweight or obese than individuals smoking fewer cigarettes. Its these type of smokers that are more likely to have substantial weight gain after quitting than those who smoked fewer cigarettes.
Smoking greatly increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, bronchitis, stroke, and cancer of the lung, larynx, lip oral cavity, esophagus, bladder or other urinary organs. It also causes the skin in the face to prematurely wrinkle and lose elasticity.
Second-hand smoke can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease in family members of smokers. The risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is tripled in the homes of smokers. Children of smokers have a higher rate of asthma, bronchitis, and other upper respiratory infections. Mothers who smoke have an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and giving birth to a low birth weight baby.
Smokers have higher needs of beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C and usually have a lower intake of fruits and vegetables which are rich in these vitamins. Studies have shown that smokers who develop lung cancer have a lower intake of fruits and vegetables. However, its important to realize more is not better. High doses of beta-carotene supplements have been shown to actually increase the risk of cancer in smokers.
Observational studies have found that increasing fruits and vegetables from the usual two servings to more than five servings a day (the recommendation for all adults) may reduce the risk of cancers of the respiratory tract by 40%. Yet, no there is no data from clinical trials with fruits and vegetables to confirm and support these observations. The bottom line is that a good diet cannot compensate for the destructive effects of smoking. The best advice for smokers who want to reduce their risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease is to stop smoking.
Quitting smoking is a difficult process that many attempt and fail numerous times. There are now medications available to assist smokers in quitting. But its not just giving up the cigarettes that makes it so difficult. Learning to handle cravings and deal with stress is very challenging. Support from family, friends, coworkers, and your doctor is essential.
Allowing yourself to reap the benefits of quitting is also vital. Keep flowers by your bed to experience your new sense of smell. Count the money youve saved and buy yourself something special. Stay on the treadmill longer because you are not out of breath.
Exercise plays an important role in successfully becoming a nonsmoker. Physical activity helps counteract weight gain and increases the brains output of endorphins and other "feel good" hormones that can keep you thinking positive and help you better handle the stress of quitting.
Approximately 12 hours after quitting, levels of carbon monoxide and nicotine in your system drop sharply. Your body begins to heal itself. Breathing and exercise capacity improve and energy returns. The sense of taste and smell sharpen. Within one year, the risk of heart attack drops to close to that for nonsmokers. After 5 years, the risk of heart attack is no greater than for nonsmokers. Risk of lung cancer is cut in half in five years and equals that of a nonsmokers in 7 to 15 years.
Compared to the risks of smoking, a few extra pounds is a small price to pay for the lifelong benefits to your health. Dont let your life or the lives of your loved ones go up in smoke. The only good thing that can be said about smoking is, "I have kicked the habit!"
Readers may write Laura care of the Pattaya Mail with questions or special topics they would like to see addressed.
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