Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

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IraHayes
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by IraHayes »

TWY wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:17 am
That is what I keep hearing here but I wonder what exactly everyone is spending so much on? I have been talking to a fellow teacher in Cambodia and she guarantees with my TEFL and prior experience teaching children I'll get about 1,400USD a month with 240$ a month for a decent apartment and let's say 60$ a month electricity that's 300$ a month living cost. That 1,100$ a month give or take for good and getting to and from work if needing a moto taxi. the math to me seems pretty simple I cant really imagine what I would spend the remaining 1,100$ on that will make my life there uncomfortable or just scraping by. I'm just confused on exactly what people are spending on to maenit so hard to live? Booze and hookers? by my calculations I'll be able to live comfortable and save money as well as travel when I have time. Maybe i am just completely off?
--------------------
James,
Let me start by saying I've done lots of "stupid" things in my life - some have actually worked out ok, and some were - well STUPID.

You will not enjoy living in Cambodia on $1400 a month. AT 21 maybe for a year or two its a great adventure. Beyond that your taking a huge step backwards.

The expats that I meet that are miserable fall into a few categories:

1. Have no real reason to be here. It is difficult for many to try to assimilate. Language isn't easy to learn. Culture is somewhat conservative. Leaving the expat community as the source of many people trying to make new friends and build a support network. Well, the simple truth is that the expat community here isn't always the best source of "decent" people. There are many for whom Cambodia is the last stop. Many here because no other country will give them a visa (and some stopped trying to renew visas years ago). Some for the drugs. And some because I don't think they had any friends where they used to call home (and not much changes on that front).

2. Are here because they heard "its cheap". Yes, you can live for $300 a month. Heck, in the village where my wife is from and where we lived for a year you could do it on $200! yes, $200 for a one bedroom home! Has hot water and toilet. Even an AC in the bedroom. $140 a month rent - $40-50 electric and $10 water. No stove or oven so will have to budget for replacement canisters when using small portable grill. Need to be at the market every morning at 6-7 to get chicken or fish. No supermarket or convenience store in this town. Don't get to the market? Well there are a few restaurants along the road through town, I ate at each - once.

And for enjoyment you can take a walk along the river - its very nice and pleasant. And after that you can...……………… well you can either take another walk along the river or go to sleep. Basically at 8pm everyone is inside and soon asleep - only exception is for weddings or holidays. Now, the people are nice. They speak Khmer and some will have a bit of broken English.
I saw four expat teachers come while we lived there, teaching at two different schools - NONE lasted more than 2 months. Nothing to and can't communicate with the locals.

3. I'll teach English and drink beer and get a local girlfriend and none of the things about my home country that I don't like will exist in Cambodia. Well, yes you can teach English. The quality of the schools range from professional to garbage. The support system they offer for expatriates? Basically nothing, your on your own - just as the job was easy to get, so to is the next expat seeking greener pastures. And guess what - there will be a long list of things you don't like here.

The excitement soon fades when you realize your working for a Cambodian administrator that has the job because his/her parents are "connected". Your students aren't much interested, and they are far behind where they should be given their age. Many of the other teachers are...… well lets just say they aren't folks you want to be spending your free time with. Your landlord doesn't actually fix any of the broken things they said they'd fix. The power keeps going out. Broken down 20 year old cars sell for how much???? The neighbors burn plastic every freaking night. And surprise surprise Cambodian women are concerned with similar things as Western women (and English teachers at crummy schools aren't real high on their list)? Oh, and Cambodia is corrupt and you'll just have to deal with it because no one cares what you think.

After about 6 months these folks can't remember why they came, hate their job, have few friends and are beginning to use drugs. They speak daily of going to Laos or Burma or the next "paradise".

We now live outside Siem Reap. Have met even more generally unhappy expats that expected to live on $300 or $400 or $500 or even $1000 a month. Yes, you CAN get a fan room for as little as $50. And a somewhat decent one bedroom apartment for $150-$200 dollars. And if you spend little time at home it MIGHT work for you. But what ends up happening in reality? People don't make as many friends as they imagined. They spend more time at home. They realize they are basically living in the "pits". Starts to make them depressed. Then they start drinking more, feeling worse physically, and it spirals down from there. Soon they are seen arguing with Burger King workers over ketchup packets (yeah saw that this week).

Others spend more for more livable conditions but have the same issue - don't make many friends other than other expats.

Do not move to Cambodia thinking you will live well on $1400 a month. You will not. Your single. Women are expensive (and I'm not talking prostitutes). Health care in Cambodia is expensive and anything serious will require a trip to Thailand. Import taxes make many things here more expensive. Getting basic things you currently don't even think about can be a struggle. Friend at home getting married? Can you fly home and stay at a hotel and get a rental car for four days on $1400 a month? What if you meet a great woman and are going to have a family? Do you have the resources to move her back to the USA, buy a house, car, etc while you re-establish a life? $1400 isn't going to cut it.

I knew a gentleman here that lived on his pension - a bit less than your $1400. Everything went well for him for two years. He lived "comfortably". $400 or so for his apartment. Travelled a bit. Told me once that he came because he had $37 a day to live on. Then he had a moto accident and needed an operation on his leg. He ended up choosing to have the operation in Cambodia instead of getting to Thailand. Why? No insurance because you don't buy insurance on $30 a day. It didn't go well (sometimes you get what you pay for - and in the case of Cambodian doctors sometimes you pay for a doctor when you get a quack). That is NOT living well. He ended up having a family member buy him a ticket back to his country and last I heard was waiting to have another surgery to fix the botched one in Cambodia.

So I wish you well with your endeavor. Just make sure you aren't lying to yourself about the financial situation your heading into. Your in the heart of your prime earning years. You don't get those back. I stick with my previous statement - if you have a few million - great. If not, think long and hard. Best of luck.
Well said !
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Soriya
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by Soriya »

JamesAlexander89 wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:50 am Thanks for all the replies everyone. The good, the bad, and the confusing it is all welcomed. I feel like I have a better understanding on what to expect and the pros and cons involved.

One thing I dont understand is what people spend their money on. A lot of people have commented saying I will be broke and miserable but from my calculations I shouldn't have much trouble. A friend already in Cambodia teaching said I should expect 1,300 to 1,600 USD a month with my TEFL and some prior experience working with kids. On the lowest range figure 1,100 to 1,200 USD a month.

(Figuring lowest possible wage of 1,100) With a decent apartment costing say 240 dollars USD a month (could go lower) and say 60 dollars a month electricity that should be 300$ a month give or take depending on actual electricity and water usage if water not included. That leaves roughly 800$ USD a month left over for food, taxi, ect..

I really dont see what expenses will eat up the rest of my money and make my life miserable and uncomfortable unless everyone is just partying every day and buying girls every night and not very smart with money management.

the math seems really simple to me plus I will have a ton of savings on top of that. I just dont understand why a good amount of people are spelling out that I will be broke and homeless in 6 months and committing financial suicide. Cant anyone explain am I missing something here?
I happily on my combined earnings of 2k a month.i try not to touch my savings in my home country. I have only had to transfer some cash from my home country once to pay for a rental bike i had that was stolen. I agree 1400 is a tad low. It may sound like it goes far but it soon geys eaten away.
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stupid-barang
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by stupid-barang »

The truth is that Cambodia is a shithole, why am I here (I can see you asking that in your head), well thats a discussion for another time, but I won't be here for that much longer. Khmer people can not be trusted, as a foreigner, if you ever have a problem with a Khmer, you will lose, no doubts about it. Things can be different if you want to pay. If a Khmer wants to fuck you, they definitely will (speaking from experience). If anyone tells you otherwise, they are either naive or just stupid or perhaps one of those flower smelling hippies that think everything is gravy b/c someone smiles in their face; a yes man/woman.

I lived in a major city here, for $500 per month, that included a furnished apartment in a new building with aircon, food, booze, and the occasional whore. Once I lived in Toul Tom Pong for $170. (rent only), and the apartment was huge, corner unit, I miss that place to the day. If I were you, I would stay far away from here, that is unless you have no problem with giving up your rights. Speaking freely about the government or other sensitive topics can land you in jail.

It was mentioned that some schools were promising you $1400 a month, well, the schools promise a lot of things, but when push comes to shove, it's all bullshit. When I first came here I worked for an international school, but after a few months, I started a business and now work for myself. Why? I won't go into the inherent racism b/c I noticed that you mentiond yourself as 'white' in one of your posts, thinking this to be a positive attribute. So I am under the assumption that you, along with many others here in KH, pride yourself on being white, superior and make this known to set yourself apart from the 'rest', it's funny, mainly for those that have studied psychology, it screams inferiority complex.

Not a grumpy person, this is the reality.
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John Bingham
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by John Bingham »

With that attitude it's no wonder you're so miserable.
Silence, exile, and cunning.
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by explorer »

If you do move to Cambodia learn the language. You cant make friends with people you cant talk to. I can live in the same country as many other foreigners, but in a different world.

I have been, and plan to continue, living in Australia and having long holidays in Cambodia. When I no longer travel for financial or health reasons, I plan to be living in Australia. Maybe consider something similar.
Last edited by explorer on Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
## I thought I knew all the answers, but they changed all the questions. ##
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Kammekor
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by Kammekor »

JamesAlexander89 wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:50 am Thanks for all the replies everyone. The good, the bad, and the confusing it is all welcomed. I feel like I have a better understanding on what to expect and the pros and cons involved.

One thing I dont understand is what people spend their money on. A lot of people have commented saying I will be broke and miserable but from my calculations I shouldn't have much trouble. A friend already in Cambodia teaching said I should expect 1,300 to 1,600 USD a month with my TEFL and some prior experience working with kids. On the lowest range figure 1,100 to 1,200 USD a month.

(Figuring lowest possible wage of 1,100) With a decent apartment costing say 240 dollars USD a month (could go lower) and say 60 dollars a month electricity that should be 300$ a month give or take depending on actual electricity and water usage if water not included. That leaves roughly 800$ USD a month left over for food, taxi, ect..

I really dont see what expenses will eat up the rest of my money and make my life miserable and uncomfortable unless everyone is just partying every day and buying girls every night and not very smart with money management.

the math seems really simple to me plus I will have a ton of savings on top of that. I just dont understand why a good amount of people are spelling out that I will be broke and homeless in 6 months and committing financial suicide. Cant anyone explain am I missing something here?
Transportation - PP (or basically any town in this country) is not a nice city to walk around
Western food from supermarkets, or basically anything from outside Cambodia
Clothes & shoes
Mobile phone / internet
A nice dinner out
Medical costs
Weekend activities / sports
Inflated electricity bills
Paper work, work permit, visa
Trips back home
Regional travel
Saving some money
Your daily latte
Language classes (if you’re serious about staying longer)
Etc etc

You can live on 1,400$ in Phnom Penh, without doubt, but compared to what you’re used to now it’s simply going to be a few steps back in life style / comfort.
You can live cheap here, but any luxury making life a tad nicer and bearable is relatively expensive here.
You can rent a nice 260$ apartment if you don’t care about the smelly dirty stairs and the trap it is in case of a fire.
You can have a 1.50$ breakfast every day consisting of rice and pork and some soup from pig’s organs if it doesn’t annoy you after a week.
You can have a 1.50 haircut in a steamy alley if you can stand the heat and the itchy neck afterwards.
Or you can have all this at a more comfortable level - in that case 1,400$ a month really isn’t that much.

And I’m not even talking about social security, you have to arrange it all by yourself.
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John Bingham
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by John Bingham »

explorer wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 9:50 am Consider towns other than Phnom Penh. You may get a good job in one of the other towns, and it is better to live in a smaller town.
Not for everyone, there's no chance I'd ever live in a small town, I've only ever lived in capital cities. There's nothing going on in those small towns, no entertainment, crap food, mud and yokels everywhere.
Silence, exile, and cunning.
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stupid-barang
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by stupid-barang »

John Bingham wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:20 pm With that attitude it's no wonder you're so miserable.
If you extrapolated me being miserable, tell me, are you the naive one or just stupid?
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by TWY »

John Bingham wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:54 pm
explorer wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 9:50 am Consider towns other than Phnom Penh. You may get a good job in one of the other towns, and it is better to live in a smaller town.
Not for everyone, there's no chance I'd ever live in a small town, I've only ever lived in capital cities. There's nothing going on in those small towns, no entertainment, crap food, mud and yokels everywhere.
THe one good thing about living in small town Cambodia was that I lost 5kg in the year I was there! But yes, there was "nothing to do" outside of your family activities. And lots and lots of mud!!
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Re: Moving to Phnom Penh in January 2020

Post by JamesAlexander89 »

TWY wrote: Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:17 am That is what I keep hearing here but I wonder what exactly everyone is spending so much on? I have been talking to a fellow teacher in Cambodia and she guarantees with my TEFL and prior experience teaching children I'll get about 1,400USD a month with 240$ a month for a decent apartment and let's say 60$ a month electricity that's 300$ a month living cost. That 1,100$ a month give or take for good and getting to and from work if needing a moto taxi. the math to me seems pretty simple I cant really imagine what I would spend the remaining 1,100$ on that will make my life there uncomfortable or just scraping by. I'm just confused on exactly what people are spending on to maenit so hard to live? Booze and hookers? by my calculations I'll be able to live comfortable and save money as well as travel when I have time. Maybe i am just completely off?
--------------------
James,
Let me start by saying I've done lots of "stupid" things in my life - some have actually worked out ok, and some were - well STUPID.

You will not enjoy living in Cambodia on $1400 a month. AT 21 maybe for a year or two its a great adventure. Beyond that your taking a huge step backwards.

The expats that I meet that are miserable fall into a few categories:

1. Have no real reason to be here. It is difficult for many to try to assimilate. Language isn't easy to learn. Culture is somewhat conservative. Leaving the expat community as the source of many people trying to make new friends and build a support network. Well, the simple truth is that the expat community here isn't always the best source of "decent" people. There are many for whom Cambodia is the last stop. Many here because no other country will give them a visa (and some stopped trying to renew visas years ago). Some for the drugs. And some because I don't think they had any friends where they used to call home (and not much changes on that front).

2. Are here because they heard "its cheap". Yes, you can live for $300 a month. Heck, in the village where my wife is from and where we lived for a year you could do it on $200! yes, $200 for a one bedroom home! Has hot water and toilet. Even an AC in the bedroom. $140 a month rent - $40-50 electric and $10 water. No stove or oven so will have to budget for replacement canisters when using small portable grill. Need to be at the market every morning at 6-7 to get chicken or fish. No supermarket or convenience store in this town. Don't get to the market? Well there are a few restaurants along the road through town, I ate at each - once.

And for enjoyment you can take a walk along the river - its very nice and pleasant. And after that you can...……………… well you can either take another walk along the river or go to sleep. Basically at 8pm everyone is inside and soon asleep - only exception is for weddings or holidays. Now, the people are nice. They speak Khmer and some will have a bit of broken English.
I saw four expat teachers come while we lived there, teaching at two different schools - NONE lasted more than 2 months. Nothing to and can't communicate with the locals.

3. I'll teach English and drink beer and get a local girlfriend and none of the things about my home country that I don't like will exist in Cambodia. Well, yes you can teach English. The quality of the schools range from professional to garbage. The support system they offer for expatriates? Basically nothing, your on your own - just as the job was easy to get, so to is the next expat seeking greener pastures. And guess what - there will be a long list of things you don't like here.

The excitement soon fades when you realize your working for a Cambodian administrator that has the job because his/her parents are "connected". Your students aren't much interested, and they are far behind where they should be given their age. Many of the other teachers are...… well lets just say they aren't folks you want to be spending your free time with. Your landlord doesn't actually fix any of the broken things they said they'd fix. The power keeps going out. Broken down 20 year old cars sell for how much???? The neighbors burn plastic every freaking night. And surprise surprise Cambodian women are concerned with similar things as Western women (and English teachers at crummy schools aren't real high on their list)? Oh, and Cambodia is corrupt and you'll just have to deal with it because no one cares what you think.

After about 6 months these folks can't remember why they came, hate their job, have few friends and are beginning to use drugs. They speak daily of going to Laos or Burma or the next "paradise".

We now live outside Siem Reap. Have met even more generally unhappy expats that expected to live on $300 or $400 or $500 or even $1000 a month. Yes, you CAN get a fan room for as little as $50. And a somewhat decent one bedroom apartment for $150-$200 dollars. And if you spend little time at home it MIGHT work for you. But what ends up happening in reality? People don't make as many friends as they imagined. They spend more time at home. They realize they are basically living in the "pits". Starts to make them depressed. Then they start drinking more, feeling worse physically, and it spirals down from there. Soon they are seen arguing with Burger King workers over ketchup packets (yeah saw that this week).

Others spend more for more livable conditions but have the same issue - don't make many friends other than other expats.

Do not move to Cambodia thinking you will live well on $1400 a month. You will not. Your single. Women are expensive (and I'm not talking prostitutes). Health care in Cambodia is expensive and anything serious will require a trip to Thailand. Import taxes make many things here more expensive. Getting basic things you currently don't even think about can be a struggle. Friend at home getting married? Can you fly home and stay at a hotel and get a rental car for four days on $1400 a month? What if you meet a great woman and are going to have a family? Do you have the resources to move her back to the USA, buy a house, car, etc while you re-establish a life? $1400 isn't going to cut it.

I knew a gentleman here that lived on his pension - a bit less than your $1400. Everything went well for him for two years. He lived "comfortably". $400 or so for his apartment. Travelled a bit. Told me once that he came because he had $37 a day to live on. Then he had a moto accident and needed an operation on his leg. He ended up choosing to have the operation in Cambodia instead of getting to Thailand. Why? No insurance because you don't buy insurance on $30 a day. It didn't go well (sometimes you get what you pay for - and in the case of Cambodian doctors sometimes you pay for a doctor when you get a quack). That is NOT living well. He ended up having a family member buy him a ticket back to his country and last I heard was waiting to have another surgery to fix the botched one in Cambodia.

So I wish you well with your endeavor. Just make sure you aren't lying to yourself about the financial situation your heading into. Your in the heart of your prime earning years. You don't get those back. I stick with my previous statement - if you have a few million - great. If not, think long and hard. Best of luck.
[/quote]

Wow I truely love this response. Very raw and real you seem to have a lot of experience and know the general expat crowd in Cambodia I respect that insight a lot. Although I am sure you know what you are talking about by seeing it first hand i just dont think much of that negative stuff really applies to me.

in your expenditures list I still dont see how I wouldn't have a surplus each month after paying rent, water, electricity, food expenses, moto taxi. In the event of an emergency I have more than enough money in mutural fund investment accounts in the states to wire. I'm not a broke traveler just trying to get by but I'm also not trying to live on invested money that's the point of investing not to touch it unless for emergency. I wouldn't add emergencies as monthly expenses or allowances when thinking about a monthly wage verses monthly expenses. yes its pretty obvious I cant cover medical costs in a emergency on 1,400 a month. I would not come unprepared for emergency I have separate funds for emergency situations.

As for the boredom issue it seems like you are describing a lot of expats that are very anti social to a unhealthy extent, dont have many real skills or hobbies/interests, or there because they are last stop travelers. I've already searched up a few groups online for music, art ,and dance creators which I do regularly. I have a friend here in the USA who is Cambodian I met him through dancing and he's already let his buddies back home know I'm coming soon. I've already learned a good amount of Khmer and it's only improving as time ticks. As for being stir crazy in my apartment not doing anything I just dont think that applies to me and even if I did I'd like be using that time wisely. I'd run a few miles at Olympic stadium before I catch myself sitting lazy and bored in my apartment but that's just me.

For me Cambodia is not a last stop. It's a first stop because it's easy to get my first teaching job there and visa laws are pretty damn relaxed and cheap. I see it as a great opportunity to start out and pad my resume then move to vietnam or Thailand or Indonesia. I'm certified in many countries to teach. If worst case scenario happens and you are right and I totally fail and hate my life in south east Asia fuck it I'll jump on a plan to south america. I'm definitely not like the burn outs I met in bangkok that just never figured out when it's time to stop partying and go back home.

I know at two teachers in Phnom phen as we speak that are having a great time living there I video chat with them twice a week. They have a decent apartment and fill me in on daily on goings. They dont have an issue living on their teaching salary what so ever so still I am confused by your descriptions of misery and hardship. I think you are describing a very different crowd of expats than the ones I have been in contact with.

I understand you are experienced and have seen what you are describing and I appreciate your well wishes but I dont believe much of this applies to me. I think you are describing a group that has lost their will to improve and live and grow and it's a bit sad to be honest. I think these people would be depressed and down even with a billion in the bank living in a mansion. I'll definitely be there in January and I wont be there with 2 million USD.

I will definitely update you all with more posts. if you are right you can say I told you so to another wide eyed naive expat. Again, I value your input but i hope to prove it wrong ❤
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