Destination Research: Enclaves

Anti-enclave articles and posts are often found about any area that has a non-trivial English speaking expat community. The writer’s viewpoints range from putting down the people who choose to live somewhat apart from the locals to not being able to imagine the benefits.

First off, using the term ‘enclave’ to describe gated communities or concentrations of expats is bogus. Merriam-Webster defines it as ‘a distinct territorial, cultural, or social unit enclosed within or as if within foreign territory’. Seems like it might apply until one looks at the synonyms, which do not contain any of the following: neighborhood, community, sub-division, etc. I think those who look at groups of expat housing see a degree of separation that doesn’t exist, at least not in my experience of such neighborhoods in the Phils and Thailand.

Why would anyone want to live apart from the locals? That’s easy: zoning. Either there are no zoning laws or they are not enforced, or an informal fee (bribe) prevents them from being enforced. Imagine building your dream house only to have the property next door become a furniture shop with routers, planers and circular saws putting out metallic shrieks as a counter point to the dust and toxic organic vapors of paints and finishes. Would that be more or less annoying then a karaoke bar? Expats I’ve talked to live in gated communities to control what is built next door, to avoid roaming packs of feral dogs, to put some distance between themselves and people who routinely burn trash and for security. The security is often ineffective. There is a community in Hua Hin occupied by a mixture of well-to-do Thais and foreigners where burglaries are not uncommon.

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