With a little help from my friends – Bangkok with the hookups

blast from the past... my friends from the good old days in the Philippines

The mist of confusion lifts when you make friends in a new city. Everything becomes easier.


We headed to an English-speaking church in Bangkok this weekend hoping to meet as many people as possible.  Because we had taken the wrong route to the church we got there super late. So instead of actually going to church we started talking to those outside.

We asked all the questions that the language barrier had kept us from asking earlier in the week:

“Are there any good apartments around here?”
“What’s the best way to navigate Bangkok?”
“What are some cool charities that we could volunteer for?”

Luckily they had lots of answers and ideas. We started exchanging numbers with people and jotting down suggestions.

Blast from the past

And then it got even better. “Hi Bjorn!” I looked up and in front of me were some childhood friends that I had grown up with in Philippines.  One of them worked in Bangkok and this weekend the whole family was visiting from the Philippines.  I couldn’t believe it! The relief at seeing familiar faces was immense. We were automatically invited for lunch and then a potluck for dinner.

Want a job?

By the end of the day we had two work opportunities and some info on an NGO (non-governmental organization) for which we could volunteer. Both work opportunities required fluent English – one was for office work for an international company, the next for English language teaching in one of the leading Bangkok universities.  The breakthroughs were mind blowing.

just looking at this Saturday night potluck pic makes me hungry again....

Bottom Line: the 80/20 Principle

This experience really drove home what is commonly called the 80/20 principle.  Here’s how lifestyle design blogger and bestselling author, Tim Ferriss puts it:  “80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs,” or, “80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.”  This has definitely been true of our time in Bangkok so far.  All our time spent reading and hunting for info did not produce anything near the results of a handful of conversations with the right people.

Nowhere was this more true than with our Bangkok apartment rental efforts:

We had spent hours online, pouring over Bangkok apartment listings. We had painstakingly narrowed down our search to the options that fit our budget. We spent a lot of time looking up locations on Bangkok Maps. In all the time we had spent so far we hadn’t even gotten to calling any of the landlords up (I was dreading doing so because I was anticipating a mountain of language barrier problems.).

One conversation on Saturday made all the difference. “I’ve got a great, cheap apartment that I think could work,” said the husband of one of my childhood friends. He then hooked us up with one of his friends that negotiated an amazing deal.

It was humbling to realize that this one conversation had produced far better results than our hours spent wading through online listings. The Bangkok apartment our friend found us cost $130/month (less than half of what we had budgeted). It was in a safe area and right next door to a friend.


Our next major priority is finding some nonprofits to work for. We will be pooling the suggestions we get as well as visiting a few different organizations. We will be giving all recommendations submitted on this blog special preference so please submit your ideas in the comment section.

Please leave a comment with your suggestions. Know of a good Bangkok-based orphanage? An after school program? A program working to prevent underage human trafficking? We don’t need pay. Just an interesting project. Have a think. Maybe you can help us….

Looking forward to hearing from you…



Bjorn Karlman

Bangkok, Thailand

14 thoughts on “With a little help from my friends – Bangkok with the hookups”

  1. Very cool. And totally true, especially in a foreign country being able to ask someone with local knowledge is so much more effective than trying to research stuff on your own.

    Roman told me about the project, it sounds fantastic. Enjoy, and I will keep reading your updates!


    1. Marek! Thanks for checking in, man. I missed you over the holidays. Como va todo en Mexico? I would love some details. Maybe a guest post on CultureMutt…

      I talked quite a bit to Roman in Bath. He’s a seriously interesting guy. I am glad he talked to you about our little lifestyle experiment:)

  2. Good job Bjorn! The power of netowrking – always keep in touch with childhood friends is the lesson. If they’re going to be cooking up that spread, maybe I can quit my job and move into your apartment and help out with $30 of that 130. haha

    Oh and areyou kiddiing me? You run into the only people you know in Thailand? that’s pretty miraculous. you probably know a lot of other people but childhood friends you studied with? what kind of law of attraction techniques are you guys using. haha

    1. “what kind of law of attraction techniques are you guys using.”…. well, now that you bring it up… I am starting a new subscription-based e-course:) Hahaha! It was definitely good fortune.
      And feel free to quit your job and come out anytime! BTW… was very impressed with the last post at http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/

  3. Hey Bjorn and Jammie,
    Really enjoying your postings. Regarding your do-gooding, you might wish to contact Judy Aitkin – if you haven’t done so already. Judy lives at Andrews and started Adventist Southeast Asian Projects (independent of the church as I understand) about 30 years ago. She and her former husband were missionaries in Thailand for several years. Her email is Asap84@cs.com, tel. 269 471-3026.

    1. Anders, thanks for checking in! And I very much appreciate the tip, I went ahead and emailed Judy. We’ll see!
      Missed you guys at Christmas:). Say hi to everyone for us!

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