Ajarn.com documented the story of one female teacher as she prepared to give up life in her homeland and head out to Thailand to teach English. Hopefully her journal gave inspiration and information to those about to embark on a similar journey. We began at the beginning with Julia introducing herself and carried on from there.
Hi I’m Julia - 10th September 2007
My name is Julia, I'm 25, I live Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and I am about to embark upon my final week of CELTA at IH House Newcastle.
I plan on leaving for Thailand in November to teach. I am taking 8 weeks from finishing the CELTA to save up some money for when I first arrive and to prepare myself as much as possible. I decided Thailand was as good a place as any to start my teaching career. When I first considered TEFL as a long term career, Italy was first on my list. However, I heard that jobs are few and far between and there is a lot of competition for teaching positions. Thailand was second on my list and by contrast I heard that the number of teaching positions greatly out numbered the amount of teachers in the region and that jobs were easier to come by.
I was first attracted to Thailand because (although I have never been) it seems to be unlike anywhere in the west. A ‘land of smiles' I quickly discovered after doing some initial research. I wanted to live somewhere completely different to anywhere I have ever experienced before. Some friends have done the whole backpacker thing in Thailand, most of them en route to Australia or on their way back home to England, all of them admitted they wished they had spent more time discovering Thailand, away from the tourist trail and the usual back packer hangouts. This is precisely why I want to teach in Thailand, I could quite easily jump on a plane and do the whole backpacking thing for a few months, but I want to immerse myself completely in the Thai lifestyle and culture, I want to be in the ‘thick of things', teaching seems like the best way to this.
Anxieties and questions
I have never been traveling before, the furthest away from home I have ever been is Cyprus!! So naturally I have many anxieties and questions about starting a new life in Thailand, mostly about teaching and also about general day to day things like, what kind of plug sockets do they use ? Will I have to get a new sim card? Do I need to set up a new bank account once I arrive? Should I take my laptop ? With regards to teaching, my over riding questions are : Should I arrange a job before I leave ? and What type of Visa should I get ? If I the answer to the first question is no, where should I go when I first arrive? How will I get a job once I am there? If I can't get a job before I arrive how do I get a ‘non - immigrant B visa?' The list of questions seems to be endless, and being a bit of a control freak I want to get as many of them answered before I leave. A friend from the CELTA course suggested I log on to Ajarn.com for information and boy am I glad I did ! I was planning on going through an agency of sorts to arrange a placement for me, which would cost me £400! I have since learned through the ajarn discussion forum that this is completely unnecessary and it is quite easy to do everything myself, saving myself £400 in the process! So I am going to take the plunge and book my flights next week, hooray !
I originally decided to apply for the CELTA three years ago after completing a degree in English and History. Unfortunately a near death experience, which involved a sledging accident that went terribly wrong (don't ask!) left me a virtual invalid for months and my plans sort of fell by the way side. The course itself has been fantastic and by far the best thing I have ever done. It has been extremely challenging and very intense but (the majority of my colleagues will think I am mad for saying this) I have loved every minute. It is something I have wanted to do for such a long time, and after reading various accounts of CELTA experiences on the net I was well prepared for my life being taken over by CELTA for a month.
My initial chat with Julia - 11th September 2007
Julia and I had a nice chat on the telephone and I got a good feel for how daunting this must all be for here. She's swapping the cozy familiarity of Newcastle, The River Tyne, and 'fishes on little dishes' for the hustle and bustle of Thailand's capital. And the adventure all starts in mid-November, giving her eight weeks to prepare her goodbyes and start fretting about what lies ahead. Hopefully we can help smooth that process a little. My first concern is that Julia is setting her sights way too low where money is concerned. On the plus side, she's arriving with a degree and a CELTA certificate. On the minus side, there are still those horrible student loans to pay off. With her qualifications, she should be aiming for salaries in the 40-60,000 baht a month bracket, not the 30-35,000s that she'd set her heart on and accepted as the norm.
It's a teacher's market
Julia was adamant that she didn't want to teach children (mainly because her experiences on the CELTA course have all been with adult students) That's fine. Although the kid's market is huge in Thailand, that doesn't mean for a second you can't find full-time work teaching adults. I'm beginning to sound like an old gramophone record here, but if there's one piece of advice I would give to new arrivals - don't fix up a job before you arrive. Give yourself a few days to get over the jetlag - find your Bangkok legs - and then start your job search. You have to keep your eye on the market here and right now it's very much a teacher's market. Julia's problem is going to be which jobs to turn down!
Where to stay?
Many new arrivals head for the infamous backpacker ghetto of Banglampoo, with the lure of cheap accommodation (as low as 200 baht a night) and the fact that so many Thais in that area speak a decent level of English. To me this is a huge mistake for two reasons. Firstly, there's often a stigma attached to being based in Banglampoo - at least in the eyes of interviewers and potential employers. Giving employers your contact address as 'some guest house in Banglampoo' conjures up images of a transient backpacker who's just in it for some quick cash. And very often it's the truth. Secondly, it can be very difficult to contact teachers when the room doesn't have a phone and the teacher is reliant on messages being left with the reception staff - staff who mean well but aren't always the sharpest tools in the box. Of course the ready availability of cheap mobile phones has by and large alleviated the latter problem. Setting yourself up with a mobile phone as soon as possible is a very smart way to go.
How does the old saying go? - pack half the clothes and bring twice the money? Something like that anyway. Find yourself a cheap hotel or one of those boutique hotels on the Sukhumwit Road area. That way you'll be near the Sky-train and be able to reach all the major parts of the city in less than an hour. I did a quick google search of boutique hotels in Bangkok and this one at Majestic Suites is typical of its standard http://www.majesticsuites.com/ The room will be small for sure but you'll have all the facilities and its in a great location for getting around the city. And it's less than 20 quid a night! You wouldn't want to stay here forever of course but I'd certainly book in for three or four days and then extend your stay on a daily basis as and when needed. There are stacks of other options in the Sukhumwit / Silom areas though.
The visa conundrum
The biggest dilemma is what visa to arrive on. Although in a perfect world, Julia would arrive with a non-immigrant B visa (this is the one required to facilitate the teacher's license and work permit process) it isn't always possible unless you have a letter of guaranteed employment. However, Julia is currently in the UK so it might be worth contacting the Thai consulates at Hull and Birmingham. These two consulates have a reputation as being 'slightly more lenient' with the visas they give out - certainly compared to London anyway. Failing that, she can simply get a tourist visa which will allow her two to three months in Thailand during by which time she will have secured her 'ideal' job (truth is I expect her to secure something within seven days) After that, she'll either need to do the 'visa run' to a neighboring country like Malaysia or Singapore - with some documentation from her new employer - and she will secure a non-immigrant B. Then the process of applying for the license and work permit can begin - a process which by and large shouldn't take more than a month. There have been teachers who have successfully changed their visa status from tourist to non-immigrant without leaving the country but much depends on the immigration officer and how willing to go to bat for you your school admin department is.
Thanks Phil - 13th September 2007
Just got home and checked out the website ! It's ace !! Pleased you used that photo, it is much more flattering !! The information you have given is so useful and if it's useful for me no doubt it will be helpful for many others planning on coming to Thailand to teach. I also have lots and lots of questions that keep coming to me, the most pressing question on my mind today is 'What documents should I take with me with regards to getting visa, work permits etc' ..I'm guessing I should bring a copy of my degree and celta certification, is there anything else ? Sorry if the answers to my questions seem obvious !!! Anyway I better get on with my final CELTA assignment that is due on Wednesday, with all this excitement I have to keep reminding myself I still have a week of CELTA left ( which is about a month in real time !)
More questions more answers - 14th September 2007
Glad you liked the webpage Julia.
As regards documents, bring the original copies of both your degree and CELTA. You can make photocopies here as and when required. I think the Ministry of Education (the people who will ultimately issue your teaching license) insist on seeing the original copies these days. If you can, try and accompany the Thai admin person who will go through the process on your behalf. I say this because it's a good idea not to let those original documents out of your sight. There have been tales in the past of original documents getting lost. Admittedly these mishaps are few and far between - but it does happen.
Another question you asked me on the phone was regarding internet connections. I believe you're bringing your notebook right? This is one thing you certainly don't have to worry about. Bangkok must be the internet capital of the world. The range of goods and services in Bangkok's I.T malls will blow your mind, and you're never far away from an internet cafe or a wi-fi connection. Many coffee shops in the city such as Starbucks and bakeries like Au Bon Pain all now have wi-fi for customers to use, provided they buy a coffee or a croissant of course. Every eighteen months or so I go back to visit my folks in Spain. It's like stepping back in time as far as technology is concerned. Bangkok feels as if it's ten years ahead. It truly is a modern city in every sense of the word. You can buy everything you need here in order to make life comfortable.
While I'm thinking about it. you might like to check out Michelle's blog at http://britinbangkok.blogspot.com/
British Michelle came to Thailand in late 2003 and was very much in the same position as you - a lone female, strange country, no contacts, etc, etc but she's made a very decent go of things. For sure she's had her ups and downs but she's weathered the storms and although I haven't spoken to her for some time, the blog tells its own story. She had no difficulty whatsoever landing a 45,000 baht job at a new Thai school.
Finished the CELTA - 17th September 2007
So I finished CELTA on Friday, and we all celebrated with a big night out and it turned out to be one of the best nights I've ever had. We were all so elated to have finished the course ( and passed!). I'm really going to miss it, it's been four of the hardest but best weeks of my life and I met some really great people along the way. Me and a few others are going to carry on teaching the free classes at IH Newcastle for the next couple of weeks, which is nice as I think I'd really miss teaching, and it gives me more practice before I arrive in Thailand.
I went to book my flights, and discussed all the options with the travel agent, it was confusing. The travel agent said that I could get a 12 month open return ticket for £480 but in order to use such a ticket I must obtain a non - immigrant visa before I leave. She also said that I wouldn't be able to arrive in Thailand on a one way ticket and would probably be refused entry!!?? Do you concur? Anyway she too said I would be best contacting the consulate in Hull regarding visas and she was confident that a non - immigrant visa would be quite easy to obtain prior to leaving the country. So I'm going to give them a call tomorrow, so I'll let you know what they say. The agent advised me not to book my flights until I have spoken to them. I also realised this week that my passport expired in June! So I am my renewal application off first thing tomorrow. It's a good job I checked before I left for the airport in 8 weeks time !!
Questions of the week:
Apartments etc in Thailand - How easy are they to come by? How will I go about finding a place once I have found a job? What sort of price will I be looking at per month? Will I need to sign a contract for a minimum amount of time? Will I need to pay a deposit or a bond prior to moving in?
So all in all I haven't really made very much progress but now that the CELTA is over and I have my life back I can concentrate on making all the necessary arrangements for my departure, starting with my passport obviously !!
Visa advice - 18th September 2007
Congratulations Julia on doing so well on the CELTA course. I'm sure that you're breathing a huge sigh of relief now. I think you're very wise picking up a bit more teaching practice before you head out here. Even though the CELTA has prepared you well, nothing ever beats experience. It's like passing your driving test. First you pass - and then you start learning to drive!
Moving on to your travel agent's comments, it's the first I've heard about needing a non-immigrant visa if you plan on buying a one-way ticket. I would hate to say that your travel agent is just plain wrong but perhaps they're simply erring on the side of caution. No one would want to be turned away at the airport but you have to remember that thousands of people arrive in Asia to do a bit of travelling and have no idea which country they'll be leaving from. Perhaps they want to start in Thailand, bum around Laos and Vietnam for a while, move on to Malaysia, maybe even visit friends in Australia - and then fly back from there. Lots of people arrive with no fixed itinerary and have no intention of picking up work. However, the travel industry is in a constant state of change and it's difficult to keep track of the rules and regulations at times. Give Hull a call and see what they say. I'm sure that many people would be interested in their response.
Been under the weather - 20th September 2007
Sorry it's taken so long to reply I seem to have caught the CELTA flu and I've been bed ridden for the past two days. I have checked out the apartment article, I couldn't see anything about length of contracts ( sorry if I'm being completely blind) Will I need to sign a contract and is there a minimum length of time ? I rang the consulate and they said I could get a non- immigrant O visa, which I would need if I wanted to book 12 month open return flights and I would have to get a non- immigrant B visa when I get there, but they also said that I could get a work permit in Thailand with a non- immigrant O visa, again I am confused !!!!
Get well soon - 21st September 2007
Hi Julia. Sorry to hear that you're feeling a bit under the weather. Get well soon!
I'm certainly not going to argue with the consular general in Hull. I've looked at their website many times and Alan always seems to be on top of the game as regards the latest rule changes. I think the rule about being able to get a work permit on a non-immigrant O visa is a fairly recent one. It could have been part of the October 2006 shake-up when many rules and regulations were changed. It sounds as though the non-immigrant O is certainly the way to go, even if it means buying an open flight ticket. It'll save you the hassle of having to do the visa run to a neighboring country just as you are getting settled into your life in Thailand and I quite like the security of having a paid flight out of Dodge just in case the dream doesn't work out. When I first planned to come and live in Thailand, a great friend of mine gave me good advice - as long as you have the money in your back pocket for a flight home, you can't go wrong. Visa runs can be fairly stressful for the inexperienced. You can do a run to Malaysia and suddenly find it's a Muslim bank holiday and the embassy won't be open for a day or two. Then there's the occasional delayed flight or train. and then of course ultimate setback which is the refusal of your visa application because you've only got a hundred different types of paperwork and the embassy wants 101.
As regards the apartment contract, the rules will differ from apartment owner to apartment owner. You will certainly need to sign a contract though. This will 'guarantee' the return of your deposit provided you haven't trashed the room and damaged furniture so make sure you keep it in a safe place. I guess that most apartments will ask you to commit to at least six months; many of them to a year.
Booking flights - 26th September 2007
Hey Phil, Just thought I'd send you a quick update, so I'm going to book my flights on Friday ( pay day). I have decided to postpone my departure date by one week to 26th Nov, this is due to work commitments and it's also a chance to earn some extra cash before I leave. Do you think the later date will have any impact on my chances of getting a job ? I have booked an appointment with my GP for Monday to start my various inoculations, apparently I will need to make several appointments for courses of specific drugs, but as i'm spleenless ( as a result of my accident) I'm anxious to get as many anti - tropical disease drugs in my system as possible! Hopefully my passport will arrive any day now so I can apply for my visa. I'm so excited for my big adventure I'm even going to start packing this weekend !! I keep having mini panic attacks though and I have woke up in the middle of the night thinking ' ahhhhhhhhhh I'm going to be in Bangkok on my own.. what am I doing ??!!' a few times but I keep telling myself if I just take it one step at a time I'll be fine... I hope ! My main concern is what will I do when I first arrive and sleep off my jet lag ? Do I just log on to the net and try and arrange some interviews ? I'm also worrying about getting around and getting to job interviews, I have no sense of direction and my map reading skills are poor at the best of times, is the sky train easy to use ? Another question, where will I get a Thai sim card from ? I will be passing my UK sim card and mobile contract on to a member of my family so I will need to buy a new sim card straight away, can I get one from the airport ? Sorry if my questions seems a bit trivial !
One step at a time - 27th September 2007
Hey Julia. One step at a time. That's a very good philosophy. After you've been here a couple of weeks, you'll begin to wonder what all the fuss and panic attacks were about. It's perfectly natural though to worry about what you might consider trivial matters - such as the mobile phone and sim card issue - so let's get that one out of the way first. You're coming to what's probably the mobile phone capital of the world. Even the street-food sellers and tuk-tuk drivers can often be seen with a mobile to their ear these days. Love them or hate them (and no one loathes mobile phones more than I do) If you don't carry a mobile phone in this city, you'll be viewed by many as slightly odd. You can sort yourself out with a mobile and sim card in ten minutes at one of the numerous shopping malls that often devote whole floors to the business of mobile phone retail. One of the most popular places - simply because there's so much choice - is Mahboonkrong Shopping Center or MBK as it's more commonly known. Take the BTS Silom line to the National Stadium and you can walk right into MBK from there. Don't think about getting a phone and sim card at the airport. Airports are for landing at - not shopping.
Once you arrive and get over the jetlag, it will be time to start your job hunt. If you haven't seen it already, A.J Hoge wrote an excellent guide to finding a job in Bangkok within ten days. http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0411/find_a_job_teaching_english_in_thailand_in_10_days.shtml
He gives some good information about the mobile phone purchase on day 3 and of course a nice plug for ajarn.com on day number 4. I certainly wouldn't go for 'dropping in on AUA' on day 5 though. Turning up announced anywhere, given Bangkok's oppressive heat and humidity, isn't the wisest idea. I'm not saying AUA is a bad choice. Many teachers have worked there years and many teachers have got their start there, but it's not the only choice you'll have. I would stick to making appointments only with those schools and employers that have shown an interest. Make sure the job feels right for you as well. Don't go on wild goose chases. When speaking to a potential employer on the phone in order to set up an interview, if the person on the other end of the line is unwilling to part with the most basic information such as working hours, salary, benefits, etc or heaven forbid they sound unsure - then give them a wide berth. You have to bear in mind that many employers are just looking for a warm body in the classroom and their desperation will often come through over the phone. The interview will just be a formality. Always set your sights high to begin with. You can lower your expectations when and if the need truly arises. On day 6, the writer recommends looking through the Bangkok Post and Nation classifieds (Bangkok's two daily English language newspapers) but in truth they don't carry the volume of 'teacher wanted' ads that they did say ten years ago. Many of the ads fall into what I call the 'penny ad' category, where a square column inch will simply say 'teachers wanted' and provide no other info apart from a mobile phone number. Not exactly the most auspicious and appealing way to start your Bangkok teaching career in my book.
The sky-train and MRT underground systems are both very easy to use and they've made commuting in the central part of the city (and a little beyond) very easy. Remember that Bangkok doesn't actually have 'a city center' or a 'downtown area' although many argue its the Silom / Sathorn Roads. This is purely because that's where many office buildings and major companies are located.
Your mention of inoculations brought back memories of 1989, just before I embarked on my first trip to Bangkok. I was in the doctor's surgery countless times getting a syringe full of anything going - protection against Cholera, Polio, Typhoid, Malaria - you name it. I remember one of the injections making me feel quite ill for a couple of days. Personally I don't think they are necessary. I haven't bothered with them for years and apart from a short bout of dengue fever in the early 90s, I've had no problems. My own mother and father have been to Thailand seven times and they only bothered with inoculations on the very first trip.
Your final concern is about the time of your arrival - in late November. Frankly speaking December and January are the worst two months to look for work - particularly in the private language school sector. Many students take time off for Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year holidays and teacher schedules often have a very stop / start feel to them. Not for one moment though am I saying there are no jobs around at this time of year. That's simply not true. But there will certainly be fewer openings in December and January compared to the busy times such as April and May. Don't change your plans though Julia. Still aim for a November arrival. On the plus side, the Bangkok climate in December and January can be glorious. Although the term 'cool season' is something of a misnomer, you might actually experience the joy of needing a light sweater or sweatshirt early in the morning as the temperatures 'plummet' to about 65-70 degrees
Clothing and bank accounts - 2nd October 2007
Thanks for the forwarded e-mails. They are very reassuring and I will definitely get in touch with Michelle to take her up on her offer of meeting me. I booked my flights on Friday so there really is no going back now, think I got quite a bargain as they only cost £450, which was cheaper than I expected. I had to specify a return date but I can change it to any date within a 12 month period for £75 so it's more or less an open return. I am sending off for my visa tomorrow and hopefully I'll not have any problems with that. I am struggling to type this email as I feel like I have been punched in the arm repeatedly after having several injections today, and I have to go back for more next week.
Having read the site and other sources I am freaking out a bit about clothes, will I be expected to dress really smartly for interviews/ teaching ? I am very much a jeans and flip flops kind of girl and I have never owned a suit !!! Now I am panicking as I gather that I will have to dress very formally with closed shoes. If this is the case will I not overheat and be a sweaty mess ?! I know your a guy so you may not be able to give me very good advice on this matter but if anyone reading this could give me some fashion advice I would be very grateful.
I have also been pondering the question of bank accounts. I understand that I will have to open an account with the bank that my employer uses, is this correct ? If so how easy it to transfer funds between a Thai account and a UK account ? Is Thai banking easy to manage, i.e online banking etc. Do Thai bank accounts use a direct debit system for paying bills etc. Again these questions may seem a bit ridiculous to someone who has lived in Bangkok for so long but this is stuff that I want to know before I arrive !
More answers - 3rd October 2007
Hi Julia. Firstly I'm glad that Michelle has been in touch with you. As I've said before, she certainly knows the ropes here - and from a woman's point of view as well. I also believe she's going to hook you up with a room at her apartment building so that could be one less thing to worry about.
To be honest, you've picked on two questions that I'm struggling with - women's clothes and presumably transferring small amounts of money back to the UK on a regular basis? I'll certainly need Michelle's and other readers' help with the clothing issue. The lady I sometimes do seminars with usually wears a navy blue jacket and skirt (is that what you refer to as a suit?) with a nice blouse underneath. A jacket can be a real burden in Bangkok's sticky humid climate though, so I think often just a blouse and skirt would suffice. Michelle? Anyone? Help! As regards the banking issue, I've just added my thoughts on Thai banks to the ajarn world section http://ajarn.com/ajarnworld.htm One thing I don't do is send money back to the UK on a regular basis but I believe it can be done on-line, depending on what bank you use. A few of them are fairly competent where e-banking is concerned but most of them are woefully behind the times. Unfortunately, as you rightly point out, your employer will usually dictate which bank you should open the account with. It makes perfect sense for the accounting staff at any company to pay everyone's salary at the same bank so that's the reasoning behind it. It's also very difficult for a foreigner to open a savings account here without a work permit. We live in times of due diligence and strict anti-money laundering rules so Thai banks always err on the side of caution in this respect. Banking is one of those things you'll have to sort out when you're here and the situation will be a lot clearer and a lot more straightforward once you have a job sorted out.
Feedback from Michelle - 9th October 2007
So sorry, I got incredibly busy and barely had time to sleep Okay, here goes....First of all, I'll definitely reserve a room for you. I'll also go around with the manager of my building closer to the time and look at the rooms she has available and choose the nicest for you (one side of the building gets hotter than the other so you don't want a room there as your air conditioning bill gets really high I'll double check on the prices but for the one-rooms I think they are 8,000 baht a month plus electricity and water? That's all you need for the first month, because they're pretty big anyway. I have a 1-bedroom, but you don't really need that at first and they are 10,000 baht if you sign a 1 year contract (which you can always do if you decide you like the place!) It's a great place for your first month, then you can either decide to stay or move somewhere else.
Normally you can do month-to-month, so you can move at the end of a month without losing any money. Later you can sign a 6 month contract or a 1 year contract if you like, and you usually get it a bit cheaper (for example, my room is normally 12,000 baht but I get it for 10,000 because I have a 1 year contract). You definitely don't want to move out without completing a contract though anywhere in Thailand because they WILL keep your money and 16,000 baht is a fair amount, that's why it's always good not to sign a long contract until you know where you're going to be working, if you like the area etc.
Here's the website for PMansion: http://www.pmansion.com/
The rooms are pretty similar to the photos although Ive never seen any with hardwood floors They usually have tile floors, which are great as they keep the rooms cooler and they're waaaaay easier to clean than carpet. They also come with basic cable TV, western bathroom (which is a BIG deal for me, a Western bathroom is with a bath and a shower - a Thai bathroom is with the shower head coming directly out of the wall which then sprays ALL OVER the freakin' bathroom, toilet, counter, floor etc. every time you take a shower - you then have to paddle in the bathroom for the next hour until the floor dries - hate the things
As far as where it is: It's at 27 Pahonyothin, Soi 23 - if you can find Mo Chit skytrain station on a map (next to Chatuchak (Jatujak) market), it's about 2 miles north of that. It takes 5 minutes on a bus from the skytrain UNLESS the traffic is bad which is pretty much every day here but that's the same anywhere.
It's a great location to get around from though. It's 15 minutes to downtown Bangkok by skytrain and because it's north of the city, the air is cleaner up here (although don't expect clean, it's Bangkok - pollution IS bad most days - but much worse downtown). It will take you 5 minutes on a bus or taxi to get to the skytrain and 5 minutes to the underground - the underground IS a bit closer than the skytrain and you CAN walk to it (it's about a mile) so if the traffic is really bad, you can always take the underground and then walk home.
A big shopping mall, Central Ladprao, which has everything (KFC, McDonalds, Boots Chemist, big department store, electronic stores, phone shops, cafes, restaurants, bookstore, music store, stationary store, office supplies etc) is a mile away - I usually walk to it. Tesco is across from Central Ladprao and it is a 2 storey one so has everything - it's also dead easy to get a ton of shopping then take a taxi home (costs about 60p and takes 5 minutes). A doorman at Tesco will get a taxi for you. And doormen at my apartment building will cycle down the soi to the main road to get a taxi for you at any time if you don't feel like walking to the end of the street. Taxi fares start at about 60p and are very rarely more than 1 pound 50 depending on where you're going. Taxi fare from the airport to my apartment building should be about 350 baht, about 5 pounds - we're about 45 minutes away from the airport since they built the new one.
Re: IH - they are supposed to be a very good school and they pay well, the only thing I would caution is they teach almost 100% children I think and I didn't think you wanted to teach kids? Also, make sure you don't sign up for anything until you get here - there are sooooo many jobs, especially because you're a woman, you can easily get a part-time job that will pay your rent etc. until you decide on a full-time job and most full-time jobs they hire you one day and want you working the day after If IH is on Silom it's very easy to get there from my place - just take the underground and that will take you right to Silom then, depending on where it is, a couple of minutes walk from there or motorcycle taxi should do it.
Re: clothing - yes they ARE picky here about what you have to wear. In most schools if you teach kids, you either have to wear a skirt and blouse, or pants and blouse with full shoes (ie: not sandals) . But some schools are more slack - my school allowed pants and a blouse (which was technically an ugly school uniform that we had to buy) and sandals as long as they have a strap at the back ie: no flip flops!
If you're teaching corporate, you will be expected to wear a blouse/shirt and a skirt or pants and full shoes. Honestly, as long as you are clean, tidy and look professional you probably won't have a problem. And again, you're female, most places are soooooo freakin' happy to get a woman, if you're nice, SMILE and do your job, you'll get away with murder in most schools
And really, it's hot, it's always hot, and you probably won't get used to it, but you do get used to the clothes and being hot in them. Part and parcel of being in Thailand and everybody is HOT
Hope all this helps, sorry it's a book - but the main thing in Thailand to remember is this - Be polite, be happy and smile, and do your job and the Thais will love you and you will have no problems. It's a wonderful country, very safe, and if you are nice and polite the world is yours!
You've read, I'm sure, the guys on ajarn bitching about Thais and their schools. I never had a problem at my school, but a couple of the guys did because they were such a bunch of whining assholes, always trying to get away with not doing their jobs, showing up reeking of sweat or smoke etc. and wondering why the school asked them to put on a clean shirt the following day. One even tried to hit on a 13 year old student and was surprised when the school didn't renew his contract!
You will find the ones who bitch about Thailand a lot are usually the ones who don't do their jobs, spend all their money drinking or on prostitutes, show up late for school, go home early, show up drunk, take 100 sick days a year etc. The guys who are friends of mine and DO do their jobs and treat the Thais nicely love it here and very rarely have a problem! I've been here for 4 years and never had a problem with a Thai. I have however had a couple of problems with Western men, so like most people here, I avoid most of them I think even Phil does that????? LOL.
Cheers and keep the questions coming.
Michelle’s on a roll - 9th October 2007
This is an additional email answering the questions you sent to Phil (hey Phil
Julia, as far as interview clothes go a nice blouse/shirt and a professional looking skirt or pants is fine. You do NOT need a suit (I have one, I've worn it once!) As far as shoes go, for the interview, open toed sandals with a heel (and preferably a strap at the back) are fine - if they require you to wear full shoes they will probably tell you at the interview. Some schools definitely do, but.....because you are female, if you are nice, polite and happy, you can often get away with wearing whatever shoes you want. A friend of mine wears Crocs to school and because the school loves her, they've never said a word!!!
But.....unless you are really big and require XXXXL shirts, skirts, and huge shoes, don't worry you can buy everything here a LOT cheaper than you can buy in the UK (shirts run about 1 pound 50, skirts/pants I've bought as cheap as 4 pounds and they're nice!) Shoes are about 2 pounds 50 too if you dont want leather and they're everywhere!! Everybody I know (including myself!) who has arrived with tons of stuff has immediately said "Why didn't I wait until I got here, it's soooooo much cheaper "
Re: banks. Thai banks are awesome - waaaay better than any bank I ever had in the US. You can pay your cable TV bill, electricity bill, phone bill etc right at the ATM machine (although if you are at PMansion you just pay it once a month in cash at the frontdesk for everything!)
I have a Bangkok Bank account which I think is the best. Siam Commercial is also apparently very good. Some banks now will not let you open an account until you have a work permit but I've opened two accounts at Bangkok Bank without a work permit, so it seems to depend on the bank. The ONLY drawback with Thai banks is that, if you want to close them or do anything major, you HAVE to do it at the branch you opened it at, so even if there is a Bangkok Bank outside your house, you still have to schlep downtown to the branch you opened it at if you need a new ATM card etc. Crazy! My recommendation would be to open a Bangkok Bank account downtown at somewhere like Siam Paragon - there's never a huge line, the staff are very nice, and it's right next to the skytrain so easy to get to if you need to. It's also open 7 days a week!
When I transfer money from the US to Thailand, I just pull it thru with my ATM card - if you transfer from one bank to another it's usually a 500 baht fee (approximately depending on the bank!) which can really add up. Plus if you pull money thru with an ATM card, you get the best exchange rate. Only bring a little cash with you, you can get money with an ATM card at the airport and should never have a problem using a UK ATM card in most places in Thailand.
As far as direct deposit goes, some employers do, some just pay you in cash. Depends on the company. It should be easy for you once you have a Thai bank account though, to sign up to be able to do everything online, (although you'll still have to go into the branch for some things) and you should be able to transfer from Thailand to the UK that way if you need to.
Hope all this helps? Oh and as far as tampons go, if you use them, some guys online will tell you they're hard to get (don't know why THEY are the experts?? LOL) - they're not, they're available all over Bangkok so no need to come with a years supply like one of my friends did
Wise woman - 10th October 2007
Some good advice there from Michelle, especially about the tampons (Phil blushes ever so slightly)
Michelle's opinion of Thai banks differs a little from mine but that said, I've been most impressed with the Bangkok Bank. They do seem to try that little bit harder.
That's also very good advice about sending money home via the ATM machine, although 500 baht is about seven pounds so it's certainly not an insignificant bank charge. You wouldn't want to do that too often. I remember in the early 90's I used to withdraw money from my bank account in the UK through the ATM but in those days ATMs were not as common as they are now. I used to have to walk all the way from my apartment in Sukhumwit 22 to an ATM opposite soi 33 if I wanted any money. It was a fair old walk in 90 degrees heat. Now of course ATMs are all over the place. Go into any major office building or even at certain underground stations, and there are whole rows of them side by side.
Nothing much to report - 12th October 2007
Yes I have seen Michelle's response, it's certainly cleared up my worries about clothing. I have purchased a couple of blouse and pants combinations and I'll just buy more when I get there, it'll certainly be a lot cheaper. I am going to take Michelle up on her offer of reserving a room for me, at least for my first month, so at least I know I have a place to stay when I first arrive, which is a big weight off my mind.
Not much to update you on really, apart from I visited the travel clinic in Newcastle city centre yesterday on the advice of my doctor. As I don't have a spleen she wanted me to get some specialist advice. The doctor there was very helpful and did a good job of scaring the sh*t out of me ! She said that many dogs in Thailand have rabies and that I should avoid them at all costs. She also said she didn't want to give me any antimalarials as they would make me quite ill, even more so because of my lack of spleen situation so instead she advised that I use lots of insect repellent because if I do catch Malaria I stand little chance of survival ! She reassured me however that the chances of this happening are slim as I will be living in Bangkok. She also gave me a personal health report which me made for scary reading, especially 'Rabies is invariably fatal once symptoms begin' and ' A German traveller died from malaria following a 6 month trip to Thailand. She visited areas in the south where malaria tablets are not recommended.' I plan on visiting areas in the south so I think I better start stocking up on insect repellent!
This leads me nicely on to my question of the week. Health Insurance - obviously I need to get some just in case I am bitten by a mad rabid dog or a deadly mosquito. I have been reading your articles on the subject and the insurance you recommend sounds good, but should I arrange this before I arrive or wait until I get there ? I have also been looking at the travel insurance on the Bupa website which also seems quite a good policy.
Oh I also contacted IH Bangkok to enquire about the possibility of working for them and they sent me a nice email saying they would like to meet me to arrive and asking me to fill in a pre- interview application form and send them a copy of my CV to start the application process now. I'm going to contact the other big schools before I arrive as per A.J Hodges 10 day job search guide.
The scaremongers are everywhere - 14th October 2007
There are always people out there who want to scare the shit out of you about Thailand and hand out well-meaning advice - despite the fact that in many cases they've never ever been here.
Stray dogs are everywhere in Thailand, especially Bangkok, but they're incredibly docile. As a dog lover, it breaks my heart to see them struggling to hang on to their last shreds of canine dignity. I haven't been bitten in 17 years. I've had the odd one bark at me and adopt an aggressive stance but this has always been on isolated housing estates rather than populated areas, where the dogs are used to people kicking them and moving them on. Health insurance is certainly a very wise idea though. I would sort it out when you get here. You can walk into the BUPA office and open a policy on the same day or you can go with ajarn.com's health insurance guru Tony Dabbs. The nice thing about dealing with Tony is that he's incredibly supportive and let's face it - you're dealing with one of your own. Whatever you choose - make sure it's one of those policies where you can just wave a card at the staff when you get admitted to hospital and all the bills are taken care of. I wouldn't want a system where I have to pay the bill and have to settle it later. Why not drop Tony a line and see whether he suggests arranging health insurance before you get here or not - assuming you were to go with Thai Health Insurance (THI)
Four weeks to go! - 30th October 2007
Hi Phil, Not sure when you'll get back from NZ, if you're already back I hope you enjoyed the trip.
Well it's just over 4 weeks to go !! I'm getting really restless now, I just want to leave ! I feel like I should be doing lots of preparation but I've pretty much got most of it sorted out so I'm just sitting waiting, I'm hoping the next four weeks will fly by. I have my visa back and I'm almost finished my various Vaccinations. I've emailed Tony about health insurance and he was very helpful. I've also emailed Bupa Thailand regarding their Sunshine Policy which is a six month plan so I'm waiting for response back from them. I think I'll probably just sort it out when I get there.
I completed an application form for IH but I haven't heard anything back yet. I'll email them again nearer my departure date as well as some other schools. I feel pretty prepared in terms of living in Bangkok, I'm now getting anxious about the actual work side of things. It's been 4 weeks since my the last lesson I taught and I'm starting to worry that I'll forget everything I learned during CELTA ! I'm also dreading my first few lessons in the 'real world' but I'm sure everyone must feel this way when it's their first teaching job. I am going to sort through my file and lesson plans from CELTA and try and refresh myself on everything. I hope that when I start working my employers will take into account it's my first teaching job and offer me the necessary support. In your experience is this usually the case ?
I have also been spending far too much time on Google Earth looking around Bangkok to try and get my bearings, I'm sure it will all go out the window once I arrive. One more question, people I know who have visited/ lived in Thailand keep warning me about Taxi's and the fact that they will try and rip me off. What is the deal with Taxi's I have read conflicting advice about using them. Do they try and rip you off ? If so what is the best way to avoid this ? Should I arrange a set fair before I embark upon a journey or just use the metre ?
Back in town - 31st October 2007
Hi Julia. I got back from New Zealand on Monday and had a great time thanks. Little bit on the cold side at times though. It reminded me of life in the UK when I used to wait on cold platforms for late trains. You'll know all about that right. OK what about the answers to your questions? Whether or not you get teacher support at the beginning of your contract (or at any time for that matter) depends totally on your employer. For some schools they'll be happy just to have a foreign face in the classroom and you'll be given a free rein to pretty much do as you please. As long as there are no complaints from students then everything will be deemed to be going just fine. Other employers will offer you development workshops, peer evaluations, appropriate teaching materials, etc, etc. As I said, it varies from employer to employer. I know the guys down at IH Bangkok pretty well and they certainly seem to be on top of things when it comes to teacher support.
I have no problems with taxis in Bangkok although speaking even a small amount of Thai instantly lets drivers know that you know the score. The biggest problem I have is when drivers have just arrived in the city and haven't the foggiest idea where you need to go. Rip-offs do occur for sure but they will happen at either the airport or certain 'touristy' areas around the city. The area around Patpong on Silom Road instantly springs to mind, but once you know where the dodgy areas are, you learn to walk a few hundred metres down the road and flag a taxi down on the street. When you talk about 'people who have visited Thailand', you are probably talking about holidaymakers and package tourists. They often get ripped off because they wander out of their fancy hotel and get involved in conversation with the taxi drivers who park outside. Every fancy hotel has its taxi mafia parked reasonably close by but they are easy to recognize and easy to avoid. You just keep on walking. You'll soon get the hang of it. Always get drivers to use the meter - no one with any sense bargains for fares anymore. 99% of the time the driver will turn on the meter the moment you sit down.
Saying goodbye will be tough - 1st November 2007
Thanks Phil, I'm glad you enjoyed your trip, and yes I can relate to the cold weather especially as it is now edging into winter here and it's getting dark before 5pm. One thing I won't miss when I leave is the lack of sunshine. As ever, thank you for answering my questions. Less than four weeks to go ! whoo ! I'm just itching to get away. The past four weeks seem to have dragged so much, but now time is really flying by and it's starting to hit home that I'm leaving soon. One thing that I'm not looking forward to though is saying goodbye to my friends and family. I'm going to miss them all very much, probably my dog more than anything which I'm sure my family and friends will be flattered to hear !
I have received a couple emails from Michelle who has been really helpful and it's comforting to know that I'll have a friend when I first arrive. I have just received an email from IH Bangkok regarding my application form and CV. They have sent me some information about what a teacher can expect at IH Bangkok which I have attached. I was hoping you could have a look at it and let me know what you think. I was particularly interested in the pay, which as a newly qualified teacher would be 35000 Baht a month. As you have already advised I should be aiming for at least 40000 Baht per month I am now wondering if this is really achievable if IH are only offering 35000. After reading the information I've decided that IH is probably not the school for me anyway, primarily because they teach mainly teenagers and although I would be prepared to do this I would prefer to teach adults. Your comments on the matter would be very helpful.
Nitty gritty - 3rd November 2007
Hi Julia. Make no mistake - saying goodbye to family and friends is going to be tough, especially if you come from a close-knit family as I do. I can remember the weeks leading up to my departure and thinking that cometh the day I would hold it together OK. Actually hugging and saying goodbye to my Mom and Dad was not that difficult. I'd grown too old to still be living at home and felt that it was time they had a bit of free space. It was saying goodbye to my brother that really killed me. Normally the epitome of cool, he broke down and wept as my taxi to the airport arrived. I drove to the airport with a lump in my throat the size of a Moroccan orange. Fortunately in the years I've been away we've managed to get together many times as a family. I'll go and see them all in Spain or the UK or they'll come over here (Mom and Dad have been here seven times now). It's a shrinking world these days. Keep consoling yourself with the fact that the reunions are only an air-ticket away.
Friends are a different kettle of fish entirely. You'll probably have some sort of 'going away party' in a local pub / restaurant and you'll kiss them all goodbye and promise to keep in touch. I did exactly that. A couple of years later and you've forgotten most of their names. It's the natural cycle of life I always feel. I never forget a good friend taking me to one side and saying "keep in touch Phil if you want. We'd love to hear how you're getting on. But don't for one minute feel you have to. We're all now part of your past". His words struck me as a tad heartless at the time but I've learned he was absolutely right. Friends become nothing more than very happy memories. Memories you'll always treasure. You'll return to the UK for a holiday, meet up with them, and realize that you and they have all moved on. The cycle of life.
Enough of this maudlin tittle-tattle! I had a good look over the attachment that IH sent you. I must confess that I have never been to IH's new premises on Silom Road but Danny the school owner is a very good friend and I regularly popped in to see him when the school was on Rama 4 Road. He runs a very tight ship and he knows what he expects from a teacher. The Rama 4 office was always a very vibrant and dynamic place to be but it was obvious that teaching kids classes was the main source of revenue. Perhaps for that reason alone you and IH might not be the best match, although in the attachment it does say that the teaching of teenagers and corporate business people is on the increase there.
It's always the paragraphs on 'working hours' and 'remuneration' that I tend to scrutinize more carefully than others. I like the idea of working a five-day week (which IH offers). You really do NEED to have two days off. A single solitary day off just doesn't cut it for me. This may be a plus or minus point for you but I notice that working on Saturdays and Sundays is compulsory. They could be long days too. 8.00am is a relatively early start and a possible 6.00pm or 6.30pm is quite a late finish. If you plan to go out on a Saturday night then you might find yourself going straight from work unless you live a stone's throw from the office. I used to hate doing that - sitting around in a pub in the same clothes I'd been teaching in all day (minus the necktie). Call me old fashioned but I like to go home, take a shower, put on some fresh threads and slap on a bit of the old smelly. Then I'm ready to hit the streets and burn the midnight oil.
Some teachers love the idea of working weekends though and having their time off during the week. For me the weekend is for restaurants, shopping and leg waxes. What works for you I don't know.
The rest of the 'working hours' paragraph looks great. You've got a 25-hour workload that certainly wouldn't kill you and there's time for workshops and teacher meetings. Lots of teachers hate meetings and I can sympathize with that if it's in a room full of people speaking in Thai and only listening to the foreign staff so they know when it's their turn to speak. Danny wouldn't let that happen. Meetings conducted in English and in an environment where the farang teachers can air their views and improve life at the school can only be a good thing. There's nothing worse than working at a school where you don't have a say.
The pay scale at IH has been very well worked out and while it's true you would be going in at 35,000 a month, you could fairly quickly (at an educated guess) be earning over 40,000. It's not a bad start. But let's not mess about and let's analyze how far 35,000 baht a month would take you. Firstly, it would probably be closer to 33,000 after tax has been deducted.
Michelle has already got your digs sorted out at 8,000 baht a month. Let's call that 10,000 baht a month with the cost of your water and electricity added on. That leaves you with 23,000 baht a month in your pocket. I like to analyze things on a daily basis, so that works out to (Phil grabs calculator) 766 baht a day factored on a month being an average of 30 days. It's not a fortune for Bangkok it must be said, but don't fall into the trap of thinking of 766 baht a day as "bloody hell that's barely eleven quid!" Your money can go a long way here.
On a day when you're working, your costs might just be a bit of breakfast, a light lunch, and then an evening meal. You could do that for about 200 baht all in but you could spend a lot more of course. Then you've got the cost of getting to and from work. Live frugally on a working day and you could be pocketing 500 of your 766 baht. Living frugally is something that's never really appealed to me though.
Your two days off are when you are obviously more likely to 'burn' money - simply because you've got time on your hands and all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. If you've saved 400-500 baht on your five working days, then you've accumulated about 3,600 baht for your 'weekends'. It's enough to go out and have a few treats but I'm not going to kid you here. I wouldn't like to survive on 33,000 in Bangkok and have to pay a 10,000 baht rent out of it. I'm doing my very best to make these figures workable but anyone that says you can live well on 35,000 baht a month in Bangkok just hasn't got a grip on it. I've long maintained that you need 40,000 baht a month as a minimum to get by in the capital and massaging these figures has only confirmed that.
You've already told me that you have student loans to pay off and deep down we both know that you probably need to be aiming at something between 40-50,000 baht a month. And those jobs are out there. With all the shenanigans going on with the arrests of foreign pedophiles, there's never been a better time for a young, bright native-speaking woman to look for a teaching job in Thailand
Figures are bang on - 4th November 2007
I absolutely agree with you on the figures. I've been trying to live on about 35,000 a month lately as I'm trying to save some money, but it's been tough and it's about to change. To have any kind of life here, you really need 40-45,000 and 50,000 for me is the magic number. Anything less than that, and life is a bit dull.
Plus for Julia, being young and female, she'll have the pick of the jobs. 35,000 is actually pretty poor, especially for somebody with a CELTA. I wouldn't take it, but that's just me
When I started here, my first job was 48,000 a month and I didn't have the CELTA only the TEFL. Plus, the other thing with the language schools is they require weekend work which I won't do. When you work weekends, especially both weekend days, there are so many things you can't do (Chatuchak, fun late nights out anyone??? and you also find all your mates are off doing fun stuff while you're stuck in a language school with a bunch of screaming kids. 70,000 a month wouldn't be enough for me to want to do that! Julia, it might take some pavement pounding when you get here, but I don't know a woman here who is making less than 45,000 and most of them are making a heck of a lot more. Looking forward to meeting
Good points - 5th November 2007
I think Michelle's made some excellent points here and the more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards 50,000 baht a month as the 'magic figure'. Don't expect to be earning that kind of money the day after you land but I feel that 50,000 is a realistic target to be aiming for after say, six months of being here in Bangkok.
Two things I didn't figure into my numbers above were laundry / dry-cleaning (which could run you another 500-1000 baht a month) and supermarket shopping. If you've got a fridge in your apartment then obviously you'll want to fill it with some nice foodstuffs. That said, there's a rather blurry line between expenses for supermarket shopping and the 200 baht a day I quoted for meals. There may be times when you can forego the evening meal in a restaurant (usually the most expensive meal of the day) and rustle up a tuna sandwich and salad at home. With the cost of things like tuna, bread and salad being relatively cheap in Thailand, you can save money on your evening meal simply by eating at home. Therefore the cost of supermarket shopping is not so much of an issue.
I like Michelle's point about weekends being a time when your friends are all off doing fun stuff and you're stuck in a classroom. I never thought of that (probably because I don't have that many friends) but if you're a social animal then I can see how that could be a real inegative. It's swings and roundabouts though. If you have weekends off and work from Monday to Fridays, then it can be tough to do things like get to the bank, or go to the embassy, or visit the service center because you've got a problem with your microwave.
Two weeks to go - 10th November 2007
Well it's just over two weeks to go now ahhhhhhhhhhhhh I am absolutely bricking it to put it mildly, but in a good way ! I have been out for Thai meal tonight with a couple of the guys from the CELTA, one of whom lived in Thailand for quite some time and can speak fluent Thai so I have been learning some new words. Which is a good thing as up until today I only knew 'hello' and 'help!' Think I better get some more practice in before I leave. He is an avid reader of ajarn.com and has been for some years, in fact it was he who made the invaluable suggestion to log on, so hello Jonathan and thank you for all your help/advice ! Being the control freak that I am I have composed a long list of things I need to take with me and I am going shopping tomorrow to get some essentials. If there is one thing you would suggest I bring with me what would it be ?
Not much else to update you on other than I am scared/excited/nervous/cannot wait... I have had enough of this cold weather already ! Oh and I have decided to take out health insurance with Bupa Thailand when I arrive. I have been in touch with them via email and they were very helpful. Their plan seems a pretty good option to me and good value for money, so I'll be signing up with them when I arrive.
More good advice - 11th November 2007
Hi Julia. I got the following e-mail from Jim Clarke regards sending money home to the UK.
Hi there Julia, We (my wife & I) have been living in Thailand for 7 years. I am from the UK & she is from NZ.
We send money to NZ every month & this is how we do it.
We use the Bangkok Bank. Open a savings account & get an ATM card. Then get a "Be First" card from them.... this is a debit card which can be used to make purchases in shops as well as drawing cash from ATM machines.
The next step is to mail the ATM card to someone in the UK (your mum, or someone else trustworthy) keeping the "Be First" card for your own use in Thailand of course. When you know the card has safely arrived, you can phone or email the pin number to them. Now you have someone in the UK who can draw cash from your account using any ATM.
All that remains is for you to regularly contact the person telling them when (and how much) to withdraw from your Thai account. You can leave details of your UK bank account before you leave for Thailand so that they know where to deposit it for you. We have investigated all kinds of ways of sending money, and this is the cheapest by far that we have found. The charge is about 180 Baht for each transaction, (around two pounds fifty, and presumably you would only be doing it once a month so the cost is fairly negligible) and the results are INSTANT!
Good Luck, Jim Clarke ( director, "Hello English")
Sounds like a good idea Julia. Where there's a will, there is always a way. As for this week's questions, I really don't know what to suggest you bring to Thailand that you can't already get here. On my trips back to the UK, I used to stock up on DVDs from WH Smiths, but nowadays you can download most things from the internet so I don't bother with that anymore. These days, I load up on those wonderful Colman's cooking sauces, which you can't get here. Really that's about it.
You're very wise to sort out some sort of health insurance when you get here. I was with BUPA for a number of years and found them to be OK (I didn't make many claims though and I never had the out-patient coverage)
Obviously it's a very good idea to pick up some basic Thai language skills, although you can get around Bangkok pretty well using only English. The areas I would focus on first are ordering in a restaurant and talking to taxi drivers. It's useful to have a repertoire of about ten dishes that you know how to order, so you can grab a quick 'chicken and rice' or 'duck and noodles' while you're on the move. Taxi-driver vocabulary is essential because so few of them speak any English at all. Learn how to tell drivers where your apartment is and learn how to pronounce soi names and main roads correctly. You'll pick it up fairly quickly
Christmas reminisces - 14th November 2007
Thanks Phil and thanks to Jim Clarke for his genius idea, I will definitely put it into practice. I have been thinking about Christmas and New Year and the fact I won't be at home with my friends and family and what I will do instead. How much of a big deal is the holiday season in Thailand ? Is it safe to assume I will have a few days off over Christmas/ New Year ? I have been thinking about using the time to visit the Lower Southern Gulf, probably Ko Samui and then Ko Pha-Ngan for New Year as I want to sample the delights of the New Year 'full moon' party. I have been reading up on the subject and I'm anxious that unless I book a place to stay now everywhere will be full by the time I get a job ! I have found a couple of nice enough looking beach bungalows that have an online booking facility and I'm really tempted to book up but on the other hand what if I book up and then don't have any time off work to go ?! I know I am probably getting way too far ahead of myself here but it's going to be my first Christmas without my family and friends and I want to make it special. What do you think, book now or wait until I have a job sorted out ?
Thoughts of Christmas - 15th November 2007
Hi Julia. Yes you're right; Christmas is fast approaching. It's always a time of year when I feel homesick as I think back to the wonderful Christmases we enjoyed as a family back in the UK. Unfortunately Christmas is something you 'give up' when you come to live in Thailand. Gone are the presents around the tree, the snowball for Auntie Joan on Boxing Day and the double edition of the Radio Times. Most expats (including me) will try and keep up some of the festive traditions but there's something awfully strange about putting up a Christmas tree when it's 90 degrees outside. I'm sure you can appreciate that.
Thais don't celebrate Christmas from a religious angle of course but they do enjoy the commercial aspect of it. They like to give cards and gifts or do something nice for their family and friends; however, this has more to do with the New Year than Christmas itself. December 25th is just another working day for the Thais unless it falls on a weekend.
Whether or not you'll be working on Christmas Day depends on what kind of teaching you're doing. If you're at a Thai school or a college then it'll be business as usual, but you'll sometimes find that private language schools will bow to teacher pressure and close their doors over the festive period.
Everyone gets time off at New Year. Some will get one day and others might get a bit more. Again it depends on the policy of your employer. Be warned though - it's one of the worst times of year for travel. Everyone wants to head for the beach or go on a day trip. I've only been away twice at New Year. Once I went down the beach resort of Hua Hin and spent hours trying to find somewhere to stay (you couldn't book ahead on the internet in those days) and several years ago, my Mom and dad came to Thailand for Christmas and New Year and we all traveled up to Chiang Mai. There was such a shortage of rooms that they opened up the local hospital to serve as temporary accommodation. We went to a place called Krisda Doi, which is famous for its beautiful gardens and flowers, and you couldn't see the flower-beds for people. You spent more time trying to keep out of people's photographs than you did admiring the winter blooms. I learned my lesson as regards New Year travel. I stay at home.
Travelling in Thailand - 17th November 2007
Hey Julia - Phil is correct about travelling at Christmas, it's pretty dismal. I did go up to Chiang Mai one year with a friend and we had a fabulous time, but we had to book at least a month before just to get a room in a nice hotel. And forget New Year - worst time of the year to travel - horrendous traffic, a lot of accidents, and everywhere you go is packed full of Thai families and screaming kids.
The best time of year to stay IN Bangkok is Christmas and New Years. There are still plenty of people here to make it fun, the city gets quiet traffic-wise so you can get everywhere really quickly, due to no traffic the pollution is less, and there's a lot going on. All the malls and shops have Christmas music playing, there's Christmas decorations everywhere and beer gardens open up all over Bangkok, which are great places to go and listen to crap Thai live music and get a bit blotto. Also, I'll probably be going for Christmas Dinner with a couple of friends and you're more than welcome to come with us. You'll find that a lot of the farangs will just hook up together and go have a nice dinner and a few beers at one of the British pubs.
I know you'll be wanting to go down south and see the beaches but Christmas isn't the best time. The weather isn't always as good, and it's often more expensive and totally packed. Plus, like Phil said, unless you're working in a school with kids, you're not likely to get much time off for Christmas and even then, you may not. One of my close friends here works at a private school and she gets 2 hours off on Christmas Day afternoon. That's it. The language schools are often as bad, so if you get anything off at all it won't likely be any longer than Christmas Day.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but don't worry. You'll only have been here for a month and Bangkok will still be all shiny and new. There's boatloads of stuff to do here, you'll never get bored and we'll figure out something for Christmas so you're not all on your lonesome
Thanks for the advice - 21st November 2007
Hey guys thanks for the advice ! Michelle - thank you so much for inviting me for Christmas Dinner ! Although I'm not really into Christmas that much I would hate to spend it alone !! I know you will probably think I am mad, but I've had my heart set on spending New Year at Ko Pha-Ngan so I have gone ahead and booked a flight to Ko Samui anyway, a bit impulsive I know. I checked Bangkok Airlines and realised that there was only one possible flight left due to the rest being fully booked ! I have also pre- booked a beach bungalow for a couple of nights as I don't fancy sleeping on the beach ! I just figured I may as well go for it, and if it turns out to be a big mistake, well, I'll know for next time.
Today I received my full detailed report from CELTA and I was really chuffed with it, it'll make for a good reference, and it helped to ease my insecurities about my teaching abilities, which are starting to creep back in. I also downloaded a learn Thai podcast last night, which is actually pretty good ! I downloaded it from http://www.learn-thai-podcast.com/ and thought it may be useful for other visitors to ajarn.com, I'm going to download the next episode tonight.
I have been getting butterflies at work all day knowing that in exactly two weeks time I'll be on my way, I feel pretty relaxed about the whole thing at the moment, in fact I feel pretty damned good about it all, I think it's because I'm confident that this is the best decision I have ever made in my life ! I love telling people when they ask me why I'm leaving work that I'm going to teach English in Thailand, I feel like I'm actually doing something with my life ! See you in two weeks !!!
Last day at the office - 23rd November 2007
Hey there ! Well I could try and explain to you how excited I am but I don't think I can put it into words ! Last day in the office tomorrow, next week Bangkok ! Have got everything sorted just need to finish packing and get my money changed. Emailed some schools, have had some encouraging responses asking me to get in touch when I arrive. I had a mini nervous breakdown on Monday freaking out about the whole thing but I pulled myself together and told myself I'm doing an amazing and brave thing and if it all goes horribly wrong I can just get on a plane home ! As I have a weekend full of leaving parties this will probably be my last post until I arrive..... so I'll see you in Bangkok !!! From a very excited Julia
Bon voyage - 24th November 2007
This will be an emotional few days Julia but at least you're confident that you're doing the right thing - and that's all that matters. You're in good shape. As we've mentioned before, you're arriving at a time when schools are desperate for teachers and being young and female - your main problem is going to be which job to take. Enjoy the parties at the weekend (don't drink too much!), say your goodbyes to the office photocopier and that awful clock on the far wall. And have a very safe flight over. I'll touch base with you when you've arrived in Bangkok and we'll hopefully get Michelle out for a coffee. Take care.
Julia’s arrived - 30th November 2007
Julia sent me a very brief e-mail on Wednesday to say that she'd arrived safely but was suffering from severe sleep deprivation. On Thursday 29th November I spoke to both Julia and Michelle on the telephone and they were shopping in MBK. Julia was loving what she'd seen of Bangkok so far. She definitely feels as though she's made the right decision coming here. However, it's almost time for her to get down to the business end of things and start looking for a job. She aims to start the application and interviewing process today. I've arranged to meet with Julia and Michelle on Monday and get a progress report. Stay tuned!
Face to face at last - 4th December 2007
I met with Julia and Michelle yesterday for coffee. It was nice to see them both, in fact I hadn't seen Michelle for almost four years! Despite us talking for nigh on three hours, there's not really all that much to report on these pages because Julia is still going through the acclimatization process and admits that her body-clock is having real trouble switching to Thailand time. She thoroughly adores Bangkok, she's fallen in love with her little apartment, and made some good friends. Michelle- shop-a-holic that she is - has also done a fine job of showing Julia around the city, with a few shopping mall side-trips thrown in. From what Julia was saying, I think the weekend market is the only popular place she hasn't done - but I'm sure that will all change this weekend.
Julia's learned of a few job openings mainly via the 'word-of-mouth' route, but there's nothing yet that has really grabbed her. After I left her yesterday she was planning on dropping her resume off at a few of the well-known private language schools. There's no rush. Julia has been sensible and brought enough cash to tide her over for a couple of months while she looks for work. She's decided to pick up a few hours here and there and at least get some cash coming in. And she's already had the promise of a weekend TOEIC / TOEFL class at a school literally a couple of blocks from her apartment. I'll let Julia update you over the next few days.
Early days - 6th December 2007
Hey, well here is the update. Managed to get a whole nights sleep last night so I'm feeling much better jet lag wise. After we left you yesterday we went to Inlingua ( not sure if that is the correct spelling) and the staff were really helpful and keen to see my CV. The manager wasn't in but they asked if I could call back tomorrow ( today) to have a chat with him. I then received a phone call from the agent at my friend Mandy's school, which is at the end of my Soi to ask if I would attend an interview tomorrow ( again, today). I then popped into Wall Street, where the staff were very nice and polite and they asked me to send my CV via email. So far so good, but this was to change. We popped into the British Council on our way back home and straight away I decided that I wouldn't work there if it was the last job in Bangkok. They had two security guys on the door who treated me like I was some kind of criminal and stared at me through the pane of glass the entire time I was there. The girl behind the desk wasn't very helpful and asked me to check their website for vacancies.
So today I had my interview at the school near my soi and it went really well, they offered me the job, and despite your advice not to take the first job I was offered I did anyway. I just feel that it is too good of an opportunity to give up, for the following reasons.
1. The location - literally a five minute walk away from my apartment, and as you know I have fell in love my apartment and don't want to relocate. This also means that I will not waste a huge amount of time sitting in traffic jams trying to get to and from work. I will also have no outgoings in terms of transportation.
2. The money - the pay is actually pretty good. It's 37,000 for 15 hours teaching a week. In addition to this I get an extra 5000 Baht for teaching an extra class each day. So that is 42,000 for 20 hours teaching time. After my first month's probationary period I receive and additional 5000 Baht for living costs, so in total I will be earning 48,000 Baht a month, which I think is quite good going after only 6 days in Bangkok in December. It also means that I won't have to worry about paying next month's rent.
3. The staff, as I said my friend Mandy works there and we get along great. I met the rest of the teachers on Friday night and they all seem like a good bunch of people that I'll get along with.
Although I vowed never to work with kids, I will in fact be teaching twelve nine year olds, but as it is such a small number I think I'll be able to cope ! So I visited the school today and spent a couple hours there, meeting the kids, looking at the lesson plans and work books, and sat in on a lesson, and to be honest I think I'll really enjoy working there. My classroom is nice and the school seems fine, if a little unorganised. So I start on Thursday!!! Yay !! So I did get a job within 10 days for a decent amount of money, a good location and really I didn't do that much job hunting to get it !
The manager from Inlingua rang me on my way back home and asked if I would like to go for an interview. I told him that I had taken another job but he still seemed keen to meet me and said that they could offer me additional work on evenings and weekends, so that is always another option if I need to get some more cash, but in the mean time I'm pleased that the pressure is off in terms of getting a job and I can start to really enjoy Bangkok. I know it's only been a week, and there is still time for home sickness to kick in, but I never want to leave !!
Oh and on the work permit front, the agent will sort out all the paperwork for me and will pay half of the costs so she is going to start the process immediately. Anyway better go now as I have lesson planning to do !
Way to go Julia - 6th December 2007
Hey! Way to go kid. You've not been here seven days and you've landed a potential 48,000 baht a month job for just twenty contact hours a week, and you've got Inlingua knocking on your door to offer you extra work. Do a little bit for them and you could be pushing 60,000 baht plus. You're almost in the Siam Paragon preferred shopper category on that sort of income
Seriously though - you've done well. I got a few e-mails from long-term ex-pats telling me that I was giving you false hope by promising you'd make over 40,000 in your first job- but you've slam dunked that mother. Where there's a will, there's always a way. OK only time will tell if it's your dream job but you're certainly off to a flying start. Time to get your head down and get some experience under your belt.
As you say, the location is great too. You can't put a price on working somewhere that's a stone's throw from where you live. It's not so much about saving money on transportation, but saving the most precious commodity of all - time. You won't be finishing work and wondering whether it's going to take you half an hour or two hours to get home. You know exactly what time you'll be putting the key in your apartment door. Magic. Good luck with the lesson preparation and keep us up-to-date with how those difficult first few days go
Down with the jungle fever - 11th December 2007
Sorry I haven't mailed you sooner, I have been struck down with some kind of chest/ear/nose/throat infection and as a result have been bedridden for the past two days ! I am feeling a bit better now after getting lots of drugs from boots, I blame the pollution, and cigarettes, so I have decided to quit smoking, and haven't had a smoke since Friday night...the pictures of the packets are enough to put anyone off !
Anyway my first two days went better than i could have imagined. I was really nervous on my first day but by the end of the day I was buzzing. My kids are great they are G4 and a small class of 12 students. I teach them Maths, Science, P.E, Health and of course English. I surprised myself by how easily I took to teaching a class of nine year olds and it wasn't half as scary as I thought it was going to be. The school itself has good resources and is a nice place to work, I think I am going to really enjoy it there, and I feel like I have settled in straight away. I am spending quite a bit of time each night preparing lessons but I think in time this will decrease as I become more familiar with the curriculum. So to sum up, apart from my ill health everything is going great and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's lessons !
Things are going well - 5th January 2008
Hey Phil, I've been aware that I haven't updated you for a while so I thought I'd drop you a line. Well things couldn't be going any better for me here. I'm loving my job, I've made some nice friends, I'm still loving Bangkok and after a week in Koh Pha-Ngan I have decided I want to stay in Thailand for as long as possible. I had a truly awesome week and to think it's only a 45 minute flight away! It used to take me 45 minutes to get to work on a bus back home in cold grey England! I have grown really attached to my class and I have surprised myself by enjoying teaching young children so much, but I think the kids here are a lot different to kids back in England. Here they are so respectful to their teachers and just really nice to each other... back home they are stabbing each other and stuff, or worse! I am planning on staying in that position for the next few months at least, it's just too good a job to give up and it's great for getting some experience under my belt.
I think a defining moment for me was my return to Bangkok from Ko Pha- Ngan, after a 20 hour journey which included 12 hours on a bus I felt like I was back home. It was a nice feeling.. and I was fricken freezing !!!!!!! Either I have finally acclimatised or the weather has got a lot cooler since I left. Anyhoodles that is about it for now, loving my new life and I can't thank you enough for all your advice and for introducing me to Michelle, who as I have said before has been a great help in the settling in process and now a good friend
England a distant memory - 6th January 2008
Hi Julia. I'm glad to see you're going from strength to strength. I bet you're wondering what all that worrying was about in your weeks leading up to leaving the UK ........but that's human nature I guess. When Bangkok starts to feel like home then you can safely say that you've settled in. I get the same feeling when I go back to England. It's always great to see your family and a few old haunts, but I feel like a stranger there now. When I get back to Bangkok, it feels like home. Of course I've been here a little longer than you have.
You mentioned cold, grey England. I've got my folks coming to visit me next week for a whole month and when I spoke to my dad on the phone yesterday, he said he couldn't wait to get over here for some sun......and he lives in Spain. The daytime is OK he said but first thing in the morning and once darkness falls, it goes bitterly cold. I bet Newcastle is even worse right now with that chill wind whipping in off the North Sea. Anyway, don't be a stranger - keep us posted on any major changes and good luck with your teaching.
Keeping busy - 6th March 2008
Sorry for the delay in reply, time just seems to fly by here, I'm so busy all the time, especially as it is coming to the end of the semester at school. I have been having a great time at school, I think I'll be quite upset when the kids leave tomorrow( last day) as I have grown really attached to my class. The past three moths have totally changed my opinion of working with kids, although any more than twelve in a class and I'd probably change my mind !
So next week I'm off on my holidays. I'm going down to the Islands again, this time to Krabi, then Samui, then back to Ko Pahngan. In April I am teaching Summer School, which I am really looking forward to as I get to play games and cook with the kids so it should be a lot of fun. I'm pretty sure I'm going to stay in this job next semester, as I really like it here. The only downside is the holidays ( or lack of them). We only get two weeks in April and two weeks in October, which, having spoken to other teachers, is not very much compared to other schools.
I'm also going to start looking for some part time work in April, preferably teaching adults. I'm trained to teach adults and I really don't want everything I learned on the CELTA to go to waste, so hopefully I can get my first real experience of teaching adults under my belt. As for everything else non work related, life couldn't be better ! I love my life in Bangkok and at the moment I never want to leave ! Bye for now, I'll send you an update in April when (hopefully) I will have started some part time work sorted out.
Quick update - 18th May 2008
Hey Phil, just a quick update on my new life in Bangkok. Well, last week I decided to look for some part time work to supplement my full time salary and also to add to my CV. I activated my resume on ajarn.com and applied for three posts from the website. Within 48 hours I had been offered two jobs and asked to attend two interviews. The first of which was at an international school on Saturday. The school is amazing, so huge and modern. After an interview I was offered the job on the spot, at 800 baht and hour I accepted immediately. So I will be teaching 7 and 8 year olds every Saturday. I had hoped to acquire some experience in teaching adults to add to my CV, but the opportunity to work in and International School, although on a part time basis was too good an opportunity to give up. I start next Saturday so I will let you know how it goes. Needless to say I am chuffed to bits to get the job, initially I will teach a three hour morning session with the hope that enough students will sign up for an afternoon session in the near future. This will amount to almost an additional 20,000 baht a month, which is amazing for one extra days work a week, and to have this experience on my CV is another big bonus.
My full time position is still going well. Summer school was fun and a lot more relaxed than term teaching. The kids return to school on Tuesday for the new term and I'm really looking forward to seeing them as I've missed them a bit. I was considering returning to England in September as my best friend is having a baby and I really want to be there for that, but now I'm not so sure as I feel like I have too much to give up here now, so I'm just going to play it by ear and see what happens. Anyway, I'm off for a snooze now as I've just got back from a visa run that started at four this morning and I am falling asleep as I type this.
Trips back to the UK - 18th May 2008
Hi Julia. Good to hear from you. It's been a while. Firstly congratulations on landing a very lucrative part-time job. An extra 20,000 baht a month for working your Saturdays! Can't be bad. I'm sure you're managing to survive very nicely on the 48,000 baht a month you earn from your full-time gig but 20,000 baht extra every month could make a hell of a difference to your lifestyle. It's 240,000 baht a year. That 240K can take care of an annual trip to the UK and perhaps a nice 4-5 day break in Asia, plus it means you can afford a few more luxuries for your apartment. A total income of 68,000 (ish) baht a month is certainly not to be sniffed at.
One good reason to take a trip back to the UK is to remind yourself why you live here. Ok it'll be nice to see your friends and a few of your old Newcastle haunts but you'll soon remember why you decided to leave home in the first place. If you've got the spare dosh, I would go if I were you. I'm sure your friends would love to see you - and Bangkok will still be here when you get back.
Teachers license and all that - 2nd July 2008
Hey Phil, Sorry again for the delay in reply. So in order to obtain a teacher's licence I have to attend a three day Thai culture course, for which I will receive a certificate which is necessary to get a Teacher's licence. Luckily my school have sorted this out for me and I will be attending the course at the end of this month, it costs 6000 baht, which they are paying for, so I'm really happy about that.
The Saturday job is going well, and the three hours fly by. The kids themselves are a little different from the students in the English programme that i teach full time. The International School students aren't as well behaved and it's a lot harder to keep their attention for longer than two minutes, but all experience is good experience and I am looking forward to the extra pay check at the end of the month. Anyway better get back to work now
Culture course report - 10th July 2008
Hey Phil, Here is my lowdown on the Thai culture course.
When I received the timetable for the course I was quite looking forward to it, I thought it would be interesting to learn about Thai history and culture, improve my Thai language skills and have a better understanding of work ethics in Thailand, and of course, discover how to apply for the teacher's license.
Well, I was in for a big disappointment. The whole course seemed to be made up of two lecturers who rambled on for what seemed like an eternity each day about many different things, none of which seemed relevant to the course. The course seemed very unorganized from the start and I ended up more confused than anything.
Thai history and culture - the lecturer pulled out a miniature wooden carving of a Tuk Tuk, a picture of some Thai children playing tug of war and another wooden carving of a cart, and explained that these items would give us a good idea of Thai history and culture...What the hell ??? Surely every country in the world has used a cart at some point, and tug of war, I'm still not sure what that was all about. She them rambled on, telling us irrelevant stories about her life and her views on various matters, including race when she proudly explained that they are three types of people in the world 'black people' white people' and 'yellow people' .... I was in disbelief; did she really just say that?! We also learned how to Wai appropriately, and we were informed by the informative handout on Wai-ing that the 'Wai is far more superior to the western method of greeting one another - the handshake, which can often appear sinister' - What???
Thai language - We were given a nice Thai language text book and also a book they had created for the course. The books themselves are probably the most useful things I took away from the course, but the language lessons themselves were awful. We spent at least half an hour repeating the Thai alphabet and then the next thirty minutes studying advanced Thai speaking skills. I was lost. They didn't even cover the basics, obviously presuming everyone can speak Thai, and it was so rushed I just wanted to scream. So to sum up I ended up with no more knowledge of Thai language but an extremely sore head and the increased chances of a heart attack with all the stress.
Work ethics weren't even covered really or if they were they were within the pretext of yet another long pointless story from one of the lecturers. And finally during the last three minutes of the course, after three days of being forced to read and discuss sheets upon sheets of confusing legislation, we were told how to get a teacher's license. Halleluiah !!!!! However, it seems very unlikely that anyone on the course will be able to get one, because if you don't have a degree in teaching ( that would be about 80 percent of people on the course) you have to pass a test which only has a 5% pass rate - again, what?????
The course wasn't all bad though, watching the Thai dance performances was pretty cool and we got to go on a field trip to the ancient city which was really good. However, apart from me and my colleague, everyone had to pay for the course them selves and they were understandably annoyed about what seemed to be a big waste of money. If I'd paid for the course myself I would have wanted a refund.
Waste of time! - 11th July 2008
Thanks for sharing the details Julia. I've heard a few blow-by-blow accounts of these cultural courses now and they don't make very pleasant reading. I think it's the lack of organisation and the fact that little thought has gone into the course content, which seem to grate with most folks. The comment about black people, white people and yellow people flew a bit close to the bone as well. It's quite frightening to think that these are the supposedly educated. What did that comment have to do with Thai culture anyway just out of interest? Well, at least you've been there, done it and bought the t-shirt and it's one less hoop to jump through. You've studied wooden carts. You've realized that the handshake is a gesture of evil. And you've listened to a some inconsequential shaggy dog stories. You're all set for another term.
Happy New Year - 14th January 2009
Hey Phil, Happy New Year!
Here is an update for you. So, I'm well into my second year teaching and living in Thailand. I am still surprised at how much I enjoy my life here, and how little I want to return to 'sunny' Newcastle. So are my parents, especially my Dad who asks every week, during their weekly phone call, 'So when are you coming back?' He actually cried down the phone at Christmas, they must miss me. I have to say the answer at the moment is 'NEVER!!!!' For a number of reasons, which are: I love Thailand. I don't love England, in fact I don't even like it very much at all.
I love my life in Thailand
Newcastle gets pretty boring after a while
I love my Job
I don't even know if I could get a job in England what with the economic crisis. The reports from friends back home are grim and getting worse. Even if I did get a job, it may possibly be in an office, which would destroy my soul and make me think about throwing myself in front of the bus every day.
The cost of living - I'm living in cool apartment in a capital city and still have enough money to pay my graduate bank loan, go on trips and holidays (6 in the past year!) as well as money for parties and pretty things.
England = economic recession doom
The weather - sunshine every day in Thailand
Rain, cold wind, cold everything, no sunshine, grey, cold England.
The people - Thailand = smiles, helpful, polite, beautiful people
England, rude, depressed angry and miserable (for reasons see above)
I plan on returning to the U.K for a holiday in autumn, as I do miss my family, and my friends, and probably most of all my Dog (sad but true). Unless anything drastic happens between now and then, I'll be booking a return ticket. Three weeks should be enough time to see everyone, party, cuddle my dog, start to develop S.A.D, spend an extortionate amount of money on food, transport, taxi's, beer...everything !!!! miss Thailand and long for sunshine.
My best friend has just returned to Newcastle after two years in Thailand, and he is really depressed. I didn't think it would be easy for him to return, but I didn't think it would be this bad either. In his words the people, the weather and the lack of money is/are sh*t and he wants to kill himself every morning when he wakes up and realizes he is no longer in Thailand.
I am finally getting my work permit processed and it should be ready in 2- 3 weeks. The delay is partly my fault. I wasn't sure what my plans were and if it was worth getting the permit. I also screwed up my visa dates and my non immigrant O ran out a month before I thought. So I had a trip to Lao last month to get a non - immigrant B, which was surprisingly hassle free and also an excuse for a holiday in Lao which has probably been the highlight of my travels so far.
Work is great. I only have 7 students and they are all very intelligent and well behaved. I think next semester will be the biggest challenge yet as I have 15 very unruly students coming up from G3 to contend with. My Saturday job is also going well and the extra money comes in very handy. I did have a problem with one student I liked to call 'devil boy', who bullied the other students and was a bit of a nightmare, but he's been taken out my class now, so Saturday mornings are more chilled out now. I'm now looking for some additional evening work as a six week unpaid holiday from Saturday School is coming up and I have a month long holiday in April, which I plan to spend traveling around with my younger brother who is coming over for a holiday.
So all in all life is good, I have had a few emails from people seeking advice and I have also met a lot of people thinking about doing what I've done. My advice would be 'do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, do it, DO IT !!!!'
Back in the UK - 25th October 2009
Hi Phil, Sorry it's been a while! Here is a long overdue update....
So the big news is, after almost two years in Bangkok I returned home to England in August. Since arriving in Thailand, I had the most amazing time of my life and loved every minute of living and working in Bangkok. However, after I returned to school in May following the April Holiday I started to feel homesick for pretty much the first time and to be honest a little bit depressed! I decided I needed to come home for a break.
I planned to come back home for three months and booked a return flight back to Bangkok on 26th October. My school were really great in that they offered to keep my position open and employ a teacher on a temporary basis until I returned, which I was really happy about.
Unfortunately a couple of medical problems have come to light since I have been back in Newcastle. It's nothing too serious but they do require treatment in hospital. After much deliberation, trying to get quotes from Bangkok hospitals and all my friends and family telling me to stay, I decided that staying in Newcastle until everything is fixed was probably the best thing to do. Still, I was devastated after sending my ‘not coming back' emails, but I'm hoping to come back to Bangkok in the New Year after everything is sorted out. I've changed my flight to the 24th January and fingers crossed I will have the all clear to come back then. Obviously I no longer have my job to go back to, but I'm determined to come back and I'm sure I'll find another job when I do.
I'm feeling quite settled back in Newcastle now, but it took a while! It was so strange at first. I found it more of a culture shock returning to England than I did when I first arrived in Thailand! I'd forgotten how completely different everything is! I'm still finding the whole ‘wearing shoes indoors' thing pretty repulsive. Drinking water from the tap was really unsettling to begin with, and I kept panicking at the lack of bottled water in my fridge! Coinage meant nothing to me. After one of my first nights out in Newcastle I returned home in a taxi cursing how expensive a night out in Newcastle was due to the lack of money left in my purse, until my friend pointed out I had over £20 worth of coins in there!
Actually, due to the change in exchange rates, England doesn't seem as expensive as when I left, and I've found most things are now about the same price as they are in Bangkok. The obvious exception is public transport/taxis which are still extortionate, and of course cigarettes! I've now been forced to smoke roll ups. As you know I do like to party and I was pleasantly surprised to find drinks/clubs about the same price as Bangkok too.
One of the biggest surprises I've had since returning home is the English people. I had an image of a land filled with miserable, rude, scary people and I've been pleasantly surprised to realise it's not that bad at all. Most people (even in London) are actually really friendly and nice, in spite of the recession and the terrible weather. The weather is still as bad as I remembered and it's going to get worse next week when British Summer Time (that's a contradiction in terms!) ends.
Although I miss Thailand a lot, being back is quite nice. I'd forgotten how beautiful the English countryside is and the architecture of our cities. Maybe I just never appreciated it before. Being surrounded by friendly faces is also lovely. I'm really appreciating being able to spend time with my friends and family everyday. I love the sense of community in my area; it's so nice going to my local pubs and knowing most of the people in there and having a chat with people I haven't seen for two years but as if I'd never been away !
Food is also a big plus point, although I love Thai food, since I arrived back I have been stuffing my face with food I could only dream about for the past two years ! Most notably donar kebabs, Chinese takeaways and my mum's roast beef dinners, hence I have gained almost a stone in weight and feeling rather chubby!
But, as I said, I do miss Thailand A LOT. I miss the sunshine, the motorcycle taxis, 7-11's, Thai people, the laid backness of everything, being able to walk around any time of the day and night and feeling safe (and warm!) and most of all I miss my job and my students.
A big part of me (and boxes and boxes of my belongings!) are still in Bangkok. I'm going to make the most of being here and enjoy my first Christmas with my friends and family for two years and look forward to getting back ‘home' in the new year.
I'll let you know when I'm back in the land of smiles!
Since I started this blog I've been happy to help many people who were in the same position as me two years ago and who have emailed me with questions and anxieties about, well, about everything to do with moving to Thailand! I'd be happy to offer advice to anyone who is thinking of doing what I did, just email Phil (philipatajarndotcom) and he'll pass it on to me. The best advice I could give to anyone thinking of taking the plunge is ‘DO IT!!!!'
You’ll be back I’m sure - 25th October 2009
Hi Julia. Well, well, well, quite a turn of events. Firstly, I'm sorry to hear that your health is not as good as it could be. All I can say is get well soon and I'm sure you'll be back in the pink before too long. Your update comes at an interesting time because I've just returned from a month in the UK myself. Quite a few of your comments struck a chord with me.
"Due to the change in exchange rates, England doesn't seem as expensive as when I left, and I've found most things are now about the same price as they are in Bangkok"
I was amazed at how cheap England was. But of course as a friend said upon my return - "there has never been a better time to visit England with both the favorable exchange rate and England currently deep in recession. Plus the fact that Thailand is only cheap if you live like a Thai"
I got 54.7 baht to a pound at Bangkok airport and found that once I was in the UK, the money went quite a long way. OK, certain things are still expensive but the good deals are everywhere. I put a UK sim card in my mobile phone and got a month of unlimited calls for just 15 pounds. You can get terrific '3 for 2' deals on books in Waterstones and WH Smiths, not to mention the opportunity to pick up recent paperbacks for a pound or two in one of the numerous charity shops. What else? You've only got to push a shopping trolley around Tesco or Iceland to realize how cheap supermarket food is compared to here in Thailand - even fruit and vegetables. If you fancy a meal out, there are Wetherspoon's pubs on every street corner offering lunch deals for 2.99. Two people can have a meal and a drink and escape for well under ten pounds. Try doing that in Bangkok. No chance!
Cigarettes are outrageous of course. I don't know how anyone can afford to smoke in the UK and noticed that many smokers had turned to the good old-fashioned roll-up. Although I thought local train fares were quite reasonable, the bus fares were extortionate. Then again most passengers seem to buy a monthly or annual bus pass, which offer significant savings.
"I do miss Thailand A LOT. I miss the sunshine, the motorcycle taxis, 7-11's, Thai people, the laid backness of everything, being able to walk around any time of the day and night and feeling safe (and warm!)"
The thing I really missed about Thailand was walking into a shop and having someone say a simple hello. Then not having to spend an age playing 'hunt down the shop assistant'. In the UK, you'll have literally one or two staff members managing a whole shop floor. Shopping for stuff like clothes or birthday gifts suddenly becomes far from pleasurable.
"I'd forgotten how beautiful the English countryside is and the architecture of our cities"
Apart from perhaps New Zealand, England has the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. It's simply an amazing place, Nuff said. There's something different around every corner. You just don't get that variety and stimulation in Thailand.
"I'm really appreciating being able to spend time with my friends and family everyday. I love the sense of community in my area; it's so nice going to my local pubs and knowing most of the people in there and having a chat with people I haven't seen for two years but as if I'd never been away"
You certainly value that time with your family more and more as you get older and they get older. On this last trip, I was meeting up with friends I hadn't seen for 20 years and it was like we hadn't been apart. Time is a strange thing.
Thanks for the update Julia. All the best with your hospital treatment and I'm sure we'll see you back home in Bangkok before too long. Now that you know the ropes I'm sure the 'worry' of finding another job is the last thing on your mind.
The real cost of moving back to England - 1st November 2009
Contribution from James Philips
Hey Phil, was just reading yours and Julia's comments about life back in the UK. Thought I may add some comments if that is OK? Balance the perspective a bit.
As you may have read, its been a year and a half now since I came back from an 8 year stint in Thailand. So I arrived just as the recession started to grip the country but also found out that the world of ESL was doing well due to the exchange rate being so poor.
I am still with my company and actually have been recently promoted which I am very happy about. However, I wanted to address the question of living costs that Phil and Julia seemed to say were so much improved and a bit more equal to Thailand than they had expected. This is easily done when you approach it from a perspective of actual reality of living vs holiday experience.
I think that the reality of living and working and paying council tax (remember that!!) TV licences, cable TV subscriptions, gas and electricity, travel cards, home insurance and then your rent on top of all that (after NI insurance and P.A.Y.E. tax of course) actually leaves the picture sounding much less rosy if you are thinking of relocating back here. I look back in disbelief at my rent and bills when I was living in Thailand. I paid 20,000 rent for a 2 bed condo with roof top garden, swimming pools (yes 2!) a sauna and gym and it was a minute to the BTS. UBC added another 1,500, all other bills came in at about 3,000. That's about £450 which was about 25 - 30% of my salary in Thailand.
Over here you are looking at £650 for a one bed flat with no outside space - I constantly had to remind myself that swimming pools and balconies were not the norm anymore and I couldn't afford to eat out 4 or 5 times a week. All in all you should expect to pay about £1,000 a month to live on your own (down south) and then figure that the average teacher earns a maximum of about £1,400 after tax which leaves you with about £100 a week for food, fags, beer and anything special like an item of clothing (no MBK copies here) or a present or even a day out somewhere, trust me it doesn't come anywhere close to the standard of living I had in Thailand. You can spend 60 quid on one night out easily here.
Oh and most teachers will not get paid for their holidays either, it's an hourly rate over here, as I said before, and they include your statutory holiday pay in the hourly rate to make it seem more attractive.
If you want to save for anything substantial then be prepared for a long wait and don't go on holiday.
All of a sudden the cost of my groceries or cheap books isn't important as you find yourself down at Morrisons with your club card looking for the cheap buys. I'm lucky that I have a permanent contract and so have holiday pay and a set salary but even still when you outlay £8-900 quid whilst away for a month visit to Thailand it really starts to add up.
I don't baulk at paying £1.75 for a bottle of water (yes, that's about 100B). But I simply can't afford to go to restaurants, and at an average of £3.25 a pint most people only go to a bar or pub once a week. People are really feeling it here and you need an average to £38,000 if you want to buy a flat under £200,000 (a one bedroom flat) when I told my estate agent I was looking at £15,000 he nearly burst out laughing whilst explaining to me that stamp duty alone would be the best part of £9,000 - I don't even know what stamp duty is! Don't even think about buying and insuring and running a car.
Of course you can make savings on this by sharing a house, or living at home if you can handle that. But the reality is that I miss Thailand so much at times as I simply can't do a fraction of the things I used to do each week and constantly have to watch the pennies.
Ok I'm earning more than a teacher as I am in educational management so I can save maybe 100-200 a month if I live frugally but in Thailand I was able to put £300-400 a month and pretty much do as I wanted in the week/weekends.
I don't want to scare people off, the food is great, the countryside beautiful, today is glorious crisp and sunny with the clocks having just gone back and that Christmas feel is starting to encroach. I have my friends and family and theatre and museums, I go to Premiership matches (free tickets from friends) and watch BBC Strictly come dancing and X factor!!! At the weekends, life is good, but it certainly isn't easy. Few bank holidays, stress and hard work, a lack of sanuk and the BNP appearing on question time - oh and there is a postal strike again.
Point being is: be prepared for lots of change and a high cost of living once you are paying bills and living the rat race again. Make sure that you have a plan and even a job if you are coming back and be prepared for a very different quality of life, let alone the cost of living. That said if you have made the decision you will find ways to have fun and enjoy life in England.
I hope that this might add another dimension to the reality of life in the UK after being very used to Thai life. No doubt things might seem a bit cheaper due to exchange rates but once you come to live here it's a different kettle of fish as the Thai baht means nothing. So if you do pop back and think its not too expensive just remember to factor in the costs of everything before making the decision to return otherwise you may be in for a shock. My advice, for now, is to save some baht up and buy sterling. Then just come and enjoy a nice holiday and then run back to the land of smiles until the next time. Good luck whatever you do.
Thailand - here we go again - 14th January 2010
Just a quick update and to say well done on the new look ajarn.com!
So I have just over a week left in the U.K before I fly back to Thailand. I'm really excited. I was worried I would be really sad in the lead up to coming back and it would be too difficult to say bye to everyone again, but I actually feel very optimistic and overjoyed at the idea of coming back! It feels right. I've made some enquiries about teaching jobs in Bangkok and I've had some positive replies, but the majority of my job hunting will take place when I arrive back in Bangkok.
I'll keep you updated on my experiences of Bangkok- round 2.
Welcome back! - 14th January 2010
It's about time you came back Julia. Thailand has been missing you. And I've been looking at your Facebook page and it seems like your time back in Newcastle has been one long party. You can't do that all of your life LOL
Seriously though, have a safe journey back over and we look forward to hearing about your job hunt.
Bangkok second time around - 19th June 2010
I've been back in Thailand for 5 months now and in many ways it feels like a lot longer because so much has happened since I got back!
When I arrived back I stayed in my old room on my old Soi in Lad Prao. It seemed like the sensible things to do as all my stuff was there and I could do a month by month contract, meaning I could move when I found a school I was happy with.
I felt very mixed emotions when I touched down at Bangkok airport and during the taxi drive to my place, mainly extreme happiness to be back. I started my job hunt after about a week and within another week I had a number of interviews lined up. I was relieved, as I had been worried the jobs market for teachers may have slowed down somewhat due to the world economic slump. One of my interviews was with a British International School for a year 6 teacher - which I knew, not having a PGCE, I probably wouldn't get, but I wanted to go anyway just to see what happened.
I was offered a variety of jobs but only two really interested me, English Teacher for years 4, 5 and 6 at a high end bi-lingual school and K1 (Kindergarten) - teacher at the international school. As the contract for the K1 position wasn't available until April I decided to try out the bi-lingual school until that temporary contract ended in March.
I really enjoyed working at the bi-lingual school, it really was a very modern and nice place to work. The team of foreign teachers were a really nice group of people and the school itself was pretty well run, compared to other schools I know of. There was a lot of work involved but I found it so much easier being the ‘English Teacher' rather than a grade teacher, as I was before, where I would teach English, Science, Maths, Health and PE. I really felt like a fitted in there straight away and connected with my students too. As the end of contract approached, I knew I had to make a decision whether to stay or move to the international school to become the K1 - teacher. It was a really tough choice as I really enjoyed working at the bilingual school a lot. I had to weigh up the pros and cons and what really made my choice was the location of the school. It was way way wayyyy down Lad Prao and I had my heart set on moving away from Lad Prao, to the Soi Ari area of Bangkok. I needed a change of scene, I'd been living at the same place for almost 2 ½ years and I really love Ari!
The international school is located very close to Ari, it was slightly better paid (more so if you take into account I am teacher at K-1 level) it follows the British curriculum and I get ALL the English school holidays! I knew deep down if I was serious about my career as a teacher (which I am) I had to choose the international school.
So I moved to a very nice and new condo in Ari, started as the K1 teacher in April and, I am so so happy! I really love my job, more than I thought I would. I just have fun all day! I have 11 students and they are the cutest little 3-4 year old's ever. I am more exhausted at the end of a K-1 day but in terms of planning I'm finding it a lot easier and more fun than my other teaching jobs. I really like reading fairy tales, making things, painting, doing puzzles, dancing and singing all day! I will be signing a contract starting in September and I am very happy to be where I am. Living in Soi Ari is so cool! The food market is awesome and the BTS and Villa market are only a two minute walk from my place. It really is an awesome location.
School was closed for 7 days during the political protests and war in Bangkok. If I'd updated a month ago my mood wouldn't have been so happy. I don't know enough about the situation to make a serious comment but I can say it was a dark, depressing and scary time for myself and everyone I knew in Bangkok. At one point I really thought we would be forced to leave. It really brought home to me how much I love Thailand and love living here, I don't want to leave !!!! Since the reds left and the curfew ended I have felt so relieved and jubilant. I feel like the whole city has breathed a collective sigh of relief after it dragged on for so long. However, walking past the burnt out shell that was Centre One, at Victory Monument everyday, is a stark reminder that troubles that big don't just go away. I've decided to appreciate and enjoy living in this weird and wonderful place I now call home for as long as it's possible to do so, as we never know what tomorrow will bring.
P.S. I decided before coming back to Thailand that once I was settled I wanted to get involved in some kind of charity work, like teaching for free or rescuing street kids in Bangkok. Now I'm starting to finally feel settled, I'm starting to research any foundations or charities that specialise in this area. If anyone reading has any information about anything remotely related, please can you forward to Phil who will pass it on to me.
I thought you had disappeared - 19th June 2010
Hi Julia. Thanks for the update because I know you've had a lot on your plate in the last few months. Yes, the troubles in Bangkok were worrying for all of us. And although I never contemplated having to flee the country, you did wonder when it was all going to end. On to brigheter things, I'm glad you're enjoying life as a kindergarten teacher. Funny, but I always thought you preferred teaching older students.
Wedding bells and family visits - 12th December 2010
Ho Ho Ho! Season's Greetings! As it's almost the start of a new year and my three year anniversary of arriving in Bangkok has just passed, I thought I would write you a little update.
It's hard to believe that it's almost a year since I came back to Bangkok from the U.K. It's flown by at a hyper speed. So much has changed since I arrived back, a new condo in Ari - which I love, a new job at a British International School (which I always wanted) lots of new faces and friends, old friends moving on and others staying on to continue their Bangkok stories, along with me. Perhaps the most significant twist to my story over the past year is that I have fallen in love and became engaged to a wonderful Thai man and we are living in a state of very happy domestic bliss together! We plan to get married next year, probably around this time during winter season, as it's such a beautiful time of year. Obviously I mean in Thailand not in Newcastle! I'm wonderfully happy!
Work wise it's been pretty full on since the new school term started in September. I really enjoy my job teaching the little kids, much more than I thought I would and I like my school a lot, I still appreciate the benefits that come with working at an International School as compared to a Thai school. That's not to say I didn't love my old job and my students but it's nice not to have the cultural and professional barriers that you can face when working in a ‘traditional' Thai school. My current school follows the British Curriculum and is extremely forward thinking in its teaching philosophy, there is so much more freedom of expression and focus on student's social and emotional development, as opposed to a solely academic focus. This also means that I have a lot more freedom; I can be a lot more creative in terms of my planning and teaching as I'm no longer restricted to text books and testing.
I have struggled at times with my new class as it is BIG! I have had the pleasure of teaching 21 (three year old) students since September which has been fun but really challenging. Although I have two teaching assistants it has been exhausting. Teaching kindergarten is full on, high energy, all day, every day, and by the time I get home in an evening I literally eat my dinner then fall asleep! My social life has taken a bit of a back seat to my class of 21, but I really love my kids so much, they always know how to make me laugh and smile! Luckily my class is going to be split after the Christmas break which will make a big change to my workload and energy levels.
I have bonded so much with my class of 21 now, though, I'll miss the kids that will go into the new class! So I have one week of Christmas fun at school before a three week break. This will be the first time I've had a Christmas holiday in Thailand as Thai schools only close for a few days around New Year. I plan to spend Christmas in Bangkok and maybe hit the beach for New Year, but my main plan is to sleep a lot! I'm already feeling quite festive and we even have a little Christmas tree up in our room. I have been feeling a little homesick, missing my family and friends back home in the Toon, especially as I was back home having so much fun this time last year; but I do think it wouldn't have been so much fun if I didn't know that I was coming back to Bangkok at the end of it all.
I'm planning to visit home next year during the summer break, hopefully with my Thai man (depending on visas of course - a saga I am not looking forward to!) but I'm pretty sure I won't live in the UK permanently ever again. I'm quite happy to be based in Asia and enjoy holidays home, and with the holiday's that come with my job that will be a lot easier for me to do now. I talk to my family every week visa skype or phone and things in England seem to be pretty bad with the new government. I feel sorry for all the students who have it worse than ever now and all the people whose jobs are at risk due to the massive public sector cuts. People seem to be really pissed off with everything back home! So much so my parents are considering taking early retirement and moving out here! My Dad is really excited about the idea but my Mum is more weary, but I'm hoping that will change when she arrives for her first ever visit to Thailand during my half term break in February.
I just booked and paid for her return flights as a kind of gift for all the 1000 baht she has helped me out with in times of need over the past three years. It's only 9 weeks until she arrives and that has been helping to stave off my homesickness a bit, I've never had any family visit me here so I can't wait to show her what my life's been about for the past three years and give her an idea about why I fell in love with this place and decided to stay, possibly forever!
Forever may not be in Bangkok though as my partner and I are considering re-locating to Chiang Mai in the next year or two. He has been born and bred in Bangkok but he has a lot of friends up North and I'm craving a quieter way of life. I do love Bangkok but even Bangkok can get a little boring at times after three years!
So 2011 promises to be a very exciting year, we have lots of plans (and saving!) to do, my first ever visit from family back home, a trip to Osaka in April, a trip to Newcastle in July ( hopefully with my beloved - god help him! Bangkok is nothing compared to Newcastle on a Saturday night!) Chiang Mai plans and of course a small wedding to arrange, followed by a huge party!
I would just like to end by saying a big thank you to all the people who have read my blog. Over the past three years I've received some lovely emails from people thanking me for writing it as it helped them to make the same decision I did three years ago, to try teaching in Thailand. I've even bumped into people in Bangkok who recognized me from the website and I have been surprised at how many people my little blog has helped.
Merry Christmas to you all and a very Happy New Year!
Congratulations Julia - 12th December 2010
Julia, everything in the garden sounds rosy! Firstly congratulations on your engagement to a wonderful Thai man. I haven't met him but I'm sure you're both very happy together. I look forward to that wedding invitation (only joking of course)
Glad to hear that the new job is going well. You don't mention it but I assume you're now earning a bigger salary now you're at an international school. And you'll need to be earning a fair bit with all the plans you've got. Those trips home and weddings don't come cheap.
I'm sure you will love Osaka. I spent last Christmas and New Year in Tokyo and I thought the place was incredible. Japan had never been very high on my list of places to visit but my wife talked me into it - and I'm so glad she did. Anyway, you'll be in Osaka and I'm planning a little trip around Holland at the same time. Amsterdam is possibly my favorite city in the world and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. I was last there in about 1989. That's a bloody long time ago!
It's always nice to have your family come and visit you in Thailand. I've been very lucky inasmuch as my parents have been here NINE times so far, but you can never recapture the excitement of that first holiday in Thailand together. Once you get to the fourth or fifth visit, you start to run out of places to take them to. You can only do The Grand Palace and Jim Thompson's House so many times right?
Funny you should mention Chiang Mai as a place to move to. I've also got my eye on a move up there but it'll be a good few years yet. We might even end up as neighbors.
Thanks for the update Julia. Stay well and have a great festive season.
Certificate (1), Diploma (1), BA (1)
British (male, 31 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Filipino (female, 40 years old, native Tagalog speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (1), MA (1), BA (1)
American (male, 43 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Diploma (2), Certificate (2)
British (male, 37 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (3), Diploma (1)
British (male, 45 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (2), BA (1)
British (male, 60 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
PGCE (1), BSc (1), Diploma (1), Certificate (1)
British (male, 44 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
BA (1), Certificate (1)
American (female, 26 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Certificate (2), Diploma (2), MA (1)
British (male, 43 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
British (male, 25 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Ajarn.com was started as a small hobby website in 1999 by Ian McNamara. It was a simple way for one Bangkok teacher to share his Thailand experiences and pass on advice. The website developed a loyal and enthusiastic following. In 2004, Ian handed over the reins to Phil Williams and 'Bangkok Phil' has run the ajarn website ever since.
Ajarn.com has grown enormously and is now the most popular TEFL site in Thailand - possibly even South East Asia. Although best-known for its vibrant jobs page, Ajarn has a wealth of articles, blogs, features and help and advice. But one principle has always remained at Ajarn's core - to tell things like they are and to do it with a sense of humor. Thailand can be Heaven or Hell for an English teacher. It's always been Ajarn.com's duty to present both sides of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.