Are you a teacher who once taught in Thailand but decided to seek out pastures new? Has the grass been greener on the other side? Maybe you swapped Thailand for the financial lure of Japan or Korea? Read about those who have left Thailand, and their reasons for moving...

Submit your own Great Escape


Jamie

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to Scotland in November 2016.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Just shy of two and a half years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I wanted to get back into real teaching, having become tired of the lack of care and attention to students' education in Thailand. I learned the basics of teaching in the UK, and tried to apply what I knew in Thailand. With little support from my Thai colleagues and no coherent, realistic and progressive curriculum framework to work off, it was an uphill struggle teaching in Thai schools.

I'm working in pupil support in the meantime, and applied to universities to start my PGDE this upcoming August. I've been accepted to study at the University of Edinburgh to teach Secondary English, which I'm really looking forward to.

Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?

There is real career progression here, a progressive salary scale, pension plan, free healthcare, my family support network is close at hand, and I face challenges everyday with the freedom to teach how I want to, not how some jumped up little manager in an office wants me to teach.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Waking up at the crack of dawn and heading to the local shop for breakfast in my short and t-shirt on my motorbike. The daily sunshine, cheap living costs, warm weather year-round and the opportunities to head north or south by plane at weekends for a beach or mountain break.

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?

If you want to unwind and get some experience working with young people for your career, it's easy to get a job in Thailand. I would not recommend staying for longer than two years or so, because you end up stuck in your ways trying to justify living a hand-to-mouth existence as "living in the moment." It's all well and good in your early 20s, but when you get to 30, you start thinking about your future. A job in the UK as a teacher would certainly provide the stability you need to plan for the future, so if you want a real career, train and work in the UK.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, of course. My heart will always be in Thailand, that hasn't waned in the seven year I've been visiting on and off. I'm planning to purchase a holiday home there in the future.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

If you choose to work in Thailand, expect to feel frustrated with the pedagogy, staff professional relationships with you, and the constant multiple choice assessment that doesn't effectively assess knowledge and skills-building. Take it as a life lesson in how to be resourceful, flexible and innovative with the limited resources you have. Try not to become stuck in your way there, because it doesn't make sense to stay in the country for longer than necessary to the detriment of your career.


Stephen

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Nanjjng in 2011 after working in Bangkok from 2002-20011. I planned on getting IB teaching experience and then returning to Thailand after 3 years. In the end I worked in Nanjing for 5 1/2 years and have just returned to work in Bangkok.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Nine and a half years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Gain essential curriculum and teaching experience and save a boatload of cash.

Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?

The advantages were exactly what I set out to do - to get cash and marketable experience.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I missed the food, nightlife, internet, living standard, value for money of most things, weather, air quality (yes, Bangkok air is fresh compared to Nanjing), blue skies, clarity of the air, definition of clouds rather than an amorphous white haze, sparsity of rude people, lack of horrifyingly rancid breath, lack of loud people and incesssnt car horns, drilling, pounding and hammering noises.

I missed people who are not pathologically programmed to be lazy, obstructive, combative, unhelpful and unpleasant, I missed the smoking free atmosphere as well. I could add more, but my finger is tired.

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?

If you seek a good paycheck and/or need to obtain legitimate curriculum experience then a stint in China is good for those goals. I saved $40,000 US a year and I spent every holiday outside China for about 13 weeks a year. If money isn't an issue and/or obtaining relevant experience isn't either then go for Thailand. I came back after my goals were accomplished.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes. Already done.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Not really.


Matt

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Nanjing (China) about a year ago.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Bangkok for 2 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I just felt that there was not much opportunity. I felt serious about teaching and wanted to get a job at a good international school and just felt it would be very difficult as I was not a qualified teacher. Although since moving a few of my friends have found good jobs to show it is possible.

Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?

Now I am working in an IB school with a much better salary and benefits. For example I now get free accommodation and flights every year. I have actually also found my Chinese co-workers to be very helpful.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss the ease of life. In China the police are a lot more strict to the point that I actually can't buy a gas bike without major problems and expense. I also miss the food and the ability to get to the beach.

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?

I think it is up to people what they want to do. For younger teachers looking to make a career, I would suggest a few years in Thailand and then move on. However if you get a job that has good long term prospects maybe there is no need to move on. For me if you are living pay check to pay check you are playing with fire. What happens if you get sick etc?

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I will come back for holidays, but to work is unlikely. I feel that it is like an ex-girlfriend. You broke up for a reason, so why go back? If an ideal job came about and I had no commitments I would consider it for sure, but at the moment I would like to continue in China.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

My only advice to people is to stop kidding yourselves. In my experience many teachers complained about low wages, but then made no effort to get qualified and get a better job. I also saw teachers who were running out of waivers and had to leave, how could you not see that coming? If you have time check out this website to learn more about qualifications you can do whilst teaching- www.thelaoshi.com


Andrew

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Saudi Arabia, August 2015

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I taught for 6 months in what supposed to be one of the best language centers in Bangkok. However, it was one of the worst experiences of my 11 year teaching career.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

To be frank, teaching in Bangkok was, and will always be, an absolute farce. I knew it wasn't good going in but I really had no idea how bad it was.

For starters, the salary is an absolute joke that isn't even fit for a pension. I was earning 65,000 baht and saving roughly 15,000 a month. As a well educated adult with eleven years of professional experience and proper teaching credentials from a developed country that is an absolute shame. There is no way I could ever have retired saving less than $500 a month, even if I had planned on retiring in Thailand. I suddenly understood why so many foreigners commit suicide in Thailand. I too would rather die than live at the poverty level in Thailand.

But the real joke is that so many teachers agree to work for a poverty level wage. This is in fact a form of suicide, although it is much slower and much more painful. The wage issue is exacerbated by the fact that many schools employ unqualified people to be teachers.

You really have to ask yourself, what kind of person thinks they can teach without proper teacher training? Why would you want to screw up someone's chance at an education? The foolishness and selfishness of it baffles the mind. Would you hire an electrician who wasn't certified, or worse, refused to become certified?

Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?

I'm paid well, nearly 4 times what I was paid in Thailand and double what I was paid in Vietnam. I also earn more than I could at home as an EFL teacher. I also have excellent healthcare for myself and my wife. I also have 3 months off each summer in addition to semester breaks. In short, I receive a pay and benefits package on par with the rest of the professional world.

I'm also able to teach vocational subjects that I have previous work experience and graduate certificates in, particularly IT and programming. This leads to a more enjoyable teaching experience, as well as increased compensation without having to teach extra classes in a McDonald's in my spare time.

Other benefits include paid housing, in fact I earn a monthly bonus for staying in a serviced apartment provided by the school. I could choose to live elsewhere and have a driver but I don't like commuting.

The lack of commuting and the ability to work a normal day, 8 - 4, allows me time to get to the gym 5 times a week, cook regularly and still have time for studying in the evening and on weekends. Also, the benefit of not being around alcohol is quite remarkable for a person's physical and mental health.

Another great advantage is being treated as a professional and a competent adult, not a marketing gimmick or a 'service provider'. Furthermore, students are treated as students and not coddled and entertained in exchange for tuition fees. When they fail they fail, they don't pass.

Also, student performance is the responsibility of the student, not the teacher, which is normal but worth pointing out as Thailand seems to have it backwards.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Very little. Thailand is a great place for an adventure, especially if you can get yourself away from the sexpat traps and instead head north or to the more remote islands, although that is increasingly difficult and increasingly costly.

However, daily life in Bangkok is an absolute nightmare. From the incessant heat to the traffic to the over crowding to the rise of totalitarianism to the rapidly declining quality of life to the dumbing down and pacification of the population to the awful expats with substance abuse problems and mental health issues, there is very little of interest in Bangkok.

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?

For a new teacher, or really any teacher who is qualified, avoid working in Thailand at all costs. It is well known throughout the industry that Thailand is a the place for deviants, for unqualified and incompetent teachers, and for schools with absolutely no standards. Experience in Thailand is not a plus on your CV, at best it is a curiosity and at worst it is a red flag for both your own personal qualities and your professional abilities.

I say this from my own previous experience in other countries where I assisted in hiring and CVs with more than 1 year in Thailand were generally discarded. When a teacher with experience in Thailand was hired they almost always had major issues with maintaining a work ethic, developing coherent materials and lessons, teaching basic lessons, telling students 'how to think', following curriculum and of course using any form of technology in the office and classroom. The worst quality though was the inability to receive feedback on their teaching and make improvements.

In addition, I have had interviews for jobs where my own experience in Thailand was scrutinized. Since then, I've removed it and but it down to time off. I'd rather tell a lie than say I was employed in Thailand.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Like I said earlier, Thailand can be a fun holiday. But, after 4 or 5 days it's really enough.

While my wife still lives in Bangkok we will be relocating soon. In the last two years we've only spent time in Thailand when it was necessary, such as taking care of banking (another nightmare) or legal issues at the embassy regarding visa applications. We choose to spend our downtime, and our hard earned money, in friendlier and more interesting countries like Japan, the US and Europe.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Let's be frank -- teaching in Thailand is an absolute farce. Anyone who is even remotely serious about education will be better off working in any number of other countries which not only pay better but take education seriously. Korea, Japan, Vietnam, China, the UAE, Saudi Arabia...the list is long and it even contains many countries that Thais want to study in; this should be a major red flag for a teacher.

Taking a teaching job, or nearly any job for that matter, in Thailand is an exercise in financial suicide. You will burn through whatever savings you have, savings that ironically you earned in another country -- let that sink in for a moment.

The result is that you, like so many others before you, will get stuck in Thailand and that will not only be a financial disaster but will also lead to a professional and probably a mental health crisis as well. The professional crisis is that you will most likely become deskilled and unemployable elsewhere. The mental health crisis will evolve as it slowly dawns on you that you have wasted your time and money and will have to work hard to get out.

If you're interested in Thailand, do yourself a favor, save up for a holiday and take that holiday in Thailand and love it. Then, go back to work in a country where you can save up for another holiday. That country will not be Thailand.


James

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back home to London, Ontario last year.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I started working in 2012. I spent 5 years in Thailand. I *survived* for 5 years because some days I barely got through the day. I’m one of those guys who did it all such as being called at 4.00 am to teach for peanuts in the middle of nowhere. I had a boss who was stringing me along and an English manager who did everything he could to undermine me.

I tried meet-ups, church, Thai classes, cooking classes, you name it, and I met rotten foreigners. I tried upgrading myself studying in a Thai university where I was met (again) with hostile administration staff who tried to undermine me because of envy (I assume – it’s one of those things where if you do too good, you make the other person “lose face” so they try and undermine you).

I tried just about everything and all I did was survive.

I was too young to feel this jaded and bitter. I was too young to have health issues and be so down on life. Some days, I felt like I was 60, not 25 because of chronic fatigue combined with burn-out and depression.

I ended up spending my days in shopping malls and stuck in my condo and hibernating online. That’s why I say I survived for 5 years, because I put up with a lot of rotten stuff but I seldom experienced good things or had new good experiences or life-changing friendships.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I got badly depressed. I started having health issues (depression and heart)

There were days where I was so anxious that I’d be lucky to get through the day, and then there were other days when I’d have very horrible panic attacks. My world got smaller and smaller, and I started isolating myself. I was too afraid to move and I felt trapped. I understand why foreigners find it difficult to leave Thailand. Look up “learned helplessness”

A) Deep and profound contempt for foreigners. This contempt is very subtle because you don’t experience it all at once. Thai people are gentle. Thai people are tolerant. But I never felt Thai people were that kind. Thai people are not that helpful when it comes to important things. (People get confused about this)

B) This gentleness combined with covert aggression makes it very hard to see what’s going on. Nobody yells or screams at you. Eventually, you realize that you have been undermined at work, that you have been blocked in accomplishing things and that others would rather spend 30 minutes pointing out why something can’t be done rather than looking for a way where it can be done even if this is a win-win situation.

C) Other foreigners being incredibly judgmental and undermining other foreigners. I was genuinely surprised at how many times somebody negatively judged me in Thailand. None of these guys were top of the cream snobby expats who were here on assignment who’d look down at me. Most of these men were men who faced exactly the same issues as me. Instead of (God forbid) empathy, I felt OTHER foreigners got meaner and meaner and meaner towards each other.

All of this creates a vicious circle of foreigners hating on other foreigners. You end up meeting the same jerk whether he’s from Canada, India, Australia, New Zealand or the UK. Thais blocking and undermining foreigners. Foreigners having resentment towards Thai who block them or developing serious health issues for burying all of this contempt and anger inside (you learn how to censor yourself very quickly here).

Foreigners becoming jaded, depressed, and getting addicted to all sorts of things because they start isolating themselves (and rightfully so) from other foreigners. Men tip-toeing instead of being assertive (as if that was a crime) around those in power.

In the end, you can’t win by being too assertive (or “too confident” as my Thai friend puts it). You can’t win by giving up because you’re a loser. Catch-22.

The trick is that you have been conned into thinking you were in some sort of tropical paradise.

Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?

I can actually have conversations with people who treat me like I’m a human being. Chances to try something new career-wise and actually have opportunities, living in an environment where it’s not a crime wanting to improve yourself. Empathy and compassion. Fair employers. Finding hope and purpose to live life again.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Thailand is a country to take a short vacation in during winter. Peace of mind on occasion. Going to the movies is cheap and can be a great experience. Eating out, as well

In everyday life, most Thai people are gentle and patient. They can be helpful (with very small day-to-day things like helping you get the door or giving you a nice smile or helping your when you drop something)

Thailand has very good selection of food in supermarkets. Thailand has good and reliable and fast internet. Private health-care and dentistry are great and affordable (IF you know exactly what you need) Oh and it's sunny.

Renting a condominium (with a lot of work and research) can be top class and affordable. Pool, gym, concierge, the view. Bangkok has an underground (MRT), skytrain (BTS), boat and buses

Taxis are affordable. Massage is affordable. Stores are open almost every day, and 24/7

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?

Hell no. Thailand is a “no-can’t-do” land. People will spend 40 minutes explaining why something can’t be done. You’ll hear NO so often (it just won’t be said directly and fairly and in time) that you’ll become bitter. So much disappointment. So much contempt leads to self-loathing. You don't deserve this..

Expats living in Thailand are blocked professionally or personally while they support the local economy. The majority of foreigners living here fail and maybe a couple of percent succeed. Are those odds you’re willing to take?

If you are desperate and have no other options, alright.

Remember that even if you get a good job, other people (expats/foreigners) you’re going to meet here are going to be mean and judgmental. Why would you want to interact with people who keep putting you down?

Forget about making good friends. If you want to stay in your condo with your internet and air-conditioning nine out of twelve months and you think that is *life*? Then go right ahead.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

None.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

It’s not you.

People will try to convince you that it’s your fault for not trying too hard, etc, etc but you never had a fair chance to begin with.

If you’re reading this, know that you’re not alone and that you can do and feel better than this. You don’t have to live like a rat in a box, hiding and surviving day by day. You CAN move to a better place where you will be treated better and where you’ll be healthier and more able to treat and support people better.

It’s not normal losing touch with your assertion and masculinity because assertion threatens other people.

It’s not normal going to the toilet (shopping mall) and having some dodgy gay guy follow you in and just hang around (I’m not a homophobe, I’m just a normal person who has boundaries)

It’s not normal renting an apartment and not getting your deposit back.

It’s not normal having your internet censored and then seeing prostitution wherever you go.

It’s not normal slowly getting sick from living in polluted cities like Bangkok. It’s not normal seeing that dirty river and smell of sewers. It’s not normal being miserable and sweaty 9 out of 12 months in a year.

It’s not normal having a partner own 51 percent of a house or a company by law.

It’s not normal seeing people so uptight and then acting holier than thou.

It’s not normal living in a shanty town.

It’s not normal having your deposit stolen after renting an apartment.

It’s not normal accepting “misteerrrrr, where you come from? what you do here? how long you stay here? as normal and satisfying human interaction.

It’s not normal (or logical) being held back by so many people wanting (both Thai and fellow expats) to keep you out like you were stealing their jobs (as if there was anything close to a fair opportunity in Thailand) when all foreigners do is boost Thai economy and get little in return.

It doesn’t make any sense that people who are so familiar with ‘saving face’ try and humiliate you when you attempt to follow visa rules, etc.

We’re discriminated against for just trying to get by.

Nobody is making it big over here. People survive and that’s about it. God knows that tons of young and naïve “digital nomads” are funding the economy by living in Chiang-Mai and just renting Thai condos, shopping for Thai food without any opportunities to grow personally or professionally.

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