I know the question is coming every long holiday and I can't avoid it, "what are your plans for the holiday?" they ask. I just want to roll up in a ball and die.
It ‘s not the worst time of year to be a local hire in an international school, but it is not far off. The staffroom is full of exciting plans of skiing in Japan or long breaks on tropical islands in expensive hotels. There is talk of buffets and afternoon tea and staff parties - and I'm wondering when they find the time to cut the grass or paint the bedroom.
An almost parallel universe
The school morning e-mails are full of 20% off promotions for staff at really expensive hotels that I can't afford, even after the discount, and then there's the "donation" to the Thai staff at school, Secret Santa, the social Christmas meals out on Sukhumvit - and I can see my wages diminishing rapidly.
The second worst time of year is just before the summer holidays. The staffroom is buzzing full of free flights home and exotic travels to faraway lands. Mine mainly consist of taking my daughter to school every day because the school she attends works on the Thai education calendar, not the British one.
The absolute worst thing about working at an international school is having to listen to all the holiday recounts on the first week back and then attempt to make mine sound vaguely interesting.
The pecking order
I'm a TEFLer in a PGCE world. I'm very low down the hierarchy and I know it. I get it and I understand it, but it is not just the wages that are dissimilar.
The teachers on expat packages get premium health insurance (I get the same insurance as the gardeners). They get free flights home, (I'm a 'local', so get nothing). They get two free places for their children (my daughter isn't deemed important enough). They get a housing allowance that's three times the mortgage on my three-bedroom house in the suburbs of Bangkok.
And that's just for single people! Teachers with partners who are not earning 100k+ a month receive a salary as well!
Me and the maids
I've never felt more second class than when there was a Christmas Fair at work - 100 baht to enter and everything was hideously expensive. Who the fuck buys expensive jewellery and home furnishings at a school fair?! I found myself in the back with the maids, searching through the "second hand" donations that were more expensive than most of the things I normally buy.
It is not that the expat staff treat me any differently, it is more that they don't realise how bad the local hire package is. It is embarrassing trying to explain why my daughter does not attend the school I work at while their children attend for free. The expat teachers just assume we all get the same/similar benefits. Or maybe it never occurs to them?
A dream lifestyle?
Many of the expat staff live in a bubble. They live, socialise and take holidays with the same people they work with. They have maids, nannies, cooks and drivers that give them the freedom to enjoy Bangkok without the baggage that family and household chores brings.
The amount of times I have turned up to a work social with a baby/toddler is unreal. I get looks like there is some magical babysitter available to me at all times. There isn't. I work all day, I go home, clean the house, feed the dog, argue with the wife, and look after a toddler whilst they go to yoga and eat at a restaurant as the nanny/maid/whatever deals with the children.
Don't get me wrong, the expat teachers work for the benefits, they really do. 12-hour days are not uncommon. Working from home in the evenings and at the weekends is pretty much guaranteed.
I'm very jealous of the package they get but I don't think it is worth it. I will stay as a local hire immigrant thank you.