Longing to be back home
What on earth can my wife and I do to make things happen?
Well where do I start? I have a few questions, although before I ask, I best give you all a brief rundown on why I am asking these questions to start with. You seem to have a fair bit of experience living in Thailand and also have piles of other people's experiences wanting to either share something or find something out. So here is mine.
As for me and my experiences, I have previously lived in Thailand for about 5 years, around 5-6 years ago. Back then life was great, enjoyed teaching, I married the love of my life (a Thai girl) and we had a baby. After giving it some thought we opted to leave Thailand briefly - for one reason we were low on cash, and most of all to head back to Australia for my parents to meet their first grandchild. Our plan was to stay a couple of years, save some cash and return back to continue living that always exciting life in Thailand of never knowing what to expect next.
Though after 2 years, we had our second child and decided that since we have started our family we would then have our third and last child. We are a happy loving family and as for returning to continue living that amazing life in Thailand, we decided that at the beginning of this year we would head back to Bangkok with our family of 5, buy a house and live the simple life again. Well that's where it hit us. Going from a single couple to having a young baby living in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok we could always do it, though with 3 kids aged 5, 3 and 1, life had hit us in the face and things weren't so easy like before.
The start of the struggle
Noticing the obvious, like trying to cross a road with a pram- a no go, walking through the busy streets and markets squeezing our 3 beautiful kids hands with grips like Popeye' to stop people from grabbing them to say ‘sawasdii krap' - ‘mi luk saam kon roh'- most of the time it was all in good spirit, though it was bloody hectic at times as total strangers expected us to just hand over our children just so they can hold them. All in all life back in the smoke was starting to be a real struggle.
We have a family friend who is a taxi driver in Bangkok who took us around soi after soi, mubaan after mubaan searching for a simple three bed room townhouse to buy. You know the kind that is posted on every bit of spare pavement on every soi and highway in Bangkok. Well we found our house, put in a deposit thinking our life was about to change for the good. Though the day before we were quite literally about to transfer our money across, my wife said I'll just get on the net and just find out a bit more info on the local schools and the area, she then came across review after review talking nothing but negative things about the houses built there and the area in general.
We had found out that all the houses built in that area leaked and had all sorts of problems. There were thieves around and it flooded regularly etc. I even called up some of the houses for sale saying ‘ I'm not interested to buy your house I just want to know why your selling it as I'm in the process of buying a house down the street'. They told us all the issues and we were pretty disappointed and walked away from going through with it all, losing our deposit and feeling quite heavy about it all. After working our backsides off for 5 years to save the money and return to Thailand to continue on with the dream, it was looking very shaky.
We tried briefly looking for apartments/houses to rent that suited and that were somewhat close to the school I was to teach at, but that was to no avail. It was starting to become very apparent to us that life had changed very much over the past 5-6 years and after giving it some thought, we decided to put it behind us to return back to Australia - only just after being in Thailand for 3 months. I was bitterly disappointed as we had been working so hard for this to work out.
Oz is not for me
So after being back in Australia for 7 months now, I'm still disappointed and can't settle here either whichever way I try. I have tried several different jobs and in my heart they don't really suit me. I guess I really just miss the Thai lifestyle I have been waiting so long for. I have been having some pretty heavy discussions with my wife about possibly giving Thailand another go, perhaps even in a different city or just going about it in a whole new way. Though we all know that Bangkok is where all the work and opportunities are.
I guess this isn't really a brief run down after all, though it's as clear cut as I can be. So I guess my questions are: Are there families doing it ok in Bangkok or Thailand in general just on normal teachers wages of 35-40k per month? That's the basic salary I'll be on- though I do intend to supplement my income with extra tutoring and possibly other ideas of coaching/training people in other things on the side. We are simple people who can live on the basics though just want some happiness in what I'm doing career wise. My wife is still probably 1-2 years off working as our little one is still only one.
Questions that need answers
So we are just sitting back here umming and uhhhing whether to make the move again and give it another shot. I would be confident our kids would settle as our 5 year old understands Thai, though he is shy to speak it, he can read and write basic things for his age. I know there are families all over Bangkok and Thailand alike getting by though are they because that's their only option or are they really doing it because they like it and want to?
I've always wanted my children to be enveloped by Thai culture and understand the importance of Thai etiquette. Though people here in Australia think I'm crazy wanting to move my family to Thailand, as after all Australia is a nice place and it makes sense to live here like every other puppet who is trying to do the same thing. But deep in my heart I know the people here haven't had the experiences I've had and they simply don't understand what else is out there.
In your opinion is Bangkok a place to raise a family or is it a single man's game? I'm hoping you have met and/or come across people in the same boat as me. Please enlighten me with some knowledge either good or bad- it's been an up and down year so I can take the ride.
Phil, ajarn.com says - Thank you Adam for sharing your story with us. Frankly speaking, I'm not the right person to give you advice because I don't have children. However, many teachers do and I'm sure they will be sympathetic towards your plight and have some good advice to put in the comments section for you. I'm looking forward to reading the responses.
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Adam, I understand your frustrations with your own country and the appeal of Thailand, but I fear as you have experienced, you will run into serious problems with your current plan. Theoretically it would be possible to live on that level of income but the appeal would wear off extremely quickly when you are skint all the time. Bangkok or Thailand in general is great if you've got the money to do things but miserable if you haven't. Bangkok is so big that even if you're living in one area you will have quite a bit of expenditure getting around with a family of five - even cheaply. Your kids completely rely on you, don't forget this.
My suggestion to you if you're serious about teaching is to get professionally qualified in your own country so that you could work at a 'proper' international school on a good salary and benefits that would enable you to pursue the dream you have set for yourself. You are still young, and can do this. Today the world is extremely competitive and will be become even more so in the future. Therefore try and be as good as you can in your chosen area. Complete a PGCE ( or the Aus. equivalent), get a CELTA, plus degree of course if you don't have one already. A lot of work, but this could benefit you your whole life. Additionally, you need to be earning a lot if your are here long term teaching, as I understand it become hard/impossible to work when your are a lot older, unlike the west, as appearance counts for a lot here. You want to aim to work in one of the top schools in Bangkok so you get the best salary to make your families life secure. It's understandable wanting to live a 'simple life' but believe me your opinions change as you get older and you don't want to rough it all the time and constantly think 'I can't do this' because you can't afford it.
If you didn't do this and came here and earned 30k a month, you would be broke all the time. I would say that in the last five years or so it has become twice as expensive as it used to be, mostly due to foreign currency depreciation but also rapid inflation. Things, particularly food, are going up all the time, however, your wages are not. People often quote teacher wages as being the same as ten years ago and at the base level they will only get worse (as seems to be happening already). Therefore if your wages are not increasing with inflation every year you are going backwards are worse off. I'm sure you can see this is not a long term solution.
There are many things you have to pay for with a family and they all add up very quickly. It probably wouldn't be as cheap as you think it may be. Bringing up a child in Thailand is not cheap. There is no free education, healthcare and social security like the west. What would you do if one of your children became sick and you had no money? No money = no treatment here. A sobering thought. Now you can see why international school wages are required. There's lots of extra things to pay for here that we get free in the west, that's why the whole western system will probably collapse.
You could possibly go to a more rural area where the cost of living is much cheaper, but this option again would not really be long term again for the reasons I have outlined.
If you managed to come here, rent initially don't buy. You can test the waters this way, and the area as you mention!, without tying up all your capital. Deposits here are reasonably high at the moment or you could invest some in a small business to give you extra income. If you decide to stay permanently, then buy as this will be cheaper long term, but understand that property is extremely difficult to sell here as Thai's generally go for new builds that are constantly springing up.
I disagree with a few of the points made by other posters. There's often comments I read where it's stated that Thai's live well on a fraction of teacher wages. There is a slight misunderstanding here because Thai's mostly live communally (which we don't generally) with the whole family/grandparents, so if one person earns 8000B and there's five earners living together you have 40000B combined income which is reasonable. Quite often they still all live in a small studio so they have money to pay for things. Rent a house in central Bangkok and you wouldn't be left with much. Outer Bangkok where it is cheaper,is really like being in the country as you are so far away from the city. If you were a single person with 8000B income you would not have a good standard of living. You would only be living in a tiny rented 16-20 sqm apartment with just about enough money to buy street food and take a songtheaw to work and nothing else -hardly comfortable. The one's who are comfortable are middle class professionals and upper class Thai's. They are earning the kind of salaries that I think many in the west would be surprised by.
This leads me to my second point where another poster mentioned Thai school and university education and the outcomes from attending these institutions. I can appreciate each individuals point of view and acknowledge the quality of an international education but I believe there is a bit too much emphasis on an individual being a failure if they go through the Thai system. I think a lot of this comes from Thai's difficulty in learning and speaking English. However, this does not mean they are stupid as some people seem to think. English is not there native language remember. Are we stupid because we can't speak French very well?
I believe Thai's in general to be very creative and entrepreneurial and I know many who have established and built successful businesses and others with very good jobs sometimes paying more than what they would get in the west. All have been through the Thai not international system and it certainly hasn't held them back.
Good luck and I hope you are successful in whatever you decide to do.
By Kevin, Bangkok (11th January 2014)
I lived in Bangkok with my wife and my son until he was about 9 years old, I then moved to Chiangmai. I love Bangkok but unless you earn serious money it is a difficult place for a family. I would suggest living in one of Thailand's other cities such as Chiang Mai, Hua Hin or Khon Kaen. Salaries are considerably lower but so too is the cost of living.
I miss Bangkok but I'm glad I moved upcountry.
By Daniel, Chiang Mai (5th January 2014)
Just to clarify my negative response a bit.
I really like Thailand, but I do think that it is irresponsible to drag a family of young kids to Thailand to give them a Thai education. You will basically be compromising their future.
I have many good things to say about Thailand. It is a wonderful country with good food, great weather and friendly people. But imo it is a great country for either single people or people married without young kids. I have no children at the moment, but the day I have young ones who are are of a school going age, I will be gonzo. When or if that day comes, I will be looking for either a job in the west or in a country where they can get a quality education (not ruling out the Middle East if free international school is offered).
Getting a quality education in Thailand is simply not possible without spending big bucks. And letting kids go to a Thai school followed by Thai university is not going to secure them a great future. That's just the way it is. Why do you think all well-off Thais are sending their kids either abroad or to local international schools?
By John Brown, Bangkok (5th January 2014)
I completely understand your longing to be here and want to share this life with your children. Why not spend one more year in Aus and get a teaching certificate and return to an int'l school job? I know it means a delay and some debt but it will pay off for the rest of your working life, will give you health care and possibly a pension and housing cost benefits for your and your family, and great long paid vacations. You can still choose to live modestly and can have a significant savings to ensure your family is secure. There are int'l schools all over so you could make a decent living and live out of the city and enjoy a slower pace while your family is still young.
POSTED on behalf of Alice Kenney
By philip, (5th January 2014)
As a fellow Aussie, I hear you. I lived in Thailand too and loved it and 12 years on still dreaming about it. But guess what, I have my property here in AUS and my good job and too scared to leave that security, just cant do it. Unless you are a specialist earning good money with your 5 kids forget it Thailand is just not realistic. AUS has standards and transparency Thailand does not where do you think is better to raise kids? in an utterly corrupt country or AUS, take your pick mate.
The only other option I would consider is life in the provinces. Perhaps a place like Prachuap Kiri Khan, its quiet and clean there, cheap living and you may find teaching opportunities given busy Hua Hin is only up the road. Good luck.
By Derek, Australia (5th January 2014)
Methinks it's you who needs your head examined John Brown! Why on earth are you even here if you have nothing good to say about the country and it's people. Thai families often live well on a quarter of the monthly salary amounts mentioned,so why shouldn't Adam and his family live well on 40K.
Adam, your plan to suss things out on your own sounds like a good idea - heed the advice offered by Rhiannon, find a nice provincial town that you like, find a job and rent a house til you're sure you're settled - there's plenty of time to look into the property market, and a long as the political situation remains unstable your Aussie dollars are going to get you more Baht. The Baht has lost about 10 percent in the last couple of months - that's a big chunk of money on the price of a house!
By Del, Thailand (4th January 2014)
Hey man, interesting story.
You mentioned moving to Saudi for a few years? I've had a couple of family members out there (albeit in other industries) and their sentiments match what you have heard, although they did say it was boring.
Heck, even if you're bored out there, then why not do a distance PhD in TESOL/applied linguistics? You'd be earning plenty of money to cover the costs, whilst simultaneously raising your earning potential for when you do decide to return to the LOS. The international schooling for your kids would help too, giving your kids a chance of a better education and putting them in a better position for the future (university - either in Thailand or in your native Australia).
Hope it works out for you and your family.
By That Guy, Wishing I was in Thailand (4th January 2014)
Thanks so much for all your responses, I do appreciate them good and bad. I guess all in all, it comes down to how flashy the kind of lifestyle you intend on living. I've heard single people mention they struggle on 50-70k per month. That's crazy if you can't get by on that, we all know what kind of lifestyle your living if you struggle with that kind of money. Savings is also a big factor on why people seem to struggle, well I feel if your trying to save similar amounts of money as you would in the west per month your kidding yourself, you might as well live there and go and get a desk job.
Close friends of mine have mentioned that if you can put amounts away, have some money in the west doing something for you plus the superannuation you've accumulated tucked away till your 65, you'll still be in decent stead later on. After all you don't go to Thailand to make money, it's the appealing lifestyle that keeps people there. People speak badly at times about the Thai people but hey, let me enlighten you - people in the west do lie and cheat people too.
I'm thinking of heading back to Thailand for 1-2 months myself to scout out the opportunities and if things seem to fit I may give it a go with the family. It's a search for happiness. I heard all the stories of people falling in love with Thailand, after several years get fed up with everything and think everything will be so much brighter back home, though find out pretty soon after that the reason they left there to start with. Most people do head back to Thailand, if you find your love for it, it will pull you back. Thanks again.
By Adam Williams, Australia (4th January 2014)
This is a wind-up, right? You've got to be kidding to think to can raise a whole family of five on 40-50k. You'll have to go almost orally native to do that.
And you want your kids enveloped in Thai culture? The cheating, the silly loss of face, the lying to save face etc.? Choosing an education in a local Thai school over an Australian one? Methinks you need to have your head examined :-)
By John Brown, bangkok (4th January 2014)
Let me answer you questions, my outlining my own situation for you, and perhaps my view point will be of interest.
I have a wife, and two children, one is four years old, the baby is 9 months. My wifes daughter who is 17 also lives with us. I am in Pattaya. I earn tiny bit more the salary level mentioned here, 40-45K B a month , and I make another 10-20K baht on the side each month doing other stuff. I own my house outright, so no rent to pay. I find it really hard to make ends meet each month to be honest. I have a car payment each month, bills and house upkeep chips into the money big time. I just about make it cash wise to the months end, and if an extra bill comes, e.g. car insurance annual bill, etc, then I really struggle on months when extra bills appear. I need at least 60K (maybe more) a month just to get by.
Luckily, I get a reasonable discount for my son to attend school where I work, however it is still very expensive, and will become a problem when the new baby reaches school age,
The bottom line, as far as I can see, regarding my own situation, is that 2015 may see me having to relocate my whole family to a country where I can make and save money as a teacher, most likely this will be Saudi Arabia, where salaries are better, one can save money, and one can get free places in schools as part of the deal, not to mention health insurance, and benefits with the job package, stuff which we never get working in Thai schools. I am not a certified teacher from my home country, but I do have a PGCEi, (Uni of Nottingham) and got 1 year more part-time work to finish a Masters in Education with them. My point being, without teacher certification, getting the 100K B a month jobs in international schools, would be a slim chance.
I do not want to leave Thailand, as I love the life style, but money wise, it is becoming unworkable for me. I cannot save any money, and never mind pension planning either...and I am in my early 40s.
I have read on ajarn..com and other forums several threads from guys who were teaching in Thailand, had a wife and kids, were earning up tp 70K a month, could not make ends meets, and all spoke of how they had to relocate. At least two or three I read about, went to the Middle East, one to Saudi, and says he saved 1 million baht within a year. All seemed to have a plan to spend 5-10 years there, work hard, save every penny, and then return to Thailand.
Another point to consider is the quality of the education for our children, and what we can afford on a teachers salary? Thai universities, not being valued in the western world, may mean our children could not avail of jobs in the west, if they had a Thai uni degree etc etc. Lots to consider here too!
Be interesting to hear from other people in similar situations as the OP here.
By Ger, Pattaya (4th January 2014)
Welcome to Rayong-on-sea. Growing rapidly, the future really looks good for young families. With your maturity, experience and qualifications, finding a decent job, family home and kids schools are no problem. Good luck and happy new year!
By Jaidii, East coast - Rayong (4th January 2014)
Wow! What a story! I live in SuphanBuri 100 km North of Bangkok. I live with my 16 year olddaughter. It is a lovely town with about 50,000 people in it. Several malls, a Futbol stadium,several colleges, several private schools, low crime and has a much lower cost of living. It is middle class Thailand, rich in culture and lots of opportunity for freelance work. Ideal for a family.
By Rhiannon Caldwell, Suphan Buri (4th January 2014)
I think you can raise a thai family well in thailand and on 35 - 40 k it can be done.I know many farrangs doing this but i dont think bangkok is such a good place to raise children and i think you would be better looking at other parts of thailand for example isaan (its not a poor deprived part of thailand like people yak about) 30k is plenty to raise a family up here and its great for kids to grow up in the country i think.
By Mord, sisaket (4th January 2014)