Hi fellow ajarn followers. I moved to Thailand in October 2007. I had "tested the water", so to speak, by spending 2x3-month vacations here. I remember my first six months in Thailand very well and indeed will never forget them.
The first six months is spent re-adjusting. Thai culture, lifestyle, climate, food and working environment are alien to most. Some days I found myself getting annoyed and frustrated at the smallest issues. I spoke about this to a friend. I was quickly reminded of life back home - the pressures, weather, cost of living, attitude, food and climate.
It has been said that the first year in Thailand is make or break for most. I agree. When you come to Thailand, ask yourself the question why am I doing this? You must have genuine reasons.
So many people come to Thailand with the wrong attitude. Thais are never going to change for you; it is you who must make the adjustments. Coming here playing the big ‘I AM’ is going to cause you nothing but misery. Coming here bringing an ‘I am going to modernize the Thais’ attitude will also cause you nothing but pain. There are many more observations but I think these are the main two attitudes that cause so much frustration amongst fellow teachers.
You need an open mind and allow yourself to accept Thailand 100%, faults and all. Then you can achieve a level of happiness that you yearn for, that you felt on those previous visits. Letting go of your western values is the key to success here.
Having spent nearly three years in Thailand, I decided to try my luck in China. The boom in the TEFL industry is most apparent there. You are head-hunted. The selection of jobs, pay, conditions, contracts, free flights and housing is incredible and it is you who is in demand. This is not arrogance but an absolute fact.
I have now worked in China for 18 months. It has been a rewarding experience. I left Thailand not because I was unhappy but to widen my experience and knowledge. The experience in Thailand helped me adjust very quickly to life in China.
However, I have missed Thailand with a passion. This does not take anything away from my experience in China. Both experiences have enhanced and endeared me to life in this part of Asia.
Is the grass greener on the other side? If you have the desire to change, adapt, accept and learn then you can achieve a level of happiness I never had in my home country.