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


Glen

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to The Middle East, Doha in Qatar to be exact, in September 2023.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for five years, working at an international school in Bangkok that was an international school in name but not one of the really top-notchers. I was earning around 120K Baht a month in the year I left, which was more than enough to live on for a single person, but didn't put me in that top category which I felt was my target and one which I was qualified for.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

More money and to simply advance my teaching career.

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

I'm not sure where to start. The job pays three times more than I earned in Thailand. The benefits are numerous, including a nice two-bedroom apartment and flights to anywhere in the world. There is an ongoing teacher development program with regular workshops and training sessions. Plus the students by and large are keen to learn.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

It's strange but after a month, you miss many things such as the nightlife, the people and the general easygoing pace of day-to-day living. Thailand was perhaps less stressful than where I am now. However, after the months go by, those things fade from memory and seem to become less important and less of a thing to worry about.

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

You need to be well-qualified to work where I am now so that's going to rule many people out. But if you have the qualifications and money is your driving force, then why not? Life out in The Middle East isn't for everyone though. Thailand is welcoming to almost every teacher and is a great place to launch a teaching career as long as you have a clear plan of when to call it a day and move on. As many have said in these surveys, it's very easy to get stuck in a Thailand rut and stop looking for better opportunities.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I'm only in my mid-thirties at the moment and I would consider this period to be my peak years for earning potential so I need to make the most of them. Truthfully I would love to come back to Thailand one day but it would probably be when I'm looking at perhaps an early retirement and salaries don't matter as much. The thought of teaching on a part-time basis with no real money worries is quite appealing. Let's see how it pans out in the future.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Do some research and don't complain. When you're in Thailand, forget about your western habits. Follow Thai rules because you're guests here. Yeah, Thailand has its issues like low pay, cheating, corruption, and sketchy school officials, but that's just how it is. Thais like their country as it is. You wouldn't like it if someone from another country came in and started telling you how to do things, right? In Thailand, employees do what they're told and suck up to their bosses while doing it. Giving well-meaning advice might come off as criticism to Thais. So, no matter how much experience you have, it's better to keep your thoughts to yourself and do things the Thai way.

In Thailand, people are often judged based on their appearance, and having fair skin is highly valued. This preference is evident in Thai television, advertisements, and even job requirements, such as those listed on ajarn.com where only native speakers with a photo are sought. Unfortunately, racism is widely accepted as normal in Thai society. Some of the racist remarks I've heard from educated Thais are truly shocking. This issue stems from the way history is taught in Thailand, which fosters strong nationalism and, in some cases, xenophobia among Thais.

Thai kids act just like kids anywhere else. Some may test boundaries and not always follow traditional customs like giving wais. You might come across a few who act entitled, but don't let that get to you. Focus on the majority of students who are respectful and eager to learn. Rather than trying to fight the system, it's better to adapt and focus on effective teaching. Fighting against the system probably won't get you anywhere.


Robert

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Actually I haven't left Thailand's shores yet. I'm in the process of packing up my things, tieing up a few loose ends and hoping to be out of here before Songkran in the middle of next month.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I've been here for two years, working at a large primary school on the outskirts of Bangkok. My first year was through an agency for 40,000 baht a month but in the second year, the school hired me directly and my salary went up to 50,000 plus a few small benefits like free school meals and better health insurance.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

It's been a really tough decision, but I'm hitting my late 20s and just feel ready for a change of scenery. If I was to continue with a teaching career in Thailand, I would want to return here with better qualifications and try and get a job at an international school (and that's still a route I might take, who knows?) I don't want to stay here year on year earning slightly above 'survival wages' until I'm so set in my ways that moving on no longer seems like a viable option. I've worked with so many older teachers who to me look 'stuck' here, and I don't want to become one of them.

The decision also means splitting up with my Thai partner of almost one year and while I hate to break a young girl's heart, it feels like there isn't any choice. We explored the option of me dragging her around Europe or wherever I end up, but at the end of the day, it's just not logistically or financially viable. Better she stays here in the country that's her home.

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

Obviously this question doesn't apply to me but my options at the moment are either to go straight back home to England and try to pick up a job in retail management (which I did in the past) however, retail is on its arse at the moment in the UK. Alternatively, I have a few old friends and good contacts in some of the Spanish and Greek beach resorts. With the Summer holiday season about to kick off, I might just give a season in the sun a final go. I briefly worked in the tourism industry in Spain when I was in my early 20s and had a blast.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

What will I miss? The basic simplicity of day-to-day life, a job that had little to no pressure or stress, and not having to worry about sky-high utility bills.

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

Oh definitely! Thailand is a fabulous experience and the Thai people have been fantastic to me. Sure you will make more money teaching in other Asian countries but I bet you won't have half the fun.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

My future life feels like a book full of blank pages at the moment and I'm both apprehensive and excited to see what the next chapter is going to look like. I think my parents would like me to come back home and get a proper 9-5 job but they have that classic old school mindset and the world doesn't work that way anymore.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

My number one piece of advice to anyone thinking of being a TEFLer in Thailand is 'be a likeable person'. Don't be the foreigner who moans all the time and is critical of Thai culture just because it's different and sometimes extremely frustrating. Be the foreigner who is always smiling and friendly because when Thais, especially your Thai work colleagues, warm to you, then they'll go to great lengths to help you out if you have a problem.


Melissa

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I went to work in Shanghai, China in October 2023.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for three years. I did a year in Bangkok mixing a full-time job at a Thai school with language centre work in the evenings. When the workload stressed me out, I moved way down south to Songkhla and did two years at a private college.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I just felt that my time in Thailand had run its course and perhaps I needed a new challenge. A couple of foreign teaching colleagues from my time in Songkhla had recently gone to work for a school in China and they were giving me glowing reports so I thought why not give it a try.

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

Teachers have access to training programs, workshops, and networking events that can really enhance your teaching skills and advance your career, whereas in Thailand you were pretty much left to your own devices. As long as the students weren't moaning and passing their exams, you were deemed to be doing a good job.

Shanghai seems to have a larger and friendlier expatriate community, which has been helpful for a young female teacher who is new to the city. I've had the opportunity to meet other expats, make new friends and build a support network.

English teachers here get competitive salaries and benefits, including health insurance, housing allowances and even flight allowances. You just feel financially more stable than you do in Thailand, especially teaching at the lower end of the TEFL ladder.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss the little things that make a big difference - the bag of snacks left on my desk by one of the students, the cheery waves from local shopkeepers as I passed by on my way to school, and how Thai teaching colleagues would go out of their way to help if ever I had a problem with the house I was renting and maybe something needed fixing or cleaning.

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

Thailand is a great country to get valuable teaching experience under your belt, and there is little or no pressure from the school management. Unfortnately that can mean getting too comfortable and finding yourself just drifting from day to day without really improving as a teacher. I want to make a long career out of TEFL if I can and just felt that Thailand wasn't going to provide me with a clear path. I'm grateful for my three years there though.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Not at the moment. I want to make China my home for the forseeable future and hopefully beyond.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Having a solid plan is crucial. Whether it involves returning to your home country, seeking opportunities elsewhere, or securing a well-paying international position if you intend to remain abroad. Being a TEFLer at schools in Thailand can often lead you up a dead-end. Witnessing numerous individuals in the business, well into their middle age, earning 35K a month with no clear plan, savings, or assets to fall back on in their home country was a sobering experience that made me reconsider my own future there. It's essential to continuously be investing in yourself and striving for personal growth.


Brian

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in early January 2024

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for about a year and a half and worked for three different agencies at three different schools in Bangkok or just outside Bangkok. It all just blends into one big city really.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I couldn't make teaching in Thailand work for me, not on 35-40K a month. I got tired of being messed around by teaching agencies and their empty promises and their inability to take care of their teachers. I was pretty much left to sink or swim at every school I worked at, and sort out the numerous problems myself. It wore me down until I decided enough was enough. And all the while, you're working out daily budgets to survive and to try and keep your sanity. I'm happy back in England but I bet my mental health took a battering over there.

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

England is home! I just needed the Thailand experience to help me realise it. I'm amongst family and friends here. I'm earning a wage that I can live comfortably on.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I really miss the Thai friends I made at a couple of the schools. These were people who really did do their best to help me out whever I encountered a bad situation. Most of what Thailand offers a low-paid foreign teacher, I just tolerated.

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

Difficult to answer because although teaching in Thailand didn't suit me, it may well suit others. I always think it helps if you are something of a free spirit and have no real family ties back home.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I might come back for a holiday but I'm not exactly aching to return.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm sure there are some excellent teaching agencies out there but I never found one. I guess the more questionable companies prey on teachers like me who are short on qualifications but brimming with enthusiasm (at least in the early stages) Choose wisely who you work for if you go the agency route. Look for any reviews on-line and see if you can spot any red flags.

Anyone considering teaching in Thailand should not be fooled by its appeal, which can be experienced on a vacation there. The obvious beauty of the country makes a vacationing teacher imagine living there. But living and working there is a whole different ball game, as I imagine is the rule for anywhere abroad.


Goo

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to the UK in Feb 2023. It has been a rough time re-acclimatising to the UK. I am definitely suffering reverse culture shock. I am adjusting slowly, but the UK is not the same place i left all those years ago. People are very much more insular. Maybe it's me who's changed, but I don't feel the people of the UK are very open to different ideas.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I lived and worked in Thailand for 20 years. My first job was in Lat Phrao at English First. Then I moved to a nearby school on Lat Phrao 94. I stayed there for a year and moved on. I moved on from that experience because the school was, well, a bit of a magnet of all the waifs and strays of the TEFL world. I cut my teeth in the teaching game there, so I don't regret it, but the daily comedy show of the school, mostly from management, was enough.

I then moved to a far more organised school in Lat Phrao. After that (good) experience, I moved to an international school on Lat Phrao 101. That produced the most bizarre working experience of my life. The school was run by a religious (SDA) fanatic. We were subjected to calls from Jesus on the mobile phone and all kinds of other crazy religious stuff.

After that troubled 9 months, I moved to Korea because my girlfriend at the time moved there for work. I had a great year and a half in Korea then came back to Thailand to work at a university in Bangkok. I stayed at that university for 15 years until moving back to the UK.

Alongside all this teaching work, I also did quite a lot of writing work. I was a travel writer earning a decent income for a number of years. I mainly wrote about cycling in Southeast Asia and did guidebook work. My passion was cycling in the region.

I have cycled in most countries in Southeast Asia, including some quite remote places. In my time I cycled every province in Thailand, I cycled the Ho Chi Minh Trail, I found Pol Pot's resting place and got held at gunpoint in Laos, amongst other crazy, stupid things.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I moved to the UK for a number of reasons. I have a young son who I want to put into a decent(ish) education system. Also, my beloved job at the university in Bangkok was turning sour because of new management. My final reason was that Thailand really had become a little too stale for me. It had become just 'ordinary' and 'home'. There was nothing alarming in that per se, but I prefer a little challenge in my life.

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

Well, the main advantage is that everything kinda works in the UK. The UK education system is streets ahead of Thailand. The UK is a country of laws, whilst Thailand is a country of connections. I also work a 4-day week.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss just about everything about Thailand. I know that sounds a little strange, but I miss the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. I miss the people, I miss the weather, I miss the adventure. I miss the nightmare traffic in Bangkok, I miss the feeling of being out of my comfort zone.

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

Yes, definitely, go work in Thailand. It can be infuriating, it can be annoying, it can drive you insane, but it is a special place with a great many wonderful people and experiences. Just learn to ignore the crazy management of the institution you are working for.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, I haven't cut ties with Thailand and own property in Bangkok and Jomtien. I will return regularly as I don't want my son to lose his Thai side. My wife is also Thai, so I think I'd end up in the divorce courts if I cut Thailand out of my life...I will return one day to work, I'm not sure when, but it will definitely happen.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm a bit of a nomad, I always have been. I don't ever hate anywhere I am living, but I do like a challenge. If I can, my life would be full of challenges. That was my driver for going to Thailand in the first place. Now I am back in the UK I am starting to think of my next adventure.


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 328 total

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