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


Caitlin

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I took a pay cut and joined the US Peace Corps in 2016. I served in Malawi and just finished three years of service where I taught two years in a village school and one year training teachers in a refugee camp. I've accepted a fellowship run by the US State department and will be moving to Burkina Faso in September to teach at a university for 10 months.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

My first job was fresh out of university in 2007 and I worked one term and left. I came back in 2012, worked at a secondary school in Mukdahan for three years and a university in Bangkok for one.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

It was a culmination of reasons. I was just finishing up my Masters and wanted a new challenge. I was tired of Bangkok and felt that the jobs in Thailand didn't have much career progression, plus having a Master's degree didn't seem to make much of a difference. I applied to Peace Corps on a whim, got in so decided to try it.

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

The students in Malawi were some of the most motivated students I have ever taught. Life is definitely easier in Thailand but I enjoyed working with my students. Also even though Peace Corps is volunteer work and you definitely don't get as much of a monthly allowance, the readjustment allowance I received after three years is more than I was able to save in Thailand after 4 years.

It has also opened up a network of career opportunities. I found out about my fellowship through the returned peace corps network and I feel like I am more aware of different opportunities and directions I can take my career into. It has also been a great professional development opportunity. I'm definitely a more confident teacher after my service.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The food! Malawian food is bland, their main seasoning is salt. So I definitely missed flavorful food and fruits.
My friends.
Riding my motorcycle around is also something I missed as I didn't have much freedom of movement as a volunteer.

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

I think Thailand is a great place for a new teacher IF they don't have debt they need to pay and are just looking for a new experience. It's a good place to get a start teaching, get some experience under your belt then move on to greener pastures. But if you have to pay off loans or are intimidated by looking for a job on the ground (and figuring out visa stuff on your own) then China and S. Korea are probably better places for that.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Well, I'm here on vacation now so yes, I love Thailand and I've been coming here since I was a teenager. However, to live and work again, the job would have to be worth it. I'd prefer to live outside Bangkok but jobs that pay are in the city. I don't expect too much as a teacher but to be able to save a little something for the future would be nice.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I've taught in five countries now in different capacities. I think no matter where you decide to teach you should go in with little to no expectations.

Definitely remember that being able to go abroad and teach is a privilege we have as native speakers and just being aware of that while searching, interviewing and working for different employers is something I think a lot people overlook in the moment. Appreciate it!


Wesley

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to the UK in October 2017, so I've been back a while now.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

One year in a government high school near Nakhon Ratchasima, then short contracts near Chiang Mai, then at Chonburi. Plus some short spells in Malaysia and Vietnam. I was in South East Asia for almost three years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

First, I turned 60, and I found that schools were no longer so keen to hire me. I applied for jobs all over, from Hat Yai in the south to Chiang Rai in the north. I got told more than once that I was too old. Second, I found the heat of the Thai summers, especially in Isaan, was a bit too much for me.

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

I'm teaching Chinese children online for around twelve hours each week. One to one, all keen to learn, no more classes of fifty students! Plus no more ninety day check ins, or work permit and visa paperwork to fill in. And I don't get barked at by packs of soi dogs now, so I can walk to the shops or the pub in peace!

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The good weather, the beaches and a lot of nice people I met there, Thais, Filipinos, Bhutanese and other nationalities. I liked a lot of the food, beer, and the low prices, especially for a condo. Although a lot of prices are rising now and not as cheap as when I first flew out in early 2015.

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

That would depend on the individual teacher and what their aims are. To somebody just starting out, I'd say give it a go for a year or two, then move on. English teaching isn't just about Thailand, try some other country for the experience, Vietnam, or maybe south America. For somebody older, in their fifties, looking for a new career, I wouldn't recommend it. A lot of Thai employers don't seem to like older teachers.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I hope to, but only as a tourist. I want to visit some places I didn't get to see when I was a teacher there. But I have a few other countries I want to visit first.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Yes, when you go, keep an open mind about Thai culture and always be respectful. Remember, you are a guest in their country. Do your homework, and make sure that you get your degree certificates notarized, and take a police check certificate from your home country. The authorities are now very strict about this, no more fake degrees. They check up. You will get found out. Apart from that, enjoy your time in Thailand. I did, it was a great experience.


Dieter

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to my hometown of Hamburg, Germany in January 2019.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for four years. Two years at a large government school in Bangkok and two years at a much smaller private school not far from Chiang Rai.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I think there were two main reasons. Firstly, I was beginning to feel a bit homesick. A couple of family members passed away, my sister had her first child and I just felt that I was missing out on too many important events. I started to feel guilty about missing out on all the special moments where my family would all come together and either mourn or celebrate. We have always been a very close family and it didn't feel right that I was living so far away.

Secondly, I hit 30 years old and it felt like I need to re-evaluate my direction in life. I wasn't saving any money and living pretty much from month to month. You can do that in your twenties I guess but at some stage you have to think about the future.

Actually, make that three reasons. One of my best pals back in Germany was starting a small-scale graphic design business and he offered me a position. Being as this was my area of expertise before I started travelling and teaching, it felt like too good an opportunity to miss.

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

Well, it's nice to be a part of a new business that's doing quite well at the moment. I am not drawing a huge salary (just enough to live on) but I'm sure that will improve in the future as the business grows. There is definitely more of a career path and a future doing this when compared to teaching in Thailand. Or doing the TEFL thing in any country for that matter.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Oh, so many things but especially the food. I had a real hard time adjusting back to German food and the portion sizes. I have put on at least six kilos in weight since I got back (I suppose the German beer doesn't help either!)

I miss the cheap cost of living also (although I think Thailand is becoming noticeably more expensive at this present time) and the simple way of life. When I taught in Chiang Rai, I got up in the morning, rode my motorcycle to school, taught my classes and chilled in my apartment every evening. Then I would go out and party at weekends with close friends. It was all very routine but I liked it that way. There are very few problems cluttering up your brain.

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

I think it is a great place to teach for a year or two while you are young and probably the best TEFL destination in Asia. I had several colleagues who went off to seek riches in places like China and Vietnam but they all came back within a year. Thailand gets inside your blood and makes other countries feel like 'hard work' if that makes sense. Thailand is easy to get along with I think.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I will certainly come back for a holiday but I am not liking the exchange rate too much at the moment. If you earn a modest salary in Germany, a decent two or three-week trip to Thailand becomes quite expensive.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

If you live in Thailand as long as I did (four years) or stay there even longer, it's very easy to get too comfortable and take your eye off your future goals. But there is nothing wrong with going off and having some adventure. Your home country will always be there waiting for you if you would like to return.


Edward

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back home to Los Angeles in July of 2018, so I've been back for almost a year now.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I think it was about three years. I started off at a government school in Bangkok and did some part-time language school work on the side. Then I fancied a change of scenery and went to work for a school in Nongkahi, right up there in the far north-east. What a big mistake that was! Then I came back to Bangkok and got a job at a very good college in Nonthaburi. I had to think about all that for a moment.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I met and fell in love with a Thai girl who worked at one of the companies where I did some evening corporate work (hopefully I'm not the first guy that's happened to) and to cut a long story short, we got married and when I suggested moving back to the USA, she was happy to give it a go. I wanted her to experience life abroad as well even if was only to aid her personal growth because she was in a bit of a dead-end management position where she was.

Personally I hadn't fallen out of love with Thailand, but I was getting a little bored with the daily routine. I still think Thailand is a wonderful place for a holiday but I'm not so sure about living and working there for an extended period.

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

Well, I went back into the retail food profession and make much more money than I ever did in Thailand. My wife is doing well too and works for a small fashion company, helping them with marketing and improving their online presence, etc. She's settled into the American way of life very quickly. She's put on quite a lot of weight as well but hopefully she won't be reading this :) We've managed to get our own place and we have a car and a few mod-cons. It's not the lap of luxury by any means but we're happy with our lot at the moment.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I really miss just hopping on a cheap flight to other countries in Asia for a short break. I did a lot of travelling while I was there and got to see Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar. Had some great times - especially going with a bunch of other guys. There are some wonderful places in Thailand too if you can get off the beaten track and avoid the usual tourist destinations that tend to wear thin very quickly.

Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand?

I'm really not sure what my answer is to that question. I wonder if Thailand has had its day as an Asian TEFL destination and other countries in the region have more to offer these days? I would love to have given teaching in Vietnam a try but it just never happened. It certainly seemed to pay more than in Thailand.

It's a well-known fact that salaries in Thailand have hardly moved in the past 20 years or more but it's become considerably more expensive to live there. I always found that Thai people earn a lot more than you think plus they have that family security net and welfare, etc.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

We're planning a trip in October mainly so my wife can see her parents and brother. I feel largely indifferent about going back, especially during what will be the rainy season. And I don't think a single one of my teaching colleagues is still around. They've all moved on to other countries or returned home. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with myself for three weeks actually.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand isn't for everyone. I once heard the country described as 'organised chaos' and I wouldn't disagree with that. If you are the kind of person who likes everything to be either black or white and organised how you like it or perhaps how you are used to, then Thailand is possibly going to push you to your limits. I met a lot of teachers who started off with good intentions, but Thailand kind of got the better of them in the end and they just couldn't handle the day-to-day living. You have to go with the flow in Thailand and not let all those minor annoyances wear you down.


Sav

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to UK to do a PGCE and become a (er-hem!) proper teacher.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Two years, firstly in Bangkok, then I moved to teach in Hat Yai and then came back to Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

To get properly qualified and hopefully come back to get a well paid job in an international school - but it didn't work out that way. I got kind of 'stuck' back in the UK as I got a job in a secondary school here. In the end, I did go back abroad but ended up in Malaysia, which was actually great. It's a nice expat lifestyle there and everyone spoke English. I found it so much easier to settle there than in Thailand.

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

By far better money, a pension and all those things you never had to think about when you were younger, single and had no children. I met a lot of older teachers back in my Thailand days who were living paycheck to paycheck, spending all their wages on having a good time - all the time. That's great when you're young, but one day when you're older, you'll find you don't have a pot to piss in and you have to make provisions for that.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The people. Thais are so good-natured generally. I miss the food, especially from street food stalls and the beautiful places you could travel to from Bangkok. The beaches, the temples, etc.

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

If you are young and looking to travel and get some life experience that is interesting and enriching - not money-wise I mean - then yes, go to Thailand. It's not the greatest pay if you are an EFL teacher, but you find your level and live within those means, still being able to have affordable holidays, etc.

If you are male and single, you will find suddenly you are Casanova. But be careful. Those lovely smiling bar beauties see you as a walking ATM. But having said that, many men meet the love of their lives in Thailand and are happy.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Would love to go back but as a tourist / visitor only.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

If you think teaching English in private language businesses is going to be a walk in the park, think again. I found the hours to be awkward, the pay not that great and when I worked in Bangkok, the travelling to work gradually got to me. My last job there was the best as I lived quite close to the school. But before that, the daily commute was a pain in the posterior!


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