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


Thomas

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in April of this year.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for six years, mainly at large Thai government schools or wherever the agents sent me. I did a year in Chiang Mai but couldn't really settle there (it didn't feel like the Thailand I was looking for) I did a couple of years in Chonburi (liked it at first but got bored) followed by 12 months in Ayutthaya (nice place to live but horrible school) and finished with two years in Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I'm in my late 50s and have started to suffer from ill health. I made the decision to go back to England and chance my luck with the good old NHS rather than start long and protracted courses of treatment at a Thai hospital and stressing over whether my modest Thai health insurance will cover it or not.

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

I'm not working so can't really answer this. I've moved in with my younger sister and have spent most of the last three months pottering around in the garden, doing odd jobs around the bungalow for her, and lying on the sofa watching sport. And of course I've been setting up doctor and hospital appointments, etc.

It's not an ideal situation because my sister and I have never really got along (we argued about which way the toilet roll should go a couple of days ago) however credit where it's due, she came to the rescue in my hour of need. There was no way I could afford the £800+ monthly rents they are asking in these parts of leafy Middle England. I'm hoping to get back into working as soon as I feel fit enough, and even get my own place, but the vast majority of jobs seem to be caring for the elderly.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Provided you meet the visa requirements, it's a country that's relatively easy to survive in, even when funds are low. When you are TEFLer in his fifties, with no real formal qualifications other than a well-creased TEFL certificate, you're under no illusions that you are constantly at the bottom of the pecking order. You're the bloke that the school employs when there is absolutely no other option. So you put up with agents paying salaries late and schools taking advantage and messing you about on a daily basis.

And of course you're up against schools who insist their foreign teachers be no older than 35 or 40 or whatever they decide is the age when a teacher becomes old and decrepit and incapable of teaching. Your marketability plummets with each passing year. But as I said, you can survive here on just a modest income. Survival in England is going to be a real slog, at least for the forseeable future.

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

Teaching in Thailand is a young person's game unless you're qualified enough to work at one of the better schools and build a career. At least when you're young, if things don't work out and your Thailand adventure goes pear-shaped, it's not to late to start again. Every young person I met in Thailand seems to be working online anyway.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

No, I think that ship has well and truly sailed. I need to sort my life and health out here first.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Not really, other than make sure you have a decent health insurance policy, because you never know what's around the corner.


Brendan

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in late 2021.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for about five years. Prior to that, I did a one-year stint in Japan. That was a total disaster but I'll save the details for another time.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

This is a strange one to explain but I got up one morning and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of 'homesickness'. You wouldn't expect to have such emotions after being away from home for six years, but my mother had suddenly become very ill, my nieces and nephews were all growing up. I just felt like I didn't want to be away from 'home' any longer. I carried on through the day think that perhaps the homesickness would go away - but it didn't. If anything, the urge to get on the next flight home just got stronger and stronger.

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

I was very lucky inasmuch as a relative had passed away and been very generous to me in her will. Add to that a bit of money I had stashed away during my time as a teacher, and I returned to the UK with a fairly nice financial buffer. I was able to use that cash to set up my own small software business and it's now doing quite well in just a few short months. I would have hated the thought of returning to the UK with no money and a five-year gap in my CV and kipping on someone's sofa until I get myself sorted out. Fortunately that was never going to be the case so I was lucky in that respect.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Thailand was a great adventure. There is so much I miss about the place but mainly the warm weather I suppose. Standing at bus stops in February with an icy wind howling around your eyes brought me sharply down to earth I can tell you. I go out for a couple of Thai meals every month at various Thai restaurants and I suppose I'm trying to recapture some of the old Land of Smiles magic or at least keep some kind of connection. Alas, the Thais who run these places are all very westernized. They never want to chat about home. It's surprising how quickly Thais turn their backs on Thailand once they are settled in a new land. It's quite comical in a way.

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

Oh, absolutely! You'll have the time of your life. But I would give serious thought to doing it for more than one or two years. I never met that many people who had made a career out of teaching in Thailand but I did meet many folks in their 40s and 50s who just seemed to survive from paycheck to paycheck. I didn't want to end up like that.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Hopefully I'll come back for holidays. In fact I've already pencilled in a trip for next January.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand has its downsides for the foreign teacher (and we all know what they are by now) but it's very easy to get complacent and stuck in a rut. Looking back - and hindsight is a wonderful thing - I would have liked to have done two or possibly three years and left it at that. Five years was a bit too long. I'm glad I pushed myself and got on the plane home. If I hadn't made the effort on the day that homesickness kicked in, who knows how long I would have stayed.


Stuart

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

We left Thailand in November 2022 and moved to Madagascar in August 2023 after a year travelling

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Four years either side of the pandemic.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

After two years in Chanthaburi, myself and my fiancée had saved up enough money to travel around Central and South America for nine months. It was her idea, and she really sold me on it, but it was also an opportunity to visit her family in Brazil.
I also wanted to get better qualifications; I originally only went to Thailand with a TEFL, with the intention being 1/2 years and then back to university for a PhD. But I soon discovered both a real love for teaching, and the reality that I would soon hit the salary ceiling unless I decided to get better qualifications.

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

The school is wonderfully diverse (my class of 24 students has 14 different nationalities) and the school both embrace and celebrate the diversity of the school.
The school also provides insurance, return flights to a country of our choice and free accommodation, with car included.
My year 6 students are a real change from my old P1/2 students, and I really enjoy teaching more advanced content in maths and science, alongside having debates in history and other humanities subjects.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

100% the street food, since Malagasy food is a lot less diverse. Also, while the typical Malagasy person is helpful and friendly, the crime rate is high, with robberies and muggings quite common. I would need quite a few hands and fingers to count the number of times I left my phone or keys or wallet in my bike in Thailand only to run down an hour or so later to find them untouched. Definitely not something that would happen here.

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

Thailand is a great place to live and start your teaching career, but the drawbacks of a government have been well advertised in this great escape section. Madagascar is a pretty mad place to live, and the nature opportunities are second to none, but there are negatives here as well.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Nothing concrete, but after we complete our PGCEs we will be looking for jobs that match our qualifications. If Thailand offers those sort of jobs, then I don’t see why not!

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Malagasy beer and rum is good, but they still don’t hit the spot like a Chang/Leo or Hong Thong


Aidan

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

London, at the start of 2022.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Three years in a nice school near Don Muang Airport.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

To get better qualifications so I can return some day and work at an international school. I'm currently doing paid teacher training to get my QTS (Happy to help others do this) I work full-time and do a course over 18 months. My wife wanted also to experience living outside of Thailand so all of the stars aligned.

I think I was on around 55,000 when I left and I was in my late 30's so I needed to get serious about advancing my career in order to get a better salary and better working conditions.

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

England is a tough place to teach at the moment and teachers are leaving the profession in droves. My traineeship is an attempt to bring new blood into the system that frankly is on its knees.

The benefit is my training. It's fantastic and helping me become a better teacher that no course or experience gave me previously.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss so much about Thailand, I hated the heat and the smell of Bangkok for the first few months but found it difficult to leave after three years.

I miss the friendliness of the locals with big smiles everyday, the street food that was cheap and cheerful, the huge markets with fresh fruit, the sheer amount of places to visit and see. I miss complaining about the dual pricing model over a beer or the drinks with colleagues into the wee hours drinking nothing but Leo and Chang.

I miss the people at my condo who tried to teach me Thai and always wanted to take selfies with me, my old condo that cost just 15% of my current place, the crazy taxi journeys where you end up miles from where you wanted to go.
Then there's the easy life with no stress, good friends and wonderful locals. There is a lot to miss.

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

If you want to discover if teaching is for you then Thailand is a great first stop. It's a real fun place as I mentioned above. If I wasn't here in England for the QTS I would have no worries about ever coming back here. Sure there are some nice places but you need to be super wealthy to get ahead here and pay rip-off rents and mortgages.

The kids here take education for granted. I never once in three years had a behavior issue with a Thai pupil but here I'm writing a report on about an average of three a day.

I sympathize with the kids but every class is challenging to cope with the numbers of kids with behavior problems so it isn't all good here. I'm here for a purpose - to get my qualifications and get out.

The workload in England is astronomical compared to Thailand and I leave most days at 5 having started at 8. This is in part due to budget strain and lack of teachers, but it gets very stressful balancing all of my responsibilities.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

My plan is to get qualified, go back abroad where there are opportunities but go back to Thailand in the end.

I plan to build a house in Isaan somewhere listening to trance music with a few friends drinking Leo and Chang and living the farmer lifestyle complaining about why my pineapples aren't growing to make pina coladas.

Thailand grew on me over time and I can't wait to go back - plus the wife is from there so we'll get back often.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand is a wonderful place, full of adventures and crazy places but also full of beautiful people, some of the kindest people I've ever met and a place I'd be happy to call home.

Is it perfect? no it isn't, but where is? If you come into the country comparing it to yours, then go back. We have no right telling them how to run their country.

Yes, it's inconvenient going to the police station every year to take fingerprints, yes there are power cuts, smog, pollution and all manner of mad things but it's also a great place to start a career in teaching for the first year or two to get to grips.

It's a great place to explore and grow as an individual. It's close to other countries in the area for tourism. It's still cheaper than living here in England by a mile.

It's amazing how many people complain about Thailand becoming expensive but come on, you can get a decent condo or house for 10,000 baht a month. Compare that to London where a room with a single bed, a desk and a wardrobe is between 25,000 - 30,000 baht for basically a shoe box.

If you are qualified then Thailand still has a lot to offer in terms of location and development.

Thank you for letting me say my piece, love the site and miss Thailand.


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.


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