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


Jono

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Doha, Qatar in 2018.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for 5 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Money primarily. After hitting my 30s, I suddenly became aware that time was of the essence and I couldn't spend the rest of my life just breaking even every month, even if it was fun. I needed to plan for the future.

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

Money money money. In Qatar I make triple what I used to earn in Thailand and also have a free apartment so it's nice being able to save a big chunk of my pay every month.

Paid holidays and flight stipends. I went back to the UK twice, took trips back to Thailand, Bahrain and also Spain. In Thailand I didn't get paid during the April holidays and didn't get to travel nearly as much.

It's a lot more developed in Qatar so theres little of the third-worldy chaos of Thailand.
It's multicultural with expats of every nationality found here so you don't get stared at and there isn't the us vs them mentality of Thailand. Also the food scene is amazing.

Teachers are treated much more seriously here. We are respected as professionals rather than treated like dancing white monkeys in Thailand. Its definitely more organised and a better place to work overall.

Also, while it does get very hot, I like the lack of rain in the Middle East. I don't miss commuting to school on a scooter in the rain, drying off my soaking work shirt and shoes and freezing in an air conditioner, only to get caught in another storm coming home.

Finally, with the Covid 19 pandemic, I'm counting my blessings being in a country which has not only allowed me to build up some healthy savings but also vaccinated nearly all of the population. Hearing horror stories of teachers losing their jobs and salary for months on end with the endless lockdowns and just being left to fend for themselves by their employers has got me so grateful for what I have now.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Definitely the fun side of things, especially as a single man. Qatar has the heaviest skewn male/female ratio in the world so dating is a lot tougher. It can be kinda lonely at times.
I miss the parties and clubs of Bangkok. I miss the beaches and riding a scooter through the jungle. I miss the friendliness and laid-back vibe of Thai people. While third-worldy and chaotic, it is fun.

The heat in Doha is insane for a large chunk of the year. I love warm dry weather but even I am overwhelmed in the summer months. It approaches 50°C every day for months without a raincloud in sight. You run between air conditioned apartment, air conditioned school, air-conditioned car and air-conditioned mall. Might be something to bear in mind if you don't like the intense heat.

The culture can be quite intimidating for first time visitors but really you have most of the same freedoms you enjoy anywhere else. It can be a bit alarming that you need permission from your employer to leave the country too but I haven't met anyone who had issues.

Also, my job in Thailand was a lot more stress-free. I was pretty much left to do my own thing. Here, I have a higher workload and stricter standards to maintain generally.
Also, the students. My classes are all boys and some of them are really quite bratty. I definitely enjoyed teaching Thai kids more.

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

Thailand is good for getting started. Its a real fun adventure place and life is never boring. It's a great country to be young and single but I wouldn't want to be an aging teacher there with little savings and uncertainty about what happens when you pass 60. Go for a couple of years, enjoy it, but it's wise to have an exit plan.

It is quite a competitive market in the Middle East, where you need higher credentials or a couple of years experience so earn your stripes in Thailand, then make the move to where the money's at.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Definitely. I took Christmas vacations in Thailand in 2018 and 2019 before all this kicked off and it's definitely more fun to enjoy as a tourist with money in your pocket than as a resident breaking even every month. I will take a holiday there again as soon as it all blows over.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Nothing is certain in this world and you aren't young forever. Savings and social support networks are crucial. Always try to put aside some money every month for a crisis or just for the future.

Value your good male friends (if you're a guy). Girlfriends come and go but good male mates are really hard to find. Don't make stupid choices over someone else.

Travel, learn and enjoy life as much as possible. Stay safe.


Carl

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in February of 2020, just before the first Covid wave hit Thailand (I was very lucky in that respect) so I've been back home for a year and a half.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for 7 years, working at a mid-range international school in Bangkok (four years) and then a university not too far from Hua Hin.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I just fancied a break, that's all. I had a decent amount of savings behind me and was feeling a little burnt out, so I thought, what the heck!, let's go back to England for six months (possibly longer) Thailand will always be here when I get back. There was a room going spare at my sister's house and she was happy for me to live under her roof for an extended period. It just seemed like a good plan at the time.

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

I can't really answer this question because I had (and still have) no real intention of working full-time here. With Covid taking over the world, I've decided to stay put for the time being (I'm not interested in jumping through all those hoops to get back into Thailand right now). With my savings starting to dwindle, I've been picking up a few driving and delivery jobs and some casual factory work just to keep me busy. I'm really just killing time until the situation improves and I can head back to SE Asia.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Oh, I miss so much. Life is just one big adventure out there. And you realise this when you spend an extended period in grey old England. England still has a lot going for it, but where's the buzz? I miss zipping around town on motorcycle taxis, eating at my favourite footpath vendors and riding my motorcycle deep into the rice fields. And down in Hua Hin province, I was just a short ride from the coast so I enjoyed just sitting alone on the beach under the sahe of a tree and chatting with the sellers. Thailand is a life of simple pleasures but they all add up to something quite wonderful.

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

If you're a qualified teacher and you can land those 60K+ teaching jobs, then I don't think there would be a better country to start. It's in a bit of a mess at the moment with the Covid situation but the dark night will pass.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

As soon as some semblance of normality returns, I'll be on the first plane back over.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Many teachers I worked with carried too much personal baggage around. I could never work out whether they viewed Thailand as just a country to escape to and only worked in order to get a visa. The problem is that your personality and outlook follow you around, whichever part of the world you lay your hat.

Teaching is an honorable profession, and you should be doing it for the right reasons.


Kenneth

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Shanghai, China just over two years ago.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

A couple of years. I think I did four terms in total.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I wanted to stay in Asia and I wanted to continue teaching but I just felt like I needed a change of scenery. Working in Bangkok was starting to get stale and I really started to lack energy and motivation. I also felt that my health was suffering so I swapped one polluted city for another you might say.

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

I earn over double the salary that I made in Thailand (but probably have to work harder for it) and you don't have the hassles here with getting visas and work permits. And don't get me started on that ridiculous 90-day reporting. The school I work at has better facilities and resources than I was used to in Thailand and the students are much keener to learn English. My school also provides comprehensive health insurance and free housing.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss shopping at the markets, where the food was always dirt cheap (I used to enjoy cooking at home) and I miss playing golf on a lovely sunny day.

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

I'm not sure I would advise a new teacher to start with Thailand. I just think China is a better option and from what I've heard, places like Vietnam are overtaking Thailand as a TEFL destination. I think Thailand's glory days are rapidly disappearing. Salaries at most schools have increased very little in the last couple of decades but in a city like Bangkok, the cost of living has skyrocketed, especially if you embrace a Western lifestyle. However, I think the main reason I would advise against Thailand is that teachers just aren't valued or respected enough by the schools. The school I worked at had a perpetual revolving door and no one seemed to care when good teachers left, even though they weren't always easy to replace.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

It's difficult to forecast how things will shape up for SE Asian countries when and if we ever get back to some sort of normality. I really can't see the lure of Thailand at the moment and from what I glean from social media and various discussion forums, it appears that plenty of long-termers have had enough and are looking to move on. I still keep in touch with several teachers I worked with and they would all move to pastures new if the right opportunity came along.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand is an amazing place for a holiday (or was in pre-Covid times) but working there can push you to your limits. Unless you can get a good job at a proper international school, you'll struggle to save for any kind of decent retirement. For the average Joe teacher on 30-50K, what's going to happen when you hit sixty and you haven't got a pot to piddle in and employers are looking for a younger model?


Robert

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Seoul, South Korea about two and a half years ago (the end of 2018 to be exact)

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for six years. I taught at a university in Bangkok for four years and then a large secondary school in the north for my final two years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Money was probably the main issue. As I hit middle-age, I needed to earn more money and therefore save more money. Thailand is a blast when you're a teacher in their twenties but the responsibilities of life will eventually come along and kick you up the backside. I'm a fully qualified teacher so I did think about enduring a few years in The Middle East but really wanted to stay in Asia. Korea just seemed to tick more boxes than anywhere else in the region.

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

I am able to save 50% of my university salary here, thanks to having my apartment and utility bills paid for by my employer. I've also grown to really love Seoul as a city. It has a fantastic transportation system and you can get out of the city and be breathing in fresh country air in no time at all. I'm comparing this to Bangkok of course. I also appreciate the changing seasons here; Korea is gorgeous in Spring and Autumn. And a couple of things I would add is that Koreans are every bit as friendly as the Thais once you get to know them and Seoul is really not that more expensive than Bangkok (especially if you don't have to worry about rent). Oh, and streetfood in Seoul knocks the spots off that in Bangkok.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Honestly, there isn't one aspect of life in Thailand that I can't replicate here.

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

If you're a qualified teacher, then Korea wins hands down. Find the right job and the right employer and you'll be well looked after. That said, if you're a new teacher looking to gain experience, then Thailand - even with its crazy education system - is not going to be a wasted opportunity. I was there for six years, so it must've had something going for it!

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I came back for a two-week holiday shortly before Covid hit and had a wonderful time on Koh Samui. I'll continue to return for holidays but no, I can't ever see me settling there again. Retirement in Thailand certainly doesn't appeal to me.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Enjoy the TEFL lifestyle while you are young but always keep an eye on the future. It creeps up on you much faster than you think.


Phillip

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved home to Ireland in December 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked for two years in a government school and four years in an international school.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My daughter. Ireland offers free education until she is 18 plus free healthcare and free dentistry until she is 7.

I don’t like how she is treated here. She looks very “farang” and is treated very differently to other children. We do not live in Bangkok and I am not joking when I say we cannot go to Tesco or Tops without people pointing, shouting “Kao Kao” or trying to touch her. Seriously, in a worldwide pandemic, people not only disrespect social distancing, they try and pinch her cheeks.

It really affects my mental heath. Even a walk in the park leads to stares and shouts. It is horrible. I’m sure others will say I’m overreacting but I just want my daughter to have a normal life. How will she feel when she is 6 with all this attention for being farang? How will the teachers treat her? She can never blend in here and never be one of the crowd. I just want to go to the park with my daughter and walk without strangers butting in for. I cannot have a normal outing with my daughter here.

And don’t get me started on education. The thoughts of educating her here terrify me. We have all seen the scandals in the last couple of years and having worked here for 6 years I would not want my daughter subjected to the Thai side of education (I mean the rote learning, constant exams from the age of 6 etc.). We have all read about horrible teachers that were simply transferred to a new school after doing something horrible. No thank you!

The cost alone of an average school is crazy. Education should be a right as it is in Ireland. My wife cannot understand that all schools here use the same curriculum, teach the same way, don’t charge anything and all teachers are vetted and must follow a strict code of conduct.

Healthcare is also a huge concern. My daughter had a runny nose so my wife insisted on taking her to hospital. The doctor advised checking her in for 2 or 3 nights so they can monitor her. I refused. So the hospital prescribed her 4,000 baht of different medicines and liquids to wash her nose. I refused (not for price, for fear of the drugs on my daughter). And guess what? She survived at home with rest, lots of water and rice soup. Healthcare here is for profit and that can be very dangerous.

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

I’ve enjoyed working in Thailand. Good salary, very good working hours, good holidays, great co-workers. I loved the working side of Thailand.

I guess Ireland offers salary scales that increase every year, I will have convenient pension contributions and my working hours will be much shorter (09.00-15.00). Eventually I won’t have to rely on yearly contracts like I do in Thailand, the post will be permanent. That security will mean so much.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Cheap car insurance, cheap taxis, cheap Thai food, beautiful temples, people taking their shoes off, excellent shopping malls.... a lot of small things,

Since I’ve been back there are so many little things here too that I enjoy.... fresh air, actual footpaths, bins everywhere, road safety, shop assistants who let you browse, strangers say hello as they pass, punctuality.,..

Both places are awesome in their own little ways.

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

Come to Thailand but not to raise a family. It really is a great place to work.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Only on holidays.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

As teacher I was limited to Bangkok for the top jobs. This meant we had to live very far from my wife’s family and had little support. In Ireland I can work in any school throughout the country and receive the exact same salary and benefits,

The weather too.... I can take my daughter outside any time of day here! In Thailand between 08.00 and 17.00 were usually way too hot for her. She loves her walks and exercise.

My daughter seems so much happier here. We can go anywhere we want here and there is no pointing or shouting of Kao Kao. Nobody tries to touch here either.

She will be starting free pre-school classes soon (yep, free).

I see a much brighter future for her here.


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 284 total

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