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


Tal

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I first moved back to the UK and then to Saudi Arabia in 2013.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

For three years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

To do a master's and then to try to earn proper money in order to save for the future.

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

The salary is NINE times what I made in Thailand. Also there are opportunities to move out of the classroom in the Middle East, which I have done for over two years now.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I still regularly visit as I am married to a Thai. Many things I miss about Thailand such as food and bargains. There is also so much to do and see.

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

Work in Thailand first for 2-3 years, then try to upgrade to another country in terms of salary.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, I visit often but will do another 2-3 years in The Middle East, then go back home to do a PGCE, and hopefully then move back to Thailand permanently.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Moving away from Thailand eventually helps to get the love and appreciation back for the place.


Donna

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

The Midlands, UK in November 2017, although I'm moving back to Manchester soon.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

A year. Worked in two different schools, six months in each. First school was a government run one in Bang Lamung, second was a private school in Pak Chong.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Family reasons and I decided to do a PGCE and become a qualified teacher. That way I can work abroad earning more money and have slightly more stability visa wise.

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

Better money and shorter hours of work. Also knowing that I won't be asked to come in early/stay late without any warning.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Pretty much everything. I miss the weather, the food, the people, the friends I made and even the kids! Although I earn considerably more money here my lifestyle was of a much higher standard while in Thailand. Here I've ran out of money before payday. In Thailand I could save every month even while travelling lots.

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

Depends what you want from life I suppose, but I would encourage anyone to give it a go. From my experience of working in UK schools and Thai schools they are very different, but it's definitely a worthwhile experience working in Thailand.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Definitely. I'm hoping once I have the PGCE and I am a fully qualified teacher that I will be able to find better paid work that will allow me to start saving for the future. In the meantime I'm hoping to go on a holiday back there - I still have so much I want to see and do there.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I wish I had moved to Thailand years ago, as I could have stayed a lot longer without having to think about retirement plans and savings. But for anyone considering it I would say give a go, you've nothing to lose and you'll probably have the time of your life even if it's only for a semester.


Chris

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Lismore, Australia. It's a regional area in New South Wales. I moved back a month ago.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

A year. Two jobs in Bangkok. The second one didn't even last half a semester before I resigned.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I wasn't qualified enough as a teacher and the ESL industry in Thailand doesn't allow for any sort of nurturing or learning of teaching abilities, except in a really cruel and counter-productive manner to the actual idea of teaching.

The way Thailand immigration and work laws are set up simply doesn't allow for any sort of real growth in teaching or for students learning ESL. I wish I had done my research better and I had more realistic expectations to start with, because it really didn't end well.

The first job, I got sacked from a high rotation agency for little reason and extremely roughly in a way that went directly against the contract I signed.

Second job was for a school that was little more than a prison for rich boys with an unbelievably toxic bully culture - and they had no curriculum, exam papers or even textbooks. I resigned from that one.

Even the international school I applied for was super wrong. They couldn't even arrange a demonstration class for me properly and got me to travel back and forth three times before they threw me into a science class to demonstrate an English class I had prepared. Of course I didn't get the job and I now understand I was set up to look incompetent because they couldn't be bothered to manage things right.

My self-esteem plummeted and I guess I must have "lost face" with my own partner, with whom I'd arranged to marry after the school year ended. I told her I didn't believe I was qualified enough (to be honest I don't think anyone is except for local teachers) to teach in Thailand. We couldn't realistically keep the same date for marriage so I suggested postponing. She kicked me out - taking my bike and leaving me in a hotel with only what luggage I could carry (after a 3-year relationship).

It's a terminal issue that goes way beyond me. I met other teachers who were either alcoholics drowning their issues into oblivion, losers, sex pests using the local women for their man-ventures, people running away from their own countries for whatever reason, ditzy backpackers or gap year folk looking for a working holiday (probably the best way to do things), actual teachers who were extremely bitter (for good reason), or good folk who were stuck in relationship quagmires like me. The long-termers all seemed stuck in a toxic situation and all seemed miserable.

I realised that I was contributing to a more ingrained pattern of a toxic education system that is highly budgeted but highly ineffective in teaching English.

I got burnout from teaching and got treated badly by immigration and country in record time, and then everything I had built just fell apart. That could have been a good thing because it could have gotten worse. I saved money from the dowry (for a relationship gone bust) and I have that to get me by back at home.

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

I'm not working full-time right now and I am actually pretty traumatized after the whole affair. The beauty of my country is that as a citizen, I'm able to have welfare support and also free psychological consultations in order to help me through the disintegration of a relationship.

The advantages and blessings of my own country are massively apparent to me now and I count my blessings. I live amongst friends and am making reconnections with my own family after losing my partnership. It could have gone a lot worse and now I can rehabilitate my life after what was frankly a disaster. However, I don't regret the experience and insight. The lesson was very powerful.

Now I'm working on music events and media as a therapeutic experience and I now wish to work and participate in working with my own community as a social worker. Think globally and act locally! I also have the option of pursuing whatever I like here in terms of future careers.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

My girlfriend that I had a great relationship with prior to moving to Thailand. She was great before we experienced cultural misunderstandings. Also the motorbiking, adventuring, food, etc.

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

For new teachers, it might be easier to get a job in Thailand as an ESL teacher but you might get yourself played in the first job. It's an experience and can help make you a stronger and a more resilient person, or alternatively a burnt-out and jaded shell if you spend too much time making excuses for a bad position you might get in. Know the ledge. Just have an escape budget and a plan ready if things aren't working out.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I have no idea at this point, it's hard to say. I lost almost everything and am thoroughly disappointed in my experience of teaching ESL in Thailand. It soured my perception of the country in very little time. Maybe that will change and I can come to peace with things in the future.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Quite a lot. They're random sort of tips in no specific order.

Don't overestimate your own threshold tolerance and mental stability. You aren't invincible. You should be aware and ready to confront your own vulnerabilities. Just remember, you really do come first in your life.

Don't go to live in Thailand out of desperation to make a life with your girl. Don't have children without a great deal of money first. Don't agree to making payments on houses, cars or goods. She can keep it all on a second if you're not savvy.

If you're not a teacher before you go to Thailand, be aware you're adding to a more widespread issue that feeds greed and corruption.

When things sour in Thailand, they can get a whole lot worse. There are people who started teaching there who have lost everything after continuing to try to satisfy the ones they live, then they have children, then they burn out from teaching, then they lose everything.

Watch out for dodgy education agencies. Check out reviews and listen to the bad reviews first, as the good ones are often constructs of the agencies themselves.

Don't say anything related to work to local teachers. It'll get skewed. Be nice to them and make social pleasantries. Give them compliments, smile, bring small gifts and snacks along.

REMEMBER NAMES. Treat people as individuals. Ask them about themselves and what they like. But dont get too close...

Your lesson plans can get destroyed in a blink of an eye. How will you keep things running?

Know the ledge when you reach it. Cash in and get out early...treat it as a working holiday with zero permanency. Keep at least 100,000 baht saved as exit dough.

If you must fall in love, fall in love with a rich or skilled girl who is not interested in traditional Thai marriage and wants to come back to your country after a year or so. Socioeconomics really does make the difference in countries with draconian immigration and working laws for foreigners.

Save every cent you have. Don't drink or go out at bars. Dont overspend on food and restaurants. Don't see bargirls. Don't go on holidays all the time. If you have other money saved up, ignore and do as you please :)

Treat everyone well but be careful what you say. Don't get caught up in what others say and keep non-commital in both speech and action.

Get the most out of the culture and beware of your own colonisms and pressing your culture onto the very resistant national one.

Speak some Thai, do their culture.

At the end of the day, for me, ESL teaching simply doesn't work in Thailand for most students. My view is to let the local teachers (mis)handle it and give the country a break from the farang teachers they clearly despise. Go teach in another country where you're more appreciated and where you can earn more dough. Thailand's for visiting - and then leaving. We're helping this perception of terrible teaching through our colonial insistence that Thai people speak English. Let the students decide for themselves if they have the passion to learn another language.

One more thing - please don't fake it to make it.


Steve

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England with my Thai wife in 2012.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for six and a half years

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I felt that after six and a half years there, I was ready to return to England.

In my time working in Bangkok, which included two military coups and several other things, I decided that was enough was enough but I had some fantastic jobs and also earned quite a bit of money,

My wife, who was my girlfriend then, decided to come back with me and that was a pretty big decision for her. Security was another big reason for me returning to England.

In Thailand, I did find the heat difficult at times and truthfully speaking, never could get used to it.

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

Now I earn about £45,000 per year as an automatic door engineer in Yorkshire, where I am from.

Now I don't have to worry about visas and work permits as I did before. Also when I worked in Thailand I missed going to watch my beloved Castleford Tigers rugby league team. I have managed to buy another house and get back on the property ladder. I own my own van and Jaguar XJ - neither could I have afforded had I stayed in Thailand.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss everything about Thailand. It is a beautiful country and the people are really nice. I met some wonderful people while I was teaching in Thailand and I definitely miss that side of things.

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

Absolutely I would, but do your homework first and you will be fine.

There are some really good schools in Bangkok where I was based. I would say try and get with a school like Inlingua or somewhere similar because they are such a nice environment to work in. I worked for Inlingua for over five years both full-time and part-time. I also taught class sizes of over 50 students, which can be challenging to say the least but again I enjoyed it.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes I do have plans to return to Thailand. My wife and I are building a house in the north of Thailand so when I retire in seven years, we can move back and live our life in peace and quiet. It's a small house in a village near my Thai family. However, we're still not sure if we will sell up lock, stock and barrel in England or perhaps divide our time between the UK and Thailand.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

While you are in Thailand, immerse yourself into Thai culture because it is wonderful. Also some advice for the gentlemen - find a nice girl. This is a must and will make your life so much more enjoyable. It is so easy for single guys to take the wrong path and find themselves going down the bar girl route. Don't do this and you will have a very fulfilling life in a wonderful country. Enjoy!


Matt Miles

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Abu Dhabi after receiving a great salary and compensation package.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

7 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

There are so many reasons. I take teaching seriously, as it is my chosen profession. I am considered an expert in the USA as I regularly published experimental and non-experimental research literature in leading educational journals, will soon finish my Ph.D. in education, and have a diverse portfolio of training and development consultation work at corporations and schools.

Too many schools in Thailand are a case study in poor teaching practices. Decisions are made based on administrative convenience. In other words, whatever is the easiest way for the person in charge. There is also massive corruption. To get a job at many schools, you have to work for whichever agency is kicking back money to the school director.

Lesson plans are only done by foreign teachers, and even those are made sloppily by copying and pasting from some other lesson. Thai teachers employ the "listen and repeat or write fifty times" method.

Thai school staff are hostile towards foreign teachers for a combination of (bad) reasons. There are backpackers that come here and lie/cheat/scheme their way through a couple of paychecks and then leave without notice. There is also a large pay gap between Thais and what foreigners are willing to accept. There is also a huge cultural difference where Thais are raised to bow and obey their superiors without question, whereas foreigners expect a rationale explanation for things. In Thailand, there usually isn't one.

There is also a "copy to help" culture where Thai students are taught that cheating is OK, that if another student doesn't know an answer you should give it for them, and they don't even know what good study habits are let alone practice them.

You also have the larger cultural difference of wages and labor conditions. Thai business owners give workers less than .01% of the income received, no benefits, no safety procedures or equipment, and 12 hours a day or more of work and act like they are doing them a favor. It's not uncommon to see a Thai working heavy construction emaciated and barefoot. Of course this attitude gets carried over more and more into the teaching space and with foreign workers. These are all reasons why Filipinos are being hired more and more in the schools here. Filipinos will work for a standard Thai wage, and they will work under any conditions without complaint.

Meanwhile Thailand continues to sink on international English competency surveys and tests. The Filipinos don't perform any better than the native Thai teachers do, so it's all an exercise in pointlessness. I don't see things getting any better any time soon.

You also have the Thai culture of "saving face". In a work environment "saving face" leads to real problems. No one accepts responsibility for their actions, or lack of action (especially supervisors). Most management gets their job through personal friendships anyway, because in Thailand it's not what you know or what you can do, it's who you know. As a result you often show up minutes before a lesson or activity is supposed to start, only to find that no one has planned or prepared anything. The chaotic running around for materials and knee-jerk taskings that ensue are very uncomfortable.

Managers, head teachers, and principals weasel their way out of these situations using any number of common excuses, and the teachers are left looking incompetent. You can be the most motivated, well-trained, diversely experienced teacher on Earth, but in Thailand you will fail. There are too many problems, many beyond your control, that will interfere with your ability to teach well. I could go on for another three pages easily listing other such problems.

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

I now make 15,475 AED per month teaching at a state school in Abu Dhabi. That is more than three times what the average teacher in Thailand makes. Also, all expenses are paid. Paid airfare, immigration fees, luggage fees, food, housing, and transportation back and forth to work. Not to mention the basic benefits like health insurance, dental insurance, contract completion bonuses, yearly raises and career progression. It's a no brainier.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss everything about life in Thailand, but I don't miss anything about teaching in Thailand. Those are two very different things. I credit my own dedication to effective pedagogy as the reason I kept struggling in Thai school as long as I did, and wanting to see my Thai wife happy among her friends and family.

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

Absolutely not. There are some disturbing trends growing in the ESL scene here, especially in Bangkok. TEFL schools are charging more and more, then turning around and taking a percentage of the teacher's salary just for referring them to a job. They continue skimming teachers' salaries until they leave the job regardless if it is three months or three years.

The hours are getting longer, the teaching periods per week are increasing, the wages are getting lower, and the ability to apply teaching techniques is decreasing. More and more teachers are given a set lesson, materials and direction of what to do and say minute-by-minute.

Backpackers love it because they don't have to put any thought into their teaching, but real teachers see the lack of engagement and poor instructional designs and are horrified. Companies are starting to withhold money from teachers that they have already earned, as a way to prevent them from quitting. There is a term for this practice, indentured servitude, which is a less brutal form of slavery.

Immigration policies are becoming more strict, more expensive, more time-consuming and more invasive. Not to mention they change on a weekly basis, and different branches are all going by different rules. The immigration office in Udon Thani, for example will require different documentation and use different forms than the main office in Chaeng Wattana, Bangkok.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

None. I have seen all I need to see in Thailand. For tourism in the future I will go to other countries that I haven't been to yet. My basic understanding of how Thailand works prevents me from enjoying myself there anymore.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you to ajarn.com for allowing teachers to share their experiences with each other honestly and openly. This is a powerful social platform and it does a lot of good.


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