Q1. Where did you move to and when?
I moved to Seoul, South Korea in August 2019.
Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?
I spent two years in Bangkok before making the move to Korea. I also taught in Spain and Prague when I was in my early 20s.
Q3. What was your main reason for moving?
My primary reason was money. Earning 40K baht a month in Bangkok just doesn't cut it anymore, especially with the increasing living costs. It was getting impossible to even maintain a slightly decent lifestyle, let alone actually save every month. I'm knocking on 40's door and can't continue living on peanuts and breaking even every month.
Another reason was the visa hassle. Every year, the Thai government makes it more and more clear that it doesn't want you there. The TM30 rubbish was the final straw for me. If they're going to make us jump through countless hoops just to be paid peanuts, is it even worth it anymore?
Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?
Definitely the money. In Korea, the companies pay for your apartment so that's a major expense saved every month. I can eat good food, have a night out or do some shopping and still save easily £500 a month. I could save more if I lived frugally but I did enough living like a monk in Thailand without wanting to do it here too. Theres also a severance pay of an extra months salary at the end of the contract.
Secondly, there's no 90 day check ins, TM30 nonsense on any of that rubbish. Its a bit of a pain getting your visa initially. I needed to send all my documents back to the UK to get an apostille because I couldn't do it in Thailand. But once it's done, it's done.
Thirdly, it's a breath of fresh air being somewhere so clean and modern. Korean cities are clean, modern and well linked with public transport. The buses and trains always run on time and its nice being able to walk on smooth pavements without mountains of trash, dodgy electric cables etc and ride a bicycle without fear of ending up under a truck. I enjoy hiking and it's great to be able to do that just a short train ride from the city. Theres also winter sports for those interested in skiing/snowboarding etc
Its also nice to have always had work during the Covid pandemic. I hear from friends back in Thailand about how they were left for months without work or pay during the endless lockdowns and I feel like I dodged a bullet there by leaving.
Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?
For all it's chaos and disorganisation, I miss the laid back lifestyle of Thailand. Korea is an uptight society full of sticklers for the rules. While in Thailand, people are happy to chat with you, in Korea, like the UK, people virtually never smile and pretty much keep to themselves. It can be hard to actually meet Koreans. Dating here is tougher too. In Thailand, it was easy to meet and date nice women. Westerners, especially men have the exotic appeal there. In Korea, women daren't look at a foreigner for fear of being shamed for "betraying their own race" and teachers are stigmatised as "losers who couldn't make it at home". They are nowhere near as farang-friendly as Thais are. The nationalism is even more toxic than Thailand's.
Plus they are workaholics and fully expect the same from you too. Teachers work more hours here, plus spend time in the office doing admin etc. They love micromanagement and it's very annoying having the supervisors (smile police) patrolling the hallways watching you to see if you are "bubbly and fun" enough, ready to gladly scold you in front of your students should you appear even slightly tired. Korean teachers often have it even worse.
I'm really not a fan of the work culture here. I really do miss the laid back work culture in SEA, even if it got frustrating at times.
Finally, the weather sucks. Seoul seems to have the worst climate in the world IMO (and I'm from England). Summers are plagued by typhoons and storms while winters are long, soul-suckingly cold, grey and smoggy with a few weeks of nice weather in-between. I really miss the year round warmth of Thailand, the outdoor swimming pools, beaches, palm trees and never needing to wear a coat.
I plan to leave Korea at the end of my contract for these reasons. While I won't go back to Thailand, I will go to SEA (I heard Vietnam's good) or maybe Taiwan or Hong Kong.
Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?
I'd definitely recommend Thailand but only for a year or so unless you can get into an international school. Theres no future in being a 40K TEFLer in a public school. Its a fun place and I really do love it.
Korea is also good for new teachers. They really baby you with free accomodation, airport pickups, flight stipends etc. Its easy to get settled. I would probably say more "serious" teachers would prefer Korea while laid back and fun loving types will definitely prefer Thailand.
Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?
Definitely, but probably only for holidays. If they ease up on the visa requirements and start paying teachers an actual wage, I'd go back in a heartbeat.
Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?