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.