Submit your own Great Escape


Graham Lowe

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Doha June 2009 but I have been before.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

October 2006 until June 2009.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Two outstanding reasons. The money & career development.

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

The money. Its double a B grade international school in Bkk. Also in Middle East schools offer career development. In my case IB assessor training. If you are ambitious or career driven its a good place to get ahead.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Many things! Thai food. Is there is a better cuisine in the world? The climate in winter. The beaches and islands. Thai girls. Away from the bar and the freelance scene, Thai girls are lovely. Some of the students I have taught here have been a pleasure to teach.

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

It's very unlikely that an inexperienced teacher would get a post in the Middle East. Similarly unlikely for a TEFL CELTA etc teacher. They usually prefer registered teachers from country of origin. I have a PGCE, 14 years UK experience teaching A levels in Chemistry GCSE Sciences. Without this experience I would not get a job in the Middle East.

As for Thailand? Its difficult to get a job in a top tier international school unless you are registered with a few years of experience. As for the rest? Thailand is like nowhere else in the world. The unexpected is the norm here. You can have a great time teaching here or it can be your worst nightmare. Depends upon you and your luck with getting the right school.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

If I can get a suitable post in a good school I would love to return here to work again. I will be back for holidays etc.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Lots to add. Do your research and don't whinge. Leave your western sensibilities at Bangkok airport. Thai rules apply here. You are guests in this country, remember that! Thailand has poor salaries, cheating, no-fail systems, corruption, dodgy school administrators etc, but you should expect and be prepared for this. Thais like Thailand just as it is. You would not like it if a foreigner said "in our country we do it like this..." In Thai society employees do as they are told and are expected to kiss the ass of the employer while doing it. Well meaning sincere advice is seen as criticism by a Thai. It doesn't matter how much experience you have etc.. Keep your opinions to yourself and do things "the Thai way".

Thais judge people how they see them. Appearance is everything. White skin is everything. Look at Thai TV, adverts pharmacies etc. Racism is accepted as the norm. (look at ajarn.com jobs for native speakers only photo required etc) Some of the racist statements I have heard from educated Thais beggars belief. This unfortunate situation is because of the education of history in Thailand. Thais are very nationalistic and some are xenophobic.

Thais love to gossip, its the national pastime. Learn some Thai and listen in to it in the staffroom! It will turn your toes what they say about westerners! There will be enough gossip about you without adding to it so keep your social life to yourself. NEVER date a Thai girl you work with. If it goes wrong be prepared for the ex-gf from hell!!

Set yourself a budget and stick to it. Obviously Thailand is full of distractions. They will still be there when your next pay check goes into your bank. Thai food is wonderful and cheap. Avoid the expensive restaurants. You are paid like a local so eat like one. Watch where the thais get their food and go there. Enlist the help of a friendly Thai girl to help you find the best food. Live close to work, rent a good clean secure cheap place. Make sure you check it out at night time. Thais love noise and fail to understand you are trying to sleep.

Keep all your original documents. Don't trust any school with originals. Remember private schools are there to make money! If they did not they would not exist. This applies to international schools as well. Government schools are poor. Hence cheap salaries. No matter what your qualifications are, you are expendable and disposable at any time. If you come to Thailand expecting a hedonistic paradise. Forget it. You do not have the time or money to live like a tourist so don't expect it.

Thai kids are the same as others in the world. They will try it on with you. Don't expect rows of polite wai-ing kids. Its not like that. A minority are over-indulged "do you know who I am? My dad pays your salary" type. Get on with it, pass them and think of the good majority you teach. Don't fight the system you cannot win.

Its a wonderful country but is not paradise. Make sure you understand what you are letting yourself in for.

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