Q1. Where did you move to and when?
Naples, Italy in September 2016 after a brief couple of months back in England
Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?
Just over 3 and a half years (two years in Rayong, one and a half in Pattaya)
Q3. What was your main reason for moving?
Several reasons. My first and biggest reason was that I had grown tired and burnt out by Thailand and all things Thai. I was tired of getting sick off the food, confused by the culture and saving face, being a farang along with everything that goes with it, 90 day immigration check ins and ever worsening visa requirements. I got frustrated by working in a country that so clearly didn't want me to be there. I wanted to be in a place that accepts me for who I am and not just treat me as another farang. If you aren't happy somewhere, it's better to leave than grow bitter.
Plus, although I'm still young, realistically I saw no long term future in Thailand, dancing for peanuts until the age of 60 when I won't be allowed to do that legally anymore, then with no savings or pension and bridges back home burned over time, what would I do then?
On top of that, I missed my family, friends and western food/culture but still love TEFL and see no future in returning to the UK to try find a boring job in a supermarket or cafe in my hometown. Moving to another country in Europe just seemed to make sense.
Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?
In Italy, I am a short, cheap 3-hour Ryanair flight from the UK and can actually afford to go back from time to time. In Thailand, the low wages combined with bad currency meant going home was an extremely rare and expensive treat.
Being an EU citizen, there are no visa requirements, no 90-day immigration check ins, no interrogations at the airport upon entry (although this may change when Brexit happens!).. Here, I am allowed to do any job, own property and have the same rights as locals (unlike in Thailand). There's no farang harassment, double tier pricing or any of the "us vs them" mentality that Thailand has. It was also fairly easy to bring my Thai wife here and get her residence permit (easier than the UK and far easier than it was to get my Thai work permit). We have travelled with ease around several countries in Europe and visited my family in the UK.
Naples is close to some awesome places including the Amalfi coast and Pompeii and it isn't far to Rome either. The language is much easier than Thai, the food is fresh, inexpensive and good quality, the weather is good for most of the year, the people much nicer and more genuine and the culture is leaps and bounds better than Thailand's IMO.
Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?
To be honest, the move has been a lot harder for my Thai wife than it has for me, she had a decent job in Thailand but here she's struggled to find meaningful employment in a city and country where locals struggle enough. On top of that, there was the language barrier and culture shock that can be expected for any Thai wife in a western country.
For me, I miss the year round heat (even south Italy gets chilly in winter made worse so by the old, poorly insulated apartments) and travelling around the islands. While here we have Positano, Ischia and Capri, I miss hopping around Krabi, Samui, Koh Chang etc, staying in bungalows and lazing around in the sea.
I miss travelling around by motorbike through the jungles, coconut trees and finding a random beach somewhere. That every day was an adventure (although living in Napoli is quite an adventure too!).
I miss the cheap living costs, the simplicity and freedom of day to day living (live and let live) . I miss my beautiful modern apartment with air conditioning, housekeeping, a gym and swimming pool and cringe when I remember that it cost a fraction of what I spend on a small, old inner city shoebox in Italy.
I miss the cheap beer, lads nights out, parties and how easy it was to find female company for the night when I was single. I miss the friends I made and just people watching in Pattaya. It really is good fun to just sit outside at a bar with a beer and watch the world go by.
I also miss the fact that in Thailand, Sundays are a normal day, there are no siestas and the 24 hour 7/11s. Italy is a nightmare for its business hours.
While these are things I do miss, I know I'm looking back with nostalgia and if I went back, I would soon get annoyed by all the 'Thainess' again.
Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?
I definitely recommend visiting and maybe teaching for a while but don't recommend staying for the long term. Teaching in Thailand, while easy and fun, definitely has a shelf life before you start wondering where you're going in life and long for greener plains.
I would only recommend staying for the long term if you have a good amount of money with you from abroad or if you can get a job at one of the big international schools, otherwise, do your time, have fun, travel - then move on.
Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?
Sure, my wife is from there and we plan to get a couple of weeks winter sun every year once we have the money but we both don't want to live there again.
Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?
New teachers, make sure to take your original documentation with you including your degree certificate and any legal proof of name change if you have done so. I had a bureaucratic nightmare my last year there trying to get my non-B visa and had to get everything sent by post from England then being snagged by the fact that my degree certificate is under a different name to my passport.
Really research the city you plan to stay in and the school you'll work at if possible and try to pipeline some teachers on Ajarn/expat forums before you go to ease the transition. Culture shock is a real thing and you aren't weak for feeling it. It's normal to have down days (or weeks).
And realise that Thailand isn't for everyone. It's a long way from home and different in just about every sense. Living there is very different to vacationing there and like a relationship gone wrong, there's no shame in realising when enough is enough and it's time to walk away.