Submit your own Great Escape

Mark Dawson-Smith

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Hamilton, New Zealand (Hamilton is about an hour and a half south of Auckland), in March 2003.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for more than 11 and a half years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Mostly for family reasons. My family (wife and two daughters) had been involved in an horrific coach accident in the south of Thailand in May 2002, in which my youngest daughter had almost lost a leg. I guess it was the reaction of some of the local people that sealed it for me. Insurance companies didn’t want to know, the bus company blamed the driver (who had, of course, fled the scene), the police grinned a lot and gave me the coach driver’s address, should I want to settle the matter myself, and at the end of it all I just felt that I never wanted to put my family through such a thing again. Additionally, my girls were leaving home before 6am to get to school and as I wasn’t getting home until late most evenings, I hardly saw them during the week. So, definitely a move for family (and lifestyle) reasons.

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

Where do I begin? First of all there is excellent education for my daughters at very low cost. I have a good working environment with generally competent people and very few shysters. People are prepared to listen, and there is little of the back-stabbing and petty jealousies that are so common in Thai educational establishments. All staff are expected to work a 37-hour working week, Monday to Friday. Any over time can be taken off in lieu. I get a reasonable salary (although I can’t save as much as I did in Thailand). Employers have good leave provisions and offer generous training assistance. As far as teaching goes, we get a great mix of students from different countries around the world. They are generally well-motivated, as most are preparing for university. And, of course, we enjoy outstanding sport (I spent all day yesterday at a sun-soaked Seddon Park watching the Black Caps stuff the Aussies!)

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Mainly my friends/work mates. I was lucky enough to work with some top teachers during my time in Thailand, and I guess these still make up most of the people I would still call good friends. And maybe quiz night at the Bull’s Head!

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

For a new teacher, I would most definitely advise to seek work in Thailand. It is a great place to learn, and I think the learning curve is probably a lot steeper over there, especially in Bangkok. There are some very good teachers working in Bangkok, and ‘newbies’ can learn a lot from them. I know I certainly learnt loads from other more experienced teachers when I started out in 1991. If you can find a school that pays a half decent salary, Thailand can be a great place for new teachers.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I’d like to say “Yes”, but I don’t think I could come back and work, at least not until my daughters had finished uni over here. We still own a house in Prakhanong, so I guess that gives me a good excuse to pop over there, but I have resisted the temptation for the last 4 years. If I was to return, I think lifestyle would be a real issue, though.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Enjoy Thailand as much as you can. Make mistakes, but learn from them. Remember that there are lots of other great places out there, and if you are a serious and capable teacher, then don’t be afraid to turn your back on Bangkok and find just as much fun somewhere else.

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