Q1. Where did you move to and when?
I moved back to England in 2017, Stoke to be more precise.
Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?
I did three years in Bangkok, then worked in Seoul for a year, and then back to Bangkok for another 12 months. I have been back 'home' since May 2017. In Thailand, we worked for a decent company that paid just north of 50,000 baht a month each.
Q3. What was your main reason for moving?
My girlfriend and I had been TEFLing for five years and were getting to a point where the work was not as stimulating as it was. Without a PGCE, there was no better TEFL job we could get in Bangkok than what we had. We also have young nieces and nephews as well as aging parents, and being in our 30s we also had to think about starting a family of our own in the next few years. A bit of push and a bit of pull really.
Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?
I'm doing a PGCE now so I'm living on a student loan, but we own a house so what money we have is essentially paying ourselves for the future rather than renting. The PGCE gives me more scope for working at home and abroad.
Aside from seeing family and mates and being able to watch Match of the Day live at a reasonable hour, there aren't that many upsides.
Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?
This sounds cliche, but I miss the simplicity of life. Bangkok is a world city but can feel very local and welcoming. I worked with lots of great people from Thailand and other countries, so had the opportunity to explore and appreciate Thai food and the whole eating out culture. There's something great about going out with colleagues for a quick spot of street food, or having a few beers after work, without really denting your wallet.
I'm not a big drinker or a fan of the less salubrious parts of town, so my expenditure wasn't massive, but I would eat out most days and catch up with pals at great bars listening to questionable to amazing live music, overlooking the city and seeing the BTS snake its way through the urban jungle. The vibrancy of the place is great. I fully appreciate for some that 50k isn't much and for others it's a fortune, especially if you're single and living alone, but we thoroughly enjoyed the place and saved a fair wedge each month on that salary. It's a great place for couples.
Add to that the travel opportunities and the luxuries of the city, there weren't many dull moments.
Expats put down Bangkok quite a bit and I appreciate it is a big dirty sleazy mess of a place with a catalogue of minor annoyances, but the people are, on the whole, much more pleasant than in other countries. After working in and enduring Korea for a year, I missed the laid-back culture and learned to accept that Thailand will always have its faults. If you can have a bit of leeway and not compare Thailand to your homeland constantly, then you'll appreciate it more.
Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?
Depends. If you're young and not sure what you want to do, then get a Celta and you'll get a decent wage and a great lifestyle. See how you fare. If you don't like it or think you can do better, it's only a year of your life.
If you want a break, do the same but know that you still have to work hard and Thai schools and businesses will grind you down. Get yourself some hobbies or focus on the travel opportunities and learn to tolerate some of the idiosyncrasies of working in Thailand. I met plenty of people much older than me who let the politics of the company wash over them as the cost of having a comfortable life with a dash of adventure.
If you definitely want to be a teacher in your home country eventually, get qualified there and then look to get in international schools in Thailand. TEFL is brilliant but inevitably you'll hit a point where there's only so much you can earn with a TEFL qualification. If you have any intention of having a family or wanting long holidays, then TEFL isn't ideal.
Once you get a PGCE or equivalent, you'll have lots of earning potential as well as holidays.
Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?
Definitely. I'm doing the PGCE to cover myself in England and internationally. Having a family and living on a TEFL wage in Bangkok throws up a lot of problems around holidays and schooling. With a PGCE we're hoping to work in an international school which will give any theoretical child a quality education and ourselves a good wage that could see us rent out our home in England and save for our future.
We went back over this summer and it felt much more like home than home.
Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?
If you want to work in education in the UK and are currently working in Thailand, you'll need to get a criminal background check from Bangkok. It costs a fortune (a few hundred quid) and a long time to get it done from England, so get it done before you leave. It'll cost you a fraction and save you a lot of hassle when you're applying for jobs which require criminal background checks.
Also, enjoy Thailand. Don't get too bogged down in thinking about money and do things your own way. You don't have to live like a pauper to pay for a nice apartment if you get a decent TEFL gig, especially if you're a couple. Enjoy the culture, the food, the weekend escapes in the jungle or the beaches and the fun of it all because - unless you're very lucky - you won't get that lifestyle in many places in the world!