Q1. Where did you move to and when?
I moved to Beijing, China in March of this year (2019)
Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?
I had to think about this for a while but it's actually been five years. And during that time, I've worked in Thai private schools, government schools and done plenty of corporate work and evening stuff at private language schools. You could say I've got experience right across the board.
Q3. What was your main reason for moving?
Well, firstly I had a decent job offer from a school in China and I had been thinking about making the move to somewhere else (not necessarily China) for quite a while. The job offer came at just the right time in my life because I was beginning to feel a bit lost in Thailand if truth be told.
My Father always says that there is no such thing as a 'job for life' these days and there will always be changes in company rules or the hiring of new personnel that can turn a dream job into a nightmare overnight. This seemed to be a common thread for me whenever I was employed at a school full-time and got my feet under the table so to speak. New staff would take over the foreign teacher department and all of a sudden your face didn't fit anymore. It was tough to live and work with constant clouds of uncertainty hanging over you.
A number of the schools I worked at were constantly trying to cut corners financially and hire the cheapest teachers available. Literally just bodies in the classroom as long as they looked the part in front of the paying parents.
Then of course there is the Thai education system itself, which I won't go on about because it's all been said so many times already. Being a foreign teacher at a Thai school - a teacher who wants to do a professional job - can feel like too much of an uphill battle at times. Perhaps that's my fault as much as anyone else's. I needed to change my mindset but found that very difficult.
One of the reasons, I moved from school to school during my five years in Thailand was the annual contract renewal. Schools wanted to give with one hand and take with the other. The small pay increase meant nothing if your 12-month contract suddenly changed to become 11 months.
Q4. What are the advantages of working where you are now compared to Thailand?
Apart from earning twice as much money for fewer hours? Well, I haven't quite got a month under my belt yet but so far I'm very impressed with what I've seen and experienced. The teaching schedule is manageable, the students are willing and eager and the school provides in-house development and teacher training sessions. The local teachers are good to work with as well. They know the foreign teacher salaries are higher than theirs but there is no resentment. If there is then they keep it very well hidden.
Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?
I was going to say the weather but it sounds like you guys are broiling over there at the moment, while yesterday we had a gorgeous 18-degree day with a couple of light rain showers in the afternoon.
Thailand has a lot going for it if you hit it right but I think it probably makes a far better retirement destination than a country to live and work in. Thailand is not as cheap as it was though - even five years ago!
Q6. Would you advise a new teacher to seek work in Thailand or where you are now?
Yes, certainly. The standards and expectations at most schools are probably lower than in other Asian countries so it's not a bad place to learn the trade and gain some experience and confidence, before moving on to another Asian country perhaps. If you love life in Thailand, then stay but if you find yourself stagnating and kicking against the pricks, don't wait five years like I did, thinking that tomorrow things will get better. They probably won't.
Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?
It's not in my mind at the moment. I want to knuckle down here and embrace my Chinese adventure. If it all goes pear-shaped, I've no idea where I would move on to next - but very much doubt it would be Thailand.
Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?
I don't see things ever getting better for the majority of foreign teachers in Thailand. Salaries haven't increased significantly in nearly thirty years from what I'm hearing, whilst the cost of living has probably doubled and tripled in that time. Eventually I think the wheels will fall of completely and even the most desperate traveller / teacher will look at the salaries, weight it up against the time and effort and see it's just not viable.