Are you a teacher who once taught in Thailand but decided to seek out pastures new? Has the grass been greener on the other side? Maybe you swapped Thailand for the financial lure of Japan or Korea? Read about those who have left Thailand, and their reasons for moving...

Submit your own Great Escape


Kenneth

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Shanghai, China just over two years ago.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

A couple of years. I think I did four terms in total.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I wanted to stay in Asia and I wanted to continue teaching but I just felt like I needed a change of scenery. Working in Bangkok was starting to get stale and I really started to lack energy and motivation. I also felt that my health was suffering so I swapped one polluted city for another you might say.

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

I earn over double the salary that I made in Thailand (but probably have to work harder for it) and you don't have the hassles here with getting visas and work permits. And don't get me started on that ridiculous 90-day reporting. The school I work at has better facilities and resources than I was used to in Thailand and the students are much keener to learn English. My school also provides comprehensive health insurance and free housing.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss shopping at the markets, where the food was always dirt cheap (I used to enjoy cooking at home) and I miss playing golf on a lovely sunny day.

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

I'm not sure I would advise a new teacher to start with Thailand. I just think China is a better option and from what I've heard, places like Vietnam are overtaking Thailand as a TEFL destination. I think Thailand's glory days are rapidly disappearing. Salaries at most schools have increased very little in the last couple of decades but in a city like Bangkok, the cost of living has skyrocketed, especially if you embrace a Western lifestyle. However, I think the main reason I would advise against Thailand is that teachers just aren't valued or respected enough by the schools. The school I worked at had a perpetual revolving door and no one seemed to care when good teachers left, even though they weren't always easy to replace.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

It's difficult to forecast how things will shape up for SE Asian countries when and if we ever get back to some sort of normality. I really can't see the lure of Thailand at the moment and from what I glean from social media and various discussion forums, it appears that plenty of long-termers have had enough and are looking to move on. I still keep in touch with several teachers I worked with and they would all move to pastures new if the right opportunity came along.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand is an amazing place for a holiday (or was in pre-Covid times) but working there can push you to your limits. Unless you can get a good job at a proper international school, you'll struggle to save for any kind of decent retirement. For the average Joe teacher on 30-50K, what's going to happen when you hit sixty and you haven't got a pot to piddle in and employers are looking for a younger model?


Robert

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Seoul, South Korea about two and a half years ago (the end of 2018 to be exact)

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for six years. I taught at a university in Bangkok for four years and then a large secondary school in the north for my final two years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Money was probably the main issue. As I hit middle-age, I needed to earn more money and therefore save more money. Thailand is a blast when you're a teacher in their twenties but the responsibilities of life will eventually come along and kick you up the backside. I'm a fully qualified teacher so I did think about enduring a few years in The Middle East but really wanted to stay in Asia. Korea just seemed to tick more boxes than anywhere else in the region.

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

I am able to save 50% of my university salary here, thanks to having my apartment and utility bills paid for by my employer. I've also grown to really love Seoul as a city. It has a fantastic transportation system and you can get out of the city and be breathing in fresh country air in no time at all. I'm comparing this to Bangkok of course. I also appreciate the changing seasons here; Korea is gorgeous in Spring and Autumn. And a couple of things I would add is that Koreans are every bit as friendly as the Thais once you get to know them and Seoul is really not that more expensive than Bangkok (especially if you don't have to worry about rent). Oh, and streetfood in Seoul knocks the spots off that in Bangkok.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Honestly, there isn't one aspect of life in Thailand that I can't replicate here.

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

If you're a qualified teacher, then Korea wins hands down. Find the right job and the right employer and you'll be well looked after. That said, if you're a new teacher looking to gain experience, then Thailand - even with its crazy education system - is not going to be a wasted opportunity. I was there for six years, so it must've had something going for it!

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I came back for a two-week holiday shortly before Covid hit and had a wonderful time on Koh Samui. I'll continue to return for holidays but no, I can't ever see me settling there again. Retirement in Thailand certainly doesn't appeal to me.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Enjoy the TEFL lifestyle while you are young but always keep an eye on the future. It creeps up on you much faster than you think.


Phillip

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved home to Ireland in December 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked for two years in a government school and four years in an international school.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My daughter. Ireland offers free education until she is 18 plus free healthcare and free dentistry until she is 7.

I don’t like how she is treated here. She looks very “farang” and is treated very differently to other children. We do not live in Bangkok and I am not joking when I say we cannot go to Tesco or Tops without people pointing, shouting “Kao Kao” or trying to touch her. Seriously, in a worldwide pandemic, people not only disrespect social distancing, they try and pinch her cheeks.

It really affects my mental heath. Even a walk in the park leads to stares and shouts. It is horrible. I’m sure others will say I’m overreacting but I just want my daughter to have a normal life. How will she feel when she is 6 with all this attention for being farang? How will the teachers treat her? She can never blend in here and never be one of the crowd. I just want to go to the park with my daughter and walk without strangers butting in for. I cannot have a normal outing with my daughter here.

And don’t get me started on education. The thoughts of educating her here terrify me. We have all seen the scandals in the last couple of years and having worked here for 6 years I would not want my daughter subjected to the Thai side of education (I mean the rote learning, constant exams from the age of 6 etc.). We have all read about horrible teachers that were simply transferred to a new school after doing something horrible. No thank you!

The cost alone of an average school is crazy. Education should be a right as it is in Ireland. My wife cannot understand that all schools here use the same curriculum, teach the same way, don’t charge anything and all teachers are vetted and must follow a strict code of conduct.

Healthcare is also a huge concern. My daughter had a runny nose so my wife insisted on taking her to hospital. The doctor advised checking her in for 2 or 3 nights so they can monitor her. I refused. So the hospital prescribed her 4,000 baht of different medicines and liquids to wash her nose. I refused (not for price, for fear of the drugs on my daughter). And guess what? She survived at home with rest, lots of water and rice soup. Healthcare here is for profit and that can be very dangerous.

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

I’ve enjoyed working in Thailand. Good salary, very good working hours, good holidays, great co-workers. I loved the working side of Thailand.

I guess Ireland offers salary scales that increase every year, I will have convenient pension contributions and my working hours will be much shorter (09.00-15.00). Eventually I won’t have to rely on yearly contracts like I do in Thailand, the post will be permanent. That security will mean so much.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Cheap car insurance, cheap taxis, cheap Thai food, beautiful temples, people taking their shoes off, excellent shopping malls.... a lot of small things,

Since I’ve been back there are so many little things here too that I enjoy.... fresh air, actual footpaths, bins everywhere, road safety, shop assistants who let you browse, strangers say hello as they pass, punctuality.,..

Both places are awesome in their own little ways.

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

Come to Thailand but not to raise a family. It really is a great place to work.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Only on holidays.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

As teacher I was limited to Bangkok for the top jobs. This meant we had to live very far from my wife’s family and had little support. In Ireland I can work in any school throughout the country and receive the exact same salary and benefits,

The weather too.... I can take my daughter outside any time of day here! In Thailand between 08.00 and 17.00 were usually way too hot for her. She loves her walks and exercise.

My daughter seems so much happier here. We can go anywhere we want here and there is no pointing or shouting of Kao Kao. Nobody tries to touch here either.

She will be starting free pre-school classes soon (yep, free).

I see a much brighter future for her here.


Mike

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Saigon, Vietnam in August 2020

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

For three years, from Summer 2017 until Summer 2020, working at a mid-tier international school in Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Three main reasons: Better pay, a better international school and I enjoy living in Vietnam more compared to Thailand.

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

Overall, I am just a big fan of Vietnam. Vietnam is cheaper to live in so with better pay and a lower cost of living, I am able to save a good amount of money here. The atmosphere in Vietnam is just more relaxed than in Thailand (or at least compared to Bangkok). There are friendly and unfriendly people in both countries, but I just find everything to be more mellow and relaxed. The government is a bit more sensible as well. They actually make (mostly) logical decisions here, compared to the Thai government coming up with crazy new ideas or communicating something weird every other month. Especially last year there was a lot of eye rolling whenever the health minister said something, but unfortunately, it isn't just him.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Not that much really. I miss the kids at my previous school but other than that, there is nothing I miss. Before I started living in Bangkok, I must have been to Thailand 20 times, but my conclusion is that it is a nice country to visit and Bangkok is a nice break for a few days, but as for living there, I was just not that big of a fan.

Don't get me wrong, life is fairly easy, especially working for an international school, and you can basically eat, get or do anything you want in Bangkok, but I was never as comfortable there as I am now in Vietnam. To each their own I guess.

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

I would say that if you have educational degrees and are able to work at an international school, both Thailand and Vietnam will work just fine. There are obviously more international schools in Thailand compared to Vietnam though. For English teachers, Vietnam is definitely better. The salary you can get is almost double the amount compared to Thailand and the cost of living is a lot lower.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

If the world returns to normal, I would really like to visit my old school and say hi to many of the kids (because of Covid we ended the year online). Other than that, there are a number of places I enjoy visiting, whether it is Bangkok for a few days or one of the islands. To me Thailand is perfectly fine as a tourist, but I did not enjoy living there that much. I would return for a holiday though.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

No.


Tony

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Beijing, at the beginning of September 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

From February 2020 to September 2020. I was not actually working in Thailand. In fact, I only came to Thailand as was transferring within the company I worked for. I was moving from Uzbekistan to China but due to COVID-19 pandemic I came to Thailand to remote teach for a month and then sort out the visa to travel to China. The travel restrictions tightened, and this stretched out till September when I was able to move to Beijing.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

To work in Beijing, China

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

Security and stability of employment as a teacher. Ability to earn an excellent salary so I can build savings and plan for eventual retirement.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The climate, beaches, food, friends and the friendliness about the place.

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

I would certainly recommend any teacher to consider travelling and working abroad. Make sure you do your research on the schools. Always have an open mind

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, as soon as the pandemic abates sufficiently to allow unrestricted travel.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand offers a lot of opportunities to foreigners. Eight months in Thailand working remotely for my school allowed me a chance to see a different side that I normally saw when I was coming as a tourist. Having to sort out short term rents, paying bills and sorting out visas were not a problem. The cycling opportunities I had were fantastic.


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