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


Andrew

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Seoul, South Korea in August 2019.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I spent two years in Bangkok before making the move to Korea. I also taught in Spain and Prague when I was in my early 20s.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My primary reason was money. Earning 40K baht a month in Bangkok just doesn't cut it anymore, especially with the increasing living costs. It was getting impossible to even maintain a slightly decent lifestyle, let alone actually save every month. I'm knocking on 40's door and can't continue living on peanuts and breaking even every month.

Another reason was the visa hassle. Every year, the Thai government makes it more and more clear that it doesn't want you there. The TM30 rubbish was the final straw for me. If they're going to make us jump through countless hoops just to be paid peanuts, is it even worth it anymore?

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

Definitely the money. In Korea, the companies pay for your apartment so that's a major expense saved every month. I can eat good food, have a night out or do some shopping and still save easily £500 a month. I could save more if I lived frugally but I did enough living like a monk in Thailand without wanting to do it here too. Theres also a severance pay of an extra months salary at the end of the contract.

Secondly, there's no 90 day check ins, TM30 nonsense on any of that rubbish. Its a bit of a pain getting your visa initially. I needed to send all my documents back to the UK to get an apostille because I couldn't do it in Thailand. But once it's done, it's done.

Thirdly, it's a breath of fresh air being somewhere so clean and modern. Korean cities are clean, modern and well linked with public transport. The buses and trains always run on time and its nice being able to walk on smooth pavements without mountains of trash, dodgy electric cables etc and ride a bicycle without fear of ending up under a truck. I enjoy hiking and it's great to be able to do that just a short train ride from the city. Theres also winter sports for those interested in skiing/snowboarding etc

Its also nice to have always had work during the Covid pandemic. I hear from friends back in Thailand about how they were left for months without work or pay during the endless lockdowns and I feel like I dodged a bullet there by leaving.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

For all it's chaos and disorganisation, I miss the laid back lifestyle of Thailand. Korea is an uptight society full of sticklers for the rules. While in Thailand, people are happy to chat with you, in Korea, like the UK, people virtually never smile and pretty much keep to themselves. It can be hard to actually meet Koreans. Dating here is tougher too. In Thailand, it was easy to meet and date nice women. Westerners, especially men have the exotic appeal there. In Korea, women daren't look at a foreigner for fear of being shamed for "betraying their own race" and teachers are stigmatised as "losers who couldn't make it at home". They are nowhere near as farang-friendly as Thais are. The nationalism is even more toxic than Thailand's.

Plus they are workaholics and fully expect the same from you too. Teachers work more hours here, plus spend time in the office doing admin etc. They love micromanagement and it's very annoying having the supervisors (smile police) patrolling the hallways watching you to see if you are "bubbly and fun" enough, ready to gladly scold you in front of your students should you appear even slightly tired. Korean teachers often have it even worse.

I'm really not a fan of the work culture here. I really do miss the laid back work culture in SEA, even if it got frustrating at times.

Finally, the weather sucks. Seoul seems to have the worst climate in the world IMO (and I'm from England). Summers are plagued by typhoons and storms while winters are long, soul-suckingly cold, grey and smoggy with a few weeks of nice weather in-between. I really miss the year round warmth of Thailand, the outdoor swimming pools, beaches, palm trees and never needing to wear a coat.

I plan to leave Korea at the end of my contract for these reasons. While I won't go back to Thailand, I will go to SEA (I heard Vietnam's good) or maybe Taiwan or Hong Kong.

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

I'd definitely recommend Thailand but only for a year or so unless you can get into an international school. Theres no future in being a 40K TEFLer in a public school. Its a fun place and I really do love it.

Korea is also good for new teachers. They really baby you with free accomodation, airport pickups, flight stipends etc. Its easy to get settled. I would probably say more "serious" teachers would prefer Korea while laid back and fun loving types will definitely prefer Thailand.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Definitely, but probably only for holidays. If they ease up on the visa requirements and start paying teachers an actual wage, I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

No


Jay

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to the UK in May 2019.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Bangkok for around 3 years (2 different spells)

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I returned back to the UK due to lack of career progression. I have a BA in TESOL and a CELTA with experience in China and the UK. The language centre where I worked was great, but hourly paid work lacked security, with no holiday or sick pay. When the centre closed for the summer you might get little work.

I loved the job as I got to teach a range of abilities and ages, but it wasn't worth the uncertainty of not knowing how much you'd take home each month.

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

I am currently completing my PGCE after spending two years working in digital marketing during Covid.

Believe it or not, I really like the variety of food in the supermarkets here. Eating out without getting Bangkok belly, being able to use the pedestrian crossing knowing cars will stop, and being able to go outside without being drenched in sweat.

But on a serious note, pension is a massive bonus, and access to finance is a huge pull. I hope to buy my own place this year so that is an advantage.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss Thailand a lot, I still have a lot of friends and definitely missed it during my two years away due to Covid. I managed a trip back to Thailand during Christmas and it was great.

I miss the humidity and chaos of Bangkok, the smiles from the locals, the freedom that you have, and of course the food!

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

Yes, definitely! Just make sure you have a long-term plan.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes! Once I have 2 or 3 years experience teaching here, definitely. I just want to come back to a stable job with career progression and a decent wage. But before that I'm planning on spending two months in the Summer in Thailand.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand is a great place but it's easy to get caught in the trap of being there too long without career progression. Most importantly enjoy the little things, explore when you get the chance and do things you wouldn't do normally.


Jack

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in October 2019

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for four years between 2013 to 2017 and took a few trips back before moving to Vietnam in 2019.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My primary reason was the visa hassle. It seemed like every time I had to go to the immigration office or do some 90-day rubbish, they became more and more spiteful. Every other week there would be some harebrained new rule implemented at a moment's notice with harsh zeal and I just felt more and more unwelcome as time went on. It had become a place I couldn't see myself settling as much as I would have liked to.

Another reason is money. Teacher salaries in Thailand are frankly insulting when you factor in the work we do, the strict requirement for degrees (that we spent thousands of £, € or $ getting) being notorised etc and the hassle of dealing with immigration we go through. With tourism as a major industry in the country, they should be begging for English teachers, not pushing them away.

I had a similar story to many I know in the 35-45k bracket, running on fumes by the end of the month and tormenting myself having to eat rice again when I knew there was an amazing pizza place a few BTS stops down that I could only afford as a very rare treat and a night out being an even rarer treat.

Just trying to live even a slightly comfortable life, I couldn't save anything and after I hit my 30s and was still counting pennies every month, I realised I needed change. Also, their attitudes towards farangs just seemed to get worse and worse. I didn't want to work, pay taxes and contribute to a society that frankly didn't want me to be there.

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

Visas are far easier in Vietnam. While officially you need a degree here, it's less stringent than in Thailand. With my documents, my school got me a 2-year residence card so I could throw my passport in the safe and can worry about it in two years time. No 90-day check ins and no need for re-entry visas if I go abroad (I just take my residence card and come straight back in).

Also, the money situation is a lot better here. I get paid twice as much for significantly less work than I did in Thailand. On top of that, Vietnam is dirt cheap so your money goes far. I have a lifestyle in Saigon I could only dream about in Bangkok with a nice condo in a popular area, eat good food every day and still have money to travel.

You don't need to sell your soul by moving to the Middle East or putting up with freezing winters in Korea. In Vietnam, you can have a healthy slice of the Southeast Asian lifestyle in the sun, have fun and still save money every month.

Vietnamese language uses the Roman script so while it's still a pain to learn, at least you can read signs etc without needing to learn strange characters.

Finally, I've actually found the locals to be better here than in Thailand. There seems to be less of the "us vs them" attitude and I've dealt with far less incidents of xenophobia or racism here. Like many Asians, they are sensitive to criticism but they don't have the same nationalistic "centre of the universe" attitude that many Thais have. Maybe because there are fewer tourists, creeps and lager louts here, the Viets haven't had chance to develop the resentment that mass tourism brought to Thailand.

While the locals' English ability is low in Vietnam too, they're more likely to try and help out rather than scowl or ignore you like Thais. While not all Thais are rude or Vietnamese are polite, you're far more likely to run into a rude Thai.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Thailand is definitely more fun. I miss the nightlife of Bangkok and Pattaya. Whether you like a British pub, raving nightclub, quiet beer bar or watching gogo dancers, there's something for everyone there. Even in District 1 of Saigon, the nightlife is much more tame. Bui Vien pales in comparison to Khao San road etc.
Now that I'm in my mid 30s and no longer a party animal, I'm ok with that but my nostalgic self still misses the nightlife of Thailand.

Thailand has a very high return rate among tourists while Vietnam's is very low.
While I won't say that Vietnam is boring, I can kind of understand why anyone who spent time in Bangkok would think it is so.

The dating scene was quite a lot better in Thailand and also the expat scene. I had some really good friends in Thailand who I still keep in contact with now. While I have some good friends here too, as a smaller expat community overall, the Vietnam expats can be quite cliquey and gossip travels through the coconut telegraph with ease, especially in the smaller areas but maybe I'm biased as I used to live in Bangkok. Thailand seemed to have much more of a "live and let live" attitude from locals and expats alike.

The food scene is much better in Thailand. Thai food reigns far superior over Vietnamese in flavour, variety and quality and I honestly don't like Vietnamese food at all. Apart from the bread, it's inferior in almost every aspect and mostly dishes consist of some kind of noodle soup with mystery meat.

Not to mention, as a more touristy place, international food is far more abundant in Thailand too. I'm lucky I live in big city Saigon where international food is available. Out in the provinces of Vietnam, I might very well starve to death.

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

It depends on you. For all it's excitement and adventure, Vietnam is a lot more "raw" than Thailand and very much "real Asia". The traffic is even more chaotic, the noise even more irritating and weird/rude/unusual behaviour from locals such is spitting, yell-talking, urinating in public etc is more commonplace. It's a lot more traditional here too.

Many former Thailand heads will say that Vietnam is the adventure they've been looking for. Many others will yell expletives the moment they step out the airport and board the first flight back to Bangkok. Its a real culture shock, for good and for bad. Even for me as a seasoned traveller and teacher, stepping into the Saigon traffic, noise and chaos for the first time had me questioning my life choices. And this depends on where you are in the country too. Saigon is more modern and typically Southeast Asian while Hanoi is more traditional and similar to China.

I know dating is a big motivation for many guys moving to SEA. Being a very conservative country, Vietnam is harder in that regard. Many Vietnamese women are married by their early 20s and have no interest in dating foreigners. The good news is it's still a very good country for single dudes and Vietnamese women are real sweethearts.

Personally, for new teachers and those less travelled, I'd recommend Thailand. It is far more geared to tourists and expats, making life more comfortable and simple. Theres plenty of fun to be had there and for a young buck keen to party, a new teacher earning their stripes or a first time Asia explorer, I don't think there's a much better place.

But for seasoned travellers and more established teachers who still want to enjoy the laid back, Southeast Asia lifestyle but without living in poverty or dealing with endless visa hassle, Vietnam is a very good alternative.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Definitely. I still have friends and people I want to visit. But I'm doubtful I'll move back unless visas and salaries drastically improve.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

No.


Johnny

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to the UAE in 2021. I spend most of my time working in Abu Dhabi, with a few days a week in Dubai.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I lived in Thailand for just over 10 years. Three in Chiang Mai and seven in Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I had moved for financial reasons and to be closer to home. I can work fewer hours here for a lot more money and my standard of living is comparable. I can also be back to the UK in 7 hours. I also have a young family and was growing tired of trying to teach my kids to ride a bike and have a kick about in central Bangkok.

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

I was honestly quite judgemental about moving to the UAE. I had assumed the whole place was a shopping mall in the desert and was devoid of character - we would make some money for a few years and head on somewhere else. To be fair, some areas are like this, but once you start to know the place there is a huge amount of charm and culture. It is definitely better to raise kids here than the dog and car filled sois of Bangkok - loads of parks, activities and all very safe.

There are annoying groups of people here - Dubai especially - but idiots are everywhere. Influencers and life coaches and dodgy financial advisors here, cryptobros and digital nomads and dodgy financial advisors back in Thailand.

The opportunity for work here is large and progression is a real possibility. Teaching is always said to be valued highly socially in Thailand, but here it is valued economically and professionally also. Regulations and requirements for work permits here are quite rigorous, but this allows for the profession to be protected somewhat from those that may fall into positions and impact the reputation of foreign teachers. People are direct here and you know where you stand. I didn't realise how refreshing this would be.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss the beer scene. Pints are expensive here, which is fine I guess, but the plastic stool and bottle of Leo with mates is something I do miss a lot. Bangkok has a charm that nowhere else has, it's hard to describe, but it's certainly missed. Of course the food and travel opportunities of Thailand are a huge miss too.

Routine is a hard thing to move on from. I miss my local haunts, my favourite food delivery, getting a motosai to places, but I guess this will all go with time.

Whilst it sounds strange, I quite miss some of the randoms you'd meet in the pubs there. Old boys who are there with nowhere else to go telling stories that are probably untrue, but highly entertaining none the less. I'm not saying I miss the grumbling 'romantic retirees' berating snowflakes and a 10 baht increase in the cost of their full English, but there is something to be said for the wide range of people you can meet in Bangkok.

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

It really depends. If it was a 'time passer' for someone for a little while then definitely, but someone trying to forge a lifelong career then I'm not so sure. Bangkok has a very high concentration of international schools - a lot of them decent - and this can be an advantage that other cities don't have. This benefitted me. Really though, I probably would advise a young teacher to do it for a year or two and move on. The progression of the field that is occurring globally just doesn't seem to be applying to Thailand. Although the changes in China may have a knock-on effect to the region in a year or two.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

It's a charming country where I have friends and memories, but it often doesn't make things very easy for international visitors. My wife isn't Thai and a lot of my friends there are already beginning to move on also. I think post-covid Thailand may struggle to re-achieve its tourist numbers. It pains me to say, but why would I pick Thailand over Vietnam, Turkey or India for a week or two? I'm not interested in the 'nightlife' that lots of tourists/expats are and I can go to fantastic places that are cheaper and easier. That all sounds a bit glum but I'll probably return purely because it'll always feel a little bit like home.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I sounded a bit negative there but I loved my time in Thailand!


Clif

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I left Thailand in November of 2019, spent a year in the Philippines with my wife (who is Filipina) and moved back to my home country of the U.S. in November of 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I did a 120-hour TESOL course in Phuket back in 2013 and aside from a year in China I was in Thailand for pretty much the whole time from 2013 to 2019. So roughly six years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My wife and I left Thailand back in 2019, which was during the height of the TM-30 episode for those of you who remember. Back then we were living in Nakhon Nayok and the immigration office there was one of many in rural Thailand that decided to make life very difficult for Filipinos. My wife had been living with me in Korat for years and we never had any issues, but as soon as we moved to Nakhon Nayok, things started getting bad. That immigration office made our lives hell that year, so I think we both just really needed a chance to take a break and recharge our batteries. We also wanted to start pursuing a visa for her so that she could come to the U.S. if we ever decided to move back.

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

I never thought I’d say this, but America is actually a pretty great place to be right now. When I left in 2013 things were pretty bleak and I was much better off in Thailand. In Thailand I usually made about 70-100k a month as a TEFL teacher by combining bricks-and-mortar teaching with online work. Living in places like Korat on 70K a month affords a very nice standard of living, so I never thought I’d leave. When I was living in Korat I started an M.A. TESOL course and graduated a while back, so being back in the U.S. with a Master’s degree has put me in a very good position. I’m making more money than ever, but the cost of living here is much higher. Also I don’t have to deal with the Thai immigration system right now, which is very nice.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss pretty much everything about life in Thailand except dealing with immigration. I miss the food, the cheap vacations to Koh Chang, the ease of travel and the friends I made there. This might sound odd to say, but I really miss government school teaching. Now that I have an M.A. TESOL I can get better paying jobs, but honestly the decision to move from government school teaching to upper-end private school teaching was probably one of the worst moves I’ve ever made. I really wish government schools paid more because they can be amazing places to work if you find yourself at a good one. (Of course, they can be terrible, as well)

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

I absolutely recommend teaching in Thailand, especially for new teachers. Living in Thailand isn’t as easy to adapt to as you might think, but if you give it time and have some patience, you might find that Thailand has a lot to offer. Even if it’s not for you, I guarantee you’ll pick up some good stories.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I would absolutely love to come back to Thailand one day. I doubt it’ll be any time in the near future, but I could definitely see myself heading back that way if I found the right job.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand can be an amazing place, but it can also be a stress factory. Believe me when I say that teaching 24+ classes a week for under 40k baht can get old really fast. If you really want to enjoy Thailand long-term, you’re going to need more than those 30-40k government school salaries unless you’ve got other streams of revenue. A good way to make sure you don’t get stuck at a bad school or with a low salary is to get qualified before you make the move.


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 303 total

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