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


Simon

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.


Nicola 'Teacher Cola'

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back home to Newcastle, U.K quite recently.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Seven years in total. I worked for five years in Thai schools and another two years at an international school.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I wanted to experience life again in the U.K as I felt as if I'd almost forgotten what it was like. I was also thinking about doing further study.

It was always in the back of my mind that I wasn't yet a fully qualified teacher and I think I'd feel more settled and able to progress if I was. I was also growing a bit sick of visa issues and just wanted a change. I felt I wasn't appreciating life in Thailand as much as I had in the past, but I think I'd definitely appreciate it more now I remember what life in the U.K is like.

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

Having family close, shopping at good value supermarkets and going out to events etc. Not having to worry about visa issues is nice and just generally being able to understand everything more - because it's all in English of course! It's nice being able to walk to places too, which I could never really do in Thailand.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The weather, the food, the Thai people, having more free time and spare cash to do things. Having fewer worries in general. Everything in England is expensive and I also find the work is quite stressful. You don't seem to get as much free time here. Nowadays, a lot of people seem so busy and stressed out.

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

I think if you're qualified, I would recommend going to teach in Thailand, definitely! It's a great life and you can save a lot of money and travel. Or if not, go to Thailand for a few years but aim to get qualified at some stage in order to get a better job and enjoy a better lifestyle.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, I'm hoping to start a PGCE qualification in September then go back to teach in an international school. I think I've realised you don't need to necessary settle in the U.K. As long as you're happy, it doesn't matter where you are. You can always pop back and visit family in the U.K fairly regularly.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I'm so glad I came back home to the UK to have this experience but I'm looking forward to returning to Thailand with fresh eyes in the not so distant future, so I'll see you all then!


Dave

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Moved back to Western Europe in May 2018

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Four years - which should have been two.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Dead end job with a Thai boss trying to squeeze out more and more of your time and effort. Finally stopped looking through pink-colored glasses and saw Thailand as a whole for what it really is.

The main reason for moving is that I would be ashamed to have my child grow up there while he can grow up in a first class world and have tons of opportunities and develop a proper mindset instead of only thinking "sabai or sanuk".

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

Communication, clarity and feedback.
Straightforwardness
Pension scheme
Can express myself by talking LOUD !! haha

24 bottles of quality beer for less than 400 baht
tires stay inflated

But on a more serious note:

juridical system is on my side
no visa
better healthcare
free first world class education

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Riding my scooter from the gym to lunch to swimming pool to massage shop to ..............whatever.

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

Sure, give it a go but please do not think it is anything serious. It's a laugh, so have a few and move on. Just live by the following phrase to make your teaching life easier:

"Thinking is hard, serious is worse yet !" 555

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Thailand is like a warm bath.....once you are in, it's hard to get out, But now I am out, I have no desire to pay big bucks for a tiring 14-hour flight while a 3-hour flight will get me a good time in Southern Europe.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Just a few things to ponder:

While you are having a great time, more sensible folks back home have started building a career and an accompanying pension plan.

You are helping Thailand by teaching its children and getting rewarded by paying double the entrance fee for national parks? What on earth is that all about?

The school administration pockets a percentage of the teacher budget, even more for Filipinos. Business first, education second!

Why should a qualified, experienced Filipino teacher earns less than John the backpacker coming fresh off the bus?

Don't become a lifer!


Mary

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to the UK in November 2013 with my daughter. I then pursued another undergraduate degree, which I completed last year in October 2017. Currently, I am continuing my MA degree in English at a prestigious university in London.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for thirteen years in total.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My main reason was that my British husband cheated on me while we were both working in one school a few years back and he is now with the former Thai assistant teacher, who threatened me while I was in Thailand. They now have two children together. So I decided to leave. Another reason was to protect my daughter and we decided to continue her studies in England.

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

I am a full-time MA student and a single mum, juggling my time and trying to finish my studies hopefully this year. The truth is that the situation is not easy at all because I am doing everything on my own and it is really difficult. I thank God because my daughter keeps me going. I hope that I will be able to get a better job in the future so that my daughter and I will survive.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I consider Thailand as my second home because I started working as an English teacher there in 1997. I worked for different schools from south Thailand all the way to Bangkok for 13 years. I loved the Thai students and miss the food. I am also grateful that I can speak Thai fluently because of my Thai teachers and students.

The 3S' called 'sabai' (comfortable), 'sadu-ak' (convenient) and 'su-ay' (beautiful) are the 3S Thai words I learned in Thailand. Thailand has the qualities mentioned but then I hope that it is still the same nowadays regarding the general perspective in this country.

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

If you are a young TEFL teacher and would like to explore the country, I think Thailand is for you to serve as a springboard to teaching. Even without teaching experience, as long as you are a native speaker, some Bilingual or Thai schools and language schools will give you an opportunity to teach.

However, it is hard to save money because the salary is barely sufficient to live on unless you have extra tutorials or work in an international school as a qualified teacher - and then you will get a higher salary.

Just a piece of advice for those families who decide to move and work in Thailand, please think twice. Although, I am not generalising, in my case my husband, daughter and I moved to Thailand from the UK and worked as a family. Then in less than a year, an assistant Thai teacher hooked my husband knowing she knew all along that this man had got a family already.

My husband came back to us twice but things just didn't work out. He eventually went back to the Thai assistant and left us as his legal family. With all the hopes, excitement, promises and dreams we had, everything turned into a nightmare due to their act of infidelity.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I would love to go back to teach in Thailand one day because I miss and love the Thai students. I have so many unforgettable experiences to cherish from my time in Thailand.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

All people have their own journey and stories to tell. The main thing is to help the learners in a good way by applying different teaching methods and techniques with a touch of theory and practice'. In addition, good education values should also be instilled in the classroom apart from teaching English itself. Above all, when you love the things you do, then you keep going.


Nick

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!


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