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


Ronnie

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in late 2019. Back to my home city of Sheffield to be exact.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for three years. I started off at a small private school in Chiang Mai, earning about 25,000 baht a month but just didn't find that enough to live on. Then I worked at a government school just outside Lampang and even though the pay was better (32,000) I was bored to tears within a month or so. Eventually, I found my way to Bangkok and a large government school. I lasted about 18 months there.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

On the family side, my father wasn't in the best of health and I wanted to spend some time with him while we still had the chance. In addition, my brother was starting up a business buying and selling classic cars and he asked me if I fancied joining him as a partner. That was something that really appealed to me.

I was finding it too difficult to settle in Thailand and find a place to lay my hat and call home. Chiang Mai didn't really do it for me. I struggled to make any real friends and the air pollution for several months of the year was truly horrible ( I suffer from mild asthma) Lampang was too quiet and then of course, Bangkok was like going from one extreme to the other. Even though I come from one of the biggest cities in the UK, I found Bangkok just too overwhelming and not really much fun. It's an expensive city as well if you have no interest in living like a Thai and slumming it on 35,000 baht a month.

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

The North of England is my home, I just didn't truly realise it. It's where my family and good friends are. It's been nice to settle back into daily life here and business is going fairly well. I don't feel 'alone' here like I often did in Thailand.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I don't miss any one thing in particular. It's a pretty laid-back lifestyle but you can get too comfortable and just drift from day to day. If I had to choose three things though, I would go for buying food from night markets (I always enjoyed that) secondly, the chance to travel to other provinces because Thailand does have some amazing scenery and natural beauty and finally, some of my wonderful students (I still keep in touch with a few of them on social media) But I left Thailand without ever making a true friend if I'm honest. I've been back in England for almost a year and it sometimes feels as if Thailand never happened and maybe I just dreamed it.

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

I worked with many foreign teachers over the course of three years. Some teachers take to Thailand like a duck to water, embrace every aspect of the culture and never seem to have a bad day, whilst others spend their every waking moment moaning and groaning and make you wonder what the hell they are doing there! Whether you like Thailand or not will all boil down to your personality at the end of the day.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I think South East Asia is a fantastic part of the world, but not sure I would want to work out there again. Holiday, yes, work, probably not. If I ever ventured out that way again for a month or so, I don't think Thailand would be top of my list.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand's constantly changing visa rules and requirements was the one thing that really wore me down. Even though all the schools I worked at looked after me with visa assistance and work permits, etc, I never ever felt secure. You are only ever a guest there and Thailand constantly reminds you of your status. Someone who has been there 20 years (even with a wife and family) is just as much of a guest as someone who's just stepped off the plane. That's the way it seemed to me and it felt very unfair.


Baron

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

In February 2020, I moved to southern China.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for 3.5 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I think it came down to wanting to try a different country to teach. I also wanted to travel more in China. Of course, covid has slowed down travel everywhere.

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

The pay is definitely higher. My base salary is nearly three times what I was making in Thailand. Private tutoring rates are much higher as well. I am also treated more as an equal to my co-teachers. Management is more respectful, so far.

In Thailand, I felt I was the "token" English teacher that was hired purely to make money for the school. In China, I feel more a part of the school community and team and I actually found it easier to adjust to life in China than in Thailand. It is easier to find goods and services in China on a consistent basis than in Thailand.

In Thailand, I felt like an ATM because so many people had their hands out for money. In China, at least where I am, they have their own money. It may sound crazy but I have students that are picked in a Bentley (no lie). The school said something to one mom because she picked up her TWO children in a Lamborghini (2-seater)! Mercedes, Audi, Maserati, and Porsche are common. Many Teslas running around too. Yes, I am in China!

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Mostly the beaches. I enjoyed the food, but there is good food here as well. The cost living was lower, but so were the salaries. The lifestyle in Thailand is more laid-back.

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

It is a nice starting point. I shouldn't have stayed 3.5 years though. Looking back, I should have left after a couple of years because China prefers teachers with at least two years of teaching experience. It is all too easy to get lulled into Thailand's chill surroundings and forget that it won't last forever.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I will return annually to hit the beaches. They are beautiful.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand is a nice place to start ESL teaching. It helps a new teacher get their feet wet. That being said, it is not a good long term place to be (unless you are nearing retirement). Thailand doesn't pay well enough to live, travel, and plan for retirement comfortably. In China, my base salary is triple my Thailand salary and I have a free apartment. My annual bonus is basically one month's salary and I get a free round trip ticket home every year, as well as real insurance, including life insurance. Private tutoring wise, the rate is twice that in Thailand or more. I currently receive $100 an hour for groups of 4-6 students. In Thailand, I was lucky to get $50 an hour for 8 students.


Reggs

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in 2012. After quite a few years in Thailand I couldn't just return home to my old city and pick up where I left off, so I moved further south to sunny Hastings in 2013.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I spent 6 years teaching in Thailand. 3 years were spent in Chiang Mai in the north and then I moved again and spent another 3 years in Chiang Rai, which is about an hour from the Burmese border (now called Myanmar).

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I fell in love with teaching despite all the pitfalls of the Thai education system, so it was time to get serious, return home and study more, in order to go to countries where I could actually be rewarded financially for teaching. It was easier said than done though. I started to feel trapped in Thailand. I loved living there, loved my job, the students and culture, but the recession kicked in in Europe, so leaving for possible unemployment forced me stay longer in Thailand. Suddenly I was 6 years in and had to force myself to return home, but I have never looked back.

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

I teach in a language school close to the sea in England, so in that regard I've landed on my feet again. Teaching students from all over the world has improved me as a teacher. European students tend to know more grammar and vocabulary than Thai students, and they are more worldly wise, so that has enabled me to develop my knowledge in order to meet their academic needs.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

As many have said, the simplicity of rural Thai life. It's just so easy to go to the market, pick up what you need, and go about your daily life. Northern Thailand is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and greenery which just chills you out. It was a pleasure to live and work there every day and I miss it all profusely. My school in Chiang Rai was about 5 minutes from my house, so it was very easy to let the years tick by. Life was pretty good!

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

Of course! It is an easier start to a teaching career than some countries, so one can develop their teaching style and find out if teaching is for them. If it doesn't work out, you'll have a period of your life, for better or worse, that you'll never forget.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I did return in 2014 to collect some stuff and see old friends, but Thailand is just too far from England to make it an annual trip. If it was closer, I'd have spent many more holidays there. The flipside is Europe in pretty diverse, so I am enjoying seeing new places like Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Belgium, the list is endless. Would I work in Thailand again? I hope not. I am trying to get bigger and better paid teaching gigs, so I'll leave Thailand for holidays.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Don't get too comfortable like I did. I wish I was younger and didn't have to go back to school later in life but life is like that. Should my 6 years have been 3? I often wonder about that. If you know early on that you like teaching, seriously contemplate leaving and doing more teacher training to turn it into a viable career. There are many great teaching gigs out there, so leave ASAP, get trained and get paid.


Graham

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to Newcastle in the north of England in February of 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for 7 years and worked all that time at a government school in Chiang Rai. I don't suppose you get many teachers who last 7 years at one school! I certainly never met many.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My wife fancied giving life in England a try. After the death of her Mother in 2019, she no longer had any family ties to hold her back and living abroad was always something she'd wanted to do. She felt that at 40 years of age, it was now or never. I was perfectly happy to stay in Thailand because I loved the school I taught at and the staff and students, etc, but I wanted to give my better half the opportunity to fulfill a dream. Always at the back of my mind was that if things didn't work out in England, we could always come back and pick up where we left off.

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

Well, England is always home and Newcastle will always be my hometown I guess. Although I never planned to return, it's been great to be back among friends and family. And my wife has settled in really well, made plenty of friends and got herself a part-time job at a local supermarket. She loves life here and if she's happy, then I'm happy. I've gone back into the estate agency business, which is something I did before I left for Thailand. A lot has changed in England since I've been away and very little of it for the better.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Not sure where to start. The warm weather, the easy way of life, shopping for fresh fruit and veg at a local market, enjoying a coffee and a cake in one of Chiang Rai's numerous coffee shops, day trips and drives into the mountains and the beautiful scenery, the friendly northern Thais and their amazing hospitality. I could easily compile a list of a hundred reasons. Hold on, I'm beginning to wonder what the hell I'm doing here? LOL

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

Thailand 100% yes. Approach it with the right mindset and you'll have the time of your life.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

If you asked me, my response would be 'without a doubt'. If you asked my wife you would probably get silence and a half-smile. I'm very much a go-with-the-flow kind of guy (probably why Thailand suited me so much) and I'll accept whatever the future holds. There's no real plan at the moment.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand has its problems but it's a fabulous country to make a home in for a few years. There's something special about SE Asia in general. It's such a wonderful part of the world and hardly surprising so many foreigners find it hard to leave. It's easy to live within your means. There is no need to spend a fortune but you can still have a great lifestyle. That's what I love about it!


Peter

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England in October 2019.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for three years. I worked for two years at a government school in Kanchanaburi and then moved to Bangkok and did a year there at a private school.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I started to get homesick and a couple of my close teaching colleagues had decided to call it a day and head back home as well - one to the south of England and one to rural Ireland. I guess I got caught up in the moment and when I heard my colleagues making plans for the future, I became slightly envious. I longed for a pint down the pub with some of my old mates.

I was still enjoying Thailand to a certain degree though, and I knew returning home was going to be a gamble.

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

There aren't any at all as far as I'm concerned. I was inspired to do this survey by reading Mark's story and how he returned to live on The Isle of Wight in that lovely flat overlooking the sea. You lucky blighter, Mark, is all I can say.

I'm living back at my parent's house in Blackpool, which has to now be one of the most depressing and deprived places in England. It really is grim up here and the virus situation is only going to make things worse in terms of unemployment, etc. Actually, I'm sleeping on a make-shift camp-bed in the garage. The Winter was murder with those icy draughts coming in off the North Sea. I would've had my old childhood bedroom back but it's now occupied by my younger sister, who has also moved back home following a failed marriage.

My Mother and Father have just the two children. I'm not quite sure which one they consider to be the biggest fuck-up in life.

Work-wise, I've drifted from job to job since my return. You take what you can get in this part of the world. I've done some labouring, some painting and decorating and some driving for a parcel delivery firm. UK companies really want their pound of flesh from you these days - and all for not enough money. I've just turned 46 years old and I can't see any kind of future here for a TEFL teacher / carpet fitter.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

On Saturday nights, when the four of us are gathered around the idiot's lantern watching Strictly Come Dancing and the rain outside is lashing against the windows, my Mum will say 'anyone fancy a Mr Kipling apple slice?' (a pound for six from Costcutter) and I will feel like bursting into tears. My life in Thailand feels so far away in some forgotten and distant dimension and I've barely been back half a year. The answer to what do you miss about life in Thailand is 'everything. Absolutely everything'.

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

Don't think about it. Just do it! Treasure every second. Like every other country in the world, Thailand has its faults but I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now, even under partial lock down.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

As soon as the flight restrictions are lifted and I've got a bit of money together, I'll be straight on to the internet for a one-way ticket. And I'm outta here!

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

The grass isn't always greener on the other side. Before you consider returning home, just take a moment to look around you and appreciate what you have where you are. I was doing a comfortable teaching job for 40,000 baht a month (more than enough to live on) and I had a decent apartment with a large circle of Thai and foreign friends. And I gave that all up for what? It worked for Mark but it won't work for everyone. It was certainly a bad move for me.


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