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


Ben

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

In 2020 I moved back to my home country USA.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Bangkok for one year as a teacher in a private school on Rama 2 and also did English camps for a company on the weekends. After that I worked in Koh Samui for 18 months as a hotel trainer/teacher.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Hotel training was ending due to the pandemic and I also did not want to stay in Thailand for what was still very unknown back then.

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

Even with tourism picking back up, it will take some time until hotels begin taking on hotel training contracts, and teaching English has always been and hopefully will be a hobby I can continue to embrace in the future. My new job in USA pays much more, and I can save a lot more than in Thailand. I work from home and have a lot more time for my children.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss the adventures that come with just going out every day. I would go out a lot more there than here in USA. Interactions with people was more fun there than here. I miss all the crazy fruits I could eat everyday, the street food, beaches, and the good parties.

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

In my opinion, Thailand is the greatest country in the world to teach English. There are a lot of schools that will give a new teacher a chance. This may sound harsh but again just my opinion, but most schools and hotels I encountered were always more impressed with me being friendly, young and "good looking" rather than my actual teaching abilities. "Good looking" is also basically anyone who is young and smiles.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

For sure! I love Thailand. My goal would be to work there again in the future but to be working 100% for other reasons than money.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

At the moment in USA life is going great, with my job, family, and social lifestyle, yet I still find myself missing Thailand everyday.


Barrowboy

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Saudi Arabia in 2019. I work for a British company, still teaching English, and live on a compound with a very Western culture. I’m also 45 minutes from Bahrain for weekends away and live events like F1 and concerts.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I did my CELTA in Chiang Mai in 2009 and after recovering from dengue fever after the course, I moved to Cambodia for two years. I then spent six years in Vietnam at a Western university. I always wanted to come back to Thailand to teach so after working at a university in the UK, I moved back and worked for two years in Bangkok.

I worked for three different language schools at the same time doing corporate work. Some of the contracts were brutal, working 6 days a week preparing Thai teachers for Cambridge exams. Other contracts were three hours a week in large multinationals, so it was a mixed bag, which I liked. Also the brutal contracts paid really well as everything was billed by the hour. I also liked the flexibility of choosing when I worked.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I joined teaching later in life, giving up a good career in London to follow my dream of living abroad. You get to a stage in life though where retirement plans seem to fill more and more of your thinking. I was never going to retire early if I stayed in Thailand. I now make in a month what I was making in six months teaching in Thailand. Immigration was never an issue when I lived there as we had a great “fixer” at one of the schools I worked at.

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

As mentioned above, the money. I have a great two-bedroom apartment, which is free and I don’t pay any utilities or tax. My working day is finished by lunchtime so I have loads of free time. Also, you are trusted and just left to get on with the job with very few meetings and appraisals.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss the social side. Leaving work and popping into a local bar with colleagues for a pint was great fun that often carried on with dinner (I really miss the food) and more drinking. Thailand is such a great location to get away at weekends and during holidays, either within the country or neighbouring countries.

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

If a person just wants to dabble in TEFL for a year or so then yes, 100%. Thailand is a great place to do that although I much preferred the teaching in Vietnam and developed professionally much more than my time in Thailand. In Bangkok it just seemed to be about hours and keeping the customer happy. Institutions I worked for in other countries had much more focus on professional development. My job in Saudi isn’t available anymore due to strict labour laws. When I leave I’ll be replaced by a local with IELTS 7.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I’m writing this on my balcony in Phuket. The great thing about my job is I get lots of time off and a long holiday for Ramadan. The test and go programme was a breeze. I landed at 7am and was drinking in one of my favourite haunts with old colleagues by 4pm. I’m retiring in 2 years and I’ll always find time to come back here as I’ll be living in either Vietnam or the Philippines. That is because of immigration bureaucracy!

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I fell in love with Thailand back in 1999 on my first visit and got the teaching idea whilst here. The salary back then was around 30,000 for a teacher with no experience when I looked into it!


Danny

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to a rural seaside area in Malaysia in 2019.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Before moving to Malaysia, I had spent 7 years working my way up the TEFL ladder in Bangkok and eventually to working in a mid-tier international school.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Mainly just for a change of scenery and to progress my career. The package offered to me at the time was also better than what I was getting in Bangkok. I didn't have any major issue with Bangkok and was pretty happy with my lot. The only thing I had a problem with was pollution because my son was very young and it played on my mind.

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

As I don't live in a city anymore I can live quite cheaply. Rent is much cheaper in Malaysia in general and even in KL the condos and houses are just much bigger and not the "box" condos that you mostly see in Bangkok. Being here it really highlighted to me that Bangkok has relatively high rent for what you get elsewhere in the region. My individual package is much more generous than what I had in Bangkok too.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Definitely Thai food. Although I can get pretty good Thai food here, it isn't quite the same. I like Malaysian food too mind you just not as much as Thai food. Living in a more rural area now I do really miss the bustle and excitement of Bangkok. I am quite close to a fairly big city but it is just not as developed as Bangkok so I miss the array of choice in regards to activities/restaurants/attractions that are on offer.

As Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country I don't like some of the subtle restrictions that exist with that around alcohol and pork. So I miss there being no restrictions when buying certain goods.

It's a small thing but also the price of alcohol is quite high here. I'm not a huge drinker but a couple of pints in a pub now and then is pricey so I miss the comparatively more reasonable prices in Thailand.

I also miss the attitude and friendliness of Thai people in general. Overall I find a lot of Malaysians can be a bit blunt and unfriendly in comparison. In saying that I have met some lovely Malaysians too.

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

Yes. Maybe just to try if you enjoy teaching for a couple of years as a TEFLer but not as a long term plan. If remaining a TEFL teacher, go somewhere else to make some bank, because there are very few well paid tefl gigs. Alternatively, get fully licensed so international schools are an option - and then Thailand is a different ball game altogether.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, hopefully after another academic year I'll go back and will probably stay long term somewhere in Thailand.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Malaysia is a great alternative to Thailand for anyone looking to stay in the region. Hopefully post covid travel between the two will become hassle-free again too.


Wanderer

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I left Thailand (Bangkok) in 2009. I initially went home but ended up working in international schools for several years in the Middle East and now I am back in Asia.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Around 5 years. At least a year too long when I look back on it.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Many reasons. Money was a big factor. I turned 30 in Thailand and had absolutely nothing saved for retirement or otherwise. As you might imagine, I had a good time in Thailand and SE Asia in my 20s, but teaching in Thailand (especially unqualified, which I was at the time) is a short term thing. I had also absolutely had it with Thai work culture.

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

As I now work at an international school on an expat package, the salary and benefits are obviously much better. I sometimes look on Ajarn for laughs and I can't believe the salaries in Thailand have been static since I left over 13 years ago. I also don't need to interact with Thais in positions of power (or token puppet Westerners installed as "directors"), which is a huge relief.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The convenience, food, and probably most of all the free and easy vibe of the place though I have my doubts that this exists any more.

The ability to get decent and cheap apartments easily.

Having expat friends from around the world of all ages. I've found expats in other countries are much more cliquey from some reason.

The travel opportunities from Bangkok were incredible.

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

A TEFLer would have zero chance to get where I am now.

If you are fully qualified and licensed, there are still more opportunities elsewhere in Asia where you will be paid more and actually valued as an expat employee. Show me someone who says Thailand values expats, and I will show you a liar.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Oh I used to visit on a regular basis. This fell off a bit, and I have not been post-covid as there is no way I am going to do a bunch of tests and possible quarantine just to visit even though it is a short trip for me. I'll visit again when all restrictions and test-and-go are dropped.

I'll never work in Thailand again.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Don't sell yourself short as a working expat. Thailand (I'm talking both employers and the government) thinks it can treat working expats like trash or factory workers because there will be more expats coming in anytime someone leaves. My advice would be to go where you are treated well - and this will not be Thailand.


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


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 307 total

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