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


Pete

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Moved to Los Angeles, California in September 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked on and off for three years doing part-time hourly teaching in Chiang Mai. My wife's family owns multiple tour companies with zip-line courses, restaurants and other things so I would usually just hang out with her family.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

No tourists around right now, so my wife wanted to leave for a bit.

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

I don't work here. Los Angeles is a covid mess and would likely be hard to find a "good" job right now. I just ride my mountain bike everyday. CA is amazing for outdoor sports like biking, and that's an advantage to being here.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Nearly everything. Life is good in Thailand. My wife's family is gold. I love just chilling, getting off my head most days and I cruise around with my wife's dad "checking" on businesses, which typically turns into more drinks.

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

Yes to work in Thailand. Being a teacher in Thailand is a rewarding experience for all parties. As for Los Angeles, I'm sure it's great to work here and it seems like a lot of people are working around here - but being a teacher here would be different.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes, I can't wait for my wife to get bored and want to return to Chiang Mai. I'm going to build a mountain bike course down one of the mountains her parents have land on. I keep telling her let's go, I'm ready to go build some trails in Chiang Mai and go shred on the mountain bike. She loves the USA and wants to travel all over here once we get our vaccines. Not sure how long I'm stuck for this time.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thailand is my second home. I will always go back and forth between my home country and there as long as I am able to do so. Teaching in Thailand is great. I also taught in Cambodia on a voluntary basis and I also highly recommend giving your time to Thailand's neighboring countries as well.


Phil

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to China in October 2019

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I studied then worked in Thailand for around 7 years in total.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I just got married and started reassessing my priorities. Although I absolutely love Thailand, the salaries offered have a limit. It seems for the vast majority of jobs it ranges from 30K-60K. Getting jobs with a higher salary requires serious qualifications and are very far and few between.

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

The number one advantage in China is the salary. An NES teacher with a BA and TESOL can get their first job here for 90K baht per month (20k yuan), and after a few years experience this can rise to 110K baht (25k yuan) per month. Add a masters degree and you're looking at around 140K baht (30k yuan). On top of this, health insurance and housing are provided for free and living costs are as cheap as Thailand for the most part if one doesn't have any vices.

Clear career development with a more professional environment and opportunities for getting regular salary raises made China the sensible next step for me personally.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Absolutely everything! I have a Thai spouse so have permanent connections with the country.

Luckily I have minimum of three months paid holidays every year here in China and in non-covid times went back (and will go back) to Thailand at every chance. Surprisingly I seem to enjoy it more as a holiday destination for now as when I do return I have a good amount of savings and don't need to resort to eating 30 baht kao pads everyday as I used to do when I lived there. I have been broke in Thailand and that is one thing I DO NOT miss. So having money to properly enjoy my three months there when I go back makes me enjoy it much more than living on a budget for the full 12 months of the year.

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

Thailand is a great place to transition into the ESL industry. It is an excellent destination for starting out and getting your initial two years of experience. Beyond that you will soon hit a ceiling in your earning potential. For some this is OK and I'm not judging that. But personally I am focused on advancing to the highest level I can in my career and saving some money since I'm a late starter.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I will visit Thailand during all of my holidays - it's just a 2-hour flight from China. And if I ever wanted to take some more time off I can always return on a marriage visa. Furthermore I have plans to buy property in Thailand and eventually use that as one of my main retirement locations. At that point I may teach for a few years (for fun and to get citizenship).

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Make a long-term plan of what you would like to accomplish in your life.

Thailand can definitely play a role in that, but it might be wise to look beyond it too for certain periods in your life when you need extra income such as when you are married and/or have kids and need to save money.

The COVID situation has taught us that we need substantial savings to be secure in our lives as things can change at any moment, so we should use this opportunity to invest in our future to make sure we are in a good place when the next catastrophe hits the world. Good luck to all in your paths.


Lothar

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to my small home town in Germany (near Hamburg) at the beginning of 2020 (just before Covid-19 became a major problem)

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked there for two years at a large private school in Khorat Province.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Although I loved the school where I taught at, I started to feel like I was just ghosting through every day and the work was no longer a challenge. It didn't really matter if I did a good job as long as I showed up and just did an OK job then that was enough. I began to wonder how many years I could continue in this way until I went crazy. I'm not saying the school was one of those that just needed a warm body in the classroom but it began to feel that way to me. And when you begin to lose interest in the classroom, it's sure to rub off on the students and I didn't want that.

Another reason for returning home was that my father wasn't in the best of health and my mother was struggling to cope with taking care of him. It was time to do my bit for the family I guess because I am an only child. There are no other siblings to call on.

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

Well of course with looking after my parents combined with Co-vid bringing the world to a standstill, I haven't really bothered to look for any work since I got home. I've helped out a few friends with some casual work now and again (construction work, delivery driving, etc) but only for a bit of pocket money. Staying with the family means I don't really have any expenses anyway. I suppose I'm like millions of other people right now - I'm waiting for the world to get back to normal.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss Khorat Province in general. It's a lovely place to live and work. As well as being a vibrant city with plenty of restaurants, nightlife and things to do, you have some gorgeous countryside and national parks just a short drive away. When I first arrived in Thailand, I thought about teaching in Bangkok but I hated the place so much I didn't even do a job search. I think I went into Bangkok twice in all the time I was in Thailand. I have no idea how anyone can live there but I'm not really a city boy anyway.

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

Well I'm not living in a TEFL destination at the moment so that part of the question doesn't really apply to me. Would I seek work in Thailand? Yes, why not? The teacher salaries are not the best (especially for a non-native speaker) but outside of Bangkok, you can live pretty well on 40,000 a month. I was earning almost 50,000 actually and found it to be more than enough. Thai red tape (visas, work permits, etc) can get a lot of teachers down but my school had staff who were brilliant at taking care of those things so it was only ever a minor inconvenience. I guess it's important to work for a school who is strong in this particular department.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I genuinely have no idea what the future holds at the moment. I'm still in my twenties so there is plenty of time to figure out my next move.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Just because you are a European or non-native speaker, don't approach things with the attitude of being 'second best'. I think more and more Thai schools are coming to realise that the non-native speaker is just as employable and do just as good a job in the classroom. I got paid the same salary as the native English speakers at my school and there was never any resentment. We were all on an equal footing.


Vicky

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I returned to my home town of Hastings in the UK in March 2020.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for just under two years, working at a private school in Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I just had the feeling that life was going nowhere and teaching was not really what I wanted to do. I mean, it was something I wanted to try while I was still in my twenties so I basically stuck a pin in a map of Asia and thought 'Bangkok, why not?. Perhaps things may have turned out differently had I gone for somewhere like Japan or China.

I had a real love / hate relationship with Bangkok. There would be days when I'd be on a boat going down the Chao Phrya River with the wind in my hair and thinking wow! this is such a great city, but this would be negated by standing at the side of a busy road in the rainy season, soaking wet, and trying to flag down a taxi. I think Bangkok is a wonderful place to spend part of your vacation but as for working there, I'm still not sure how I managed two years.

I never seemed to have any money either. I used to get paid 40,000 baht a month but could never budget properly and often ran out of cash before the month's end. I made a circle of girlfriends who all earned considerably more than I did and it was difficult to keep up with the Joneses. As for the dating scene, don't get me started. It felt hopeless for Western women.

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

Well, with the Covid situation, work hasn't been that easy to come by, especially in a sparrow fart town like Hastings, which relies heavily on seasonal tourism. I've done some office temping and bar work (I've even done some cycle courier work to stay fit) but it's all been zero hours contract stuff. I suppose like many other young people in the same situation, I'm waiting for the world to get back to some sort of normality.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Not much at all. It would be far easier to write a list of what I don't miss. The Thai people are nice I guess in a non-confrontational way but I generally found Thai friends very hard to make. There was just too much of a culture gap there. I guess I miss the warm weather but certainly not the rainy season!

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

I worked with teachers who had been there ten years or more and absolutely loved it. Thailand will either suit you or it won't. I noticed that the happiest foreigners I worked with were those who never let things get them down; the positive, go-with-the-flow folks. That's never been my personality and I probably let too many minor issues affect me.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

No. If I returned to that part of the world to look for teaching work (and that's very doubtful) I would probably try Japan, although I would do a lot more research before taking the plunge.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I didn't find Bangkok that cheap at all. As I said earlier, a 40K salary wasn't really sufficient to last a month and I was only paying 10K of that for rent. I would say you need double that salary amount for a decent lifestyle, especially if you like your evenings out. I'm sure other parts of Thailand, in the smaller towns and cities, are much cheaper though and 40K would be plenty.


Marcello

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in August 2019

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I spent four years in Thailand in the Chonburi/Pattaya area from 2013 to 2017. After Thailand, I spent some time in Spain and Italy before a stint in my hometown of Manchester, England then I came here to Vietnam at the end of last summer.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

A multitude of reasons. Firstly was the poor salaries and shocking standard of the workplaces in Thailand. Secondly, the ever worsening visa requirements. It seems every day, the Thai government is looking for some hair-brained, tin pot way of keeping farangs out.

Thirdly, I was not a fan of the creepy nationalism and ever increasing xenophobia in Thailand. I couldn't be doing with living and working in a place I felt so unwelcome.

Finally, there was the lack of security. Passing the age of 30 made me realise I'm not getting any younger and I need to think about my future. As much as I loved Pattaya, breaking even every month with no savings or safety nets isn't really feasible in future.

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

The biggest one is money and work. I earn nearly double what I made in Thailand and work significantly less for it, leaving me more free time to enjoy my hobbies and work on other things. I feel more valued as a teacher here and it feels like I can grow in my profession, rather than being a dancing white clown with no career growth in Thailand.

Cost of living is lower in Vietnam too so I can save a good portion of my wages every month and still live a decent lifestyle.

The visa is far easier in Vietnam and with a 2 year TRC, you are able to travel in and out of the country without a re-entry stamp. No 90-day check-ins or any of that BS.

The people seem better too. While there's definitely uneducated yokels and hi-so snobs here too, I find it easier to meet locals here than Thailand where it's very much us vs them. In my 3 years in Thailand, I never made Thai friends and that wasn't without trying. Have an accident in Vietnam, people will stop and help you while Thais would just step over your dead body or get their camera phones out. I feel far more welcomed here. A Vietnamese stereotype of Thailand is a land of arrogant lying nationalists. I wonder why. Also, I've never encountered the 2-tier pricing and double standards here that pass off every day in Thailand unquestioned.

Many of the expats here also seem to be better. There seems to be more career teachers here than backpackers and miserable old drunks.

Vietnamese language is written in Latin script so it's easier to read things without learning weird alphabets. While English ability here is equally weak as there, shop assistants or restaurant servers will be more likely to attempt English than scowl at you.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Thailand is far more fun, at least as a single man. While Saigon has entertainment districts, the nightlife is far more provincial than Pattaya and it doesn't even compare with Bangkok. Bui Vien is inferior to its Walking St and Khao San Road equivalents, Places tend to close earlier and the nightlife scene is much more tame.

Many 'Thailand heads' will complain that Vietnam is boring. While it's not Saudi Arabia, it isn't Pattaya either and I can see where they're coming from.

Following on from that, I miss the women in Thailand. As a single guy, Thailand is the easiest and possibly the best place in the world to meet women, either online, in the street or even mongering.

While Vietnamese girls are equally or even more beautiful than Thais, it's a far more conservative country. Women are harder to meet, harder to date and far more flakey, unreliable or likely to bring a chaperone/need to be home by 9pm. No sex before marriage, while practically unheard of in Thailand outside the smallest villages is quite a common thing with Viets. There's also less of an interest or general awareness in dating farangs and most women here would rather marry a Vietnamese guy when they're 21 and settle down for the family life. Plus the P4P scene, while present, is far inferior to Thailand. Something to keep in mind for single men out there.

The food scene overall is inferior to Thailand's. Thai food is better than Vietnamese food, plus Thailand has more international fare, especially in Pattaya or Bangkok. While Saigon has plenty of international food too, it just doesn't cut it compared to Thailand. Outside Saigon and Hanoi, it can definitely be a difficult place for picky eaters like me.

Apartments are also worse here. The modern style condominiums with pools/gyms/shops on site and gated communities of western style houses that are abundant in Thailand are uncommon here and cost more than the Thai equivalent. Most Vietnamese are happy living in their concrete box apartments with bars on the windows and noisy neighbours. Accommodation is definitely not the best point here.

The Vietnamese language is harder. While Thai has weird scripts, it's a lot easier to understand speaking and listening in Thai. Vietnamese sounds alien. And as a country less geared towards foreigners, there's less written in English too.

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

Definitely go for it, Thailand is an amazing place and a real experience. But do it young, try to save some money and have an escape plan for when it passes it's expiry date. It's easy to get stuck in the comfy life in Thailand and wonder where the time went while you're still no richer or higher up the career ladder.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Definitely. I really miss it. As soon as Covid passes and international borders open again, I want to take a trip back to Koh Samet and the beloved bars of Walking Street again.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

While Thailand is great, it isn't the be all and end all. There are plenty of good moneymaking alternatives without even needing to go to freezing cold Korea or the boring Middle East to get a few dollars.

Vietnam still has the same laid back vibe of Thailand, the same tropical climate and similar lifestyle but without the BS and with better pay. Come and give it a try (after Covid). You might love it too!


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