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


Graham Lowe

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Doha June 2009 but I have been before.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

October 2006 until June 2009.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Two outstanding reasons. The money & career development.

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

The money. Its double a B grade international school in Bkk. Also in Middle East schools offer career development. In my case IB assessor training. If you are ambitious or career driven its a good place to get ahead.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Many things! Thai food. Is there is a better cuisine in the world? The climate in winter. The beaches and islands. Thai girls. Away from the bar and the freelance scene, Thai girls are lovely. Some of the students I have taught here have been a pleasure to teach.

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

It's very unlikely that an inexperienced teacher would get a post in the Middle East. Similarly unlikely for a TEFL CELTA etc teacher. They usually prefer registered teachers from country of origin. I have a PGCE, 14 years UK experience teaching A levels in Chemistry GCSE Sciences. Without this experience I would not get a job in the Middle East.

As for Thailand? Its difficult to get a job in a top tier international school unless you are registered with a few years of experience. As for the rest? Thailand is like nowhere else in the world. The unexpected is the norm here. You can have a great time teaching here or it can be your worst nightmare. Depends upon you and your luck with getting the right school.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

If I can get a suitable post in a good school I would love to return here to work again. I will be back for holidays etc.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Lots to add. Do your research and don't whinge. Leave your western sensibilities at Bangkok airport. Thai rules apply here. You are guests in this country, remember that! Thailand has poor salaries, cheating, no-fail systems, corruption, dodgy school administrators etc, but you should expect and be prepared for this. Thais like Thailand just as it is. You would not like it if a foreigner said "in our country we do it like this..." In Thai society employees do as they are told and are expected to kiss the ass of the employer while doing it. Well meaning sincere advice is seen as criticism by a Thai. It doesn't matter how much experience you have etc.. Keep your opinions to yourself and do things "the Thai way".

Thais judge people how they see them. Appearance is everything. White skin is everything. Look at Thai TV, adverts pharmacies etc. Racism is accepted as the norm. (look at ajarn.com jobs for native speakers only photo required etc) Some of the racist statements I have heard from educated Thais beggars belief. This unfortunate situation is because of the education of history in Thailand. Thais are very nationalistic and some are xenophobic.

Thais love to gossip, its the national pastime. Learn some Thai and listen in to it in the staffroom! It will turn your toes what they say about westerners! There will be enough gossip about you without adding to it so keep your social life to yourself. NEVER date a Thai girl you work with. If it goes wrong be prepared for the ex-gf from hell!!

Set yourself a budget and stick to it. Obviously Thailand is full of distractions. They will still be there when your next pay check goes into your bank. Thai food is wonderful and cheap. Avoid the expensive restaurants. You are paid like a local so eat like one. Watch where the thais get their food and go there. Enlist the help of a friendly Thai girl to help you find the best food. Live close to work, rent a good clean secure cheap place. Make sure you check it out at night time. Thais love noise and fail to understand you are trying to sleep.

Keep all your original documents. Don't trust any school with originals. Remember private schools are there to make money! If they did not they would not exist. This applies to international schools as well. Government schools are poor. Hence cheap salaries. No matter what your qualifications are, you are expendable and disposable at any time. If you come to Thailand expecting a hedonistic paradise. Forget it. You do not have the time or money to live like a tourist so don't expect it.

Thai kids are the same as others in the world. They will try it on with you. Don't expect rows of polite wai-ing kids. Its not like that. A minority are over-indulged "do you know who I am? My dad pays your salary" type. Get on with it, pass them and think of the good majority you teach. Don't fight the system you cannot win.

Its a wonderful country but is not paradise. Make sure you understand what you are letting yourself in for.


Craig Berry

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Saigon, Vietnam in October 2007.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I was there for 2 years working for Chulalongkorn & Ramkhanhaeng on the Nonthaburi project and at ECC part-time for a year.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

A fellow teacher moved to Vietnam & kept hassling me to move, telling me how much better it was in every way. So I finally went over to have a look for a weekend & what he'd told me seemed to be true, plenty of work, a far more professional working environment & much better wages.

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

Working two jobs in Thailand I was saving about $200US a month & I had to be pretty careful to do that. Now I easily save $500 a month & I'm eating out twice a day & going out as much as I want. I now work full time for a large language center, teaching mostly adults & older teens in TOEFL & IELTS classes. All my students are motivated & really want to learn English as they understand just how much of a difference it will make to their lives. In comparison, in most cases, Thais are just not interested in foreign languages or culture, they prefer their own, end of story. When I first got to Vietnam I taught some classes in public high schools, in nearly every way it was a far easier & more rewarding experience

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I never went out that often in Thailand but it was great to have a vast range of places to go to. I certainly don't miss the in your face seediness of many areas of the city. I do miss the niceness of Thai's, in general I liked them, however the Vietnamese are even nicer. I miss the endless visa & work permit hassles like a hole in the head. Now my school looks after the lot, free of charge, I never have to go near immigration or a border.

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

Thailand is a great starting point because it shows you just how bad it can be and so after that any place is appreciated far more.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I've already been back for a short holiday to visit friends & I'll probably do it again. I also went back for bicycle supplies as there's little available for a serious biker here.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Vietnam has it's problems of course... pollution, street vendors, not so developed. But overall it's far more rewarding than Thailand.


Michael Secomb

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Brisbane, in May 2008.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

3 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Family crisis in Brisbane involving the breakup of our daughter's marriage, plus our house, which had been rented out, needed renovating.

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

Brisbane is clean, civilized, and there are at least half a dozen English language schools, plus English language departments at several universities and opportunities in the Department of Technical and Further Education (TAFE). Plus, it pays a lot better than Thailand - AUS$30-40 an hour in language schools and up to $65 in some other situations. A large number of students from Asia, Europe and South America come to Brisbane to study English in an English-speaking environment. The facilities are generally good here.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The food, the shopping, our Thai friends, the Thai culture and attitudes towards life.

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

Go to Thailand for the experience. Most of our colleagues teaching English in Brisbane have taught in overseas countries. It makes us much better teachers, able to connect with students.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes 'd love to, but we don't know when at this time.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Loved Thailand and still stay in touch with people there. I had burned out in my previous career in the media and Thailand revitalized my outlook on life. It was a fascinating time which enormously widened my mental horizons.


Lisa Smith

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back home to the state of Oregon in America last July.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for three years, six months in Ayutthaya and two and half years in Bangkok.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I began to panic after series of friends left throughout the years, returning to grad school, and began to question the likelihood of my becoming inert and growing older next to droves of seventy year old skirt-chasing falangs in Bangkok. I felt convinced that staying there would somehow inhibit the development of my career. I planned to attend grad school, and eventually return to Asia and secure a position at an international school hopefully somewhere near the beach. I also felt a pang for western civilization, and thinking egregiously that I would find it here in Portland, Oregon, I quit my job that I actually really liked and purchased a ticket.

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

I have a comparable teaching schedule. I am paid for prep, overtime, etc, however, the amount I am taxed exceeds this perk. I work for a private institute and teach a few more hours than in Bangkok, yet my take home salary is about the same. The buying power of this take home salary is quite different, and I am definitely feeling the pinch. In Bangkok, I was willing to teach after my regular schedule to line my pockets nicely; this is much less of an option here, unfortunately. Additionally, I cannot afford the healthcare package offered by my company, so I am uninsured. I also do not have an annual bonus, nor paid vacation. My former employer in Bkk was actually more tech savvy than my current employer, which is shocking. America is also obsessed with everything politically correct, so there is a lack of hilarity in the teachers' room. This has inadvertently become a list of disadvantages.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Shopping! Fetishism of commodity certainly went far with me, and I now have hard time parting with that hard earned salary. I have certainly become more frugal! I also miss the weather, the nightlife, the proximity to the beach and nature, and the raw excitement of Bangkok. Things were as rough transitioning into life here, as Portland is currently the most depressing city in the USA, according to Business Week, with something like 290 bleak, sun deprived days. I also miss Thai students, who are irrefutably good natured and a joy to work with, as well as gossip, current events, etc. Luckily, I have Thai students here in Oregon who keep me up to date on all things Thai, and whose extended family provides me with enough ya ma muang and gang gai ped med ma muang. I miss the choral "ooooois!" as well. I also miss the gay club scene, which is fun for everyone!

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

I love my job, working with international students from every walk of life. This has given me the opportunity to stay connected with Thais and Koreans, two groups I have enjoyed working with immensely, as well as other ethnic groups such as Libyans, Saudis, Japanese, Chinese, Italians, etc. I am an attractive young woman, and after years of benefitting from Thai suai discrimination, I was actually a bit miffed to be marginalized with other, less attractive teachers. Isn't that terrible? Honestly, though, I do miss the daily compliments! I would advise anyone with reasonable sensibilities to spend a year here. For some, the temptations lead to downfall. I will never forget out and about one night with friends, seeing British yaabaa junkie begging outside of a 7-11 in Nana, living on a broken down card board box. That sort of scene always scared me. I am not sure why, however, as homelessness and drug addiction are equally rampant here in America.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I have developed a new found respect for the Thai way, which sometimes frustrated me while living there. There is something ultimately reassuring about Thai sensibility; there is always a sense of well being. I am planning to return once I have completed a graduate program, so long as I can get that ideal position.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

As a recommendation for heavier set women, you'd better have thick skin or at least a quick comeback. I have seen the toughest of size 12 female professionals crumble after months of enduring "uan" and "pompoei" despite being attractive. This was hard for me, and after living in Thailand for three years, I went from a size 5 to a 0. I guess this could be an emerging market for get thin quick schemes!


Blaise Bettencourt

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Seoul, South Korea, July 2007 to the Samsung Human Resource Development Center

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

9 months.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I couldn't make financial ends meet. My student loan debt responsibilities were consuming about 40% of my Bangkok University salary. Hence, my quality of life was quite low. Also the pollution was overwhelming.

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

Salary, benefits package including transportation, housing, and meals. Vacation time is generous, 35 days paid not including local holidays. Excellent work environment, supportive staff and government officials that support the process!

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The Thai people! The food! The Architecture. The traditions, The Royal Family, in particular the King. The passion and international feel of Bangkok!

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

Thailand if they have no debt. Korea in particular Samsung's Human Resource Department if they are looking for a structured environment.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Always have plans and dreams. Once my debt is retired, I would love to relocate permanently in Thailand.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Keeping in mind the three fundamentals of Thai culture - Sabaii, Suway and Sanuk! - a guest living and working in Thailand can have the experience of a lifetime. My first trip to Thailand was in July 1988. A retired vet was on the plane-ride over sitting next to me. With my Lonely Planet guide-book in hand frantically reading....approaching the 11.30pm arrival without a reservation or real plan...we began talking. He told me that Thailand is like the Eagles song, "Hotel California," and that comment has stuck with me to this day. This may be heaven or this may be hell. Moreover, you can check out any time you want, but you may never leave!


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 246 total

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