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


Johnny

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Guangzhou China.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

From 2002 to 2006 at three different schools.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

The lack of education in this country and the lack of professionalism from Thai teachers (having a 6 year old boy crap his pants 45 minutes before my class and she did nothing ) I cancelled class and took the boy out, told the dean - he didn't care

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

My students speak English !

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The sunshine ? and my dog. Oh and I miss the stupid bars in Chumporn... buy 5 beers get 2 free.. Good deal !

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

No, I am not that nasty !

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Just for est and relaxation. China has so much more to offer. I have meet some many wonderful people in China.. Strangers on the street will help you find your way if your lost. All they want out of it is to practice English ..

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Not really.


Phil Roeland

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to from Thailand to China in August 2009.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Five years, from 2004 to 2009. I did take a six-month break in 2008 though.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Difficult to pinpoint really. I guess I was fed up with the place and needed a new challenge. Although paperwork was done for me, jumping immigration rules still remained a hassle. Although my fellow teachers and I really tried hard to make lessons effective and interesting, not many students tried hard or became proficient in English. At times, the lack of qualified, enthusiastic teachers or applicants was somewhat demotivating as well. Often teachers in Thailand are merely foreign entertainers or even zookeepers.

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

As I am in a similar position (head teacher in a private language school) as I was in Thailand, there aren’t many differences for me personally. Teachers in China usually work fairly regular hours. There aren’t many that work seven days a week or teach 50 periods each week (and then drop dead). Standard 40-hour weeks with 20 to 25 teaching hours seem the norm. Salaries are relatively high in big cities – slightly higher than Thailand – but can be rather low in rural areas (like in the LOS). Most teaching positions offer free accommodation or a housing allowance. Most expats fall in the category ‘Normal’, although some could be labelled ‘Hippie-ish’ or ‘Slightly odd’. There are definitely much fewer dubious characters and washouts than in Thailand.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Not that much. The food, maybe. Not really the food itself, but the omnipresence and availability of it. Chinese food is great, but there aren’t nearly as many food courts and street stalls as in the Land of Smiles.
The toilets, for sure. Although China has come a long way and is in many respects more western than Thailand, they don’t seem to be able to get those right. Smelly public squat toilets still prevail in the Middle Kingdom.
Some rays of warm sunshine in winter probably completes the list.

Things I don’t miss include the stifling heat, the narrow pavements, the air and noise pollution, the ‘kreng jai’ and ‘mai pen rai’ attitudes, the airheads in the classroom and the dual pricing. It gets a bit chilly in winter here, but walking remains a joy. Wide pavements are everywhere and oven-like temperatures are rare. There is some air pollution of course, but where I live it’s definitely not as bad as Bangkok. The Chinese I’ve met so far are quite open and speak their mind; many also seem to enjoy learning English more and try harder than Thais. Travelling and prices for tourist attractions are much higher than in Thailand, but at least everyone pays the same price.

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

Either country would do for newbies. As the average level of English in both Thailand and China is still pretty low, new teachers needn’t worry about explaining the use of the third conditional or the present perfect continuous. They’ll mainly teach conversation lessons. By the way, local Chinese teachers seem to be fairly skilled at grammar, like their Thai colleagues.
Classroom sizes are similar to Thailand: small classes in private language centres and international schools and super-sized classes in government schools (30 to 60+ students).

Whereas Thailand is a slightly easier country to live and get around in (especially when you’re fresh off the boat), China is a bit more challenging because of the language barrier. Chinese restaurants (except those in the high-end bracket) often have menus in Chinese only and staff are rarely fluent in English. Getting settled in, renting a flat and arranging visas needs to be done with the help of a local.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

I don’t have any plans or intention to return to Thailand in the near future, but my motto remains “Never say never”.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Never take anything for granted. Never stop learning. Don’t wait to travel the world until you’re retired (What if you drop dead at 60?). Practice makes perfect. Don’t let your teaching techniques become rusty. Keep an open mind. Think Darwin and evolve. Adapt yourself to local customs. Don’t whinge or complain excessively. Listen and learn from negative feedback and constructive criticism. I’m sorry, is this the section where you start waxing philosophically…?

More China photos available on www.flickr.com/photos/philiproeland


Michael Watson

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to China in 2004 from Bangkok.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand just shy of three years. I worked as a consultant for a large logistical company and then taught for one year.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

The hassle of obtaining the necessary visa and work permit (when I was teaching) Working as a consultant was much more straightforward when applying for these documents.

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

I make a lot more money each month. Currently, I work seven days a week. The money is excellent (equivalent to THB67,000). I get nearly three months paid leave each school year and the school I am working for is much more professional. Sure, there are still annoyances, but overall it is much better.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss so many things. Food, culture, climate, cheap travel, islands, other foreigners, nightlife, entertainment, etc...etc...

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

I would advise someone who is young to try out Thailand before going to work in other Asian countries. I think Thailand is a great stepping stone into Asia.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Perhaps when I am near retirement I might opt to live my remaining years in the LOS. I have traveled back to Thailand on holidays and will continue to do so...as long as the country doesn’t implode.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Nope.


Sam Cordero

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Singapore and then later to Dubai.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Two years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

The monetary benefits for teaching in Thailand is only enough for a single person I think. Leaving my competitive MEP Government School was a mistake on my part. Having entered the university teaching project with farang and Thai officers in the university not able to assist, facilitate, defend and show real concern for their teachers proved to be very stressful. They wore me out and killed my passion for teaching children. English teaching became so commercialized that schools were hiring backpackers who hadn't even achieved a secondary level of education. It was sickening. It was pretty obvious that English teaching wasn't rooted in education anymore.

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

The big advantage is money!.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss the simplicity and beauty of Thailand. I miss the shops, the local foods, the beaches, the historical places and the warmth of good old Thai friends.

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

If they have the money to extend their stay for at least three months (worst case scenario) then why not.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes. I have been visiting Thailand but only Bangkok. I miss the Isan food so much.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

I wish everyone well especially in the face of the ongoing political turmoil.


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.


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 265 total

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