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


Steve

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to England with my Thai wife in 2012.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for six and a half years

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I felt that after six and a half years there, I was ready to return to England.

In my time working in Bangkok, which included two military coups and several other things, I decided that was enough was enough but I had some fantastic jobs and also earned quite a bit of money,

My wife, who was my girlfriend then, decided to come back with me and that was a pretty big decision for her. Security was another big reason for me returning to England.

In Thailand, I did find the heat difficult at times and truthfully speaking, never could get used to it.

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

Now I earn about £45,000 per year as an automatic door engineer in Yorkshire, where I am from.

Now I don't have to worry about visas and work permits as I did before. Also when I worked in Thailand I missed going to watch my beloved Castleford Tigers rugby league team. I have managed to buy another house and get back on the property ladder. I own my own van and Jaguar XJ - neither could I have afforded had I stayed in Thailand.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss everything about Thailand. It is a beautiful country and the people are really nice. I met some wonderful people while I was teaching in Thailand and I definitely miss that side of things.

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

Absolutely I would, but do your homework first and you will be fine.

There are some really good schools in Bangkok where I was based. I would say try and get with a school like Inlingua or somewhere similar because they are such a nice environment to work in. I worked for Inlingua for over five years both full-time and part-time. I also taught class sizes of over 50 students, which can be challenging to say the least but again I enjoyed it.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Yes I do have plans to return to Thailand. My wife and I are building a house in the north of Thailand so when I retire in seven years, we can move back and live our life in peace and quiet. It's a small house in a village near my Thai family. However, we're still not sure if we will sell up lock, stock and barrel in England or perhaps divide our time between the UK and Thailand.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

While you are in Thailand, immerse yourself into Thai culture because it is wonderful. Also some advice for the gentlemen - find a nice girl. This is a must and will make your life so much more enjoyable. It is so easy for single guys to take the wrong path and find themselves going down the bar girl route. Don't do this and you will have a very fulfilling life in a wonderful country. Enjoy!


Matt Miles

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Abu Dhabi after receiving a great salary and compensation package.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

7 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

There are so many reasons. I take teaching seriously, as it is my chosen profession. I am considered an expert in the USA as I regularly published experimental and non-experimental research literature in leading educational journals, will soon finish my Ph.D. in education, and have a diverse portfolio of training and development consultation work at corporations and schools.

Too many schools in Thailand are a case study in poor teaching practices. Decisions are made based on administrative convenience. In other words, whatever is the easiest way for the person in charge. There is also massive corruption. To get a job at many schools, you have to work for whichever agency is kicking back money to the school director.

Lesson plans are only done by foreign teachers, and even those are made sloppily by copying and pasting from some other lesson. Thai teachers employ the "listen and repeat or write fifty times" method.

Thai school staff are hostile towards foreign teachers for a combination of (bad) reasons. There are backpackers that come here and lie/cheat/scheme their way through a couple of paychecks and then leave without notice. There is also a large pay gap between Thais and what foreigners are willing to accept. There is also a huge cultural difference where Thais are raised to bow and obey their superiors without question, whereas foreigners expect a rationale explanation for things. In Thailand, there usually isn't one.

There is also a "copy to help" culture where Thai students are taught that cheating is OK, that if another student doesn't know an answer you should give it for them, and they don't even know what good study habits are let alone practice them.

You also have the larger cultural difference of wages and labor conditions. Thai business owners give workers less than .01% of the income received, no benefits, no safety procedures or equipment, and 12 hours a day or more of work and act like they are doing them a favor. It's not uncommon to see a Thai working heavy construction emaciated and barefoot. Of course this attitude gets carried over more and more into the teaching space and with foreign workers. These are all reasons why Filipinos are being hired more and more in the schools here. Filipinos will work for a standard Thai wage, and they will work under any conditions without complaint.

Meanwhile Thailand continues to sink on international English competency surveys and tests. The Filipinos don't perform any better than the native Thai teachers do, so it's all an exercise in pointlessness. I don't see things getting any better any time soon.

You also have the Thai culture of "saving face". In a work environment "saving face" leads to real problems. No one accepts responsibility for their actions, or lack of action (especially supervisors). Most management gets their job through personal friendships anyway, because in Thailand it's not what you know or what you can do, it's who you know. As a result you often show up minutes before a lesson or activity is supposed to start, only to find that no one has planned or prepared anything. The chaotic running around for materials and knee-jerk taskings that ensue are very uncomfortable.

Managers, head teachers, and principals weasel their way out of these situations using any number of common excuses, and the teachers are left looking incompetent. You can be the most motivated, well-trained, diversely experienced teacher on Earth, but in Thailand you will fail. There are too many problems, many beyond your control, that will interfere with your ability to teach well. I could go on for another three pages easily listing other such problems.

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

I now make 15,475 AED per month teaching at a state school in Abu Dhabi. That is more than three times what the average teacher in Thailand makes. Also, all expenses are paid. Paid airfare, immigration fees, luggage fees, food, housing, and transportation back and forth to work. Not to mention the basic benefits like health insurance, dental insurance, contract completion bonuses, yearly raises and career progression. It's a no brainier.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

I miss everything about life in Thailand, but I don't miss anything about teaching in Thailand. Those are two very different things. I credit my own dedication to effective pedagogy as the reason I kept struggling in Thai school as long as I did, and wanting to see my Thai wife happy among her friends and family.

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

Absolutely not. There are some disturbing trends growing in the ESL scene here, especially in Bangkok. TEFL schools are charging more and more, then turning around and taking a percentage of the teacher's salary just for referring them to a job. They continue skimming teachers' salaries until they leave the job regardless if it is three months or three years.

The hours are getting longer, the teaching periods per week are increasing, the wages are getting lower, and the ability to apply teaching techniques is decreasing. More and more teachers are given a set lesson, materials and direction of what to do and say minute-by-minute.

Backpackers love it because they don't have to put any thought into their teaching, but real teachers see the lack of engagement and poor instructional designs and are horrified. Companies are starting to withhold money from teachers that they have already earned, as a way to prevent them from quitting. There is a term for this practice, indentured servitude, which is a less brutal form of slavery.

Immigration policies are becoming more strict, more expensive, more time-consuming and more invasive. Not to mention they change on a weekly basis, and different branches are all going by different rules. The immigration office in Udon Thani, for example will require different documentation and use different forms than the main office in Chaeng Wattana, Bangkok.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

None. I have seen all I need to see in Thailand. For tourism in the future I will go to other countries that I haven't been to yet. My basic understanding of how Thailand works prevents me from enjoying myself there anymore.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you to ajarn.com for allowing teachers to share their experiences with each other honestly and openly. This is a powerful social platform and it does a lot of good.


JD

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to Cork, Ireland in September 2017

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Just over three years

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I simply got jaded towards Thailand, the culture, people, pollution, chaos, weird food and being an eternal farang. As I'm approaching 30, I also didn't see a real long term future and chance to better myself in Thailand. Visa bureaucracy gets worse by the year. I felt I'd be doing TEFL, making no real savings and doing 90-day reports forever there.

I also got married to a Thai woman and we both wanted to settle down in a democratic, developed western country. Ultimately, we want to return to the UK so I can train to become a real teacher but we are doing the "Surinder Singh route" in Ireland as its too difficult and bureaucratic to return directly to the UK from Thailand and find a job earning 18,600 pounds to bring my wife over.

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

Irish people are awesome and Cork is a great city with great craic. We've made some decent friends here just by virtue of being in an English-speaking country that's much friendlier than the UK. It's cosmopolitan but still feels small and far more laid back than England. The pubs are awesome and there's Guinness!. We're a stones throw from the UK and it's easy to pop over with my wife's Irish residence card. While a different country, there's a lot of similarities to the UK so it feels fairly homely to a Brit.

No 90-day immigration check ins, chaotic traffic, weird culture, being a "farang" and the fact that both me and my wife have equal status and can work in any job. While it is a stepping stone to the UK, we are enjoying our life here for the time being.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

My wife misses her family and friends (although a good few of her friends also live in Europe with their husbands).

I miss the cheap living costs and the simplicity in Thailand. Ireland is an expensive place and even with us both working, it can be hard to earn decent money. The economy is still bad, there's a reason why so many Irish are leaving and it isn't just the weather, although about that, the climate really is dreadful here. It just seems eternally gloomy, cold and rainy (even worse than the UK!). I miss the year round heat and sunshine in Thailand. I miss the beaches and islands and randomly riding my motorbike through the jungles and coconut trees. I miss the awesome friends I met, partying and fun I had there when I was single (before I met my wife). Every day felt like an adventure there.

Thailand's a lot of things but boring it certainly isn't.

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

If you want to travel and explore the world and have somewhere to stop off and supplement your travel income then sure, teaching in Thailand was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. For gap year travellers and newbies looking to get into TEFL, Thailand is a great start off point.

You won't earn that much but hey, you'll get to live in a tropical country that's cheap as chips to live in, you'll meet all kinds of weird and wonderful people from around the world and hook up with awesome Asian girls (only speaking from a guy's perspective of course!). You'll whizz around on a motorbike, eat weird snacks and chill on a beach in your holidays. You might even decide to go gallivanting around Cambodia/Laos/Vietnam for a bit!

Yeah, your friends might earn triple what you earn but they'll be slaving away in a box factory or soul sucking corporate job in Slough (or some equally dull industrial park in suburban England), to go home and watch mind numbing TV, get drunk in terrible pubs or nightclubs then repeat the same next week, rewarding their hard work with a package holiday week in Spain once a year.

You'll be having the time of your life and will be the envy of your friends with your pictures of the beach, jungles or random temple somewhere.

But serious teachers, be warned. Thailand is a less developed country with a poor education system to match. Know what you're getting yourself into. If you don't think you can deal with the bad system there, look into an international school (there's some great international schools in Thailand with pay to boot) or look into Korea/Japan/Middle East

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Sure. One option I'm toying with once I'm properly qualified is try for an international school in Bangkok (where my wife is from). And as soon as we have some decent regular income and are properly established in the UK we want to go back and visit every year if we don't move back.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Any UK teachers (can't speak for other nationalities) looking to return home and take your Thai wife with you, be sure to research your options wisely. Its far harder than a lot of returning Brits think.

Try to have a job earning 19k or more lined up before you go back (yeah hard I know), otherwise research the Surinder Singh route wisely, find an EU state you can stay in (you could even do TEFL there) and your Thai spouse would be OK in too. Make sure to document your stay and keep everything (your work contracts, wage slips, proof of accomodation, proof of life in that country). You'll need it when you plan to return to the UK. The longer you stay in that country and more you establish yourself, the better.

The UK Home Office are refusing more and more non-EU spouses using Surinder Singh as a circumvention of UK law! We're planning to stay in Ireland another few months more just to be safe!


Butch

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved to England in April 2017

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

A total of 15 years

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I wanted my daughters to receive a free education that was holistic and in the English language.

In Thailand, my daughters were in an English program but 50 percent of the classes were in Thai (go figure). Also I was sick of the awful driving, the Thai immigration and Thai academic staff at school. They were so incompetent, however seemed to take pleasure in pushing me around and going on power trips to compensate for their own miserable salaries. I also saw how bad some Thai teachers treated Thai students and I tired of the shouting rants, the slapping of heads, the throwing of books, etc.

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

People in the UK are mostly kind. There is a much better career progression. Also a 5-year visa that does not require putting up with a yearly Thai immigration incompentance-a-thon. The schools end at 3:30 pm and homework is manageable, whereas in Thailand there were ten, fifty-minute classes a day plus home work. Our daughters have their childhood back in the UK, which was stolen in Thailand via the education profit-at-any-means approach

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Great dental care, the lovely beaches and Thai food. Thai people are lovely as long as they have no leverage over you or employ you.

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

It will be fun if you treat it as just a working holiday

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Only for a vacation.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Thai immigration. What does not kill you, kills you slowly


David

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I left Thailand for the UK in September 2017.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I just did the one semester from May to September.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

My TEFL course internship came to an end and after considering my options I concluded that I much preferred returning to the UK than remain as a teacher in Thailand.

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

Teaching English as a foreign language is not my career. I did it first in Greece for 18 months and then in Thailand as part of a career break. However, I always knew that I would probably return to the UK. I appreciate my work and life there much more now having experienced the struggle of a TEFL teacher in an economic crisis (Greece) and of what I consider to be the mental poverty of the educational environment in Thailand.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Not so much overall, but there is much to like. The happy demeanor of most people there and their humility and simplicity of life are dear to me. I miss the company of friends I made there, and the ease (when not having to work!) of my life there.

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

That of course depends on that teacher's goals and priorities. In general terms I'd say a new professional teacher, i.e one who has undergone prolonged training, should focus on finding a professional environment where he or she will learn the craft of teaching and develop solid skills. From my perspective I'd say that Thailand affords limited prospects...but I'd also advise against that teacher remaining in the UK since TEFL is better done, in my view, when the teacher has experienced living and working in a foreign culture.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

No.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

My time in Thailand was successful in that I achieved the goals I had set. I am not a good fit for the TEFL scene there in particular and the struggles I experienced were within normal expectations (as I now know!) as a mature professional educated in the UK who was looking for job satisfaction and a greater sense of purpose at work.

On the positive side, I'd say that Thailand has much to offer if you are able and willing to learn the language and adapt - not just politely tolerate at an emotional distance - to the very different ways there. If you are going to remain, you had better face them and work at accepting them. Otherwise you are likely to become one of the numerous Westerners I met there or heard about whose resistance was marked by depression, alcoholism or general bitterness.

Set specific goals and force yourself to review them periodically. Don't drift and avoid facing important stuff, such as whether you've reached the time to leave or to do something different. Good luck.


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 243 total

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