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


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!


Hilary Connon

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

Back to England last April (2007)

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

6 years at Chiang Mai University

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

Family commitments

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

Security of a regular income, healthcare, pension scheme.

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

The warm climate; the smiling people; my polite and oh so cute students; my fun friends; my lovely garden; the fabulous food; the respect for one's opinion; the stress-free lifestyle; two hour massages and free exercise classes.

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

Definitely go to Thailand and learn about the culture. Make your own lesson plans and see them work or fail, and learn from the experience. See your own country and culture from a distance and through the eyes of non-natives

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

As a tourist yes. To retire in years to come, maybe.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

Went back into HR and sometimes get the oddest jobs to recruit for. If you know of any American ex Engineering/QA students out there looking for a role on their return, I might be able to help him/her with a job in Illinois


Michael West

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I returned home to Australia (to what is probably age-enforced retirement)

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

I worked in Thailand for nearly 2 years. I taught Music in Bangkok from May 2006 to October 2006, then I took a short music contract in Pattaya until December 2006. I was offered an extension to that contract, but I chose not to extend. I returned to Australia, in December 2006, and was offered an English (ESL) contract at the first school at which I taught in Thailand from June 2007. That contract ended in March 2008. I was again offered an extension, but I was (and still am) keen to return to my major area of music, so I came home.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

(see 2. above) and also that ludicrous “Thai Language & Culture” requirement. The idiot responsible for that particular insanity ought to be institutionalized.

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

Not applicable (see 6. below)

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Cheap living, kids who mostly smile at you rather than snarl at you as Australian kids do, and of course friends - both Thai and "foreign" - that I made whilst I was there.

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

Certainly not in Australia – especially for a male. It is a minefield with ridiculously applied “political correctness” in the education area. The proof of that is in the inordinate imbalance of males versus females in the teaching service, as well as the fact that a significant majority of teachers seek other employment after only a very few years of teaching. Most will do anything to get out of the classroom.

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Possibly, although I think that at 68 years of age, despite my good health, I am not likely to be “employable”, and almost certainly not at a salary commensurate with my qualifications and experience.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

It would be nice to think that one day, the dinosaurs in the Ministry of Education would actually take a look at the rest of the world, and attempt to throw off their xenophobia. Are they too benighted to understand that if there is no fear of failure for students, then there is equally no motivation for them to succeed? This is clearly one of the most potent reasons for the inability of Thai students (except those from International Schools) to compete internationally. Someone famous once said that “comparisons are odious”, but one has only to look at Singapore to see that this is true.

Finally, with some notable exceptions in my experience, considerable numbers of Thai school administrators, and indeed many teachers, are incompetent, and their ideas and methods are rooted in the past. They are at best reluctant to embrace any ideas suggested by foreigners because “they don’t understand Thailand”.


Norbert Demanuele

Q1. Where did you move to and when?

I moved back to the good ol’ USA back in January 2007.

Q2. How long did you work in Thailand?

Roughly 2 years.

Q3. What was your main reason for moving?

I thought Thailand was taking a turn for the worst! With the country recovering from the coup around this time, the southern violence worsening, the economy taking a plunge, and foreign teacher regulations on the rise convinced me it was time to move on. Not to mention I took some shrapnel in my arm in the September 06 bombing in Hat Yai in the hands of the insurgency!

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

None, aside from the money. In my opinion the USA is full of materialism and consumerism and lacks culture compared to the land of smiles! I recently completed my contract with a company I work with and am now seriously considering coming back possibly to Thailand or greater SE Asia

Q5. What do you miss about life in Thailand?

Everything. The simple things are what I miss most! For example, getting a nice Thai meal of som tom, gai, and kow niaw at a mom and pop shop. Additionally, I really miss the sense of community, friendliness of locals, the slow pace of life, the food, hanging out with locals. the list goes on and on…..

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

Of course I would suggest Thailand to a new teacher. It is a great country despite the red tape and the incompetence and miscommunication that is experienced at some of the schools. The new regulations may pose as an annoyance but I feel this will eventually subside – This is Thailand after all! All this aside, the pros far outweigh the cons. The lifestyle in Thailand is far superior to that of any Asian country and Thais are among the most hospitable people I have met in all of Asia!

Q7. Any plans to return to Thailand one day?

Of course, there is always a place in my heart for Thailand! (seriously! – sorry for sounding sappy! –lol). I would love to settle down in Thailand and open a Guesthouse /business or even an NGO.

Q8. Anything else you'd like to add?

For you newbies out there, and I know there are many of you! leave your western mentality at home when you come here. Relax, and acclimatize to the culture here and don’t expect locals to adjust to you. Instead, adjust and improvise to how things are done here. More importantly, do not take everything too seriously – Enjoy it and have a laugh!


Showing 5 Great Escapes out of 283 total

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