Ajarn Street

Frankly, Mr Shankly, I'm a sickening wreck

Thoughts on returning to England

My Thai adventure was only ever intended to be just that: A foray into the unknown to see if my better half and I could ever survive in a less ruthless hamster wheel than our native London.

We went against credible advice and took jobs before we'd left the UK and it all went smoothly for us. There were no desperate job searches or border runs. Instead, we had a well-known EP school in Bangkok hold us by the hand and guide us into the expat life we could only possibly dream of back home.

Between us we pulled in around 145k a month and lived like kings. We met some fantastic people, both local and farang, and saved a decent wedge of money over the course of our 12 month contract. In addition to all of this, we got to see some of the most beautiful places Southeast Asia has to offer.

However, it was not all plain sailing. Around 8 months in, I found myself beginning to resent many things without reason. People began to grate on me. Local people, western people... Normal daily life hacks we'd become accustomed to, suddenly became such a chore. Then we started comparing everything to "back home" and longing for the friends and family we'd left behind.

With the wonderful, yet agonising benefit of hindsight, I now know that all we needed was a sodding holiday back to Blighty to see our loved ones and agree that the weather in the UK was still pants!

This realisation bizarrely dawned on us simultaneously as we sipped our glasses of red wine by the sea, on a gloriously secluded cove in the north of Koh Phagnan, on our final trip to the beach before we flew home. Neither of us said a thing. We both knew that we were too far gone in arranging employment back home and getting family members excited about our return, so we made peace with our exit from paradise.

We didn't just go bat-shit crazy and run home for a hot dinner though. There were more pressing, grown up reasons to come home which helped justify our behaviour.

Firstly, my dear father was due to undergo some seriously testing heart surgery. Secondly, as a newly qualified teacher, I needed to complete my induction year in a British school to solidify my qualification and be a more attractive, future option for international schools.

So where are we now?

We've been home 5 minutes (5 months) and are both working in schools. I'm firmly back in the hamster wheel as a year 6 teacher in a wonderful primary school and am working 60 hour weeks to cope with the demands of being an NQT.

My old man has had an absolutely appalling time since his stint under the knife went pear shaped to say the least, but at the end of a dark and difficult 2 months, he looks to be out of the woods and on the mend.

So, if all goes well, we will be returning to Thailand in the near future, to give it a proper go and see if we can settle out there for the foreseeable future. Considering the £14k we came with is gone (I know it sounds crazy but 5 months of no salary coming in, in London, a car, insurance, deposit and rent on a North London flat and a holiday later, it was all gone!)

We are reasonably stable as we now have a good income and can save steadily for a cushion for our move.

We miss the massages, the scrumptious food, the vibrant life of the Bangkok streets, the children we taught, people we met, the nights out and the trips to a plethora of entrancing Asian destinations. I even miss those god-awful ham & cheese toasties from 7/11 after a night out!

Our families can see that a part of us is missing so they are supportive of our decision. All I have to do now is get 30, year 6 kids to exceed expectations in their SATs before the British government moves the goal posts yet again and I can plot my way to Suvarnabhumi and get in an air conditioned meter taxi and relax.

Update 4th May 2016

"Share your memories" says Facebook, dragging up the past before my eyes. This past year, every now and then, an image of me or the missus putting away a cool bottle of Beer Lao on an idyllic beach would pop up on my phone, reminding me of the life I left behind to come back to the UK. What hurt more was that I often shared those images for the sole purpose of rubbing it in the face of people back home (Karma eh?).

After a long year of dark, dark winter mornings and frozen windscreens before my working day began, the days in London are finally getting longer. Just as well really - as the end of the academic year draws close, I have been finding it harder and harder to fit all that needs to be done, into the allotted time (also known as every hour god sends).

I've been completing my newly qualified teacher (NQT) year, as a year 6 teacher in a maintained school in North London and I've found the red tape and nonsensical procedures that the UK government imposes on its teachers, hard to deal with. The workload is ridiculous and the new curriculum and its assessment have evidently been put together by a chimpanzee being allowed to take up residence somewhere in the Department for Education, and fling letters at a blank canvas.

The kids have actually been the saving grace as they have been wonderful and I have made memories here that I will never forget. Anyone who is crazy enough to enter our once-noble profession will tell you, it's the kids that make it worthwhile. Having been able to see them develop as learners and prepare for their life as secondary school students has been nothing short of a privilege. Having said that, I've had enough and I want out!

We've been planning our escape (the missus and I) since the day we touched down at Heathrow last April, and yesterday we had the most wonderful news! Despite my limited experience as far as the top international schools are concerned (I have been qualified for three years and have spent two of those teaching in the UK), I've somehow managed to get an interview and convince them to take a chance on me. What's more is that they've expressed an interest in employing my other half too! I've been plugging away at the vacancies, trying to create opportunities and for a while, they didn't come by, came by at the wrong time or were simply not as desirable as they made out to be. So we were elated when I received the call last night!

In the first week of August, I will be settling into my new neighbourhood at the lower end of Sukhumvit, enjoying the hustle and bustle that I've missed, as I move very, very slowly under the Bangkok sun. My previous experience of teaching at an EP school was a good one and I'm grateful for it but this should be something else - for I have landed a plum gig at one of the so called ‘top tier' schools and I will be grabbing the opportunity with both hands. ‘More money' will be balanced out with ‘more work' no doubt but that's ok - as my Jane says, "it can't be any worse than this year".

The only thing left to ponder now is what to do first when I've rolled along that expressway towards Bangkok: massage? Beer? Street food? Maybe we'll let our longing for the city hang for a few days and head straight to the islands? It's in the expat DNA to moan about the place and god knows I've moaned about Bangkok plenty! But trust me...you really don't know what you've got ‘til it's gone.

Bob Smith


It sounds to me like you just like working hard. Someone needs to tell you that life is for living and enjoying and for doing things other than just working. You're gonna wake up old and wonder why you wasted all that time and energy on an ungrateful 'career'.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (24th May 2016)

Really appreciated your honesty. Am 54 been teaching for 20 years. Any chance in Bangkok or am I too old.

By Judy, Surrey (10th October 2015)

Sounds like you're better off in Siam pulling the 150K baht between the two of you, and living the life.

I found this a well presented scenario - with an honest appraisal of why you went back to the UK for the short term, while at the same time pining for that taxi on the expressway into Bangkok.

By William, Australia (2nd October 2015)

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