Ajarn Street

We've found paradise at last

Ignore the sob stories and the doom merchants - Thailand rocks!

I've been in Thailand for about 6 months now, so I felt it was time to give a little back to ajarn.com. The site was a very big part of my research process prior to my arrival, and has been very a huge help since. Here is my Thai success story.

Before Thailand I was teaching in Korea. Like many South Africans, I wanted to do some traveling after finishing university. Before university, I spent a year in the UK. I then worked in South Africa for 2 years & then spent a year in the USA. I was keen to see something of Asia & so the government program to bring ‘native speakers' to South Korea seemed perfect. It was not. Don't get me wrong, I did not hate Korea and I made some awesome friends. I just hated my bipolar Korean boss, and she hated me...most of the time.

My Dutch girlfriend came over after about 2 months and started looking for work. Because she is not a ‘native speaker' she had a tough time finding work, even though her English is better than a lot of English teachers I know. We had a really good network of friends in Korea but my boss was ruining my job and was really beginning to make me hate life. The gf was also feeling unhappy about not being able to land decent work, and so we decided that we wanted to see South East Asia.

After relatively little debate we picked Thailand as our next destination. We already had some friends there (here) who were loving life, so we figured ‘why not'? Everyone, and I mean everyone (except my Mom, so thanks Ma), told us we were crazy to leave the Korean money. Lucky for me, and mostly very annoyingly for my family, I usually do what I want anyway.

All the advice we read on forums said you should just arrive & look for work (although I still know SO many people who use agents and have a bad time), so we did! After grey Seoul we wanted sunshine and beaches 24/7, so after a week in Bangkok we headed down to Krabi. Man, did we fall in love with that place. It seemed perfect...except it was school holidays and no one was sure if they needed teachers yet. As it turns out, they didn't. We didn't stick around long before we headed to Phuket. I had read a lot of mixed reviews about the place, but having a friend of a friend there sealed the deal.

We had saved up some cash in Korea so we could ‘holiday' a little and acclimatise ourselves with the island before hunting for work. Patong had some really cheap accommodation available that turned out to be great, although Patong itself was/is a bit much. And by a bit much I mean constantly pumping. We took a few beach days (away from Patong) before looking for schools, and when I say looking for schools I mean as many as we could physically find in a day. It was a lot of driving, a LOT of getting lost, a lot of smiling and a lot of being turned down. During our search I dropped off my CV at a local university & had a nice long chat with the farang admin lady who handled my CV.

The gf ended up getting a call back from one of the private schools, while I only had miserable offers from language centres. She accepted the 33,000 baht offer (55 000 baht after some extra classes) and I stuck it out, and out and out... She started work and I still had nothing. I was literally about to start selling time share on the beach when the university called me for a demo lesson. They had a sudden opening and so after nailing the demo lesson I accepted the 30,000 bht offer.

Did I mention that in Korea I found out that I quite enjoyed teaching and that working at a university was pretty much a dream job? Sure, it doesn't pay a lot but the hours are great, there is lots of time for extra lessons, the farang staff are cool, it looks good on my CV and I really enjoy being an ajarn.

Two more friends of mine have come here simply because we have been enjoying it so much. One is still looking for work & the other has gotten a great gig as a sports teacher at the same private school as the gf. Who knew a sports teacher could make 46,000 baht AND get a free, amazing lunch every day?

We've both been here about 6 months, have only done 2 visa runs, had both our employers apply for our work permits for us, have started saving money as we actually make a little more collectively than we did in S.Korea, and are both loving life again. Life really couldn't be much better.

I know I sound smug but I have a point (I hope). My point is that too many people arrive the wrong way (through an agent) or don't go about finding work the right way (they do not get out there enough), but that if you have a little brains (arrive with enough cash) and a little balls (no employment agent, just go) you can have an amazing time here. You also need to be able to distinguish between naysayers and those offering genuine advice.

My other point is that bad luck can simply screw it all up (as I was unlucky with my Korean boss) and you can be left in a really bad situation (note: I've still got many friends loving their time in Korea). If you are trying to get settled in Thailand, and are having a hard time, you need to decide if you are simply unlucky, or if you need to change tactics.

I have a friend here who is now unemployed, has literally "had to" disappear from two previous jobs around Thailand, has not saved a thing, is broke, has a fake degree and no TEFL. He's just so unlucky, and he can't understand why nothing works out. So so unlucky...

Byron Noel

Anyone is welcome to write a one-off article for the ajarn guests section as long as it's something related to either Thailand or teaching in Thailand or teaching in Asia. We would really love to have your contributions and we'll give it a good plug on the ajarn homepage and also our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Please send your articles by e-mail if you'd be so kind.


Hey! I'm searching around for places to find teaching jobs or adventure ed jobs in Krabi. Wondering if you could throw out some names of the places you worked or know of. I'm looking with my partner who has a masters in education and I've done a year teaching in Japan along with some other stuff. I wouldn't say that I'm looking for a vacation... but I am very drawn by the climbing in the area for all of the free time!

By Mischa, Colorado (27th May 2015)

Thanks for the info, Byron. I'm about to bite the bullet and fly into Thailand myself. I'm a bit afraid of age discrimination. I'm 50 and look it. Thais are apparently very image-conscious! I wanted to ask: Byron Noel? Did your parents really name you that or are you a serious Byron fan? Few people know of the Noel legal name he had to assume.

By Barbrey, Vancouver (20th October 2013)

Sometimes people who aren't native speakers learn other languages. Sometimes these people do really well and learn to speak a language fluently. These people then sometimes prove their ability to use the language (tests, interviews and the like), and end up as teachers of that language.

Also, sometimes schools prefer female teachers for younger students.

By Byron Noel, Phuket (21st April 2013)

So how can a Dutch non native speaker get a better job and get it quicker than a native speaker...just asking how that works.

By Shaun, Bangkok (21st April 2013)

Thanks for the comments Dave, I couldn't agree more!

By Byron Noel, Phuket (15th March 2013)

@ Byron I can assure you that your sarcasm wasn't lost on me. I get very angry with these men and women who come here with nothing and expect a job on the same basis as everyone who has at the very least taken time to do a TEFL. It is time anyone who lives and works here now understand that a degree is more or less expected along with a TEFL for any type of work.

I have no opinion about teachers who do and don't have a degree because I know a degree doesn't mean you can teach any better. People should be more serious about their future if they expect to teach in Thailand after 2015 and not take the lazy route.

By Dave, Bangkok (14th March 2013)

Thanks Dave. I guess my sarcasm about my friend was too subtle? ;) He is, unfortunately, one of those people who thinks that it's "the world" and not him...

By Byron Noel, Phuket (13th March 2013)

"I have a friend here who is now unemployed, has literally "had to" disappear from two previous jobs around Thailand, has not saved a thing, is broke, has a fake degree and no TEFL. He's just so unlucky, and he can't understand why nothing works out. So so unlucky..."

No he is not unlucky because he is FAKE and getting caught in the act. This is why he has no job and no money and why he has to disappear.You and your good lady seem to have done well and I wish you well, but your friend. He is just getting what he deserves simple as that.

By Dave, Bangkok (12th March 2013)

@ Chris Yes, I have a 120hr TEFL that I did online, as well as a Bachelors. For Korea you will need a 100hr + TEFL, but not necessarily for Thailand. It's worth getting though, as many of the better institutions will favour you because of it. I'm not saying that you won't get work without it, just that it could make things easier...

S.Korea was fine, it was mostly just my boss. Still, like Thailand, S.Korea has its own set of unique problems for foreigners. Find out about these before going... Check out waygook.org It's the biggest Korean ESL forum (I think).I wouldn't favour one destination over the other, it really depends on you and what you are looking for.

This is the 4th foreign country that I've lived & worked in. The choice on where to go and what to do is not tough man, just go anywhere! The experience of living & working abroad will be an amazing experience, no matter where you go. It sounds to me like you might need the Korean money though... Go and do it, then take the money and try another country after that! I've got a lot of good friends who are having a great time there.

By Byron Noel, Phuket (11th March 2013)

Inspiring stuff. I'm planning to take the plunge and move abroad to teach English in a few months! Korea was one of my potential destinations as is Thailand obviously, I guess your experiences of Korea were quite negative but it sounds like it was really because of one individual rather than Korea being a bad place to live and teach. Its tough deciding what to do. If only I had enough money to travel around a few countries before deciding where to live/teach. Out of interest do you have any TEFL qualifications? Thanks

By Chris, London (11th March 2013)

Hi Joe, maybe it was not that clear in what I wrote but with a duel income & our extra classes we are doing rather well. We can afford to send around 15 000 home, while still saving 10-20 000 a month. Maybe it should be noted that we don't spend a lot of money on alcohol & going out, but we do go away & socialize with friends a lot. No money needed from home...

By Byron Noel, Phuket (11th March 2013)

wow what a great story 30000 baht a month living in phuket I hope his family has money if he ever wants to pay for flights home.

By john joe o mahony, bangkok (11th March 2013)

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