During a period several years ago, my spouse and I relocated to Thailand accompanied by our young daughter. We engaged in English teaching for a duration of sixteen months. I wish to recount our journey and rationale in the hope that it may offer insights to other families contemplating a similar move.
A job on arrival
Initially, we diverged from conventional wisdom by securing employment prior to departing our home country, the United States. Although our initial intent was to explore opportunities upon arrival in Thailand, we encountered a promising school with an appealing offer before departure. This approach suited us well. While it might be preferable for individuals or couples to secure housing and employment upon arrival in the country and then obtain visas, this would have posed considerable challenges for us.
Consequently, we arrived with visas already in hand, having obtained them before departing the U.S. Additionally, our accommodation, a townhouse provided by the school and fully furnished, awaited our arrival. We found the preemptive job arrangement to be highly advantageous and never regretted our decision. The organized and reliable assistance provided by the school in obtaining our visas from the Thai embassy in the U.S. and arranging for our reception at the airport upon arrival further affirmed our choice. After a trans-Pacific flight with a nineteen-month-old child, the support was immensely appreciated.
Choosing a city to live in
Extensive research and careful consideration guided our selection of location within Thailand. Drawing from past visits to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Hua Hin, we opted against Bangkok due to pollution concerns and ultimately ruled out Chiang Mai and Hua Hin due to the cost of living compared to earning potential. Our choice led us to Khon Kaen, situated six hours northeast of Bangkok.
While Khon Kaen lacked the vibrancy of larger cities, it proved to be an ideal setting for our family—affordable, welcoming, and of a manageable size, yet with enough amenities including a few "farang" restaurants and grocery stores offering imported foods. The presence of excellent hospitals was particularly significant for us, especially as I gave birth to our second daughter in Srinagarind Hospital. My husband's prior study of Thai, both in college and with a tutor during our time in Thailand, proved invaluable. While most doctors could communicate in English, proficiency among nurses and administrative staff was limited.
We chose to work at a small private elementary school offering a bilingual program, leveraging our educational backgrounds and teaching experience in Southeast Asia. I taught KG 1 while my husband instructed English and math to third and fourth grade classes. The school also provided childcare, allowing our daughter to attend at no cost. She quickly acquired proficiency in Thai, becoming fully fluent within months.
Following the initial school year and the birth of our second daughter, I opted for part-time teaching at Khon Kaen University for a more flexible schedule, enabling me to bring my infant daughter to work. The accommodating nature of my colleagues and administrative staff was invaluable. Additionally, we were fortunate that the childcare facilities at my husband's school were of high quality, providing engaging activities for our older daughter while offering nurturing care for our infant.
We found infant clothing to be remarkably affordable in Thailand, although imported baby products were exorbitantly priced. Quality toys were scarce and overpriced, with items such as infant car seats commanding substantial sums. Many shops targeting expatriates offered such items at inflated prices. English teachers like us needed to employ creativity, bring essential items from our home countries, or adapt to local preferences.
Thais love children
Thai locals embraced our daughter warmly, often offering food, toys, and attention whenever we ventured out. Her constant popularity, evidenced by frequent photography sessions, sometimes proved overwhelming but ultimately became enjoyable for her. Upon our return to the U.S., she seemed to miss her enthusiastic admirers.
Our time in Thailand was marked by various challenges and rewards, ultimately proving to be a transformative experience for us and our children.