Mark Newman

Why you are fantastic!

10 reasons why teaching English has made you a fantastic person


The chances are that you are going to eventually go home and start to take life a bit more seriously after your stint as an English teacher in Thailand. I mean, come on... it's fun, sure, but the money is rubbish and there's really no future in it.

So, you've done a year or two or maybe even three and you're staring out the airplane window saying 'Goodbye!' to Thailand for the last time and recounting all the brilliant adventures you've had. The plane finally takes off from Bangkok and the harsh reality of the real world hurtles towards you faster than the speed of sound...

Already you are thinking about how you can translate your new superpowers into a career. You were pretty darn amazing before but now you are fantastic and nothing can stop you. But let's put down that in-flight magazine for a few minutes and think about how you've changed - because you have and all for the better, too.

1 - "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." - Aristotle.

After living in Thailand for a while, if you haven't learned to be more patient you'll have gone mad! Things here are just so hopelessly haphazard and disorganized that you'll have by now embraced a zen-like state of acceptance that things will go wrong. This sets you apart from your friends back home where your gift of patience will help you make more rational and mature decisions in the future.

2 - "When plan 'A' fails, you have 25 more goes!" - Me!

You are now much more perseverant than you were before. If you can climb through the bizarre hoops required to be a teacher in Thailand then any plans you make in the future are going to be easy-peasy to navigate. Everything from negotiating a rental contract to ordering clothes that fit is now a cinch for you!

3 - You can now mind-read. What could be cooler than that?

After spending the last part of your life in Thailand you've become an expert on picking up the physical cues that people give out. The Thai language is bloody hard to learn and you did your best, but most of what you understood was with facial and physical movements... and the good news is that these pantomime gestures are universal. You can now read people's minds just by looking at their bodies!

4 - "The journey is my home."

An extended trip abroad will really make you appreciate home when you get there. It will, of course, also make you more critical of home, too. Your newly acquired cultural perspectives will make you more fantastic because you can now draw on the best bits of both cultures and use them to suit you, while abandoning the bits of each culture that you don't like. Sharing this knowledge can make you look like a dick, so it's usually best to keep this one on the down-low!

5 - You are now an expert public speaker.

Remember that first English class you had and everyone looked at you funny as you stammered blindly through the present perfect tense rules? That joke you told that nobody in the class understood? Yeah, well... no more. You can now ad-lib your way to world peace in front of the United Nations when called upon. Or you can at least really enjoy making that best man's speech without looking like an ass!

6 - In a manner of speaking...

Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas said that good manners will open doors that the best education cannot... or something like that. While that nugget of wisdom made sense before your Thailand adventure, the impact of your experience living amongst Thai people will really prove this to be true for you. Thais are extraordinarily polite and this has rubbed off on you, making you more fantastic to everyone that you meet!

7 - You are now a lot less confrontational.

Quiz time: So, you're at the Big C and you and your trolley full of goodies are stuck in an aisle behind a Thai woman with two young kids while she inspects the price of cooking oil. How do you react? Do you A - shunt her trolley with yours and give her a dirty look, or B - turn around and go the long way round before she even notices you? At Walmart this could have easily have turned into a fight... but this is the new you: less confrontational - more fantastic!

8 - You are now more accepting of unexpected changes.

Life in The West is all very well, but it's a bit drab. It's predictable and routine driven. When the buses are late or the store runs out of Toothpaste it's easy to be impatient and unforgiving. Westerners love to get worked up over stuff that doesn't really matter. But not you... Thailand had immunized you against the effects of unexpected changes. You are now more philosophical when things go wrong and more tolerant to the bumps in the road ahead.

9 - "He who will not economize will have to agonize." - Confucius.

You are now an expert at personal finances. Your time in Thailand has made you this way. Back home you'll wonder, jaw agape, how anyone can spend so much money on a fancy Starbucks coffee. You face a future of stress-free finances because you won't get sucked into all the Western traps of buying toys on the 'never-never' that you don't really need. In fact, your experience of living amongst Thai people has taught you the one true meaning of happiness, which is that having fewer needs is better than having more possessions.

10 - "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." - Wayne Gretzky

Finally, number 10 - You did it! Whatever happens in the future, you have your time in Thailand to look back on. So many people just wish they could travel and they talk about doing it, but not you. You did it and that alone makes you... FANTASTIC!

Good luck with your future lives and think about me, would ya? I'm still here!




Comments

Great Article. Although living in Thailand made it difficult to readjust culturally, socially and financially when I decided to move back "home", I am now noticing, after being back a few years, that many of these attributes would not have been possible for me to develop had I remained in Canada.

Lately, now that my reverse culture shock has settled down and I am further along in my new career, people often take note of how patient and calm I am in stressful and unpredictable situations. Prior to my years abroad and in Thailand, I never received these comments. And yes, living off a tight budget in a foreign country definitely made me much more self- reliant and financially aware than I was before. Your note on how to read and Inuit body language was also spot on!

With the above being said, this did take years of readjusting and calibrating to see any benefit. Reverse culture shock was a real female dog to get over.

By Brad, Canada (19th September 2023)

Now, THIS is more like it.

No matter what the boo-birds may be chirping, optimism goes a long way. In this case, despite the drawbacks of arriving home, wherever that may be, you HAVE changed. It could be for better, or worse BUT, during nonsensical process of having to tap-dance through interviews simply to acquire the means to put food on the table and hopefully a roof over your head, seeking out the most tolerable way you can spend 40+ plus hours away from what you would rather be doing, using the points the author listed to "sell" yourself very well may open more doors than anticipated (even if you have to stretch the truth).

Perception shapes reality but does reality equate to fact? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. The author is correct in implying that most folks back home have never traveled beyond that of a getaway amounting to a single week. There is no possible way for the inside-the-box thinkers and pony tail-swishers to contemplate the experience of working and living under the umbrella of a foreign culture. Moreover, despite the return home, you still were a teacher and even though it is likely the person sitting across from you during an interview will offer a skeptical look at the resume, asking 'so, what did you do?", it is not your fault folks back home are one-dimensional. In fact, I presume your experiences, tasks and challenges you lived through, are a threat to the establishment. Heaven forbid someone is: able to think one's feet, offer solutions to problems, read between the lines, organize a daily schedule, offer an outgoing persona, have an idea how to talk to folks versus knowing when to shut up, show up on time, dress smartly, willing to learn and is coachable, able to offer more than what is expected, provide analysis to complex narratives and moreover, has a sense of gratitude (the aforementioned is dependent on one NOT returning home bitter and regretful. That happens and is not uncommon but time heals wounds and offers perspective: you know who you are..we can smell our own).

Granted, it does help to invest in yourself while you are gone. I learned this hard way. Additionally, it does help to sit down and make a list, or perhaps a mind-web, of what you accomplished, the skills you learned, the amount of work you did, the type of people you interacted with, your successes and failures and finally, but not ultimately, what you may have done differently versus what you stand by. In fact, you may even find yourself on the next flight back.

Perseverance, patience, prudence and accountability are virtues, are they not? Sacrificing your needs in order to show favor towards the "big picture" is noble, is it not? Any fair-minded employer should see this but many do not. The truth is, most jobs in this world can be taught and learned. Unfortunately, most jobs have been deemed to be comparable to some special branch at NASA: what a bunch a malarkey, eh?

I applaud the author for his contribution. In fact, I am going to take notes on it. My own return abroad will be determined on whether or not I acquire this drab, banal and awfully boring government job I am interviewing for this week. The salary sucks and the cost of living is high. Hubris is everywhere. But...it does add agency to what it means in having to start over.

With that said, despite keeping in mind the drawbacks of teaching EFL abroad, part of me hopes I don't get the position, as a "career specialist": #irony. That way, my path is much clearer and considering the sorry state of my own country, and what is awaiting downstream, I can think of worse things than being a lowly, contract EFL teacher working with awesome kids who light-up when you walk in the room, ready to go, saying "We're about to get hot!".

The choice is yours. If you stay home, then by God, sell yourself. If not, get packed, book a ticket, recount the lessons you learned and say your goodbyes.

Thank you, Mark for that great contribution. Again, I'm going to be writing down the points you listed, put them in the metaphorical ammunition magazine, get a clear look down the iron sights, and cycle them out. If the interviewer is not impressed....I'm on my way. For the boo-birds...sit back, re-read the article and ruminate on it further.

Be well, folks.

By Knox, The space between Thesis and Editorial (11th September 2023)

A few points to make here..... Firstly a lot of Thai people do define themselves by their job, especially if it is a position of power. A lot of Thai people work very long hours too or live at their place of work. Secondly, the eternal tefler question is "what could we do apart from teaching?" very few find the answer in Thailand. Thirdly, nearly everyone "goes back" only a handfull remain. Finally when you do go back, you are out of the loop. Maybe you have a career to fall back into, maybe you have a nice supportive family. One thing for sure is that your EFL skills won't help much. I know many who have gone back, not one has a better job than before. Teaching is an option if you're properly qualified. Be prepared.

By John, Bangkok (24th September 2016)

I think that he's pretty spot on with all the points, apart from the assumptions that you have to go back, and that teaching is all you do. Thai people very rarely define themselves by their job, they are people first. It is a Western affectation designed to put the job at the forefront of your life. Yes you teach, but you can do other things as well. Work online, set your partner up in a business, whatever. You have time, the TV is no good, facebook gets dull eventually.

As for going back, you will be top of the jobs pile I agree, but you will have the skills above, so will be much better at your job if you get one.

By Rob, Bangkok (24th September 2016)

pile of nonsense. out of touch with reality and about teaching...? Nope

By mark, Bangkok (21st September 2016)

Right in theory, wrong in practice. When you get back to the west, you'll be at the bottom of the jobs pile. Employers see the whole thing as a long holiday. You have no trade to ply. You will need patience to adjust to life in the west again, but your patience may have long run out. You will need money, maybe that ran out too. Travel: yes. Volunteering: yes. EFL as a career: no. Remember that most EFL positions are amateur, whatever skills you gained will count for very little.

By John, Bangkok (19th September 2016)

Have to agree but i think number 9 is a bit missed placed. Thais buy all soughts of garbage they do not need. They do this with credit. Just like us when we are in our own country. Living overseas means you cannot get credit. This is what makes us so different to those that do not travel. Instant gratafication is no longer the normal. We must save and buy with the money we have.

The trolley scenario is great. i have done that so many times over here. I hate shopping.

Have fun

By Paul, Chantaburi (19th September 2016)

You know? I'd pretty much have to agree with all of these and add that; now you know how the other person lives, because you were that other person in Thailand. But the main thing is reducing your needs and learning to chill out and sweat the big things in life rather than the small things. It's also taught me how to drive a lot better, or more defensively and on a bad note, to not be so naive and trust everything that people tell you, but rather investigate and research everything.

Cheers,

Steve

By Steve Thatcher, bangkok (18th September 2016)

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