Phil Hall

Getting a job interview - part 2

We can only offer you a low salary if you're not a native speaker!


First of all, apologies for the lateness of this article. 

I’ve been kind of busy and then when I checked ajarn.com yesterday, I realised that there was supposed to be a conclusion to getting a job interview - part 1, so here it is, kind of.

So my first interview was the result of a walk-in enquiry and it was a primary school about five minutes away from where we lived in Kalasin. 

Myself and my good lady wife had made a list of the schools within a certain perimeter and this happened to be the first one. To be totally honest, I wasn’t overly keen on teaching at a primary school but my own son was 15 at the time, so I figured I would have a better chance of connecting with Thai kids of that age.

Anyway, we strolled into the government run school and we were met halfway to the main building by a chap called Elvis, I kid you not. He was from Nigeria and had a handshake that I still remember to this day. He welcomed us into the main office and another teacher, who happened to be his wife, was also there.

They were a very pleasant couple but their demeanour changed when a Thai lady entered the office. She was the Vice-Principal and was wearing the government school uniform.

‘Where are you from?’ she asked, without so much as an introduction.

This got us off on the wrong foot because I can’t abide rudeness in people, no matter how high they think they are on the social ladder.

I informed her Royal Rudeness that I was from the UK. She wasn’t impressed. Without so much as a word, up she left us and I could sense Elvis and Mrs Elvis start to relax a little more.

But then he went into a weird mode as he looked at my sparse CV and accompanying copies of my BA degree and TEFL certificate.

‘What is your experience?’

He practically shouted this at me but his accent was so heavy that I asked him to repeat himself.

‘You are not a native speaker?’

This was him asking, not me.

‘So we can only pay you a very low salary’

Mrs Elvis looked very excited at this point. He went on

‘You have a visa for working?’

I tried to explain that I could only get the required visa once I had a formal letter from the school inviting me to start work as a teacher. How wrong could I be?

‘No no no no!’ he went on, he really did…

‘You can work on a tourist visa here, it’s so easy, not like in Bangkok’

I was about to ask about how could that be so, and how could I get a work permit when the vice-principal reappeared out of nowhere, medals looking very shiny indeed. She cut Mr Presley off as he was about to make his reveal. I was almost relived to see her, almost.

‘Come with me now’

Elvis looked flustered but handed me back my papers and stood up, as did his wife.

‘Lets’ Go!’

This was the first time she had spoken and she was very loud indeed. So we all trooped off and seemed to be doing a single file march around the school’s playing fields until I realised there was a small building on the other side.

‘We are going to speak to the director, to show him how handsome you are!’

Oh God, I thought, he’ll not be impressed then.

We entered the building and inside was the man himself, he was sat at one of the largest tables I’ve ever seen and looked as if he was about to start eating a meal that was ample for five or six people. Maybe we were going to be offered a few snacks?

The director looked up and then back at his food, clearly more important.

‘This is Mr Philip, he is from the Ukraine’

That seemed to touch a nerve but before I could correct Elvis and the rest of the room, he looked back up and barked:

‘We don’t want people from that country!’

He was back to his feast and we were leaving the room.

Elvis escorted me to the school gates and his parting shot was pretty good.

‘Don’t worry, I can get you a job here but the salary is now ten thousand baht, you start tomorrow!’

Of course I had no intention of returning but I gave him my firmest handshake and without a hint of irony replied:

‘Thank you, thank you very much’

And that was that, well at least until we hit the next school.

To be continued…


Phil Hall Books




Comments

Good story. Don't mind the haters and the losers who get stuck on one word. They are just people who need to be put back in their place with a good little slap.

Keep writing.

By Brian, Ukraine (12th August 2020)

Thanks for the comments, negative, positive and a bit out there.

I simply relayed my perception of my first day of looking for work as a teacher in a typical Isaan city.

Of course my perspective changed as I attained more experience.

Regards the butt hurt comment, not sure why that Josh character has a hard on for such a term but I'm not looking for sympathy and try to write in a self-deprecating way that may be above your own particular level of humour and understanding of our shared language.

Part 3 is soon to come and I'm delighted that my true recollection git such a decent/varied response.

By Phil Hall, Oxford (31st July 2020)

Josh

To a large extent, we live in the world as we perceive it.

Each of us live in a different Thailand, to a large extent.

Despite only meeting a number of the actors in the story for a very short time, Phil apparently (unless he is just taking literary license here) perceived each person as a negative stereotype and according to his own words, felt he should have been treated somewhat special based on his nationality.

Ok, but I have chosen to live in a different Thailand where I see a lot of complexities, nuances, individuals, and try to keep an open mind to situations (not always successfully).

It has been my experience, people who come to work in Thailand with less of a negative and stereotypical viewpoint are more likely to have successful and enjoyable experiences. The academic literature on expatriates and working internationally is filled with empirical studies supporting this view that being more positive and open-minded is more likely to lead to a successful international assignment than having a negative and stereotypical view of your host country.

Choose the world you want to live in and I will choose mine, Phil, you, and many other writers on Ajarn have tried to convince me to take a more negative and stereotypical perspective. Fair enough, I have tried to convince readers to jold a more positive and open-minded perception. Seems none of us have had any success in changing the minds of others.

By Jack, LOS (28th July 2020)

The amount of virtue signaling and butt-hurt is astonishing.

Jacking, again...all you are doing is pettifogging. Get past yourself.

By Josh, Alderan (27th July 2020)

Pat

Anyone who has spent any time working in the ESL industry in Thailand realizes it is filled with a number of colorful characters with varying degrees of competences and there is no shortage of material for humorous tales, but so often writers rely on simple stereotypes in framing their stories

Phil's tale, but like so many tales of woe, presents each and every non-native speaker in the story in a negative and stereotypical manner. The Vice Principal was presented as rude and self-important, the Nigerian was presented as a hustler and the Director was presented as incompetent, lazy, and gluttonous.

To be fair, Phil also presented himself as a bit foolish.

Despite doing a cold call and relying only on first impressions, it was assumed (correctly) most readers would easily accepted the negative stereotypes presented as the absolute truth and identify with Phil as the grieved party.

By Jack, LOS (26th July 2020)

I think what Phil is trying to convey is the school should have jumped at the chance to hire a Brit if all they have at present is some Nigerian chancer who's hustled a job alongside his ''wife'' who tells him he can work illegally no worries.
Then taking him for some idiot offers him a terrible salary he's most likely taking a cut from.
It's clear the school hires any old desperado short of cash, and this Elvis bloke and his wife have their noses in the trough.

He felt he should have waltzed into that job.

By Pat_Bangkok, Bangkok (26th July 2020)

Josh

I get where you are coming from.

Native English speaking Farang basically good and usually right, Thai (and Nigerian) wrong and most often bad.

In my experience that type of attitude is quite common among English teachers here in Thailand, but it rarely leads to a successful and pleasant time teaching in Thailand.

Seeing situations more holistically might provide more useful lessons than just seeking to have our existing biases and prejudices confirmed.

We can agree to disagree.

Feeling disappointed when people are not impressed by your nationality and expressing the idea the lack of being impressed is a form of rudeness is a subjective judgement.

Cheers

By Jack, LOS (25th July 2020)

@Jack

-I did not see anywhere in Phil's post, that indicated that he was relying on, or proudly waving, his British nationality. It is a formality to not only to be inquired about this but to give that information.

-You interpreted "showed up uninvited" is actually referred to as "pounding the pavement"...in which case, many folks recommends you do.

-you said..."one probably should not be expecting to be treated to tea and crumpets while the people running the school drop everything to see if they can create a position which will fit a person's specific needs."

.....I saw no indication in Phil's writing that set up that type of scenario. What exactly are you trying to conjure up, here?

-you said..."Or may we should just laugh at the follies and stupidity of these people as portrayed running an obscure upcountry school."

...I'm pretty sure that's what Phil was doing.

-...you said "I am not saying this was Phil's attitude,"

...YES, you are, albeit, backhandedly.

-...you said "maybe the reason Phil decided to insult the lady who did not express adequate appreciation of his nationality was also due to a misreading of intentions."

...Oh, so you are saying that Phil, actually called her "Royal Rudeness", as opposed to sharing what he was THINKING, whilst writing his story? In addition, there is a word...it is called "manners". Perhaps if you would actually read what was written, you would see that her Royal Rudeness was clearly living up to her name.

I can go on, Jack. But, your virtue polarization and blatant spin and virtue signaling are just killing my brain cells.

By Josh, Death Star (25th July 2020)

Josh

I suspect from Phil's writing I would like him if we met.

I was responded specifically to " I was from the UK. She wasn’t impressed."

Phil apparently showed up uninvited at a school looking for a job, apparently the school was not looking to hire at that time. Hey, it was worth a shot, but in this type of situation one probably should not be expecting to be treated to tea and crumpets while the people running the school drop everything to see if they can create a position which will fit a person's specific needs.

I am not sure what the relevance or importance of telling us Elvis was from Nigeria was to the story, but it seemed the nationalities of the people involved were deemed to be critical in identifying who's side the reader is expected to identify with in the story.

Being a native English speaker is a huge advantage when seeking a job as an English teacher or even other positions internationally, but from my experience, relying on this fact as one's primary qualification or expecting special treatment based on this stroke of luck of location of birth are common features in the many stories of woe told by those who find they are underappreciated as ESL teachers.

Or may we should just laugh at the follies and stupidity of these people as portrayed running an obscure upcountry school.

But I suspect we would have had a very different story if the situation had been written from the perspective of some of the others in the story who intended to tell a funny story about the follies and foolishness of a noobie English teacher who showed up out of the blue expecting everyone to be impressed and provide him a job as soon as he announced he was British.

I am not saying this was Phil's attitude, but misunderstanding of the intentions of others are common, maybe the reason Phil decided to insult the lady who did not express adequate appreciation of his nationality was also due to a misreading of intentions.

I can see the humor of the situation from Phil's perspective, but can also see how the laughs would be about him when seen from a different angle.

By Jack, LOS (24th July 2020)

To Jack,

This is what you posted...

"Fair enough, but expecting to be respected based on British nationality instead of one's skills and qualifications would have probably been more appropriate in India in 1920 instead of Thailand in 2020.

Walking around expecting respect based solely on the color of your passport is unlikely to endear yourself to people from other countries."

...again, where in his post did he state an expectation on these lines? You are conflating and pettifogging, nothing more.

By Josh, Land of _____________. (24th July 2020)

I don't know how I ended up here but after quite a shi* day I'm glad I did. I never read these noob stories after decades here and nearly ten years in the game. This was well written and I thought quite amusing. Thank you.

I hope you sorted out a better school than where this story appears to be heading.

Beer is on me

By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (23rd July 2020)

@Josh

Thanks for your comment and I'm so glad that I didn't come across that way (Jack's opinion) to everyone who read my little blog :)

Certainly a decade or two earlier, my response would have been a little less patient

Cheers! Phil

By Phil Hall, Oxford (23rd July 2020)

To begin with, I am speaking to Jack, who wrote this...

"Walking around expecting respect based solely on the color of your passport is unlikely to endear yourself to people from other countries."

In what way, did you get the impression that Phil was doing just that? I certainly did not see that in his writing . Is it possible you have other motives, inspiring you to make that statement?

Phil...I am empathetic, regarding how you view that type of situation and I think you handled it quite well. Being one of a lesser tolerance of that type of treatment, I probably would have put Elivs on the spot and grilled him, regarding his position and how he felt entitled to establish a salary. If I new that it was not going to happen (getting the job), there really is no sense in continuing on with monkey-shines (but that is only my opinion).

In regards to dealing with the Ukrainian snowflake, I probably would have said something along the lines of looking forward to seeing him outside of school, so we could discuss the issue.

I probably would have just left, upon meeting "Her Rudeness"....

You certainly handled it better than I would have. Then again, sometimes folks need to return fire, with the monkey-poo being thrown at them.

By Josh, Land of Plenty (22nd July 2020)

I guess what I was trying to say was that she looked pretty disgusted - a neutral response was what I expected :)
Essentially, what I was trying to get across was that I was a novice and hopefully that one bad experience might help others in a similar position.

By Phil Hall, Oxford (22nd July 2020)

Fair point, but this was 2011 and I was a newbie, hence my illusions of grandeur. Surely not the first and definitely not the last.

By Phil Hall, Wallingford (22nd July 2020)

Phil

Fair enough, but expecting to be respected based on British nationality instead of one's skills and qualifications would have probably been more appropriate in India in 1920 instead of Thailand in 2020.

Walking around expecting respect based solely on the color of your passport is unlikely to endear yourself to people from other countries.

But if it works for you (which according to your blog posts does not seem to be the case) go ahead,

By Jack, LOS (22nd July 2020)

Perhaps because the job was for teaching English and they had mistaken me for being Ukrainian. Or maybe I was just having a laugh?

You decide, Jack :)

By Phil, Oxford (22nd July 2020)

"I informed her Royal Rudeness that I was from the UK. She wasn’t impressed."

Why should she have been impressed by your nationality?

By Jack, LOS (19th July 2020)

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