Richard McCully

Second season syndrome

How does the second year of teaching in Thailand compare to the first?

Second season syndrome is dreaded by many football fans around the world.

The first year is majestic, your team is battling, and you manage to end the year on a high. But in the second year it all goes wrong. The motivation has gone, the attitude is not right and in the end it leads to failure.

Having just passed my 2 year anniversary in Thailand I thought I would look and see if I suffered from Thai second season syndrome and how it might affect you if you decide to come to Thailand.


After arriving and jumping straight into my CELTA upon arrival I was keen to find a job. I signed up on the jobs section of this site and was offered many jobs within a few days. After a bit of research I took a job in Pathum Thani at a government high school. However, the agency lost their contract with the school after only 3 months which meant I had to move on.

This gave me the chance to sit back and check my options. My 33k a month salary was getting spent very quickly so I decided to look for a better paying option. It was at this point I decided to take a job at a language school paying a higher salary and offering better working conditions.

Year 1 result: Mid table 

In my second year I am still working with the same company and really enjoying my job. I would love the odd weekend off but I get the option to choose my holidays when I want them. So not much has changed in this aspect of my life. Maybe some would say I should be aiming to progress every year but I'm happy to be where I am.

Year 2 result: Mid table 

Travelling and Socializing

I have put travelling and socializing next as they seemed to go together in my first year. Meeting new friends who were all excited to travel meant I was visiting a different place every week. If we weren't going somewhere we were looking for a new party spot.

From north to south I traveled around Thailand having many amazing experiences. Full Moon parties, trekking in Khao Sok national park and temples in Chiang Mai - I ticked off all the boxes of the Thailand guides. I would love to go to Thong Lor for a few drinks and try new bars and restaurants around the city.

Year 1 result: Top half

Now this has changed quite a lot. Many of my friends went back to their home countries after a year here. They were on gap years or just had enough of Thailand. I also realized that if I was to live here I shouldn't go out partying every week and had to start saving some money. I still go out and have a few beers with friends but only a couple of times a month.

I also travel a lot less, maybe every 2 months. I went to so many amazing places in my first year that I don't really feel the need to go again for a while. I think my lifestyle in terms of socializing and travelling has changed dramatically and some would say it's for the better and others for the worse.

Year 2 result: Bottom half

Standard of Living

When I started teaching here in Thailand I lived in a small 28sq. metre studio. I was initially happy enough with it as I felt I was living the "simple life" I had wanted. However, after 2 months I was sick of staring at the same 4 walls. I then moved to a 1 bedroom 44sq. metre condo in Ladprao when I started my new job in Bangkok and the change was huge.

I had a separate living room, basic kitchen and my own private internet connection and TV package. I was happy there. With a new job I could afford the higher rent although my disposable income after this was around the same as before. Most months I would always spend my complete salary on going out and travelling and have to keep a low profile for the last few days of the month.

Year 1 result: Mid table

In my second year I bought a condo in the outskirts of Bangkok. I have to send money back to the UK for this each month but I now have a place to call my own. At 64sq. metres I have lots of space, 2 bedrooms and, hopefully, a good investment for the future. I'm also a lot more careful with my spending and, excluding accommodation costs and can get by on around 20k a month.

I still get to do lots of activities and eat out 3 or 4 times a week. I think the main difference now is that I know the true value of items and where to get the best deals.

Year 2 result : Top half 

Other Second Year Successes

- Figuring out bus routes to stop paying so much for taxis.

- Not feeling the need to eat foreign food every week.

- Being invited out by Thai friends to new places.

Other Second Year Failures

- My Thai language skills are equally as useless as they were during my first year.

- Still getting stressed when I visit immigration.

- Inability to eat somtam with more than 3 chilies without crying.

Overall Verdict

I think overall I have avoided second season syndrome but I understand how it could be a problem for many people living here. For me I am happy to be avoiding the party areas and feel much more like an expat during my second year than someone here just for a bit of a party and gap year experience.

There is nothing wrong with a plan to come here for a year and fully enjoy your time, travel and make new friends, but if you're planning to be here for longer you will need to accept that that lifestyle can't last forever.

Top Tips to Avoid Second Season Syndrome

- Accept you are here to live and this isn't a "long holiday"

- Learn the true value of items to help save a little every month, you never know when you need some extra money.

- Live somewhere nice. Have somewhere you look forward to coming back to, somewhere that can become a home.

- Try to make a variety of friends.

If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country  

Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book. 

Settling in Thailand takes a broad, insightful and balanced approach – neither too cynical nor evangelical, this book sets a precedent in terms of presenting a positive but realistic and non-judgemental description of Thailand life for foreign residents. 

Written by two British expats in Thailand, and with interviews with another 13 expats from around the world, you will get first-hand experience, advice and explanations of expat life in Thailand. With a combined 150 years of Thai experience this book is the ultimate guide to making sure your move and settling in Thailand goes smoothly.

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Fascinating and well written blog, Richard!

Seems like we're in similar places... two years into our teaching careers.

By Joko, Yangon (23rd July 2015)

UrbanMan - all fair points.

When I moved here I was single but now am in a relationship. I've been with my girlfriend since October last year. My girlfriend is Thai but speaks almost perfect English. She doesn't live with me but works the same days that I do which is one of the reasons I don't mind working weekends. She lived in New York for a year so is used to the big city life but it's fair to say she doesn't want to be going out to RCA and KhaoSan every week to party. This is obviously a big influence on my habits but I can't say I feel the urge to party as much as before. Maybe it's me getting old but I think I'm just a bit bored of always going to the same places.

Away from work I play a lot of sport. At my condo I have a swimming pool, badminton courts, Tennis courts and a gym ( although I never use the gym really ). I'll also play golf maybe once a month- 100 balls at the driving range cost 100 Baht. Having a weekday off means I can also play golf at a much cheaper rate than the weekend prices - as low as 400 Baht a round. I have several groups of people that I play sport with, both Thai and other expats. This often leads to dinner / drinks after -maybe twice a week.

I also do the usual sightseeing, shopping and cinema trips that most people here do. I guess these are normal activities you would do back home and don't sound too exciting but I can't do something amazing everyday. I watch TV, mainly sports, but I'll invite some friends over to watch the football or rugby. I also watch a couple of American series with my girlfriend which is fun but we also do it to help her English.

As to my lifestyle I know that it's very different now compared to my first year here. Travelling around Thailand was fantastic and I made great new friends. I arrived here when I was 25 and maybe most of my friends were a bit younger so partying was always on the cards. As I said most of them have gone back home and I have new groups of friends and my girlfriend who have different ideas about what they like to do. Maybe a gap year student reading this will think I live a boring life now whereas an older expat will think it's a better decision to stay away from partying so much. For me I don't miss the partying but I do miss the travelling. I have more stability now and feel like I am living here rather than on a gap year. I prefer my life now with a couple of nights out a week but avoiding central bangkok and going out to local places near where I live.

I have been working weekends for nearly 18 months and for me it's not a problem. Many of my friends also work weekends and of course I get time off during the week. I Could never work 7 days a week which I know some people do with private students etc. getting midweek days off means cheaper prices at some places ( cinema, golf course) and less people in general. I also finish work at 6pm on weekends so can still get out to visit friends and go places - not many social events happen mid afternoon. I start work at midday on the weekend so I can sleep in a bit if Ido go out.

By Richard , Bangkok (8th July 2015)

You mention doing activities way from work - such as what? That's a key thing for most expats. If you are truly wanting to be useful to those pondering moving to Thailand, as much as you can provide on this front is immensely helpful. I'm always interested in hearing some real details about what others do away from the job beyond chat rooms and downloaded movies/tv programs. Foreign culture and language = not automatically easy to build a life.

If you are going to blog, you need to reveal your relationship situation. A key detail in knowing the blogger. If you are single and unattached for example, someone reading who is the same, will know they are reading output that could be very applicable.

You say, "my lifestyle ... has changed dramatically and some would say it's for the better and others for the worse." What do YOU think?

You mentioned not having weekends off. How long do you foresee being able to keep that going?

By UrbanMan, Near an aircon (7th July 2015)

I think buying a condo ( or any property anywhere ) has risks. I had money saved in the UK for this and after 5 years saving for a house / flat I was still getting nowhere with banks for a mortgage back home.

Here I have bought somewhere near the future BTS line so hopefully a good investment, but who knows. I actually like the place so am happy staying here at a rate I am happy with.

By Richard, Bangkok (30th June 2015)

I actually liked the use of the soccer analogy in the article. Plus I don't want these comment sections to turn into another version of those dreadful Thailand expat forums where all the members seem to do is take pot shots at each other.

By philip, Samut Prakarn (30th June 2015)

"I think "living" in any predominantly non-white Asian country long term can be a depressing prospect."

Wow! Amazing comment.

This may be true for you. Personally, I dread the thought of being repatriated home. I can't stand the horrible place. Pissy weather, pissy people, worthless currency. I do miss kebabs, though.

Also... with rent so cheap in Thailand I'm surprised you leaped into debt to buy a condo so soon after moving to Thailand. I hope it's not something you regret down the line.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (30th June 2015)

I think "living" in any predominantly non-white Asian country long term can be a depressing prospect. But I think it would be challenging to come out a stronger person out from it.

By WL, Asia (27th June 2015)

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