Richard McCully

A teacher at Christmas

What's it like for a foreign teacher in Thailand at this time of year?

A lot happens for teachers in Thailand in December. End of year bonuses, holidays, Christmas parties and, for some unfortunate teachers, actually working on the 25th. 

Today is my final teaching day of the year. I’ll go out for a couple of beers with colleagues afterwards to look back at the year and toast Christmas, the New Year and the end of a decade. However, this will all be off our own backs, not a company-funded bash. It got me thinking that only one of my previous schools stumped up cash for a staff Christmas / New Years do. Maybe the official work party is dead, or perhaps I’ve been unlucky that the companies I’ve worked for don’t do that kind of thing in general. 

Party poopers

My current school won't fund parties for staff which is a far cry from my previous school who put on unlimited booze and special events almost monthly. For my last Christmas event at that school we went go-karting and then to a huge restaurant with a great spread. Just to make it like a real staff Christmas party, a few staff members hooked up and someone was done for drink-driving on the way home… 

Whilst there were some aspects of the events there, downing bottles of whiskey and team games where you had to pop balloons without using your hand or feet, which weren’t my cup of tea, it was great for morale and team bonding. I certainly don’t miss the team games but I’d be loving a free meal at this time of the year. 

Stretching out the cash

As it’s my last working day of the year I got an early pay day. I’m not sure I like this as I’m not in need of it and will have to make things last longer in January as no doubt I’ll splurge now on things in the New Year sales. This early pay system is common in the UK I guess and with many international schools and other centers working under international policies, it has crept in here too. I would prefer they make it optional if I’m honest. However, for those heading home for Christmas I guess it’s useful. On the other hand, with the strong baht it’s a great time to be traveling overseas when earning Thai Baht. 

Talking of money I’m sure a good many people are getting a Christmas / end of year bonus this month. Maybe it comes in the form of flights home or pure cash. I found out that many companies in Thailand pay very good bonuses, I heard some banks pay 6 months + as a bonus. Unfortunately I’m not getting anywhere near that but it is a nice little end of year extra. 

Who's going away?

For my first few years in Thailand, this bonus went towards an exotic holiday somewhere. Today, I’ve just used it to pay off my credit card bill, how times have changed! However, I guess in the long term that cash will be spent on travel somewhere as I start to look at a Songkran trip. 

Talking of trips, I guess at my company it’s about 50/50 those staying in Thailand and traveling back home / overseas during the break. I did the previous two festive periods back in the UK so am happy to be in Thailand to enjoy the holiday this time. I always find Christmas a bit full-on and can’t relax as much as other times when I go home for a break. Of my Thai friends who are traveling over Christmas and New Year, many are off to Japan – the Thai baht is working wonders for them right now. 

For some it's a normal day

For those of you working the big day, I hope it goes as well as possible. I wrote about my experience working Christmas in Thailand last year on  It was one of the reasons I changed jobs to somewhere I had more control over my holidays. In short I hated it and couldn’t stand all the Christmas activities we had to do for weeks on end. Then I had to perform in a show in front of the whole school which made things even better…. 

As we get closer to Christmas and New Year the one benefit is that soon all the shopping malls and restaurants will stop playing Christmas music. After three weeks of it I’ve had enough and would almost welcome back the endless loop of Ed Sheeran that we usually have on. 

Christmas dinner

On the day itself I’m still looking at where to go for food. To be honest I can live without Christmas dinner, I’m not a huge fan of it but I guess it’s a tradition that I can keep doing here.  I really can’t be bothered to cook myself and will take a look around online in the next couple of days to what is happening. My first year here there didn’t look like many reasonable offers around, I only saw international hotels with 1,500 baht buffets. These days I’ve seen a few options on Twitter for 500 baht which sounds better. It’s funny how a lot of places which do cheap Sunday roasts can’t use the same for a Christmas meal and instead jack prices up at this time of the year...

Then onto New Year itself which means an empty (ish) Bangkok or the opportunity to pay grossly inflated airline prices to visit a busier than normal place in Thailand. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do but perhaps my credit card will get a beating in the next couple of days as I bite the bullet and spend a small fortune for three days in Chiang Mai or get a hotel on the beach in Krabi. 

Anyway, whatever you’re up to I hope you have a great festive period and New Year! 

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.

Order now in e-book or paperback format.


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