Why I'm happy to work weekends in Bangkok
Days off during the week can be a joy
There are a lot of TEFL teachers in Bangkok who work weekends and when I tell people I work on Saturdays and Sundays, they normally look at me with pity.
But in all honesty, I feel I have the best of things!
This past weekend though was a holiday for me so I went out on Sunday to Siam Square, one of Bangkok's main shopping areas. All I can say is thank god I don’t have to deal with that every week!
Sure I know it’s probably one the most popular areas of Bangkok but the whole place was a heaving mass of people. Even inside the malls it felt like I was in a rush hour BTS train, constantly bumping into people and having to walk at a snail's pace.
Bangkok can, it must be said, be pretty nasty on a weekend. There are almost no benefits of having these days off work compared to taking the days off in midweek. Not that I can see.
Monday and Tuesday off
For the past four and a half years, I have always taken Monday and Tuesday off work and it’s fantastic. I have a stable weekend and can plan my routines around this.
Sure some people have jobs where their days off do vary, and that is trickier - but if you can get those two midweek days off set in stone - every week - then you are laughing.
If you come from a background where Saturday and Sunday are always days off then the 'midweek break' does take some getting used to but after a while you will come round and see there are far more benefits involved.
I have a number of friends who have Saturday and Sunday off (while I don't) but guess what? we still see each other, still hang out and it still works. Just because you don’t have the same days off as all your friends doesn’t mean you can’t see each other. Sometimes I go out with them after work on a Saturday; other times they meet up with me when they finish midweek.
Cheaper, quieter, better
I think the heading says it all as far as Bangkok is concerned. Things are cheaper, quieter and therefore much more enjoyable midweek in this city. It rings true for almost everything you can do here.
I like to play golf and during midweek, the course is empty and the green fees, etc are 35% lower than at the weekend.
If I go to special events or attractions, a lot of them have cheaper midweek prices. Even if the price is the same, those attractions will certainly be less crowded.
Talking of fewer people and peace and quiet, you get fewer kids out and about midweek. Imagine on your weekend going to a nice place for lunch and, after queuing for six years to get in, you’re stuck next to a table full of screaming kids. That is extremely rare midweek.
Fancy a long weekend away at the beach? You enjoy that on a Saturday and Sunday and I’ll take my midweek trip every time. You’ll pay more for hotels, have more guests there and spend a longer time traveling to and from your destination.
Driving to the seaside resorts from Bangkok is Heaven midweek compared to doing it on a Friday night or Saturday morning. Coming back into Bangkok on a Sunday evening is one of the worst experiences Thailand has to offer.
The main point here is that I don’t need to plan my weekends based on where will be busy. If I want to go shopping to Siam Square on Tuesday, I can do without any difficulty. If I really want to go to the latest Thong Lor cafe then I can without hordes of other people being there. When a new blockbuster movie is showing at the cinema, I can just turn up without booking a ticket in advance.
Nobody does anything interesting on the weekend until late anyway
Do people ever do anything interesting on the weekends until after dinner? Oh no, I’m missing out on reading the online edition of the Sunday Telegraph in bed in the morning and I can’t spend hours walking aimlessly around Chatuchak market looking at stalls all selling the same stuff. That’s a shame.
To be honest people only do interesting stuff like going out with friends after dinner and guess what, I’ve finished work by 4.00 pm so I can do all that stuff too if I want.
All I really want to do on Saturday and Sunday is to watch the football and have a couple of beers, both of which I can comfortably still do. The benefit is that I do this and still have two days off in the week to look forward to.
I guess that a three beer limit on Friday and Saturday nights is as bad as it gets. Oh, and some smaller places are closed on Mondays.
You might say that I probably miss the atmosphere of a Friday / Saturday night out but firstly, the large number of tourists here mean that pretty much every night is busy in bars. Secondly, as I work with others who have the same days off, we can all go for a few beers after work on Sunday much like those who do the same on Friday evenings with their colleagues.
If you have kids in school then I guess working weekends would be a downer because you wouldn’t see your kids as much. That is pretty much the only major drawback I can see about working weekends. Some people just have an attitude that 'a weekend' can only be Saturday Sunday - but in reality, here in Bangkok it's much better to have a couple of days off midweek instead.
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It works if you are single. If you are married and, especially, if you are married with kids, things will certainly become trickier. Also, quite a few events are organized on weekends (especially if you enjoy cycling or running) so you might miss out on those.
By John, Bangkok (2nd December 2021)
I work Monday to Friday and for me there is one real advantage to having Saturday and Sunday free. My hobby is running, and whilst the parks are nice, it's the roads that I love. Sunday morning is perhaps the only regular time when Bangkok's roads are quiet enough to jog along without ingesting large quantities of toxic fumes. Having my days off during the week wouldn't work for me.
By Tommy, Bangkok (26th August 2018)
I think it's a good idea. Save money, avoid crowds, resty discounts.
I need the weekends to spend with my wife and to take advantage of Monday holidays. If you have some relationship, you'd probably need the weekends as well.
My issue is the drudgery of working nights and working at a language center where I see no career trajectory, no prestige and often tired, unmotivated 'students'.
By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (9th August 2018)
You did read Richard's blog and see that he has two days off during the week right? You are making it sound as though he works weekends on top of Monday to Friday as well. I'm not sure you understood the blog at all (Richard earns a very decent salary as well)
By Bangkok Phil, Samut Prakarn (30th July 2018)
Great name. I have that name too.
I have to disagree and turn your attention to Justin B Peterson of Canada. Please YouTube him. He was a professor at U of T. He's already done the necessary assessment of the flawed Canadian system. Thailand is not better. Thailand has consequently lost many, many of the best teachers acting self righteous and with indignation. I have met every type of foreign teacher here and I just met one that was escaping some horrible job in Toronto. He vanished to southern Thailand and now thinks he is making a difference because he's "content" at his position. He told me outright he teaches for a stipend and is happy to work on weekends. This man should not be teaching anywhere because he's part of the problem. He's inefficacious and happy. This is not good for Thai students or the Thai school system that greatly need effective foreign teachers to get a good result on English exams. You're also part of the problem Richard. Stand up for yourself and demand proper teaching hours.
Richard, this is coming from Arden that has taught in every major Asian nation and four public school systems including Japan, China and Korea. Thailand and its numerous administrators won't change because you should know your worth. Every foreign teacher should know and do not denigrate your position in Thailand with being weak, passive and ambivalent. Thai teachers are mostly jealous and envious of the Occidental lifestyle and feel we are here to have a good time and maybe do some teaching along the way. This is insipid nonsense. Foreign teachers are 1000s of miles from home often taken advantage of by extra prices and where the gazump is a way of life. You do not speak for me or the hundreds of teachers I know teaching here and the nations listed above. I disagree and you're wrong. Teachers should not be working on weekends because the Thai system does not deserve it. Also, if you give an inch in Thai culture it opens the floodgates.
Foreign teachers please know your worth. Ask for more salary because you deserve it. Ask for better visa regulations and a longer working visas because you deserve it. Do not act happy for you're being abused. I know. I have critiqued the entire system including the nations listed here. The Thai need us to make sure they have students that can succeed in the wider English world. They need us. It's not the other way around. Organize and demand better because many foreign teachers will come in the future and you're setting working standards for them that were not thought of or set by the teachers of the past.
By Arden Valiquette, Southern Thailand (30th July 2018)
Good read. Thanks for the article.
I used to work six days a week. I did this for about 5 years here in Thailand. I had my regular 8-4 full-time job, I did a few evenings a week with privates and then taught 6-8 hours on a Saturday. I got completely used to it. People back home couldn't believe I did this. I had no problem with it.
Now, I don't work at the weekends at all. I work from 8-8 Monday - Thursday. I teach online in the evenings after my full-time job. I have a well paying full-time job. I make excellent money working online, and I'm earning far more than I ever earned before. I work hard Monday to Thursday, but come Friday at 4pm, I'm running out the door of my school ecstatic by the prospect of my weekend.
On Friday evening I meet up with my old work friends to play pool and have a few beers. Most of them work Saturdays as extra so they can only have a few. The mood is good. It's Friday. Everyone is unwinding and looking forward to the weekend. As they're considering having one more, I'm easy. I don't have work tomorrow. I can stay or I can go home. Zero worries. It's a sadistically great feeling knowing I can do as I please and they can't.
Come Saturday I naturally wake up about 8. I can't sleep anymore so I get up and contemplate the day of whatever ahead. I usually have a nice breakfast with a nice coffee. I then clean my apartment for about 1.5-2 hours (I actually enjoy cleaning my own gaff). There's something very therapeutic about seeing how clean your apartment is after you've grafted for a couple of hours. I then go out and buy some wine before 2pm. Have lunch and just enjoy the Saturday vibe. Then off home to listen to music, watch TV, play video games or go to the gym if there aren't too many people in there. Mates message about meeting up for a beer in the evening. I really do wanna go out, but then as I settle back in at home, I just can't be bothered. I live in a nice place, but most of my friends don't because they choose to spend their money on other things. I wouldn't wanna be cooped up in a shoe box room with my missus all day either. I'd be gagging to get out.
I work very hard in the week. It makes my weekends so much more satisfying. I've had jobs where the work was easy so I didn't feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day or week. I work bloody hard now, so I really love my downtime. I could do nothing all day Saturday and not feel in the slightest bit guilty. I've earned my rest. As you get older, you love your routines more. I don't try to fight this as I had my wild experiences when in my 20s and even early 30s. I'm a much happier person now and actually rather enjoy getting older and caring less about trivial BS.
I write this reply not to say there is a right or wrong way of doing it. Just as the other side of the coin. I used to work weekends. I thought it was perfectly fine. With online work I can now cram all my hard work from Mon-Thurs. I can be done at 4 on Friday. I genuinely love my weekends now. I personally couldn't ever go back to my old routine.
By Liam, Bangkok (25th July 2018)