Steve Tainton's blog on

The long weekend

All work and no play make Matt a real salaryman

My submission omissions of late have been due to my recent career change. As I no longer work in the teaching industry, I feel I can better serve this space with short sketches of my life in Japan than with longer submissions on broader topics. So here goes

Pissing on the tracks

The ups and downs of life in Japan

Hordes of middle-aged housewives roam department stores on the weekdays sniffing out bargains on anything and everything. The only variance on their routine is that the weekend sees the husband and children in tow. You see, shopping is the national pastime, er hobby.

The Zen art of teaching English

Dharma, Zendo and all that stuff

Finally the last gong rings and the day is done. The monks quickly bow (clock) out of the temple as I check the next day’s scroll. It looks all right. I bid the nuns farewell – they work late into the night. I join the novice monks outside the temple and we all proceed to the izakaya.

Veni vidi vici

Triple V and the certificates

For those of us coming to Thailand, vacillating about venturing a certificate won’t turn us into Verbosely Valiant Vince. It’s all in the doing. Bite the bullet. Do the certificate. But don’t make the same mistake that Vehemently Vacuous Vince made.

Hoop hopping

The dreaded Thai visa procedure

You go to the Thai Embassy in aforementioned UN least-developed-nation-status state and submit your paperwork. The immigration officer then asks you if the school that you’re going to work for is on ‘the list’. Then you say, ‘What list?’ and he says, ‘The list’, then you shrug and he tells you that it isn’t, then you say ‘So why did you ask,’ and he says nothing, and you say ‘What should I do?’ and he says ‘Damned if I care, but you ain’t gettin’ no stinkin’ visa unless your school is on “the list”.

A little piece of advice

Starting your teaching career in Bangkok

Whatever you do, don’t start an ESL career in Thailand. Why? I’ll tell you. Unless, you come over on a substantial mattress of financial support you will be behind from the get-go and spend your whole time here figuring out how to make ends meet.

I finally made it

Snapshots of my first month in Thailand

Let’s start with this one, the moment I landed at Don Muang airport and officially changed my status from Gaijin to Farang. Notice the naively enthusiastic smile.

Lazy movie device 327

The job description minefield

“Your advertisement said a salary of thirty-thousand a month. Is that accurate?” I asked. Another grin followed.

Same game

Generalisations and stereotypes

Six months of hindsight have brought about a small epiphany on teaching English as a foreign language – it’s the same game wherever you go. The most striking differences in teaching come with a change in age group or class size, not nationality.

Poverty's paradise

Meeting kindred spirits

All and all, the guys (and gal) at STUC are really great. We share our hopes and dreams, our humiliation and shame, and sometimes tips on schools that will hire even if you can’t afford a necktie for the interview. I don’t think people should make fun or look down on us. I mean, you wouldn’t laugh at someone who had cancer. Being stuck in Thailand is like a disease - nobody chooses it.

Casting off the shackles

A free agent at last

We all have to make decisions based on a given set of information provided at the time of the decision. Right now, for me that means abandoning Thailand and going back to Japan. As much as it may seem to be a step back, I am forced to see it as a step forward.

Isaan bound

A half year in review

Not surprisingly, I am still wrestling with the administration over issues of fair pay, planning time and sensible class-size and leveling. Despite everything, I am having a great time in Khon Kaen.

Japan or bust!

The costs of setting yourself up as a teacher

I assume anyone interested in Japan would be so for the money. Unless you are a real Japanophile, the country lacks the beauty, fun and adventure of Thailand so there would be little reason to uproot from Thailand to Japan if it were not monetary.


How things have changed in my absence

A lot of forum posters are claiming that Japan might not be the earner that it used to be, then again for those with a bit of hustle the market for freelance work is burgeoning. I personally believe that an English teacher overseas has to view him/herself as a miniature corporation and constantly innovate to keep up with market demands.

The drinking habit

Off the wagon and back on the gravy train

For many of us in the private industry the day often begins in the early afternoon and ends late in the evening. What could be more conducive to a drinking lifestyle than a job that allows you time to sleep off your hangover on a daily basis?

Nova no more

The collapse of a colossal language school

Trouble has been brewing for a while. It's hard to designate any one point in time as being the beginning of the end. For that matter the first day of Nova operations could have been the beginning of the end much in the same way that a person is born only to follow a path leading inexorably toward death

Fear and loathing in Asia

Why so many language schools are so deceptive

How can teachers, new and old alike, protect themselves from deceptive employers? Asking a lot of questions can help, not because the employer is always likely to answer in a straightforward manner, rather it can reveal their level of knowledge and experience in the industry.

Something great in 2008?

A look back and a glance forward

Yes, it's the Japanese New Year. So a quick look back and glance forward are de riguer for any columnist too stuffed with food or hungover to be otherwise creative

Talking business

Does Eikaiwa make any cents

I wrote about the death of Nova previously. The rest of the industry is not more than an ailing patient, perhaps destined for a Novaesque demise. Nova's glitz and glamour was all surface show founded by its ponzi-scheme approach to moneymaking.

Bye bye teaching

Getting out of the game

In the past I spent a lot of time persuading myself how much I enjoyed teaching in order to fuel my extended work weeks. I wasn't lying to myself as much as putting on a good game face. Heading toward the sidelines, it's a good chance to look back at the game.


Passing the dreaded job interview

There does seem to be one thing that an overseas teacher can do to add luster to the resume... learn the language. Easier said, than done (though language is less done, than said). For those planning on living overseas for a long period of time language skills are invaluable.

Becoming a salaryman

Preparing for life as a Japanese salaryman

By the time Monday rolls around I will be thoroughly exhausted which is the perfect way to begin the week because I will have the communal feeling of shared experience with my fellowsalarymen as we squash up against one another on the commute to work.

Surviving Tokyo trains

A commuter's guide

I hope that this quick tutorial will give you sporting chance should you step on a Tokyo rush hour train, but practice makes perfect so if you really want to get good you'll just have join the suffering masses and battle it out on a daily basis.

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