Working in Middle of nowhere (North East Thailand)

Monthly Earnings 32,000 (in a good month)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work for a large Thai government school and my take-home salary after tax is around 30,000 - 32,000 baht. I'm not really sure how the deductions are worked out and I've never bothered to ask. I am employed through a small teacher placement agency (the sort who suddenly becomes impossible to contact when a problem arises) At the end of the day, I'm 'qualification challenged' and now well into my 50s. I know I'm not a prime candidate for the best teaching jobs so I muddle along as best I can.

I used to earn an extra 5,000 baht a month from private students but I found dealing with cancellations and trying to get students to a particular place at a particular time far too much hassle.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

If I manage to save 5,000 - 10,000 baht, then that's been a decent month. They don't come around too often though.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I rent the second floor of a small shophouse unit for 5,000 baht a month. I've got a living room, a kitchen area that's partitioned off to look like a separate room and a bathroom with a squat toilet. I've never got around to putting a Western style khazi in there but it's something I want to do as the old knees get creakier. I rent the property off the export company that occupies the ground floor. I've been here two years and still have no idea what they export. I like it here. It's in a very quiet part of town with not much traffic noise and as evening falls, I like to go up on the roof with a ciggy and a beer to admire the sunset.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?


My school is barely five minutes away by motorcycle and I have a small beat-up scooter that I bought when I arrived, so a few hundred baht's worth of gas in the tank every month. It's a lot of fun in the rainy season when the heavens open as I'm en route and I get to school so wet you can almost wring out my cheap black slip-ons.

Utility bills

I have one large air-con unit but I try to avoid using it as much as I can and just rely on a couple of stand-up fans to keep the fetid air moving. My leccy bill is never more than a few hundred baht and water is next to nothing. Maybe 100 baht or so.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

There are no Western food options for miles around so basically it's eat Thai or die! I've got several restaurants that I use and they know me well. Most of the time, I only have to sit down and within minutes, there's a plate of my favourite grub and a big Singha beer in front of me. I go once a week to the nearest Big C minimart to stock up on a few treats. I never cook at home. Re-heating a pizza slice from 7-11 or throwing a slice of ham and a bit of tomato between two slices of bread is about as adventurous as it gets. This probably comes to around 8,000 baht a month. I find it very difficult to bring this expense down and doubt that I can.

Nightlife and drinking

There is no nightlife or pubs in the neighborhood but I do like a beer. Probably 4,000 a month on the amber liquid.

Books, computers

I love reading but download most of my books for free. I'll read anything that passes away the night-time hours. But there is no real expense here. I've got a desktop pc that's served me well for five years and counting.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's OK for a middle-aged, qualification-challenged guy who escaped the Western rat race to live in this amazing country. I don't earn a huge salary but my living expenses aren't very high either. I also live alone. I've had a number of relationships but they've all fizzled out eventually. I just prefer living alone. I also like to send my Mum a few bob from time to time so she can treat herself. Well into her eighties now, she lives on her own back in the north of England and I'm still the number one son. My brother hasn't been to see her for years. Mind you, it's three years since I was last home as well.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Nothing is expensive if you live in rural Thailand and more importantly, you make friends with the locals. I could name a dozen Thai friends who have always got my back and I can call them up anytime.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Honestly, you could survive where I live on 15,000 baht a month and many Thais in these parts exist on far less. 30,000 baht a month is plenty. There's really nothing to spend your money on but of course you're not putting anything away for the future either. I've got a small UK pension that kicks in in a few years and that will help matters.

Phil's analysis and comment

These are the cost of living surveys I love most of all. Gritty, grimy, Northern, Albert Finney-esque kitchen sink dramas that play out before us. The weekly highlight of the trip to the Big C minimart on a battered old scooter, the Singha beer sunsets from the rooftop, swigged directly from the bottle as you contemplate a dump on the squat toilet. And all the while, mysterious figures glide in and out of the 'export company' on the ground floor.

I'm not knocking it Bill, not for a second. You've got more than enough money in your back pocket to live reasonably well. You prove the point that there's a place for everyone who wants it in Thailand. And I bet it beats living in England in the depths of Winter, worrying whether you can turn on another bar of the electric fire and hurling another losing Euromillions scratch card across the living room, muttering 'mug's game' for the umpteenth time.    

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.          

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