Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 35,000

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

I work through a teacher placement agency at a secondary school in Bangkok. My take home pay is around 35,000 baht a month for around 18 contact hours a week. Although the school promised me extra hours to bump up my pay, these hours have not materialised in the two months I've been here and I'm starting to give up hope.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Nothing. In fact I've been dipping into my savings to the tune of around 5-15,000 baht a month. That certainly wasn't part of the grand plan.

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

The school found a studio apartment for me within walking distance (it's a decent 20-minute walk though) and it costs 6,000 baht a month plus bills. It's an OK apartment building but I guess it's typically Thai with sometimes four people sharing a room. It can get a bit noisy at weekends, especially when kids play in the car park out front, and also when people return from partying in the wee small hours. If I was going to stick around for longer than a year, I'd certainly look for somewhere better but it's just not a priority at the moment.

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


This figure boils down to just the odd taxi at the weekend so barely 500 baht I guess.

Utility bills

Electricity and water come to around 1,500 baht and my monthly phone plan adds another 500.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is the cost I struggle to keep down and I'm finding myself eating out at western food / fast food joints far too often. What doesn't help is that I don't like Thai food all that much but I do eat it from time to time. I'm spending easily 12,000 baht a month on meals, supermarket shopping and 7-11 purchases. It's been a real shock to discover how much a basic supermarket bill can run you. Sometimes it feels like nigh on half of my salary goes on food.

Nightlife and drinking

I would love to go out partying and drinking far more often (that's what young people on gap years do right?) but I find a couple of relatively steady nights is all I can afford. The price of drinking is something else that has surprised me. A friend invited me to a rooftop bar last weekend. All I can say is thank God he was paying!

Books, computers

Oh, this is not much. I have a four-year old laptop that's still going strong. I've never been much of a one for technology.

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

It's very much a month-to-month existence. I'm on the lookout for some evening and weekend though and have a couple of positive leads. If those leads come good, then that extra 15-20K is going to make a hell of a difference to my living standard.

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

In all honesty, nothing really, but perhaps I haven't been here long enough to experience all aspects of expat life in Thailand.

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

In Bangkok, I have no idea how a foreign teacher could survive long-term (and I emphasize the words long-term) on less than 50K a month. And I think even that is a conservative figure. What about when you want to go travelling or make large purchases...or go and sit at a rooftop bar?

Phil's analysis and comment

Nothing you say there surprises me Callum. Although there are a number of teachers willing to argue the case, I simply have no idea how you can survive on 35K in Bangkok. It might be doable in rural towns and cities but certainly not in the capital. Even if a western expat teacher can survive, they aren't putting anything away for a rainy day. On a separate note, food prices are one of the things that seem to be shooting up and up so I sympathise with the difficulty in bringing that part of your expenses down.  

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