Working in Surin

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

I work at one of Surin Province's larger government schools and 40,000 baht a month is my full-time salary. It used to be 35K a month but I've just had a pay-rise for completing my first 12-month contract. I take part in a number of school activities outside normal school hours but I never receive any compensation for that time, nor do I really expect to. Sometimes a school sees the loyal foreign teacher as part of the Thai family I suppose.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On a good month, I can easily save half of my salary. There is very little to spend your money on up here. My motto has always been 'live within your means' so I never spend more than the salary I earn - even if I'm feeling flush.

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

I pay 3,000 baht a month for a studio apartment in a fairly low-end apartment building, which are common in this part of Thailand. I have a bed, a wardrobe and a table and that's really it as far as furniture is concerned. The toilet is the Thai squat-style and I take showers in cold water but that's fine except maybe in the cool season for a few weeks.

All six of the foreign teachers who work at my school live here and in the evening we sit outside, usually joined by a few of the Thai residents as well. We'll order a few bottles of beer and someone will run off to get a bag of 'moo ping' and we'll just sit around practicing our Thai and enjoying what is a very simple but fulfilling lifestyle. It's the kind of lifestyle I came to Thailand for. My primary objective was always to escape the hurly burly of city life.

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


I ride a bicycle to school so that costs me nothing. I sometimes take the train into Buriram or perhaps a bit further afield, but as anyone who has travelled by third class train in Thailand will tell you, the tickets are ludicrously cheap!

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to barely a thousand baht. Believe it or not, I do have an air-con unit in my room, but it's never on for more than 2-3 hours a day. I tend to use it to cool down the room before I go to sleep and for 30 minutes while I'm getting ready for work in the morning.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Most of my meals are bought from footpath vendors (usually about 25 baht a portion) and I eat lunch at school. I generally skip breakfast, but I'm not a big eater anyway. I also avoid 7-11s if I can because there is too much temptation to 'impulse buy'. My monthly food bill is probably around 5,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

This is Surin, so most of what's available tends to be a Thai scene and I keep away from Thai men that have had too much to drink. That's not to say foreigners aren't welcome but I never really enjoyed nights out at Thai pubs. I prefer to sit around and drink in front of the apartment building.

Books, computers

I have a laptop and the normal internet / phone plan, which I think comes to around 500 baht a month. I'm not much of a reader.

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

A very basic standard of living is all I strive for and it's very easily achievable if you move to the North East. I look for a life that's both minimalist and uncomplicated. Having lots of possessions, the latest smartphone, top of the range trainers and a circle of rich friends just doesn't interest me. Not one iota.

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

Third class train fares and street food.

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

I can survive comfortably on 30K a month (even less) but I appreciate my lifestyle certainly isn't for everyone. In fact, it's probably not for most foreign teachers. But I've lived this way for a year and a half now and I haven't got bored of it yet.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! Thanks Col. I think your survey is about as 'rural foreign teacher living the simple life' as we've ever had. But as long as you're happy - and you clearly are - then that's all that matters. I remember one of my very first apartments in Bangkok back in the early 90s and a situation very similar to yours. A whole gang of us (Thais and foreigners) would congregate in front of the building in the evening for some drink and banter. Great times! 

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