Robert

Working in A suburb just outside Khorat

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 decent agency at a Thai government school. My salary is 35,000 baht a month. I don’t do any extra work such as private students or online teaching. I could but I just don’t bother. I stretch the 35K salary as far as it will go.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 10,000 - 15,000 baht of that salary but don’t really need to. I have a decent amount of savings that I could dip into in an emergency, but touch wood, so far those savings remain intact.

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

I live in a tidy two-storey town-house in a tiny village about five kilometres outside Khorat and surrounded by forests and rice fields. It’s fairly basic but it has a small kitchen, two bedrooms (I use one as a store-room) and a bathroom. There is also an upstairs terrace / balcony where you can hang out washing. I pay 6,000 baht a month plus utility bills. For the amount of space I have, it feels like an absolute bargain.

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

Transportation

I have my own scooter. That’s pretty much a necessity when you live where I do. I love riding my scooter through the countryside, especially in the early morning on the way to school, but it isn’t quite as much fun in the rainy season with the rain lashing down. But the teacher must get through! I spend about 500 baht a month on gas.

Utility bills

Electric and water come to barely 500 baht a month and I pay another 1,000 for internet and phone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Sometimes I cook at home using ingredients from the local market (well, actually it’s more of a roadside shack than a market) and I have breakfast and lunch at the school. A trip to McDonalds or KFC in Khorat is a once or twice a month treat. I bet I don’t even spend 3,000 baht a month on food. Yes – a hundred baht a day sounds about right. I can throw a decent meal together at home for half that. There are also a couple of roadside restaurants in the village that charge about 30 baht a dish if I fancy going out to eat instead of cooking at home.

Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife LOL. When it goes dark around these parts, you can’t see one foot in front of the other. Nightlife would be sharing a large bottle of beer with the village drunk outside the corner shop. So I tend not to bother. I’ll have the occasional beer at home but I’m not really a drinker.

Books, computers

I spend nothing on these. I download e-books for free.

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

I lived and worked in Bangkok for five years and I grew to hate every second of it. The heat, the humidity, the traffic jams, the growing ‘un-Thainess’ of the place and a thousand other reasons. The more hours I worked and the more money I made (usually between 60 and 80,000 a month) the more miserable I became. Living in Bangkok became a kind of forced slavery. I knew I had to get out.

The game-changer was when an old pal from England retired to live in North-east Thailand, in a village very similar to the one I myself live in now. He had a house built and settled very quickly into Thai rural life. I went up to stay with him for a few days and instantly became envious of all that he had (and indeed didn’t have). His days consisted of long walks and leisurely bicycle rides. His evenings were spent chatting and improving his Thai with a friendly bunch of elderly locals over large bottles of Leo. I had known this guy a long time but I’d never seen him look so fit and healthy and at peace with himself. ‘I want some of this’ I thought. And I returned to Bangkok and drew up my escape plans. I was gone within a month.

I look back now and the five years in Bangkok feel like five wasted and unnecessary years. I love it out here in the sticks.I feel born again. I have a job that’s hardly what you would call demanding and I have all the free time I need. The money just doesn’t matter.

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

Out in the countryside, everything is cheap. I couldn’t choose one thing over another.

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

In Bangkok, regadless of how much you earn, you can burn through it somehow. In rural Thailand, 20,000 is more than enough. 35,000 feels like a fortune.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Robert for I think one of the most thought-provoking cost of living surveys we've had.

Every time I venture into rural Thailand for a few days (especially the north) I return to Bangkok's concrete jungle and wonder what the hell I'm doing there. In fact if it wasn't for my wife's job and her family, I suspect we would move tomorrow. 

Many years ago, when I was an academic director of a language school, we won a contract with a government school in Mahasarakham Province to supply them with three full-time teachers. A quick show of hands in the staff-room and it wasn't difficult to find three willing souls who fancied swapping the city life for a straw hut out in the forest. 

Two months down the line I contacted the teachers to find out how they were settling in. One teacher was loving it. "I jog, I cycle, I play tennis, I go to bed early with a good book. I've never felt fitter in my whole life. And the school and students are fantastic!" 

The other two teachers begged me to bring them back to Bangkok. "There's nothing to do here. The boredom is slowly killing us" 

What they really meant was that there was no nightlife. Both these teachers had a reputation for enjoying a night on the sauce and perhaps the company of a lady or three. I knew they wouldn't last the pace.

To me that sums things up. You're either a city person or someone who can handle the quiet life in the country.


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