Readers' Submissions

Mirror Image – Steve’s Side Of Things

  • Written by Steve
  • February 9th, 2005
  • 5 min read

Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

It seems sensible to offer my side to the picture painted last week by Terry. He received dozens of emails telling him that what he did was correct, that to make money in England and enjoy it in Thailand is the way to go. I agree. He received a couple of weirdo emails telling him that his wife would steal his money, and a couple from angry EFL teachers telling him that they weren't jealous of him at all and didn't like the way he thought EFL wasn't the best thing in the world to do. I'd like to say that Terry wasn't gloating or being smug, and he was just relaying some of the things I have pointed out to him over the past few months. He left most of them out, and I want to fill in the gaps, explaining why I regret having stayed in Thailand for so long.

The first ten years were great, but since then, I find everything that happens here to be tedious or boring, socially, and work-wise. I need a change, but to those who advise me to go to Japan or Korea, well, I'm fed up of Asia, and I'm fed up of EFL. I'm looking for a way out of both, and I can't find it. Unlike Terry, who chose education as a career, I fell into it because it was the only way of earning a living here. I haven't found anything reliable to replace it even though I've been here for 2 decades.

Here is why I am envious of Terry:

1) He could choose to be anything in life, and he chose to be a teacher. He loves it. Because I stayed in Thailand, teaching was the best option, but not the preferable option for me. I studied to be a graphic designer, it is where my passion lies. I regret not doing it, and now it is too late to build a career of it. My life has passed me by.

2) His house has appreciated in value by more in the past 5 years than I have earned since I arrived in Thailand 2 decades ago. That makes me feel sick, and so regretful that I walked away, that I couldn't commit to making things work in England back in the 80s. I took the weak path, to try to make my 1 year holiday in Thailand continue forever.

3) He has spent 4 years of combined time in Thailand, but hasn't had to work one day of it. He has seen much more of Thailand than me, having the money and time to do it. I have had an average of 3 weeks holiday per year, compared to his 3 months per year, 8 weeks of which was spent here each year.

4) He travels to interesting places every Easter for a 2 week break with his wife, and has visited every country in the world that I ever dreamed of going to; Egypt, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, to name a few. I can never see a way that I can afford to do that, ever.

5) Next year he will have 18 million baht of capital from the sale of his house. I have nothing, it has all gone on rent.

6) Each month, after paying for the mortgage, tax, and NI, and pension, he is left with around 2000 UK GBP of disposable income (his salary is over 35,000 UK GBP as an advanced skills teacher and head of dept) to spend on essentials and holidays, cars, hobbies, anything. His wife earns almost as much again as a senior physiotherapist. After I have paid my taxes, rent, health insurance, school fees for my 2, a handout to the in-laws (my wife hasn't worked for 15 years), I am left with less than 20,000 baht, out of which I also need to buy food and save for a pension. Luxuries don't exist in my world.

7) He can come to Thailand next year and almost immediately earn 250% of my salary, and I have been here for 2 decades working my way up.

8) He has a close relationship with his parents and relatives. I haven't seen any of mine for 4 years, and never had the chance to rebuild a relationship with my mother, who I didn't speak to since 1980. Now she is gone. I may lose my inheritance too, which I was relying on for providing a pension.

9) He can stay in England if he wants, and continue comfortably, or return there any time if Thailand doesn't work out. I can't find a way of returning. The only jobs I have been offered are teaching roles in EFL schools, which I want to avoid at all cost, and an old school friend who is now a royal mail manager said he'd line me up with a postman job on 250 UK GBP per week.

10) He works for the state, for the benefit of the nation, and by all accounts has a great social life with his colleagues, who share his passion for the aims of the school, playing squash and cricket with them. My boss for the past few years isn't the most pleasant Thai Chinese man. As the years pass, I feel more and more resentful of the money I am making for this person. Also, the few colleagues I have are some very mixed odd types, mostly undedicated, and most only staying for 6 months to a year, coming here just to pay the bills.

11) I could think of another 10 reasons, but I don't want to.

I feel like a 20 year habitual smoker who enjoyed the first 10 years of smoking, then I continued for another 10 years because I didn't try hard enough to give up. Now I've been told I've got lung cancer and I have to give up. I've worked out how much money the habit has cost me, I'm thinking about all the other things I could have had instead with that money, the cost and suffering of trying to get treatment, and all the other things I could do in the future if my life wasn't to be cut short.

Stickman's thoughts:

The points you make are all valid, of course, but I would say that while this is not a "worst case scenario", it is not too far from it.

Yes, I do know local teachers who clear 120,000 baht a month, have over 3 months off paid a year and have a grand life. They are in the minority of course, but such positions do exist. The thing is, if you haven't got such a position after say 5 years, perhaps it is time to jack it in and return to the West.