Readers' Submissions

Teaching English, IT Or Other Work



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

I’m writing this article for anyone interested in teaching English, doing IT work or starting a business in Thailand. First of all, I’ve read several articles on here by English teachers and Stick himself and everything I’ve read on this site about teaching English seems to be accurate. Second of all, although I teach English, I’m not worried about being taken away by the grammar police. Forgive me if you think I shouldn’t be in this profession because I’m so lazy I sometimes use there instead of their. I’ll start with teaching English and move to IT and other opportunities towards the end.

TEACHING ENGLISH Teaching English in Thailand is ALWAYS low paid work. I know of people who brag about making 40,000+ baht as opposed to the average around 30,000 baht. That’s like a dishwasher bragging about his income to a lettuce picker. The biggest financial mistake anyone could make when they move to Thailand is to begin thinking in terms of baht instead of dollars, euros, pounds or whatever. You ever notice how people will talk about how much something costs in terms of dollars “Wow, it’s so cheap to live in Thailand!” but when it comes to their salary, they always talk in terms of baht? “45,000 baht? That’s great!” $1,125 dollars a month is not even good. It’s very, very bad. When you think in terms of baht, you are sacrificing your future well being in Farangland for your current well being in Thailand. Let’s say you made 40,000 baht a month and saved 10% of your salary for 5 years. How much would you have saved not including inflation or currency fluctuation? 240,000 baht? No, you’d have saved $6,000. Most English teachers make less and save less than that. I’d say you’d be lucky to have $3,000 after 5 years here. That means if you saved for 5 years you could afford a plane ticket to my home city and be able to live there for about one month. (Stick, how many English teachers do you know who have even managed to save that amount in 5 years?) <Zero – Stick> BTW, Thai officials recently stated that they are going to follow a weak baht policy. This means that they are actively attempting to make your 30,000 baht worth even less in Farangland. Another mistake English teachers make is to think of themselves as teachers. It can’t be said enough that although teaching is a respected profession in Thailand, learning isn’t a favorite pastime. Teaching in a Thai high school? Do your students seem less than interested in learning? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the grades they receive in high school will only account for 10% of their university application weighting. Think of yourself as a highly skilled, low paid consultant. Then try to find a way to correct the low pay problem. How can you do such a thing? First: Supply and demand. As I said in my first submission, I live far from Bangkok. There is one other native English speaking teacher in my town of over 50,000 people. There is no western food (unless you consider pizza with more mayonnaise than cheese and tomato sauce western). Movies here are only in Thai. There is nothing but The Nation and the Bangkok Post for me to read. Very few people speak English. None of the delights of Bangkok. In short, it’s boring. Since there is no competition, I can write my own ticket. $750 a month? Yes but I only teach 12 hours, 4 days a week and do not have to be at school outside of my actual classroom hours. I also teach at local private schools in the evenings and weekends. That’s another $750. So I make $1,500 a month for less than 30 hours of work per week. It gets better. Because I live in such a boring place, my expenses are extremely low. There aren’t any tempting things to spend my money on: western food or bargirls. So I save between $750 and $1,000 a month. Notice how I list my income and savings in dollars not baht? Another way you can make more money is to be innovative. You’re a good English teacher in Thailand if you’re entertaining. It also helps if you make students feel good about their English skills regardless of whether or not they actually have any English skills. At first I fought against this, then I accepted it, then I learned to use it to my advantage. Every time I step into a classroom my goal is to do two things: entertain and teach. If you don’t do the former, you’ll have trouble doing the latter. In order to entertain and teach, I had to develop my own materials targeted towards Thai learners. They’ve been a big hit with students and I’m going to start publishing them later this year. I use my classes to test market new material. The way I look at it, I’m being paid very well (by Thai standards) to start my own business in Thailand and the students and parents are happy because my students are having fun learning English. If you must live in Bangkok, it’s fine to get a job teaching English but if you must teach English, try to be a bit more entrepreneurial. What did you do back in the Australia? A computer programmer? You were an assistant to an investment banker in New York? Why not try to bring these skills to the table and develop your own business teaching people within that industry? I have one friend who is doing this now in Bangkok and is doing quite well.

IT JOBS, etc. Here are some words of advice for the IT guys. Don’t bother trying to get a job here in IT. Read the recent submission about recruiting western IT people in Thailand. If you read the want ads in the Thai English newspapers, you’ll see there are a lot of positions open that pay less than $625 a month. You’ll also see that they want males who are Thai, 25 to 30 years old. You won’t see that they also want you work very long hours but they do. If you could get one of those jobs, your hourly rate would be much less than I make teaching English. If you absolutely must work here in the IT field, start your own business. You don’t even necessarily have to market to Thai businesses. Is there any consulting work you can do over the internet? I do a little of that myself but haven’t been able to focus on it so my income from that is not stable. If you work in IT, you must be aware of the increasing amount of IT work being offshore to places like India. Why not offshore yourself? Move to Thailand and do the same work for Western companies that you’re currently doing. Do the work at a 50% discount and you’ll still be able to have an excellent lifestyle and save more than your friends back home who make more money than you. There is some work being pulled back to the US because sometimes quality of work is lacking from offshore work. Maybe you can target some of this business or coordinate offshore contracts. At the end of this term, I plan to start a training business based out of Bangkok. I have a CISSP which is considered the premier Information Security certification. I’ll train westerners in Bangkok. I can offer personalized training to small classes for half the cost that competitors in the US do for large classes. If that goes well, I’ll look into getting a partner or hiring someone else to do Microsoft MCSE training courses. Also notice how the two businesses compliment each other. If the baht goes up or down won't really matter much to me. There’s also a lot you can do outside of IT or teaching English. I think there could be a market for western building inspectors in Thailand. When I move to Bangkok, I’d pay good money to have someone inspect the apartments I’m considering moving into. However, this might be tricky and could prove to be dangerous for you. There are still many things that can be done in the tourism industry. Whatever, it's up to you to come up with something new.

MY POINT My point is that there are plenty of opportunities in Thailand. If you’re adventurous enough to move here and start a new life, why not try to finally become your own boss and start a business here? Start up costs are a fraction of what they are in the west. Get an internet based payment system and have your website servers based in the West, away from prying Thai fingers. As noted before by Stick and/or his readers, if you seem to be on the road to success in Thailand, try to keep quiet about it and don’t tell the Thais to much about it. And once again, keep your money and critical systems in the West where there is much less corruption and court systems that are mostly fair. As far as teaching English goes, if you just accept what the Thais are willing to give for existing jobs you’ve been warned that you’re on the road to nowhere.

Stickman's thoughts:

Very good advice indeed.