My First and Last Six Months
• Eversunshine Hotel
• Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai
• Grand Hyatt Shanghai
• Green Garden Hotel Shanghai
" I have a dream" someone quite famous once said. So did I.
I have been coming to Thailand for a few years always as a tourist, doing the usual things men do here while on holiday, the usual haunts and hotspots Thailand has to offer, absolutely loving the place dreaming of a way I could live here and work at the same time. Was I dreaming? Maybe.
I'm 30 and from England. I speak English so therefore I can teach it, can't I? I looked up on the internet and I found a TEFL CELTA course in my city and booked for the next available opening. It wasn't cheap either, over a thousand pounds for a four week programme. Past perfect continuous, future perfect…WTF? I honestly never realised it would be so tough, even the teacher (let's call him Graham) was quite impressed at how sh?t I was. It took a lot of reading and butt kissing for them to pass me, so four weeks later I have a TEFL CELTA and a plane ticket to Thailand, I am buzzing with excitement. It's going to be great, isn't it?
It's November 06, I have a week of partying, meeting old friends and generally catching up with the Khao San gossip. I post my "CV" on that very famous Thai teaching website and a lovely photograph of myself and I check back a day later. Four different language schools have contacted me so I call them back. Two days later I have a job, placed in the outer BKK area. (I chose this one because I realised 35,000 – 40,000 baht a month is not going to last long if I live in Sukhumvit). So there I was, six month contract on an apartment and a new private bilingual school, this is going to be great, isn't it?
My first day there and I get the full pleasantries, everyone is great, there is even another foreign teacher from Europe. One week later I am shell shocked. I am not there to teach but to baby-sit, the class is unruly, no backup from the Thai faculty whatsoever and absolutely no structure to the school or any evidence of any kind to suggest a teaching method, English or Thai. The Thai teachers are frequently asleep in the class and the children are left to fend for themselves. The head of English is a Thai woman and she has a Master's in English from one of the Bangkok Universities yet she can't speak English and has to read a Thai – English dictionary to make herself understood. What a joke. Remember, this is a not a government school but a private bilingual school that people pay a lot of money for their children to attend. The last hour of the day I am required to stand in the front of school so the parents can see that the school has a farang teacher. I feel like a circus sideshow. Some of the farang Dads ask me about the school and how I rate it. I have to lie and I am really starting to wrestle with my morals. NO WAY would I want a child of mine going to a school like this and if they did I would want the teacher to tell me if he / she thought the school was lacking in education. Who is my duty of care and loyalty to, the school or the parents and children? I really feel like I can't carry on. It's soul destroying.
ALL the reports and test results I have recorded have been either falsified or been disregarded. What's the point in writing them? All the "school" is, (and I use that term loosely) is a big money making operation. The other European teacher that has been here a long time has recently left. They have totally lied about him to the parents, claiming he had a fake degree, visa problems etc so they had to fire him. Utter BS, it's because of them and their practices that he left. (What a surprise, he gave them two month's notice and they still didn't pay his final salary.) We have a number of Filipino teachers who are treated like slaves, making them work twelve hour days, SIX days a week, and forcing them to wear make-up or face having their salary deducted, because I quote "without make-up, you look like farmers."
Because hardly anyone speaks English where I live or at school, I really have had to have a crash course in Thai language. In no way am I fluent but I can make myself understood and understand a lot of what is being said to me. This has been a revelation to me, please believe me those who don't speak Thai, don't learn. Now Thailand has opened up for me it's truly unbelievable what is said about farangs when they think you don't understand, I have been called fat, cheap, ugly, mother fxxxer and a number of other things all to my face with the famous Thai smile, all because they think I can't speak any Thai. Yes you are right! I am a descendant of a buffalo, I am really TOO stupid to learn Thai language and script.
The majority of the country hates most things foreign and TRULY believes deep down anyone or thing a darker shade of pale is truly ugly, then what chance has a foreigner got? My fellow Thai teachers at school delight in telling me how they hate dark skin and some of the language they try and use to describe black people is disgusting. Just to see the amount of whitening creams and powders you can buy and is advertised is scary. To say they are a racist and xenophobic nation is an understatement.
I have a Swiss friend who lives in the same apartment block as me who is 38. He has a business degree from an English University in Kent and speaks French, German, Italian, and English all fluently. He does occasional work for the French and Swiss embassies translating documents into English for them here in Bangkok. His father was an interpreter for the UN also. He is currently looking for a full time teaching position here in Bangkok. He has been on 30 teaching interviews and can't get a job! Why? I forgot to mention that his father and mother where immigrants to Switzerland from India, so he looks Asian.
" It's not about education, it's all show and presentation."
Why am I complaining? Why am I still here? I'm not. I'm leaving. I don't think I want to return even as a tourist. It has only taken six months for my view of Thailand to change forever! The problem is I really don't want to go home yet, so where now? Will it be any different in a neighbouring country? I doubt it, but I am prepared to give it a go somewhere else and leave my "beloved" Thailand. (What a difference six months makes.)
I could tell you even more stories about my apartment owners trying to steal money from me or the time my friend and I went out for a few beers and got short-changed by 500 baht and then when we complained the police were called to stop us being "arrested" for being "aggressive" we paid on the spot fines of a 1000 baht each. O the joys of living in a non-tourist area.
I haven't lied or exaggerated about my school. I haven't named them nor will I, so I have no reason to lie or harbour any secret agendas against them or try to give them a bad name. (I am hoping their own actions will do that.) What I have said about my Swiss friend is totally true and I would appreciate anyone in Bangkok that knows of a teaching position somewhere that would be suitable for him to contact me at my email address. (Sorry for touting for work Stickman.)
I'm sorry if this moan has bored you. Remember, I'm just a guy with a TEFL certificate. I'm not an English literature graduate. I had to get this off my chest. It's been driving me crazy. Thanks for listening anyway.
Please believe me. Those who are frequent tourists to these shores and are considering the big move, especially teaching. After two weeks of being here and spending your tourist dollar, the Thais don't want you here. It really is reflected in their attitude.
It really isn't all it's cracked up to be.
It is sad when I say that many people have experienced a very similar situation as you. You clearly had a strong affinity with the country so things must have been very bad for such an about turn. Good luck on wherever you choose to venture to next.