Stickman Readers' Submissions November 21st, 2007

Is Thailand Worth the Effort?

To be honest, I am not completely sure how common my situation is. However, I have been reading this website for a long time, and have yet to meet anyone doing the exact same thing I am doing, so I thought it might be a better move to just write about it, and see what responses and feedback I can get from the wide readership of Stick.

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It all started back in 2005, as I had just graduated from college and had two options. I could head to law school, suffer through the three years, and live an unhappy yet financially stable life. At the time, I was not ready to make that decision, so I decided to defer law school for a year to try to make up my mind. In the meantime, I had heard from past acquaintances and friends about the exotic lifestyle of Thailand, and how easy it would be to take a short TEFL course and spend the year teaching English and living in a foreign land on the complete opposite side of the world.

Of course I had a notion of what Thai girls would be like, as I had been to a few other Southeast Asian nations as well as meeting a few lovely ladies when I was living in New York City. However, I had no idea how much these women would change my life. As I got off the plane in Phuket, it’s not that I was overwhelmed, but I have to admit, I had no idea what to expect. For the first month, it was a good transition period, mingling mostly with the foreign students I was taking the course with. I would see the Thai women at a local bar, or out on the streets, but I really didn’t know where to begin to talk to them. I figured none of them spoke any English, and I certainly didn’t know any Thai.

As everyone who starts to live in Thailand realizes, these earlier notions I had were complete fiction. Of course there are many Thais that do not speak English, and have no motives whatsoever to befriend a foreigner. However, what I quickly realized was that the Thai people that are interested in us will go out of their way to interact, as long as we provide a friendly, and easygoing attitude back at them. And whenever I started to do that, I could not believe how overfriendly so many Thais became. I know I am generalizing here, but coming from America, I am just not used to such behavior, and it took me by surprise.

I definitely enjoyed myself after this breakthrough, and probably a little bit too much. The type of behavior has been described many times on this site, but it is just so odd how Thailand just makes you think way too often with the wrong appendage. You don’t realize how far pasty white skin, a 190cm frame, a good smile, and gentlemen’s attitude can go until you enter the Land of Smiles.

Anyway, my point is that it wasn’t until probably a year into living in Thailand that I finally woke up and realized that I had turned into something I was unfamiliar with. I had morphed into some monster that only had one thing on his mind, with no sense for my future at all. I mean I was only 23 at this point, and had decided law school wasn’t for me, but had made no alternate plans for my career. At any age, I think most newbies living in Thailand have that 1 year epiphany, realizing that their one-track, womanizing lifestyle is not the answer to the meaning of life, and that emptiness has started to ensue.

Well, I came to that conclusion, but didn’t want to leave Thailand quite yet, so I started a new experiment. What if I tried to live a respectable life in Thailand, and what would be the result? Therefore, I got a decent job at a resort hotel in Phuket, albeit making a salary only a little bit better than an English teacher, and stopped going from girl to girl. That is when I met “Amy.”

Now I am not gonna repeat what everyone says about how she was so different from all the rest of the girls, and how she was a proper hi-so woman with a head on her shoulders. There is no point to it, because I usually do not believe those reports when I read them, so I doubt you will either. Let’s just say I respected her as much as I respected anybody I have ever met, and I still do to this day. The fact that she was fluent in English obviously helped, but whenever you find someone that you can just talk to about anything and everything and feel comfortable, that’s when you know you met someone special.

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Unfortunately, after 6 months of bliss, I made a huge mistake, and things were never the same after. I won’t go into details about what I did, but I think it is pretty obvious. After that we were never quite the same, and we knew it would end. There were the usual crazy fights and threats, but nothing terrible ever came of it. The relationship ended, but I did realize one important factor. If I could grow up a bit, I could live happily in Thailand, and find someone I could really connect with as well.

This is where the huge problem comes in. The other issue that confronts most young people in Thailand is that there are very few job possibilities to have a lifestyle that could be comparable with your lifestyle at home. Therefore, most young foreigners spend a year or maybe two in Thailand and then leave forever, only to return for vacation and then if they are lucky, retirement.

I was about to accept that inevitable and unhappy conclusion, when I realized that with a little effort, maybe I could return to Thailand. From my time teaching English at a high school, and at the hotel, I realized I was very happy in the profession, and could do it as a career. However, salaries between 30 and 50,000 Baht/month didn’t appeal to me at all, as well as teaching English, as History and Politics were always my passion, as well as my undergraduate degree.

So I did a little research, and with the help of Stick and others, I realized teachers in my field of study at the best international schools in Bangkok could make upwards of 150,000 baht/month. Anybody in Thailand could live comfortably, and raise a family on those wages. Unfortunately, you need to be certified in your native country, and have experience, two big things I did not have.

Therefore, I made the decision to return to the States, get my masters degree in education, and work a couple years getting my experience. I would then return to Thailand in 2010 with a cushy job, a career I loved, and a life I could cherish. I am currently finishing up the last parts of my masters and certification, and that is still the plan down the road.

However, I sometimes wonder if it is all worth the effort. I feel I am giving myself a backup plan if I decide to not return, as at least I can teach professionally in America as a career. But is this dream life I am currently wishing for, every night, really that much of a dream. So my question to anybody who is reading this, and is either in a similar situation, or has spent some time working at one of these institutions in Thailand, was Thailand worth the effort to move over there? Did you or are you currently enjoying the lifestyle that this type of job gives you? Are these international schools like Ruamrudee, ISB, and Bangkok Pattana really as good as people say they are?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated from all that could help, or even any young farangs over there who might be thinking the same as I once did. Can you have it all? Or is it just one big Thai illusion?

Stickman's thoughts:

I think securing a salary at the amount you talk about would provide a very nice standard of living indeed. International schools can be a hard grind, but the Western staff there do seem to have a very pleasant lifestyle. And they have decent holidays too!

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