Stickman's Weekly Column November 25th, 2001

Is English Teaching For You?



After falling in love with Thailand, so many holiday makers start to imagine what it would be like to live in Thailand, and subsequently start to investigate what sort of employment opportunities exist. Excitement is quickly followed by disappointment as realisation sets in that most regular jobs are fairly hard to get. But all is not lost and before too long, one's research reveals that there is huge demand for English teachers.

Dig a bit further and you start to find out that while the pay may not be wonderful, teachers are given a great deal of automatic respect in Thailand. You may have never envisaged yourself as a teacher but….we are talking about a life in Thailand here! While you enjoy your job back home, Thailand really was that good that teaching English wouldn't be so bad, would it? And while it doesn't pay so much, well Thailand really isn't that expensive so you could probably get by on that sort of money, couldn't you? And well, you do have a bit of money put aside for a rainy day and hey, who knows when that rainy day will come so you could supplement your teaching income with your savings, couldn't you? You don't really need that retirement pension plan, do you?

Before you know it, you have arrived in Bangkok and landed a teaching position. But after the initial excitement starts to wear off and you realise that this is actually a real job, something just doesn't feel right. There are all sorts of minor problems, but you're the new kid on the block, doing a job that you have never done before – and quite possibly are NOT qualified to do – so you feel it is best to keep your mouth shut for now. But the feelings of uncertainty don't subside and before you know it, you have a bit of a downer on not only your job, but your whole new lifestyle. Hey, Thailand is not turning out quite how you expected!

It's important to realise that a job teaching English may not turn out to be the fulfilling position that you thought it would be. If you are comfortable with that, then by all means go for it. However, if fulfillment in the workplace is a requirement of a happy existence, then you need to think very carefully about just what you are getting yourself into.

Funnily enough, there is little, if any, correlation between what teachers earn, and their respective teaching ability. Securing a good teaching position is in most cases, little more than luck. I'll never forget my time at one school, where there was one teacher who I'll simply refer to as "Mr A", who was VERY professional in every respect. An extremely bright fellow, in fact probably brighter than anyone else I had met at that age, after a few years teaching he still found himself earning around the 35K baht per month mark. Yes, EFL teachers can earn more than this, but realistically, working one job at a better than average school will not pay a lot more than this.

The message here is simple. If you can secure a job in an industry that you like or are perhaps better suited to, yet it only returns around the same as an English teacher, TAKE IT! You'll keep your hand in that industry, and will not have to put up with all of the bullshit that so many teachers do. Folks coming to Thailand who end up in the English teaching industry often end up disappointed and frustrated. Employment is a big part of one's life, and while many people making the big move may not see their job as an important aspect of their existence, frustration at work will manifest itself into so many other aspects of your life.

If you are a real English teacher, then you will know what you are getting yourself into. If you have not taught before, teaching in Thailand, while at times incredibly rewarding, can also be a nightmare. It is important to remember that teaching English is a job and not just a ticket to live in Thailand. Realise that you need to roll up your sleeves and put in the work. Like any new job, it will be hard work. Have the right attitude and you could very well succeed. But never lose touch with the reality that in so many respects, teaching English in Thailand is a lottery. Some win, some lose and most frustrating of all, you are never really in control of what is happening. Is it really for you?

Where is this pic?

Clue: It's nowhere near Nana!

Where is this big phallic monument located?
Yes, it is in Bangkok…..somewhere….but where?!

Speaking Thai – advantage or disadvantage?

I've been here for 10 months and have learned some Thai, enough to at least have a basic conversation (though those sentence structures still give me hell and I probably sound like a robot!). Anyhow, last night it made me wonder just how beneficial is it in certain establishments. I was in the Bottoms Up bar in Nana last night – I spoke to a dancer in Thai. She asked me why I spoke Thai. I told her that I lived and worked here. Next thing I know she turns and walks off! (no, I said nothing offensive – in fact, she approached me – I was polite and thought her very lovely). Five minutes later she was dirty dancing with a guy sitting two seats away from me. I wondered if it would've been better to just speak English!
Watch out because someone has fast fingers…
I'd like to report to you that we appear to have an increase in kleptomania in Soi Cowboy of late. I've lost a watch and a pair of glasses by simply placing them on the bar and turning my back for less than a minute. I'm overly trusting of these girls, never having had any bad experience with them whatsoever and so it saddens me to see this practice. Notwithstanding the obvious, the management and mamasan tend to collaborate and deny all wrong doings by their staff, hoping to sweep the incident under the carpet with the greatest discretion. The items weren't particularly valuable, although the experience has served to change my impression of bars and bargirls irreparably.
Ranma500 sent the following information and accompanying picture of a gogo girl's monthly pay breakdown which makes interesting reading.
Next to 'Dancer' is an X. This refers to the fact that she dances topless. If she had XX, it would means that she dances 'bottomless'. Her basic rate would then be 8,000 baht instead of 7,000. The girl took two days unpaid holiday, therefore her basic salary was based on 29 days. She gets one day of paid holiday a month.

'Offs' refers to the amount of bar-fines she has received. The pay slip implies that girls are fined for getting 'insufficient offs', but the minimum is not terribly high at this bar. For 8 offs, the girl is not fined, and even gets 100 baht bonus. The girl was bought 45 lady drinks, but this is not enough to earn her a bonus.

It would appear that after she had taken her two unpaid holiday days, the girl is then fined for every day she doesn't work. She is fined 400 baht per day. I always understood that girls were fined at the same rate as a barfine, but interestingly, the barfine is 500 baht, so they get a 'preferential rate'. There is a separate column here for Fridays/Saturdays not worked. Maybe these are charged at a higher rate.

I understand that the 'other cuts' refer to a bikini that the girl lost. The problem this girl clearly has is arriving late. She arrived a total of 2,618 minutes late, an average of about an hour and three quarters late on every day she worked. This reduces her salary dramatically. At the end of the month, the girl received 1,830 baht.

And we wonder why these girls think farangs lie…
To cut along story short I met a 29 year old in Bangkok during the summer (shy type). So anyway I lied like mad about what I do for a living etc. Since the summer we have kept in email contact and I have probably said some stupid things to her in order to keep in touch. I really am worried to say this, but I said silly stuff like we should get married and that my parents were happy about her and so on (my parents know nothing). To put things into perspective: I have no interest in marrying her at all, but she thinks so. I am 19 years old. The thing that worries me very much is that she emails me about once a week and has never asked for money or anything of that sort even when I ask how her family is (she just says they are fine). She says she will wait 10 years for me (bullshit…..?)
Wealthy Mr. Walls doesn't own all of those bikes…
Think you asked a while back who most of the motorcycles belonged to on the ground floor of Nana. That made me curious, so next time I went I asked a couple of girls down there. They usually give me straight answers on bar subjects.

Most of them belonged to the Thai boyfriends or husbands of girls working in the bars. Seems reasonable as there are some pretty new bikes. Waiters wouldn't be able to afford them. Plus though many of the girls come by motorbike, they wouldn't park one themselves as they're more likely to go home with a new friend in a taxi!

Watch out for rogue farangs!
It was a Friday night and in this particular bar a group of English gentlemen were enjoying the evening but making a scene – one of them was dancing on stage in his birthday suit. Very very classy.

One of the chaps approached us and was leaning all over the bar trying his best to provoke a fight. We had at this stage drank half a glass of wine each and after 10 minutes of putting up with this idiot decided enough was enough and asked for the bill.

The Mamasan pointed at my drink and floating at the bottom of the glass was a large amount of white sediment. My friend had drank all his wine and we could only presume what had been placed in there as well.

We went from feeling tired to walking from the Plaza to the Thermae in record time and talking the ears off all and sundry. Whilst we enjoyed ourselves from the effect of whatever was put in our drink what if one of us reacted or had a heart condition?

This particular person was also talking to an older punter behind us who looked like he would not have noticed if one kilogram of the stuff was poured into his drink. Who knows what happened to him. So, watch your drinks at all times and the drunk farang leaning over the bar.

The piece in last week's column about the fellow who purportedly had a baby to a bargirl and then received a letter from the Thai Police Foreign Relations Department turned out to be a hoax from one of the guy's friends! Not funny at all. Anyway, I wonder if any of the folks assisting bar girls with translation and hard luck story letters and emails will start replicating this scam?

Also, I made an error in last week's column when I said that John Woo is directing "Highbender". The director is in fact Gordon Chan…

Did half of the US fly over to Bangkok this week to go to Bourbon Street for their Thanksgiving dinner? If there was an American in Bangkok who didn't go to Bourbon Street, I'd be surprised! Yes, the place really was that packed. Bourbon Street must have done phenomenally well because at 610 baht ++ per person for a buffet with a very limited selection of foods – albeit quality food – I thought it looked more than a little pricey.

Just a note to remind you that while you may think that by giving money to the beggars that you are helping them, many of them are actually controlled by mafia. The poor wretches with the most terrible deformities are dropped off at their begging spot in the morning, and picked up again late at night. The money they collect goes to those who control them and they get board, food and little else. Reminds me of the time three years ago when I exited out of a Nana Plaza gogo bar with a little too much beer in my system. I checked the change from the checkbin and they had given me 100 baht too much. Wandering past a beggar in a dreadful state, I thought she needed the 100 baht more than me so I gave it to her… Then I checked my change again and realised that they had given me the right amount of change after all and that 100 baht was in fact mine. XXXX!

Word coming out of at least one Pattaya gogo bar is that the dance competitions down that way may be put on hold for a while. The number of punters in the Pattaya bars has shot up in the last couple of weeks as the high season crowds arrive and one bar owner stated that the competitions are a way to generate extra income in the low season – and believes they are largely unnecessary in the high season.

A cunning ploy by TQ2 management to give their girls a better chance in last Sunday's dance contest. In the previous competitions, TQ2 girls kept their gear on and obviously came last. So this time they were trying to make it all a level playing field and all girls had to keep their gear on! Actually, not sure whether this is true but its clear that the Pattaya dance comps are keeping a slightly lower profile at the moment.

In Pattaya I noticed that hotels in the "lower mid" range were either very busy or full this weekend. Bear this in mind if you are heading down there without a reservation – although you can always get something, accommodation wise, in Pattaya.

Going around a few of the Pattaya gogo bars on Friday night, I stand by my recommendation that Vixens Gogo is well worth a look, though their 40 baht a drink special has gone by the wayside and the special is now 50 baht a drink – which is still very reasonable. The girls working there remain an attractive bunch and are fairly pleasant to chat with too. While the Frozen Gogo girls may be winning the dance contests hands down, I didn't think a lot of that particular bar. Cold atmosphere and cold girls, making me think how appropriate the name of the bar is. Still, on any other night, it might be a lot better – or worse!

Oh dear….poor fellow. Taking his life into his hands, the
tuktuk driver drags his broken down vehicle across the road.

A lot of the vendors on Pattaya beach have erected brand new beach umbrellas. Now these can't be the cheapest things in the world and with the price of beach chairs in Phuket having been 50 baht for the last few years – but only 20 baht in Pattaya – I wonder if we'll see a price increase in Pattaya soon? A lot of the new umbrellas weren't of the corporate sponsorship type either, so the cost is going to have to be recouped from somewhere.

The uniform is changing in a lot of Pattaya gogo bars. The bikini, so long the bargirl's only piece of clothing, seems to be going by the wayside and being replaced by those little wrap around, semi-see through, skirt like garments. It's a nice change and yes, it most definitely gets the thumbs up!

More and more bars in Pattaya seem to have a computer hooked up to the sound system, running their sounds with MP3 albums. I would expect this trend to continue and I've got to admit that I for one really can't tell the difference between an original CD recording and an MP3.

The following is a verbatim "please send me money, the buffalo is sick and oh, I love you too" letter. But there was something a little old about the transmission of this request. It was not sent by letter nor email, but rather by fax! Never heard of that. A bargirl that can use a fax machine….a real catch!

My darling

Na misses you so much……<waffle waffle>…..I'm staying in Pattaya now but now I've problem about money because my mother she is sick. She couldn't move to anywhere a doctor told she must rest, now I need you to help, I want money for patient my mother, if you can help me and mother please send money to me, please……help me. This is my account number.

Na waiting you. I love you always

Na

Bangkok is getting noticeably busier. A lot more tourists wandering around, and a lot of them seem to be doing a lot of shopping. I'm forever seeing tourists with huge amounts of shopping, suggesting that the secret is out that Bangkok can match some of the other Asian centres for value for money shopping.

All of the girls were dancing in their full bikinis in G Spot bar last night, which is a little unusual and the usual shows (painted girl and shower show) were off the menu for the evening. Apparently the police were noseying around and G Spot was anticipating a visit. A little after 10:00 PM, there was the "would all girls under 18 kindly get dressed and leave the premises" announcement, suggesting that a police visit was imminent. I was encouraged that I didn't see hoards of girls leaving.

People in business in Thailand, particularly smaller vendors and folks selling low cost items, really hate it when you give them a big note, a 500 or a 1000. While it may not seem like a lot to you – 1000 baht is still not much more than $US 20 after all, it is still A LOT of money in Thailand. But what is perhaps more relevant is that unlike in the West, it is not nearly so easy to get change from banks here. Sure the bigger businesses with clout like McDonalds request huge change requisitions each day but for a lot of the smaller vendors, there is no such facility, in fact some of them may not even use the bank, preferring to stash their cash under the pillow. Oh, and the taxi driver who says no change is more often than not pulling your leg. Say "no change = no pay" and he'll quickly find his change container! (Many of my students have told me that they insist on getting their change to the exact baht, not wanting to tip a person of such low class…)

Hardly the world's most enthralling work, but still an honest job – and damned hard I should imagine too, packing rubber bands does not pay a princely sum to those who end up in that role. Certain warehouses in the Rama 3 area are paying the princely sum of 130 baht per day, somewhat below the Bangkok minimum daily wage which is around 168 baht (or so?) per day. And we wonder why these girls decide to lay on their back. To earn 1,000 baht in this factory, one would have to work 8 hours a day for 8 hours. To make 1,000 baht elsewhere might not take more than a few minutes…

Blackie still has a mobile phone for sale. Ericsson T10 with T18 features now only 3,000 baht. Contact Blackie on 01-7412211 or 02-2585256.

50 baht per minute for a net to phone call?
No two ways about it – its a damned ripoff!

For anyone travelling through Thailand, note that the prices that you pay for international telephone calls in internet cafes and the like are damned expensive. What's more, some of these places are charging you a small fortune for what amounts to a low quality line because that headset you are using is attached to the computer on the table next to you and the call is being routed through the same internet connection that all of those people at the terminals around you are using. Yep, every little thing they do is eating up the meagre bandwidth of what is likely a dial up modem connection, and thus lowering the quality of your phone line! Some internet cafes do actually allow you to just dial out on a regular phone line, thus getting a FAR superior quality phone line with less lag. If you are making a phone call from an internet cafe or the like, insist that it is NOT a net based system – unless the price is REALLY low!

While retirement may be the way to go, there are certain advantages in working for a Thai company. As mentioned in last week's column, having Thai friends with influence can help you if you get into any bother or trouble. If you do not have such friends, working for a Thai company will often have the same advantage. Any problems that you have can often be sorted out by a talk with your boss. If they have influence – and they like you (!) – they'll be on the phone and get the problem sorted. I've seen this happen in several different situations, everything from car accidents to visa problems. Your boss can be your best friend. But just think about all of the politics involved in this…get offside with your boss and they may suddenly not be so helpful when you need them most, or alternatively, should they decide that you are a liability to them, they may be able to get you thrown out of the country at a moment's notice!

The work has been completed on the building at the Dutch Embassy and it looks very nice. What's more it is all apparently very efficient with reports that visas are being processed in record time. This sounds more like what we expect from the Dutch than what was reported in previous weeks about the problems / waiting times at the embassy.

Graham will be in The Living Room & The Soi Dog Blues Band will be on the carpet! Saturday 1st & 8th December from 9:00 PM onwards. Don't drink alone, 65 Baht per shot for the Dog's best friends John Walker & his brothers Black & Red, Jack Daniels and his partner Jimmy Beam.

An expat who recently set up and opened a business in Thailand told of how he thoroughly worked out all of the costs on paper of what it would take to get it all up and running. He then added 50% to the bottom line to help with any grease and tea money to ensure that things get done promptly and efficiently. The total estimate with the 50% added in worked out at just about exactly what it all cost in the end. So, when in business, add 50% to all estimates…

I always enjoy my two and a bit hours on the sex tourist express, the Bangkok to Pattaya bus. While it is predominantly Thais on board, I just love watching my fellow farang passengers on board who are salivating at the thought of getting down to Pattaya, party central. Anyway, given that the northern bus terminal was replaced just a few years ago, I'm surprised that there don't appear to be any plans to replace that horrible Ekamai bus station. It really is a shambles. Crowded and dirty, there is nowhere for buses to manoeuvre and the sex tourist express frequently takes 30+ minutes just to get OUT Of THE CAR PARK! If I was involved in city planning, I'd build a new terminal way down to Bangna which would be far better from a logistical point of view. Years ago, Ekamai might have been a suitable location but with Bangkok getting busier and busier, Ekamai is now a very busy area – and hardly an ideal location for such an important transport hub.

And speaking of the sex tourist express, are the drivers on a bonus for getting to their destination in record time? Somchai Schumacher did the trip in 95 minutes on Friday afternoon, quicker even than the few times I've done it by car!

I've always wondered about the wisdom of getting your lover's name tattooed on your body, something that so many Thai working girls do. Relationships end, especially in this industry, and to be marked for life with the name of a former partner can't be any fun at all. So, I couldn't resist including the photo above which was taken in Pattaya on Friday night. If you look very closely at the shape above the name, you will see that the name used to be Andy but it has been carefully changed, or at least drawn over! It seems that Andy is no longer flavour of the month and for now, Swedish Fredrik is in fashion. But what sort of shape will the tattooist have to make next so that Stickman can fit?!

Before it was Andy, now it is Fredrik – but is
there room for her to change it again to STICKMAN?

Is there any truth in the rumour that the main reason that Prime Minister Thaksin has not totally cracked down on the prostitution industry is because that would lead to a subsequent slump in AIS's (the company he owns) sales? AIS is Thailand's leading (in terms of sales – and not necessarily in service) mobile phone network and elimination of prostitution would no doubt reduce the sale of mobile phones and therefore effect AIS's bottom line… Is there such a thing as a bargirl who does not own a mobile?

The Midnite Bar website seems to have got totally out of hand and I really can't work out what they are trying to achieve. They updated the photo gallery late last month and have stacks of pictures of the girls…many in their birthday suit. Not only that, they have plenty of photos of the girls in compromising positions. I can't see too many other bars copying Midnite's lead on this one…

Nothing gets people more heated in this world than discussions over money. Problems with money can bust up the best friendships or shatter relationships where no other problems existed. Now, what you pay the girls for their services is up to you, but ask yourself the following question. If you knew that the money that the bulk of the money you were giving her was going to be passed on to some lay about boyfriend or husband, would you give her quite so much? Bear in mind that in so many cases, very little of the money goes to the girl…

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Two interesting links from news items about Bangkok this week.
Foreigners involved in a couple of scams…

http://www.2bangkok.com/2bangkok/Scams/sapp08.shtml

http://www.time.com/time/asia/biz/magazine/0,9754,184045,00.html

For help with this week's column, thanks go out to
Khun Sanuk and The Mad Stock Broker.