Stickman's Weekly Column February 5th, 2006

Is Teaching English In Thailand REALLY Viable?



Just what is the average salary paid to English teachers in the Kingdom? I would have thought it to be around the 35,000 baht mark, and perhaps several thousand baht a month less, but it would seem that I was wrong….

Rather than do a survey of what people earn, I did a survey of what schools currently searching for English teachers (as opposed to teachers of other subjects – who tend to be better paid) staff are offering. Going through the job listings on Ajarn.com earlier this week, the average for positions offered in Bangkok was 32,342 baht per month and for upcountry, 26,192 baht per month. These figures are not exact as jobs specified a salary band, such as 36,000 – 40,000. I calculated the averages based on the figure in the middle so in the case of a position with the aforementioned salary band it would have been 38,000 baht.

32,342 baht per month doesn't really tell the full picture. That is what is paid before tax. You can deduct a couple of thousand a month and just to keep the numbers nice and round, let's make it 30,000 baht a month. In 2006 the average salary offered to qualified, experienced, native speaking English teachers in Bangkok is, at the end of the day, just 30,000 baht a month…

Now of course there are people who earn more than this figure, just as there are people who earn less. The actual average income may well be higher as more than a few teachers prove my point that this simply is not enough to have a pleasant lifestyle in Bangkok on, and chase students to teach on the side or part time work to supplement their income.

I have to admit that this figure of 30K baht a month is even lower than I though it would be.

One school which offered contracts back in 1998 at 20,000 baht a month offers the exact same contract, with all of the same conditions of employment, at 25,000 baht per month in 2006. Many other employers also pay around 25% more now than they did in the late '90s.

The problem is that Bangkok in 2006 is altogether a different place to Bangkok 1998. Prices have soared in the last few years in Bangkok. Back in 1998, a Magnum ice cream was 17 baht, now it's 35. From memory Starbucks didn't exist back then but these days everyone is sipping 100+ baht coffees. 4,000 baht a month rooms were easy to come by but many buildings offering accommodation at such rates are full and have a long waiting list, though some will put your name to the top of the list if you choose to make a donation. A beer in Nana used to cost 70 baht back then but now you're looking at 125. And perhaps more than anything else, there is so much more to do.

While the cost of living in most other countries in the region is higher, the salaries paid for essentially the same job in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are much higher than what is paid in Thailand. While it was hard to research the salaries paid in Cambodia, from what I understand, even over there, teachers do better than they do here in Thailand.

In the three other centres, teachers are generally paid way more than 100,000 baht per month, which while not a fortune in these countries, does, according to people I know who have worked there, go much further.

If the applications that we often receive at my place of work are anything to go by, the average English teacher in Thailand is fairly well educated, usually with a bachelors degree or better, and many have a specific teaching qualification. Many have a lot of experience and the average age of applicants would probably be late '30s, or thereabouts. Is there anywhere in the world where a native English speaker with these credentials, and experience, earns less?

On Friday night I was out with Mrs. Stick and some of her friends and the conversation came around to salary. This group comprised four young, professional women in their early '30s, two with a bachelor's degree, two with a Masters, all studied locally. The average salary amongst them? 60,000 baht a month, and no, I am not talking high commission sales roles, but SALARY! When I mentioned what English teachers earn, one spurted out that "that is why I refuse to date teachers".

The in-laws are a bunch of teachers. Mrs. Stick's three sisters are all teachers, as are virtually all of the aunties and uncles. Of the sisters, one is a teacher in a rural school where she earns, with overtime, about 20,000 baht a month. She gets subsidised accommodation included. Sister number two teachers in the country and gets 16,000 baht a month. She gets free accommodation, one whole floor of a house, a place that is quite liveable. Sister number three is a university lecturer and while her basic salary is not high, with very highly paid extra tuition through the university she earns comfortably more than the other two. What's more, all of this lot will receive a state pension at 80% of their final pay packet, and this will be adjusted for inflation each year. I've never heard of a farang teacher being eligible for that!

Of the uncles and aunties who are teaching, all of whom are in their '50s, the average salary is in excess of 30,000 baht a month. So often farang teachers in Thailand will defend their position, saying that while the get 30,000 baht a month, the local teachers get a fraction of that. The younger ones perhaps, but not the older ones!

Unmarried Thais tend to stay with their parents, unless of course they go and live away from the area where their parents live. Their costs are much lower than someone from another country who moves to Thailand who has to shell out for every last expense like a farang would have to.

I chatted with my boss this week. Her salary is 30,000 baht per month. When asking her about the level of salary for teachers, she felt it was much too low, and that 50,000 baht would be a more appropriate level for an experienced teacher. She pointed out that salaries for teachers had not been adjusted in many years and while it may have been a fair salary 10 or more years ago, it wasn't now.

Life can be great in Thailand – but you really need a high enough income to enjoy all that is offered, and I'm of the belief that the aforementioned figures just do not cut it.

You still have bills to pay. Taxes have to be paid. The traffic jams up. Things don't always work as they should. Sometimes the weather can be oppressive. Add a low income to the package and you start to scratch your head.

For a retiree who wants a bit of work on the side, someone planning on teaching for just a year to facilitate travel, or someone using English teaching as a springboard into something else, then I believe that teaching English in Bangkok remains viable. But if you are looking at teaching as a career, make sure you've either got a pile of cash put aside or some other financial plans.

Teaching English in Thailand remains viable if you are a career teacher and really love the job, and are not worried about earning what really is an extremely modest income.

It's is a great way to get into Thailand, find your feet, and do something legitimate while you are getting a feel for the place and the people. It is undeniable however that the money paid to native speaking English teachers in Thailand is just too low. Unless there are major changes – and frankly I cannot see that happening – then surely the time will come when people actually say enough is enough.

Perhaps it won't be that long before the majority of applicants for English teaching positions are Indians, Filipinos and Burmese?

WHERE IS THIS PICTURE Competition?

It was the Pratunam intersection.

Where is that?!

Last week's pic was of the Pratunam intersection, just up from the World Trade Centre. The white building in the top right hand corner is the Indra Regent Hotel. This week's first prize is a 500 baht credit at Tony's Bar in Soi Cowboy. Prizes number 2 and 3 are a 600 baht dinner voucher for 2 to be used at Sin in Sukhumvit Soi 4. The prizes are only available to people in Thailand now – either residents or tourists, and must be redeemed within 2 weeks. You MUST say that you are in Bangkok and able to claim the prize or I will consider you ineligible.

FROM STICKMAN'S EMAIL INBOX

Keeping it real.

I was seated at an internet cafe and a girl sat beside of me to test the waters. I wasn't much interested at the time, though she was attractive. She asked me if she made me horny and in my best Austin Powers' voice, I asked her if I made her horny. Her response: "I only horny your money."

Sometimes she does pay.

I can understand why both Thais and Westerners would assume that the man usually picks up the tab. He is expected to do so when he invites a lady out. Several years ago I experienced an exception to this rule of etiquette. I was staying at the Nana Hotel then and I had invited the oldest daughter of a Thai friend of mine to join me for dinner in the hotel's restaurant. She asked if she could bring along one of her girlfriends, and I said that would be fine. They had parked quite some distance away and took the skytrain the rest of the way to the Nana district, walking from the Nana BTS station to the hotel. We enjoyed a wonderful Thai dinner that evening; I wisely let them order for all three of us. When I motioned to a hostess that I was ready to pay the checkbin, the women exchanged looks of concern. I asked if there was a problem, and with some difficulty, the daughter's friend told me that they wanted to pay for the meal. For a moment I didn't know what to say or do, but my previous time spent visiting Thailand and the books I had read strongly suggested to me that these two ladies didn't want to send a message to other Thais nearby that they might be bought i.e. prostitutes! Without embarrassing them by trying to coax a reason out of them, I told them gently that I understood. Perhaps one should expect a lady's offer to pay if he is taking her to an eatery in a district with "a reputation."

There's tax payable on interest earned in Thai banks.

I noted your figures regarding interest rates, namely "over THB40,000 a month" on a deposit of THB10,000,000 at interest rate of 5.25% p.a.; to be exact, the amount is THB43,750 per month – before tax. Until I left Thailand in 2002 there was in force a withholding tax of 15% on most bank deposits. It may be that it was abolished, however unlikely that may be though. Hence, under a few assumptions (withdrawals etc), "over 40,000" quickly turns into only THB37,187. One can file his / her tax return and claim back the overpaid income tax which would amount to about THB45,000 or 8.5% of the interest income assumed there's no other income than said 525,000. The question to clarify is whether the 15% on the interest income is definite tax i.e. an individual tax rate would not apply, or not. I assume that most foreigners would not bother to find out and just swallow the tax at the rate of 15%. "As long as one is not registered with the tax authorities, one is fine" goes the thinking. Anyway, the point here is that unless interest rates rise further, THB10m leaves the depositor with just over THB35,000 a month (or 15% less than stated)!

Both parties get what they want.

It was very interesting what you said about Thai men in general and other Asians not being interested in the darker-skinned Isaan women. I have always been a little surprised at the relative lack of animosity by Thai men towards farangs when the latter are coming to their country to drink their beer and shag their women. But since the vast majority of women catering to farangs are from Isaan, I guess the locals have nothing to get jealous about. In fact, they are probably sniggering behind our backs when they see some of the creatures that get bought out. I am reminded of the situation in my hometown of Bedford, England. Every weekend, groups of refugee Albanian and Kosovan men can be seen at the main shopping mall hitting on the fattest, ugliest local women imaginable that no-one else wants in the hope of marrying one of them. I guess at the end of the day, both parties get what they want and few can complain at that.

Food in the Cities Of Angels.

I agree with you in regards to the price of a Thai meal in any nice restaurant in Bangkok or Pattaya. I have been back in the States for a year and to my surprise, the price is 250 baht to 400 baht for a dish…but it feeds four people. We go out for dinner and spend twenty five to thirty dollars for four people and we bring half of the food home.

Kiwi ambassador, are you reading?

Was interesting to read your comments on the visa staff at NZ immigration. I just went to their office last week with my wife for the first time in my life. Thai staff dutifully took my 4,700 baht and immediately said "you are not eligible for a new returning resident's visa as your old one has not yet expired". "No, actually the visa doesn't have to have expired before we can apply for a new one, in fact once the visa expires we are ineligible". Spoke to the farang North American who has a patronising voice and she says "Ineligible, come back later" and refuses to accept the application. After a lengthy discussion virtually ending in a shouting match I finish with "This is a free country, we ARE eligible to apply, you HAVE to accept, if you want to decline it later that's up to you but we are submitting the application here and now". She says "Are you sure that you really want to go through with this?!" "Yes" I said (why else would I be there demanding our basic rights?). After leaving briefly to "speak with the manager" she said we "may be eligible for a 12 month visa" suddenly.

This week's winners of the police lottery include Pretty Lady whose gogo license expired and they didn't renew it as well as Red Lips, though just how they managed to win the lottery is a little different. Clarifying a few discrepancies noticed by the authorities in Nana, Red Lips was busted for….get this, pinning numbers on the ladies! Yep, believe it or not, the licensing rules for gogo bars say that ladies cannot wear a number! This is contradictory with the regulation of previous years which specified the size that the discs with the numbers had to be.

Also in Nana, DC 10, another small bar was busted for the same reason.

Pretty Lady have proved to be slippery customers in the last and it is anticipated that they will be able to resolve their problems. For any bars which do not manage to resolve the problem, they can expect to receive a closing order in the next 2 months.

On Tuesday the cops also busted a bar in Sukhumvit Soi 1.

This week was terrible in Nana. Patpong didn't seem to be doing much better but as for Cowboy, I do not know. Never ventured that far this week.

There have been less shows in Patpong since the Metropolitan Police moved in to clean the place up. Six bars were busted. We're talking the Metropolitan Police here, the big boys, the boys you really don't piss off! Could the six unlucky bars all be looking at 60 days to think over their "mistakes"?!

And in what must have been a scene from a comedy movie, Casanova also got busted! Can you imagine the scene with the boys in tight brown uniforms chasing transsexuals around the plaza? It all sounds like a lost scene from The Benny Hill Show!

And to Mr. Czech Republic, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but a little birdy whispered in my ear that a 60 day closure is, at the very least, being mooted. No matter what Johnny already negotiated, it seems that some people are set on showing their authority. This bar has experienced a number of problems over the years and it is not as if they have a clean record on which to mount some kind of appeal. It is also not the first time for them so there seems nothing that can be done to prevent the 60 day closure. The same bar had some kind of "boxing match" taking place this week and the bar was busy, the first time in a very long time!

Erotica VIP is set to try something a little different to get customers in. Starting on February 10 and with two shows every night, this increasingly popular bar will have a "lady's catch show", a sort of wrestling between different girls in sexy torn apart T-shirts. Water will be added to the whole thing. Sounds great! Let the fun begin. I've always said that anything new is worth trying, so long as it doesn't involve frogs. Actually, this bar is worth a look if you're looking for schoolgirl look-alikes, a playful atmosphere and no pressure or hassles.

As of 1 February, Babe Watch in Pattaya is now doing happy hour drinks at 50 baht from 8:00 – 9:30. They have got a fair few new girls too. The dancing line up sure is improving.

A certain very small bar on the second floor of Nana has no gogo license at all. The Thai owner bought the bar without knowing anything about the business and this means he does not know anything about a license for this or that. With the officious enforcement of the law in the naughty bar areas these days, it would seem to be just a matter of time until they check and close the place down.

I can confirm the name of the large gogo bar in Walking Street mentioned in last week's column which will be closing down. Shock, horror, it is Club Electric Blue. Why this is shocking is that it is run by an experienced bar owner and you have to ask the question if his bar is closing down, what about others? There has been a real change in the dynamic of the market in Pattaya and things are getting tougher for everyone. The high season this year? It never came!

The Sukhumvit disease has hit Silom. Drinks prices have soared at Patpong with bars that used to charge 80 baht for a Singha and 90 baht for a Heineken now charging 110 and 120 baht respectively. Sure, there are more and more happy hours and some run through to 10:00, or even 10:30 PM. Even the independents, such as Safari, have raised their prices and you're looking at 100 or 110 for a Singha or Heineken in there now. With the much mooted rental rates soaring in the lane that connects Suriwong to Silom, this round of price rises came as absolutely no surprise.

Bar owners in Sukhumvit's Soi 22 Queens Park Plaza were surprised to find their rents increased by upwards of 35% and even more late last month. But what was even more surprising was they were given just 4 days notice to stump up the for increase. This is a fairly quiet area by Bangkok bar standards, and many of the 30 or so bars there are marginal – owned by former bargirls with a bit of farang money or mere hobbies for farangs with other jobs – and often can only survive by their week to week trade. The Thai owner presumably had his own financial reasons for such a massive increase but word has it that some bars may struggle to survive and many have already put their prices up by 5-10% or more.

Club Electric Blue in Patpong used to be a bit average but they have hired a new troupe since my last visit and the standard is much higher than before. And the 55 baht happy hour that runs through to 9:00 PM is a good deal too. Club Electric Blue has a more Sukhumvit / Pattaya feel to it than that of a Patpong gogo bar and is well worth a visit.

Given the way the Bangkok gogo girls seem to be all business, business, business these days, I wonder about the lack of bonking booths in most gogo bars. It would seem to me that it would be better for all concerned if gogo bars had a couple of rooms on the premises for customers to use. It would be good for customers as they could get the room cheaply, or even free with it included in the cost of the barfine, and it would be good for bar owners and the girls because after the business has been done, the girl remains on the premises and can leap up on to the stage again. A win : win situation for all concerned.

While at least one bar in Sukhumvit Soi 4 would like to remain open until late, to do so would be a sin. The boys in brown are not in the mood for bars opening beyond the specified hours of opening.

The Irish Xchange is doing another charity golf day in the name of Father Joe Maier. Last year we managed to raise over five million baht for Father Joe’s children it was very successful. The day starts for breakfast at the Irish Xchange after which everyone boards coaches to The Royal Golf & Country Club to play 18 holes. Then back to Silom at the Holiday Inn where they have a fun filled night of stand up comedy with Stan Boardman & Frank Carson. And former world snooker champion Dennis Taylor will be the MC. Great food and free flow drinks all night long, finishing off with “Imagine”, a Beatles Tribute Band all the way from the UK. The whole day is only 5,000 baht. If you cannot make the golf then tickets for the night are only 3,000 baht. Please contact Mark on [email protected] or 01 3740 386. It all takes place on 17th of February. This is a great cause and well worth supporting!

Business must be good for Villa supermarket who have a branch around Sukhumvit Soi 33/1 and another one at Sukhumvit Soi 1. Their newest branch will open soon on soi 11.

Ever wonder what happens to bargirls who just disappear? Sure, many of them settle down, but some go into other even more lucrative ways of making money. No doubt trying to cash in on the fame of Thailand's darling, Tatayoung, there's an ex-Dollhouse girl who has done some porno pics and DVDs under the name of Kat Young.

If there is one difference between the girls at Spasso's and the girls elsewhere, the girls in Spasso's are a good 6 inches taller – and they're not katoeys. While the comments that they are just the same as the girls in other areas may be relevant to some, to many, it is not. Spasso's has a fair few attractive ladies on the take.

The complaints continue to roll in about Napoleon Club in Sukhumvit Soi 33. The latest one has it that they think that nam plao is exactly the same as Tequila, if you get my drift!

The very face of Sukhumvit Soi 33 is changing. A few bars have closed down in the last month and others are being converted into establishments that target the Japanese. There are quite a few places you walk by that are filled with pretty girls, but "hello handsome man" is the very last thing you'll hear. In fact if you try to go inside, you'll probably ruin the girls' night as they have to deal with a farang who has seemingly got lost and try and conceal you from Khun Yee-poon's gaze. The only two places in all of Soi 33 that seem to be doing ok are The Office and Livingstone's. Keep an eye on The Office however. The owner seems to be frequently passed out on the bar from heavy alcohol consumption and if the rumours are true, there could well be some friction with another owner who may well break away and open his own venue competing directly with The Office, a situation that would cause problems because there just doesn't seem to the numbers to sustain two competing venues in Soi 33.

Livingstone's has three German beers on tap, a lager, a weissen beer and a dark beer. The weissen beer is particularly good, although the owner insists one must start with the lager and then go on to weissen and that the other way around spoils it. Of course being the plonker that I am, I got it around the wrong way! But as is the case with many German beers, all are excellent!

Where's the best burger in town? High honours go out to The Big Mango, but for me, first prize goes to the Irish Xchange. I go for a standard burger with cheese and bacon but Mark, the head chef, tells me that his favourite is lamb with mint coleslaw.

Which soi 33 bar owner frequently has an orgy with his staff who have not been barfined at the end of the night? Oh, I was in fits of laughter when I heard this one!

Just in case you were wondering, it is seriously uncool to apply for a teaching position with Pattaya as your address. Anywhere but Pattaya is ok!

As teachers we try to use regalia, real objects, when teaching vocabulary. One science teacher at an EP School – a school with an English programme – was teaching the difference between boys and girls to grade 4 students. A Westerner is his 20s who would seem to be getting quite a reputation, he was using Thai and telling them about hoi and jew. Then to finish off the lesson he pulled his pants down and showed the class his jew. This'd be national news in the West…but in Thailand…I doubt if anyone even blinked!

One of my best mates has been in Thailand for the last several weeks and the poor guy seems to have suffered from one ailment or another, and has been in and out of BNH a number of times. And then I noticed that of my colleagues, and there are about 20 odd of us farangs at work, there always seems to be one person sick at any given time. And then I thought about my friends here in Bangkok and it is the same again, it is as if there is always someone ill. I'm kind of surprised that I have never noticed this before but people do seem to suffer more health problems here in Bangkok than they would at home. Let me qualify this by saying that the average age of people at work would be early '30s, and the average age amongst my friends would probably only be a few years older, not really the age at which we expect our body to start letting us down! It's as if some of these people are a virus on legs.

Quote of the week, which is even more disgusting given that this came from one of the most well educated Thais I know. When I said to her that it was disappointed that a second British woman had been raped in Thailand, she responded "That will teach her for using a motorbike – liaise with low class people and this is what happens"!

I used to venture to Panthip Plaza once a week to pick up a CD with this or that on it and a few MP3 CDs, but those days are long gone. The place is too busy and just too stressful and the prices are way too high. Yep, you heard that right, bootleg software there is expensive. Word coming out of Jakarta has it that the copied stuff down there goes for 5,000 ruppiah a CD. Just how much is that? About 50 US cents, or 20 baht per, get this, per DVD! Now don't get me wrong here, I don't want to encourage you to buy contraband, but rather highlight the astronomical profits that the local Mafia is making a killing on the bent software in Thailand.

Ask the Sticks

Mrs. Stick is here to answer questions surrounding anything that confuses you in Thailand, particularly issues of the heart. Please note that for general bargirl related questions, Mr. Stick might answer them. It has to be said that Mrs. Stick is not your stereotypical Thai woman. She is not Buddhist and she is not shy to criticise things about her own country and culture, although having said that, she remains proud to be Thai. Mr. Stick will try and answer the questions which Mrs. Stick is not so sure about. Please do try and limit the length of questions to Mrs. Stick to about 100 words. We get many questions that are entire stories of several hundred words which I'm afraid are just too long to run here.


Make your Valentine's Day flower order now!

Question 1: I will fly to Thailand to meet my Thai fiancée. One month later, we fly back to Farangland together. We will marry the day after we arrive in Farangland; everything is well prepared. From then on, we will mostly stay in my apartment in Farangland. (She has been there before.) Now, how could I prepare my apartment for the moment when I bring my fiancée back to my place? Is there any typical thing or decoration, Thais use to prepare an apartment for the moment when the bride moves in? Of course I think of flowers, and I could ask friends to stuff the place with flowers before we come back. Or do you have any other, special idea? She's quite romantic, a Buddhist and would certainly enjoy a special and symbolic welcome.

Mrs. Stick says: It is not the answer to your question but you might want to do something like make one corner of your living room a Thai corner with articles that are typically found in Thailand, like some wooden handicrafts, a triangular pillow and things like that. This could be a symbol that you are committed to the Thai part of the relationship and that you want other to feel like she is never to far away from home.

Question 2: I am a 30 year old white guy with a good job, living in America but frequently travelling to Thailand for various reasons including business. I believe that American women find me not unattractive, if not handsome. I take a daily shower and use deodorant. In other words, I do not stink, nor am I sweating in a noticeable fashion. I try to dress in a reasonably respectable casual manner. My question is this: Why am I avoided like the plague on public transportation? If I sit down in a van, on a bus, or on the subway or skytrain in Thailand, Thai people, both men and women will go out of their way to make sure that the seat(s) next to me are taken absolutely last. Sometimes I see people make the choice to stand rather than sit next to me. It is amusing to watch the look in their eyes when they get on and realize that the only seats are next to the farang. Sometimes it takes them a moment or two to figure out what to do before they make the decision to stand rather than sit next to the farang. If they do sit down next to me, I sense their unease. Why is this? I am a nice guy, I won't try to touch or talk with them, I may even smile occasionally. I don't have three heads. At first it bothered me, now I just enjoy the extra room. Why?

Mrs. Stick says: There must be something wrong if this is how people respond to you. From what you have explained, there just must be something wrong. Perhaps the problem is that there is an issue with you that you just do not see. Perhaps you should ask someone close to you who can give you a close answer. Are you sure you do not have something about you that bothers people or makes them feel upset, like lecherous eyes? Really, from your description you sound fine but obviously there IS a problem, because Thai people do not do this to anyone else so there IS a problem. You need to find out what it is!



This week saw a new section added to this site – a jobs offered board. You can connect to this section of the site from the main index page. If you are an employer in Thailand, any sort of company or organisation, and are looking for a new staff member, you can place an ad here for free. The only pre-requisite is that you are specifically looking for a Westerner. Remember, it is quite okay to specify nationality, as well as age and sex, in job ads in Thailand. Please do support this part of the site. It is FREE advertising. If you prefer not to, you do NOT need to name your company.

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick


Thanks go out to GL and Bkk Grasshopper.