What Are Thailand Expat Teachers Doing Long-term?

Teaching in Thailand – What Is It Really Like? (VIDEO)


I used to know a lot of expats teaching English in Thailand. Now I know a few. Some make a decent living over the years as they stick with one school and their salary goes up. The salary is good for the area they are in, and invariably they meet someone they want to marry – and then start a new phase of life.

Some teachers I know make as much as 48,000 THB per month, and they’re living in a low-cost area. They stayed on for years, and in some cases – the school they are at is going to start outsourcing jobs to a staffing firm instead. The teachers that were once paid well will be out on their backsides, while new meat replace them at 28,000 THB per month instead.

So, though a teaching job looks steady in some way here in Thailand – it probably is NOT – unless it’s your own school. Meaning, you started the business.

Because I’m not in Bangkok, I only really know two kinds of people in Thailand. Those that are retired and have enough to live on – to do what they want. They travel around Thailand a little bit. They spend what they make on pension each month usually, some save a bit. They’re basically set. They worked their asses off during their younger days – and have a couple thousand dollars per month to show for it. Nice.

The other group I know are those that are usually younger, and that are struggling like hell to make more than 30,000 THB per month in Thailand. God help them if they’re living off that and trying to raise a family. I know a couple of guys like this. My wife has a Thai friend she went to school with that married a Canadian guy. They had one kid, now #2 is on the way. He’s taking them all to China to try to make more money and get a bigger savings.

Does that sound like a viable option? How many years would you need to work in China before you have a decent savings? 25? 35 years? The difference in pay is just not that much, and living in Shanghai – costs a lot too.

I’m trying to understand – how long are they going to do this? Rely on his teaching I mean.

How long can someone go year after year making less than $1,500 USD per month and being satisfied with that?

When do you crack and return home to get a job and bigger savings? When do you finally put a boot to your ass and learn some new skills that will get you a better job? When do you decide that $1,500 is so far behind the poverty line that it doesn’t work even in Thailand?

I wrote this today – and am thinking about it today because of a forum post I just read. A guy is returning to the UK after 4.5 years of living in Thailand because he’s afraid he’s going to join the “Condo Diving Club” in a few years if he totally crashes and runs out of money.

He has some foresight anyway.

I don’t know that everyone does.

If you’re teaching in Thailand and you have a wife and kids, girlfriend and kids – whatever your situation, you have a family… what is your long-term plan?

Anybody care to share?

Are you hoping that the teaching situation does a 180 turn and you’ll make better money in a couple years? Are you training toward doing something else? Are you waiting for your parents to die at home and will you the house?

Just curious – thinking about this a lot today.

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at ThailandeBooks.com. There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

12 thoughts on “What Are Thailand Expat Teachers Doing Long-term?”

  1. Hi all, I work for 30000 a month adn my gf only gets 5000, I worry about the future as i have been here a year and just got a year visa where they want me to stay at least 3 years. It is difficult to look that far ahead wehn I cant save much money but my choices are limited, living in England in an office job and paying 70% of my inome on bills is even worse right now so it depends what your options are. If I had a child I would worry about paying for eduction and go back to England where it is free for a good standard. Would be great to live on 2 thou a month but like you say thats for older guys who have worked their arses off, I have to live on the teacher salary. I lost my job in England and have no savings- I mean none in the bank!! So I live off the teachers salary which is difficult but not impossible.
    It was harder in Bangkok last year, hence the reason I moved down south. Perhapd I will save for a flight home next year, but again it will be difficult- but with no proffession in England choices are as I said limited and I may have more cash in my pocket here on half the salary!

    1. Hi Gareth,

      Thanks for the comment. I think you’ve just spoken for 90% of all foreign teachers coming to Thailand to teach English. Your situation represents every teacher I know with only a couple of exceptions. Recently I’ve seen some teachers in Thailand leave for “greener grass” but as it is going to turn out, there isn’t much greener grass. You can either work your ass off teaching extra hours in Thailand, for your school you teach at during the daytime – teach some extra hours, or, work illegally after your day job and teach private students for extra cash. Nobody is saving “enough” living on 30,000 THB anywhere in the country – especially with a girlfriend or kids. I won’t say nobody, but come on – who can live on $1,000 per month for long and be happy about it? Who can save for emergencies, let alone, retirement?

      Coming to Thailand to teach is not “The Answer” to a shitty life back in your own country, it is just a delay… a break from the certain type of shit you experienced back home. Eventually, and I’m just coming up on that point now after 8 years here, you will see that life in Thailand takes a HELL of a lot out of you. It’s mindblowing to watch Thais interact with each other and with you. I am uploading a 10 minute video to youtube right now that is the most negative thing I’ve ever posted about living in Thailand. It’s 100% the truth. I’ve lived with it for 8 years. Tonight I nearly blew up over it. Eventually “Thai Style” gets under your skin so much that you just cannot stand it any longer.

      We’re making many multiples of 30K per month, and still – I don’t think I’ll be able to stomach living here very much longer at all. We’re on the way out – I just need to pick a place where the grass looks greener – at least temporarily greener… No illusions, it’s tough to live anywhere I guess.

      Best of luck, hope you figure something out to make more cash and save for the future…

  2. I think (I know) we’re spending heaps of cash on food. We buy high quality (at least high priced, lol) food and don’t try to save at the market. I have always paid the highest prices for food because it means a lot to me to eat the most delicious food (fruits, fresh fish, etc).

    We must be spending over 20,000 THB on food per month EASY. Honestly, I’m afraid to take a close look because it isn’t going to change.

    Jon, you’re living in probably THE lowest cost area in all of Thailand, I know how you’re making it!

  3. Howzit Brudda Vern,
    For me, I get insurance coverage from my wife since she is a licensed teacher. I will be starting a teaching job (part time supposedly and NO GRADES) at the Technical College here in Ban Nawk II to teach English so when the tech students are running around in the streets chasing each other with homemade guns and machetes, they can scream at each other in English and also teaching for two hours a day at my wife’s school. With even just with the teaching at the Technical College, I will be making more than at the high school I taught at before.
    So with the two jobs coming up and living in Ban Nawk II with also my wifes pay, we are doing pretty good and we can still go on trips to other provinces and eventually, when we attempt to move to hopefully Udon Thani, and my wife transferring to a school in Udon Thani and hopefully me picking up a job also, we should do alright……but it would be nice to win the lottery at least once!
    Brudda Jon

  4. Vern
    I’ve been reading your postings since you were in Ubon. I’ve been following Steve since before his child was born. I understand what you are saying. How long is a piece of string?
    I am convinced that it is easy to live in Thailand on $1500 to $2000/ month.
    I strongly suspect that neither of you live an extravagant lifestyle. Neither of you fly to Singapore for some gambling.
    Vern you have a motorcycle and a car. You probably spend less than 1000 baht a week on fuel, if that A wife and a baby. You enjoy Thai food so don’t waste money on expensive foreign food. Your rent is probably less that 10,000. I just don’t see where 45,000 to 60,000 baht a month goes excluding old debt obligations in the USA. I track every penny i make and spend using quicken, Mint.com and an app called Expensify and i live the same life in Taipei that i did in Boston. I do it easily on $2000. I could spend a lot more if I wished. But i dont go to the opera. I dont eat at Ruth Chris. I dont go bar hoping and spend $100 in a night and I know that neither of you do.

    As an experiment You and Steve track expenses and come up with a budget. You might find some ways to save money and will both definitely get some good posts and I am sure lots of traffic.
    Call me unconvinced

  5. Steve and Vern
    It sounds like its time to do another living on a budget in Thailand post. Seriously, I track my expenses very carefully and compare that to what it would cost me to live in Thailand. I can’t understand why you are not able to live on $1500- $2000/ month in Thailand. Do you buy medical insurance? Is it the running costs to insure and run a vehicle? Is it educational expenses for children at a private ( not international) Thai school? Electricity? I would really appreciate some help understanding it from both of you. I am definitely moving there in 5 years ….help me plan for it Thanks Mike

    1. We both have families Mike. We both have bills at home. All the things you mentioned above, and more – yeah. We’re not living at bare minimums. You can live on less if you try. We don’t try that hard I guess.

    2. I’ll be posting our past years budget over at my blog in the next week or so. After that’s out in the open I will post our new budget which is roughly 10-15k/mo less. And yes it includes all the same expenses you might incur in the West. Mine is based on living in Bangkok so it doesn’t get much more expensive (maybe Phuket?).

  6. I cannot make it on $1,500 per month and I live FAR from Bangkok and the high cost of living. Of course I’ve got one more person here than you, and some bills from back in the US. If I didn’t have other bills, I think we could live here on $1,500 if we were careful. I don’t want to have to be that careful though. In Bangkok, I think we could live reasonably well on $2,500 maybe. Well, whatever you do it on – uhm, minus the palatial living space. ;)

  7. I have no idea how anyone can take care of a family in Bangkok on $1500 a month unless the exchange rate were 40:1 or more…which it is not. I don’t teach and honestly would return to the States if I came to the point where I had to consider teaching to make ends meet. On the other hand I am certainly not saving a lot here either. I do have some projects that are ongoing however and I am always trying to add new income streams and skills to my repertoire. I don’t know, maybe I am stupid to stay here making peanuts when I could head back to the U.S. and make so much more. If I am stupid, I am happily stupid though. In the end we all die and none of us can take a single cent with us.

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