Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Why I'm leaving Thailand after a decade

Sat in a $110/month room, gazing out at emerald-green rice paddies bounded by slender palms. A piercingly blue sky with the odd cumulus marking the end of the rainy season. It truly is a glorious afternoon. The fan drones away providing a welcome breeze for my semi-naked torso. Wonderful tropical warmth. In October. Lovely.

Having sold the CBR500 for $3,500 and replaced it with a $50 bicycle I've been living a life-of-leisure since quitting the latest spirit-crushing job. I've decided to forfeit today's 40km cycle in favour of penning my reasons for leaving Thailand after a solid decade in the Kingdom.


The first reason is teaching. Full-time. In a school. I'm simply too jaded to continue.

A new school, a new Head, a new bunch of "latest pedagogical ideas" to implement, the same bored teenagers, more pointless paperwork no one will ever read, the thumbing-in, the prison-esque environment, the 9hrs/day, another bunch of tired drones slaving away for their families - condemned to a life of 7.30-4.00 - urgh! My biggest memory of the place was staring out of the windows longing to be anywhere else. Free.

I'd argue that these "educational institutions" are nothing more than babysitting centers. And teachers glorified babysitters. All the academic posturing in the world won't change my mind on that. I'm not even convinced modern (high) schooling is a good idea for many kids. Particularly the less academically-inclined. A controversial view to hold with so-called "educators" given that their livelihoods depend on the continued existence of said institutions. However, the fact remains it's a waste of time/money for many.

There may be social benefits to attending a school but the academic side of things is certainly questionable for weaker kids. I predict the academic side will move online. There's nothing I taught that wasn't available online. We may be seeing the death spasms of these institutions as we metamorphose, inexorably, into the Information Age.

I implore you to spend 20 minutes of your life explaining to a bored, low-ability, painfully-shy, low-English, Chinese lass the benefits of being able to solve negative fractional indices.

Only then shalt thou knoweth true pain.

"Ah, Sateeb .... you should differentiate your instruction." I hear you cry.
"These dumbasses have no business being in this room." I'd be quick to point out.

Differentiation is a tool to maximise profit. Maximum kids (income), minimum teachers (costs).  Schools cobble together a group of kids with grossly differing abilities and expect a miracle-worker to ensure they ALL learn something. Yeah. Good luck with that. I'm pretty sure Eratosthenes wasn't accepting any old idiot into his classes when he was calculating the Earth's circumference with sticks and shadows. Aaaah, the ability to be selective? Not in 2019 when everyone's equally special. We've come a long way since Ancient Greece ..... not.

Modern schools are ran by assessment-obsessed, box-ticking perverts. Attempting to measure the immeasurable. Following standards dreamt up by faceless bureaucrats. Crazy. Yet the system rolls on. Make sure you start your class with a starter. Make sure you include kinesthetic group work. Never have a kid sat idle - the cardinal sin. Start your class with a prescribed activity that research shows can help thick-twats remember things. Erm ok.

My last IGCSE student achieved an A. The school was delighted. I felt nowt. No joy, no pride. Nowt. Just a vague sense of inevitability. I knew she would. She was a capable young lass. But for every kid like her, there's a dozen fuckwits. I sympathise with Sisyphus rolling his boulder up a hill.

At the end of the day, it's all about the wonga $$$$. That's why your Mike Tysons are shoehorned in with your Albert Einsteins.


So why were you even teaching in the first place? Well, for the visa, stupid. Thailand's long stay visas are a pain. Let me explain.

The visas open to foreigners are:

1. Retirement.
2. Marriage.
3. Working.
4. Student.

I'll briefly go over why each one is shit.

1. Retirement. This requires the applicant to be 50 or older. I'm 45. So that's me out. Additionally, there's the small matter of having to maintain a 800,000B balance in a Thai bank for the entire duration of the visa. That's $26,500 USD. Not an insignificant sum I think you'd agree. But wait, it gets worse. You'd also be forfeiting $110/month in dividend payments from not having the $26,500 invested. Again, a not insignificant chunk of change (lovely use of double negatives there). Long term I can't see me doing this as that $26,500 would have to sit in a Thai bank until death, as I plan on retiring and dieing out here. Thailand's already had a decade of my life - they're not getting that too.

There's also mandatory health insurance which runs around $2,500 for a 65 year old. Have fun paying for that.

2. Marriage. Are you fucking insane? I would never get married for a visa. Anywhere. Modern day marriage is a monumental shit-sandwich for a bloke. Don't believe me? Have a 5 minute conversation with a married slave at work. Condemned to a life of indentured servitude. Fuck that. Anti-freedom. The lure of the pussy is immense but I value freedom more.

There's also the small matter of maintaining a more forgiving $13,250 balance in a Thai bank. Again, I guess until you're dead. At least the wife/kids could have it.

3. Working. This is the visa I've been on for the last decade. The problem is you have to, well, work. And for the vast majority of foreigners (like me) working is a euphemism for teaching. This is, essentially, the only gainful employment Thailand allows foreigners to engage in. The problem with this is, as previously stated, I'm fucked off with it.

Even when one is all paperworked-up, it's still a nightmare. I'm not going into too much detail here (as that would fill a book). Suffice to say my last job-change involved three trips out of the country, and, teaching illegally for 2 months. The time and money wasted on these trips is ludicrous. One of the reasons I binned the last gig was that I couldn't face another $300 trip to Laos. To hang out in government offices - that could easily be in Thailand. Stupid. It was fun in the early days but it's just tiring now.

4. Student. I had one of these in 2014 when my early retirement failed. You can go to a school and learn Thai. The problem with this is that you have to attend classes, it's expensive and involves 90 day renewal bureaucracy/expense/drama. Moreoever, I can already read/write/speak Thai. So ..... errrrrr .... yeah. Mai ow.


This innocuous amalgamation of letters and numbers is what tipped me over the edge. Essentially rubber stamping my decision to leave. The Thai government, in their infinite wisdom, require that long term foreigners report their location to Immigration within 24 hours of arriving anywhere that isn't their regular abode.

This is tantamount to every foreigner volunteering to be on permanent prison parole. They want to know your location at all times. You're supposed to report that you're sleeping at your girlfriend's house. And then re-report when you get back home.

I suggest making all foreigners wear a symbol. I dunno - perhaps a band on their arms? Or perhaps an electronic ankle tag like UK criminals wear on probation. Either way, it's a game I no longer wish to play.


Yeah, it gets bad here. Around Easter. Mai ow.

So, with all those factors discussed, it's almost like Thailand is saying:

"Thanks for educating our youth and paying taxes for a decade. Now teach or FUCK OFF!"


So what's an AWOL Geordie to do? Well, Cambodia beckons. Their more welcoming immigration system is akin to a siren luring me, the sailor, not to destruction but to sabainess. It is they who will be rewarded with my immense contribution to their burgeoning economy. I hope to get a 12 month retirement visa for $300. Job done. No BS. I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. I thought the earth was flat?!

  2. Bit too soft there seaman !!

  3. Things are changing rapidly here. I get it. I think Thailand has always preferred people to come for a short time, spend a lot of money, then go home. They put up with long-stay Westerners because they were worth the trouble. But with the massive influx of Chinese short-term tourists, the long-stayers (who are predominantly Westerners) are no longer worth it. Putting all of these roadblocks in place is making it explicit. I might have to move on pretty soon myself.

    Cambodia is a residence-based taxation, which keeps it off my list. Same with Vietnam. But the Philippines is interesting. I also think one could live a very nice lifestyle in Kuala Lumpur on extremely little money. Beyond that, there are options north. Tbilisi will give you a 1-year FREE visa, but the year-round climate leaves much to be desired.

  4. Very interesting post. Thailand needs skills in medicine and sciences, but refuses to pay for it. There are no incentives for them to come to Thailand. Visa issues are just part of the equation.

    Being a strongly patriarchal country, like most Asian countries, it is very difficult to accept assistance from outside. Don't get me wrong, there are skilled doctors and scientists here, but at the first opportunity they leave and work abroad.

    For many who realise they aren't particularly valued here, they will inevitably move on. Visa and paperwork issues aside, Thailand is for Thais, and "a true Thai always does what he wants."

    The hospitality at most immigration offices, the endless forms and paperwork should provide the evidence that, at least, western foreigners are really not welcome. In the family I live with, all the people who are able to live and work abroad, Sweden, Australia, UK and USA, do.

    We absolutely cannot complain about the practices here, from driving, attitudes, pollution, rubbish everywhere. We are free to leave.

  5. What part of combo?