Every year, thousands of western female EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers come to Thailand. Many think they’ll get a good teaching job, make decent money, have a good lifestyle, maybe meet a nice Thai guy, and stay for a long time. The unfortunate reality is, most don’t.
Out of the twenty or so western female EFL teachers I knew when I first came to Thailand 10 years ago, only one is still here – me! That’s common. In fact, most female western EFL teachers rarely stay longer than two years and, if you meet one who’s been here five years or more, it’s unusual. But why do western female EFL teachers not stay very long in Thailand? Various reasons, but these are the most common.
Men – If a western female EFL teacher moves to Thailand when still young, many are also hoping they’ll meet a nice guy, get married, have a family – establish a life. In reality, that’s rare and there are two main reasons for it.
Western men are usually in Thailand for the Thai women, so not interested in dating western women. On top of that, a fair few of them have a misogynistic image of western women and speak badly of them. Which is also usually why most western female EFL teachers in Thailand avoid western men like the plague.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have some fabulous western male friends in Thailand but, I would venture a guess out of 250-plus I’ve met, I would only bother associating with about 20 of them. Pretty poor statistics overall, and most other western women say the same.
Thai men, on the other hand, are sweet, kind, polite and usually quite gentleman-like with women. So what’s the problem there? Thai men aren’t aggressive, so it’s difficult to meet one that will actually ask you out. Secondly, Thai men have a reputation of having many girlfriends and even a couple of wives and, that also seems accurate if I consider the Thai men I am friendly with. Nice guys but I’ve never really wanted to share my boyfriend or husband with three other women.
So, if you’re looking for a man in Thailand, chances are small you’ll find one. I do know three women who have married while in Thailand, but one is already divorced. The rest? Still single and still looking – or not!
Teaching Jobs – Another reason why western female EFL teachers don’t stay in Thailand – the teaching jobs. Salaries are low (average salary only $1,200 a month and outside Bangkok, even less), job conditions are poor and western teachers often get lied to by the schools they work for regarding salaries, vacations, and benefits. When most western women can make more than four times the salary paid in Thailand by simply going back to their own country or on to places like Japan or Korea, two years in Thailand is long enough.
Work Permits and Visas – It’s always a hassle getting a work permit and visa in Thailand. Work permits are job specific, so every time you quit a job, you have to leave the country to get another visa to allow you to get another work permit. Crazy! After a couple of years of doing this, a lot of western female EFL teachers get sick of it and decide the stability of home is better, or a country like Japan or Spain where work permits are easier to get.
The Heat – Believe it or not, the heat is also a factor in why western female English teachers don’t stay in Thailand. You think when you get here, at first, the heat and weather is lovely. Fast forward two years, when all you’ve had is 95 degrees-plus temperatures almost every day and, if not that, torrential rain, the weather starts to get to you. You dream of seasons – cool, cold, snow, ice – anything but this.
The thought of another 10, 20, 30 years of this is too much for a lot of women. After all, who wants to spend every day of your life sweating like a pig? I know I don’t.
Inability to Buy a House or Get a Car Loan – The simple things we take for granted in the US and Europe don’t exist for westerners in Thailand. Westerners can’t buy a house, it’s against the law, and they also often can’t get a car loan. That means, you either have to live in an apartment for the rest of your life (we can buy those!), or rent a house from someone else – which is, of course, a waste of money.
As for cars, some companies now will give car loans to westerners, but there are many hoops to jump through, In some cases, the loan is given to your Thai wife, husband or friend who co-signs for you, so, there’s always the possibility you’ll pay for it and then they’ll get the car. No thanks! For a western woman who has always had a car and a car loan, I can’t fathom what possible rationale Thai banks have for not giving car loans to westerners. But, it’s yet another reason why most western women leave Thailand.
After 10 years of living in Thailand, there are many things I still love about the country, and at the moment, I’m happy enough living here. I love Thai people, I like the food and I enjoy my nice lifestyle. However, if I consider still being in Thailand when I’m in my 50s or 60s, unless things drastically change here, it’s not likely. Most other western women concur.
For western women, Thailand is a wonderful place to teach English for a couple of years, have interesting travel experiences and make great friends. But, as a country for western women to settle down and create a life that, unfortunately, is still the exception and not the norm.