Written by Sarah Ezdani
I’ve been fortunate enough to live and work in Thailand where I started off my ESL career. Thailand is my absolute favourite country in the world, and the feeling I get once I walk out the airport is that of feeling my most comfortable and balanced self. I lived in Thailand for less than two years and travelled all over this country and marvelled at its beauty. Undoubtedly, my zest for exploration and new places fuelled this lust, but the ease of life for foreigners in Thailand too encouraged my excursions. I lived way up North in an idyllic and pretty town called Phayao, and 7 hours later in a bus, I could be in Bangkok, the energetic hub of this country.
I now live in China (a year and a half now) and I’m keen on reporting the veritable differences in these two countries. I’ve made my fondness for Thailand known, but the truth is, I also willing left it and moved here to China with my husband. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might be a telling expression, but we thought differently. We were so deeply content and blissful in our little bubble among the rice fields and open skies of the North, that we decided to test the waters in a different part of the world, a challenging part of the world we knew very little about.
Based on my personal experience, here’s my take on Life in Thailand and China:
It’s Thailand -The land of sabai and mai pen rai which are philosophies that permeate the atmosphere of most of the country and the people are so lovely, well-mannered, gentle and relaxed. Let’s just say there are benefits to not being a heavily populated country. And I’ll be forever charmed by the natural beauty of the place, the freedom of exploration, the feeling of safety, the street food, 7/11, Thai snacks, the wai, the national anthem playing in my head all day long, Sangsom, Leo and Chang, chilli, lemongrass, and other piquant flavours.
Fantastic travel opportunities-Every weekend allows you the chance to be somewhere beautiful doing something memorable at very affordable prices.
Food lover’s heaven-Thai food is probably one of the most beloved cuisines of the world. Home to an exotic variety of dishes, even the fussiest eater would find something to feast on, and keep coming back for more.
Transportation-Thailand, especially Bangkok, boasts a splendid transport system. Inter- city and local travel couldn’t be easier. Private vehicles can also be bought quite easily in instalments if need be.
People in charge aren’t necessarily educated- Schools /parents prefer people who look the part at the cost of losing valuable teachers. I attribute this to a badly formed world image which in turn is formed by poor education standards. A vicious cycle! As an Indian, the people I’ve been hired by are usually foreigners, who ironically know a thing or two about the English language.
Education System-Enough has been said on this topic and I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t been said before. It is quite frustrating if you actually want to make a difference, but the general apathy is what it is and well, if you don’t like it, leave! There are however, no illusions with Thailand’s place in the academic world.
No messing about with studies-The education system here is very serious and very academic based. Extra-curricular activities are way down in the priority list. Where we taught in Thailand, on the other hand, it was almost an exact reverse situation! As a teacher here, you will have a lot more eager students whose ability to speak English improves quite quickly because of their personal motivation. This is very rewarding. One can actually have decent conversations with the students beyond the greeting phase. The school plans are very organized here and everything is as per schedule. No last minute changes or surprises.
Good remuneration package and benefits-Apart from a generous salary (depends mainly on which part of China you’re in), you get fully furnished Western-style accommodation, free utilities, internet, medical coverage, one return ticket a year, and often, free meals, your salary is like a big bonus. The opportunity to save here is incredible.
Holidays!- Apart from the paid one month in the winter and 50% paid two months in the summer, there are about 12 public holidays a year. Add to that the weekends and you’ll see that time flies! Not to mention the travel opportunity in a massive country like China or if you’re lucky, (I am!) not having to worry about costs and budgets and all that. Also I’m a hop, skip and jump away from the vibrant Hong Kong and that keeps me sane.
Communication-Of course, the language barrier can get very frustrating and even if you attempt to speak Chinese, the locals shy away from further communication. Apps on my phone and addresses written down in my little notebook have been very useful! The English teachers at my school thankfully speak great English yet, chatting with them is hard work because of the cultural barrier
Food-The Chinese food in the rest of the world is pretty damn tasty, but it almost seems a myth here. Of course, China is huge and maybe I just haven’t found the right spots here. The area I live in has its own subculture and the food they devour is enough to make you lose your appetite for days. Bland, boiled and questionable are the words I would use to sum it up.
Cost of Living-I find China a very expensive country especially as my relationship with the food here has been miserable. I spend most of my money on imported foodstuffs and ingredients. But apart from that too, especially if I compare prices to my beloved homeland or Thailand, basic commodities are quite expensive. Street food is not as popular in the rest of Asia and eating at a restaurant is a substantial amount gone from your pocket. The bigger cities in China are even more expensive. Weirdly enough, beer, of all things, is DIRT CHEAP!
Not a sight for sore eyes-Tourist places can be very crowded and quite displeasing because of the rush. On the road to rapid development, there’s construction everywhere and beautification isn’t respected. Littering, spitting, and disregard for public property seem to be the norm in my part of the world. The beaches I’ve been to here are shockingly pathetic. Of course, there are exceptions to that and China has a lot of interesting and inviting places too.