well, she's thinking about doing it, anyway.
First, though, another Seoul reflective photo w/the Boy.
[Sigh]. OK, after that nostalgic moment, it's time to move on to a Q&A exchange I recently had with a woman in Canada, "Jennifer" [not her real name]. She wrote after a friend recommended my perspective as a western woman who's taught english in several countries she's looking into within Asia.
She's also the mother of a 9-year-old. It's not my place to tell someone how to raise their child: I've never had one, and so made no value-laden comment on the idea, as others perhaps might have. She's the parent, and I'm not.
E: I have a tendency to prattle on about this kind of thing, since it's a large part of what has consumed my life & thoughts for several years now. It's better to write someone you know through a friend, rather than posting on a message board, where anonymity leads to nasty, irrelevant comments, and I've seen a few women blasted on Dave's EFL and Pusanweb for mentioning they'd like to bring their kids along to Asia with them.
First off, for the most targeted advice, it'd help to know more about
what you're looking for, and where you (and your son) have been. It's
impossible to boil (expat, or any) quality of life down to salary and
savings, as some people do, and particularly when a child is involved!
[She'd been told that Cambodia was more lucrative than Thailand. I'm not so certain, but wouldn't recommend Cambodia for a western woman alone with a child. Love of all things Cambodian should not cloud common sense.]
Korea: as I mentioned before, I didn't much enjoy my time there. It was made bearable (and at times alternately hilarious and unbearable) by my boyfriend and by [her friend], too.
Most EFL teachers in Korea were initially lured there by the cash you can save there, if you're reasonably thrifty or don't mind working many odd hours, often illegally. Neither my boyfriend nor I was interested in doing much of that, so we didn't save the tens of thousands of dollars touted in many Job Information Journals on Dave's
The point of the convoluted paragraph above is that many of the teachers you'd meet in Korea came solely for the money and free airfare - not out of desire for exploration or travel. Many I met had kept their northern Ontario/upper Midwestern provincial mindsets, and certainly weren't there for love of the culture, save perhaps for the pallid, amorphous "lure of the exotic" (which in western men tends to mean exploration of local women, and for western women, exploration of local culture).
[Jennifer found the sentiment in parentheses above to be amusing & puzzling, I think. It could be both, but there are very strong misconceptions about & reasons for it, as I wrote her later. More on all that in another post.]
This "lure" is much less pronounced than in other parts of Asia,
notably Japan and Thailand. Korea doesn't market its culture well
internationally, or very successfully to the few foreigners who
actually come to Korea as tourists, not as teachers, diplomats, or on
business. I leave the reasons for this out of my proselytizing, save
one of those that struck me again and again while living there:
Korea's culture is in many ways derivative of the Chinese (who often
had Korea's rulers as vassals) and the Japanese (who attacked and
occupied Korea a number of times). It has few outstanding attributes,
save the fermented cabbage condiment of which they're so proud, and
their truly efficient alphabet, called hangeul.
Oh - and bringing a child to Korea would likely be a particularly difficult adjustment for him - the only way it might be feasible is if you lived in Seoul, somewhere in the foreigner-friendly areas near the embassies. There aren't many international schools there, either.
They're ungodly expensive, and unaffordable on a teachers' salary, unless you work at the school or work an insane number of hours. Also, after working within the Korean educational system, with its cram schools and high-pitched competitive frenzy, I would not bring my child anywhere near it.
Bangkok is the only one of the three I'd consider if you're thinking of your child's education and work for yourself, too. It has dozens upon dozens of international schools, though the quality varies greatly. The price, again, may be out of reach of a teacher's salary, but there are plenty of jobs available at international schools, many of them not just teaching "EFL", but some other subject in english. I met a number of farang while in Bangkok who weren't native speakers
but were teaching science or math in english at a reputable international school there.
If you're really ambitious, you could perhaps do some kind of
"home-schooling" for your son, and that would get rid of the crippling
price of an international school, or the impetus to work at one.
Socializing could be done with other farang kids - there are many
longstanding expat networks in BKK.
It'd still be difficult in Bangkok, but not, perhaps, impossible. You may be able to reach a compromise between time, work, education for your child, and writing. I think it could be a real challenge to balance it all, though. The city is hot and polluted most of the year, though much cleaner than it used to be, and the Underground & skytrain have made transportation easier in many ways. You're right about business english being the most lucrative, and with your background, you could have a real advantage there.
If you're interested in something related to law, you may be able to move into that after some time in Bangkok. Many EFL-ers, particularly those over age 30 or so, plan to teach in BKK for a year or two, during which they make connections in their chosen field, or look into business possibilities.
Western women are highly sought after all over Asia in EFL, for many reasons, I suppose, but the most obvious one is that there are fewer of us in Asia than western men.
Jennifer: IS it true that nannies can be hired for $100 per month?
E: In Bangkok? For a nanny that speaks even a modicum of english, that sounds quite low. I'd check with some Thai expat forums. One suggestion might be to see if you can get in contact with a Filipina somehow - their english is usually excellent and they tend to be familiar with NAmerican culture, thanks to the US's poorly disguised colonialism over there. Less of a likelihood of cultural misunderstandings, though they're still possible.
Another point to emphasize is that Thais are particularly fastidious
about image, dress and hygeine, and expect it of teachers, too. This
is true in most of Asia, but is particularly hard in BKK. Also,
westerners have a stronger (esp. when we sweat!) odor than Asians do.
Could be our larger pores, could be that we're hairy beasts, I leave it
up to the pundits to tell us why. Anyway, it's important to avoid
strong perfumes and take plenty of showers in the hot weather if
teaching in Thailand.
Also - this probably doesn't matter to you, but the nightlife in
Bangkok is definitely male- and much of it, tourist- oriented. This is
the case in much of Asia, though: it's just more "in your face" in BKK
than in other places I've been.
On Cambodia: though Siem Reap is one of my favorite spots in SE Asia - tied w/Luang Prabang, Laos - I would never advise anyone with a child to move there. I'd recommend Siem Reap as a great place to take him for a trip, but not to live.
Aside from the very real hazards of malaria (in rural areas) and Dengue fever, which occurs predominately in urban areas - Siem Reap and Phnom Penh - and kills mostly children and the elderly, there are no adequate educational facilities for him in SR, either. There may be some decent international schools in Phnom Penh, but I doubt it, and the police there are not vigilant as they are in SR: it's not by any means a safe place to be out in the evening.
Hospital quality in Cambodia is reputed to be consistently abysmal, as
well. Most barang with life-threatening illnesses are flown to BKK for
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