The first time he saw Michael Palin’s Around the world in 80 days Nicholas Orwin knew he wanted to travel and not just go on a holiday abroad. Captivated by Asia for as long as he can remember he took a job teaching English in Thailand.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
Ha! Shocking I get this a lot. I’m from Birmingham, England.
And what did you do there?
Nothing really. When I finished college I moved north to Hull for university, after I finished University I lived in Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare land) where I worked in an IT department for an insurance company for about five months.
How did you end up in Nonthaburi?
I’d been doing a lot of research into moving abroad to teach English and one thing everyone seemed to value most was experience. There was a lot of upheaval going on in my life and it was just the perfect time to get away and do some volunteering. I went out to Thailand for just over two months as a volunteer English teacher.
After I finished some of the local co-ordinators (the people who decide which school the volunteers work in, set you up, do some basic training, give you advice and all that) were impressed with the review the school gave me. They knew I was looking at moving abroad to teach and offered to help me find a job and a place to live if I wanted to come back out and work. Long story short, four months later I came back.
I ended up in Nonthaburi after we looked at a few different schools and a few apartments around different areas. I really liked the school I’m in now, I liked it much more than the big international schools that didn’t really seem to have the same community feel to them. So that’s why I picked Nonthaburi.
Have you ever lived abroad before?
I don’t know if this counts; I spent 3 months one summer in the USA. I did Camp America (except with a different company, CCUSA). All a part of my recently found “I want to live and work abroad but how?” thing. It was an incredible summer and I had an amazing time. Ironically it was before I knew I wanted to teach or work with kids. At the time I was still a little stuck to the idea of going into medicine, in one way or another. I had picked the summer camp because it was a great way to see America, do a bit of travel, have a job over the summer and just have a lot of fun.
By the time I’d finished though, the idea of working with kids in the future, instead of medicine, had really landed a foothold in my mind.
So what’s so good about Nonthaburi?
It’s got the big city, lots going on, to see and to do feeling that I love, it’s a stone’s throw from Bangkok (hop on the bus or the boat and I’m in there in less than 20 minutes) without the same rushed and crowded atmosphere the capital is famous for. It’s a tempered version of Bangkok, which I don’t think I could handle 24/7.
Also everyone here is really friendly compared to the experience I’ve had in Bangkok and even in parts of Chiang Mai. For example; I don’t have to argue with cab drivers to put the metre on. This drives me crazy in Bangkok.
And what don’t you like?
Very few people speak any English. I have some Thai, enough to get by and I’m learning more every week. But when I’m trying to do something different or new and I have no idea what I need to say, there isn’t much help from the other side. It can get a little frustrating, not just with them but also with myself. Most of the time I love the lost in translation feeling, but when you’re trying to get something done, yea, it’s frustrating.
Do you feel like an insider or an outsider?
I’m definitely an outsider, but I feel welcomed into the community, around the school and the local area I live in. Growing up in England you have people who come from all over the world and you never know if they weren’t born in the country until after you start talking to them. But here it’s totally different, there are so few foreigners that you can almost guarantee anyone who doesn’t look Thai wasn’t born here and didn’t grow up here. I’ve met a few exceptions and I think the number of those exceptions is growing more and more but it’s still pretty rare, especially outside Bangkok.
But I still feel really welcomed. I get small gifts from parents of the students all the time, ranging from food, to teddy bears to bits of furniture and decorations for my room. At Christmas parents and students were handing me presents and wishing me a Merry Christmas even though they don’t celebrate it out here.
Once you settle down in an area and people get to know you more, see you and speak to you there is a huge effort put in to make you feel welcome.
Any advice for wannabe Nonthaburians?
I guess most people looking to live here will be looking because it’s so close to Bangkok and that’s where they want to be. My advice would be don’t be put off by the idea of not being in the Capital. Like I said before it’s so close, buses, vans and boats are very regular to get into the capital. The living costs are so much lower too. It’s a great place to live and work, don’t dismiss it too quickly.
Is the move permanent?
No. I want to go and teach in other countries around Asia and my dream destination would be Yokohama. I’d also love to work in Korea and China for a bit of time too, and once I’ve finished all of that I really have no idea what I’ll do. But I’ve learnt not to make specific plans because they change all the time. I have goals that I’d aim for, but when interesting offers and opportunities come along I want to take them.
Tell us something typically Thai
There’s a reason they call this place the land of smiles. Everyone out here is really friendly and happy to try and help. The only places I’ve ever had problems are in the tourist areas. I think that’ll be typically true of anywhere though. There is a real philosophy here of staying chilled out and not getting too stressed out over anything. People like to have fun and look for any excuse for a good time. It makes living and working out here a fantastic and probably very unique experience.