Welcome to WOMENCANFLY.CO’s blog series, The Way where we introduce inspirational women who live abroad.
In our first article, we meet Ayako Ueno who works in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Ayako has had the dream of working abroad since she was little. She has lived in Thailand for eight years and has become accustomed to living there. Is working in Bangkok difficult? Is it fun? We have a look at Ayako’s life in Thailand.
Longing for JICA and wanting to work abroad
Ayako, who is about to pass her eighth year in Thailand, says that foreign countries have been familiar to her since she was young.
"My mother loved traveling abroad so I often listened to her stories about her travels. She was the kind of parent who would leave me at my friend’s house when I was in third grade and nine years old at the time, and head off to Peru. (laughs)”
It was when Ayako was in junior high school (grades 7-10) that she began to become aware of working overseas as a job. It was interesting for Ayako to hear about one of her teachers' experiences of travelling abroad while on the JICA program.
"I had dreams of wanting to work for JICA and working abroad.”
Ayako majored in education at university and after graduating she started working in her hometown Kobe as a primary school teacher. For someone who loves children, Ayako seemed to have had a lot of time to spend with them. However, what came to her mind when she was working was the desire she had when she was in junior high school.
Around that time, Ayako learned of the existence of a Japanese international school. A Japanese international school is an institution that provides education equivalent to that of primary and junior high schools in Japan for Japanese primary and junior high school students who live overseas due to their parents being transferred overseas.
"I thought I could work overseas as a teacher! I immediately submitted my documents and passed the exam. I went to Tokyo for an interview and two days later, I received a call and was informed that I would be going to Bangkok."
Japanese international school teachers have been able to choose their destination for several years, but Ayako wasn’t able to so it was a coincidence that Ayako came to Thailand.
Services for working women in Bangkok
Many Japanese people live in Thailand and there are plenty of Japanese restaurants and supermarkets. In particular, Bangkok is as modern as Tokyo and there are many convenient services.
"I don't feel inconvenienced to live my lifestyle. Service prices are the same or more reasonable than in Japan so I'm happy that I can easily outsource housework and cleaning."
There is a cleaning shop on the first floor of the condominium where Ayako lives and she often uses it. Ayako leaves large items like bedspreads and sheets before work and receives them when she returns home. Washing large fabrics is difficult so it would be easier if they wash them. In addition to the laundry service, the supermarket and restaurant delivery services are also convenient so Ayako often uses them. Not only is the lifestyle different to Japan but also the working environment.
"Thai women have the image of being more hard-working than Thai men. Maternity leave and childcare leave are short and women quickly go back to work after giving birth. I was surprised by this."
Thai couples often come to Bangkok from the countryside to work. Children are usually raised by their grandparents in the countryside and their parents return on weekends. There is a difference in wages and prices between the countryside and Bangkok.
On the other hand, most foreigners working in Thailand hire housekeepers. There are various plans from hiring them once a week or for several hours to living with you so you can make a contract according to your lifestyle. Housekeepers are called "Aya" and cost different prices. In some cases, it costs about 20,000 yen per month to live with you or about 5,000 yen per month for them to come in twice a week. In households with small children, many people hire for childcare as well as housework and cooking. The idea that because you’re a mother, you have to do all the childcare and housework is absent and that’s the good thing about Thailand. You can ask for what you can ask for.
Seeking career progression and the challenge to change jobs in Thailand
Ayako moved to Thailand at age 26. The Thai-Japanese Association School in Bangkok that she was assigned to has the largest number of enrolled students in the world. It is a mammoth school where a total of 3,000 primary and junior high school students attend. Ayako had a good time with the children there as well but decided to change jobs after working as a first grade teacher for three years because she wanted to know a world different from being a teacher. She then started working for a publishing company.
The publisher she changed jobs to was a Japanese company that publishes free papers that Ayako loved to read. When she joined the company, there were eight employees (including six Thai people and two Japanese people). Ayako was hired to work in sales and since her clients were Japanese, she mainly used Japanese at work. Although it was her first sales position, she enjoyed working at a publishing company. However, four years after she started working, Ayako decided to change jobs for the second time in search of something more.
"Four years after I started working at the publishing company, I started thinking about when to go back to Japan. I thought about whether I would be able to get a new job in Japan and in the end, I continued working hard in Thailand."
The second job change Ayako made was introduced by a friend who worked at a recruiting company. Ayako has been working as a sales representative at the Bangkok branch of a Japanese construction facility since September 2019. The Bangkok branch office has about 300 employees where about 20 are Japanese. Since the clients are Japanese, communication within the business is Japanese but the official language of the company is English. Ayako uses English and Thai when communicating with Thai staff.
Do you have to know Thai to work in Thailand? Is English essential too?？
Working abroad also means problems with the language. Ayako has had two opportunities to learn Thai. The first opportunity was when she came to Thailand as a teacher at the Japanese international school and took a Thai class as part of the teacher training program.
"I teach in Japanese at school but Thai is essential to my life. Now I can use it every day like when ordering at a cafe or having a little fight with a taxi driver. "
The second opportunity was some time after Ayako started working. She wanted to be able to read Thai and took a Thai writing class on her own. However, it was too difficult so she gave up. With the exception of faking it, it was difficult to master.
"Since the official language of the company is English, I feel the need for English as well as Thai so I take private English lessons on holidays."
Looking at various job offers, being able to speak English seems to be a major criteria. No matter where you are in the world, you can use English. However, Thai staff members do not speak English as their mother tongue so they often cannot communicate well with each other in English. At such times, Ayako seems to be working hard to communicate using English, Thai and Japanese.Finding what she loves and having lots of goals
Ayako initially started living in Bangkok as a teacher but changed jobs and was able to discover what she likes.
"It was especially interesting to work at a publishing company. At that time, there were eight employees so each person had a lot of discretion and it was an environment where the president could try anything if they liked it. I love my hometown Kobe so I have also done a special feature on cherry blossom viewing in Kobe so that Thai people can visit it. "
Ayako has noticed the interesting parts of her job by getting clients to buy ad spaces and thinking about attractive promotions that make use of the ads. She is interested in monetising by thinking about the combination of ideas and services.
"I'm wondering if I can do something interesting."
When we asked Ayako about hard times in Bangkok, she closed her eyes and stopped talking.
"I didn't really have a hard time. It's true that I've taken the time while looking back on it all but I'm completely used to living in Thailand."
In Thai, there is a term called, ‘Mai pen rai’ which means ‘never mind’ or ‘it’s okay’. Thai people have big personalities and are more easy going compared to Japanese people. The Thai staff Ayako works with are great but the environment and culture in which they grew up in is different. Therefore, it seems that a little ingenuity is needed to keep work going smoothly.
“Depending on the person, when asking Thai staff to visit a client, I try to remind them many times until just before the meeting. If the other person is Japanese, it is natural that if I ask once, they’ll visit as planned but if they’re Thai, some people will say, "I won’t be coming to today's appointment" (laughs).”
To work in Thailand, it’s important to have the tolerance to understand the Thai mind and culture. On the other hand, Ayako feels that it’s necessary to manage the business well and this balance seems to be difficult.
Ayako will be entering her ninth year in Thailand from April. She laughs and says, "Life is an experiment!" What kind of experiment will she do in her ninth year? We’re excited to see.
Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you!
Women can fly.
Much love, xxx
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