If you are interested in working in Thailand or living in Thailand, then you’ll want to do as much research as you can before making any commitments. However, there’s only so much research you can do without overthinking it—it’s about finding the right balance.
In this article, we will aim to offer as much information as possible for living in Thailand and working in Thailand so that you can get a good idea as to how things work. Naturally, everyone’s experiences are different, each with its own preferences and priorities. So, what you must do is ensure that you are prepared with all the technicalities (e.g., qualifications, visa sponsorship, and work permits, accommodation, etc.), and everything else should fall into place.
One of the beautiful things about leaving your home country behind to live and work in Thailand is that there’s an element of spontaneity involved; and therein lies the thrill of adventure. That said, it’s always worth having a backup plan (i.e., money set aside for flights home should you not take to your new life as anticipated). Living in Thailand will allow you to immerse yourself in the Thai culture while working in Thailand as a teacher.
Accommodation in Thailand is incredibly cheap, and you will have a swimming pool, a large balcony, and lots of money left over for the rest of the month as there are plenty of jobs in Thailand to support a comfortable lifestyle.
A dated misconception working in Thailand is that everything in Thailand is super cheap, especially the accommodation. Now, comparatively with the UK for example, you will get more for your money. However, you should not expect to “live like a King” as so many people say. Certainly, you will have a great quality of life, but you will still have to live within your means.
The reality is that living in Thailand your accommodation could end up costing you a third of your salary. It really depends on what you are looking for. If you’d like your own kitchen and bathroom in a studio apartment, you’ll be looking at some 8,000 THB (approx. US$240p/m).
Don’t panic though, as you can find cheaper accommodation, you just have to shop around and make certain sacrifices (e.g., a fan in exchange for aircon, no hot showers, no kitchen, etc.).
If you are traveling with your partner, or you’re happy to live with a roommate, then you’ll have more options. In any case, it is affordable living in Thailand, and you can certainly find a suitable place to live with plenty of money left over to survive the month. However, it’s not as cheap as it once was.
Most people imagine the management aspect of working in Thailand Thai schools to run similarly to that of those in the West. You’d expect to turn up to your new job and have all the information that you require provided upon arrival, including a tour of the school, and perhaps a welcome assembly. Naturally, you would get the opportunity to meet all the Thai staff, and walk around high fiving all your students who are all desperately excited to meet you.
The reality is that no two schools in Thailand are the same, so what you will experience when you arrive at your first school may be entirely different from what you’ve heard from other teachers (particularly if they’re referring to their experience some years ago).
You will likely have to ask for most information that you would otherwise expect to be provided within the West. Some schools are very much on the ball and will hand you a huge binder full of everything that you need to know, others may simply provide you with your weekly schedule and be done with it.
Some schools will have a shared Western and Thai teacher office, others will be separate. So, you might get the chance to meet and engage with the Thai teachers, but you may also be left to your own devices. Just be yourself and try to introduce yourself to people as you get the chance.
In most schools, there is a high turnover of Western English teaching staff (due to the nature of people wanting to travel and move around more), so rarely is a huge fuss made of your arrival. Certainly, your new students may be quite excited to see you (or rather, to gauge how much fun you’re going to be, or how naughty they’ll be able to away with being); but other than that, you’ll more or less be thrown into the deep end.
Unless you’ve been to Thailand before, it’s hard to know what to expect. Sure, as Thailand is commonly referred to as ‘the Land of Smiles’, you may expect absolutely everyone to be incredibly pleased to see you and to make loads of friends within the first couple of weeks. However, it’s important that you are prepared to put yourself out there first.
Whilst living in Thailand most Thai people are incredibly friendly and warm, you may notice a lot of people staring and laughing amongst themselves. Don’t let this get to you, as often it's simply a case of harmless curiosity. Remember, in the more rural areas of Thailand, Western people are a rarity, so to many people, you will be rather exotic and attractive—if anything, take it as a compliment.
Another thing to remember is that most Thai people can be quite shy when it comes to speaking English. Even if they have a relatively good grasp of the language, they could still be conscious of speaking to you. Make an effort to learn the basics of the Thai language while working in Thailand and brush up on your Thai Wai etiquette (the prayer hands gesture and bowing of the head).
Thai people are very proud of their culture and are always excited to share and teach Westerners as much as they can. So, have fun and try to embrace their culture and you’ll soon find yourself making friends and meeting lots of new faces.
The main motivation for wanting to teach in Thailand is having the ability to explore the beautiful country and to live a high life on the tropical beaches. You may also expect to have loads of free time when not working in Thailand as you won’t necessarily be putting a huge number of hours into teaching. This will invariably free you up to explore the temples, markets, and all the other enticingly exciting sights.
Don’t underestimate the amount of preparation involved with teaching. Even if you are only teaching 16-20 hours or so of classes, you will still need to prepare for those classes each week. Fortunately, you will have plenty of breaks throughout the day where you can sit down and squeeze your planning in, and an hour or two at the end of the day as well.
And whilst everything is relatively cheap in Thailand, it all adds up rather quickly. Thus, you won’t be able to visit a new tropical island every weekend to party. Realistically, you may only be able to afford it once a month. That said, there will be so much beauty in your surrounding area, so you’ll be certain to explore and have some fun. This will save you money, and you never know what stunning scenery you may discover.
Teaching in Thailand and working in Thailand will absolutely change your life but be careful not to put too much faith in your expectations. Refrain from listening to all of the horror stories as well. Provided that you are careful, mindful, and respectful, you won’t run into any problems.
Again, it’s about being prepared, whilst simultaneously opening yourself up to new experiences. It won’t be exactly as you expect it, but it will almost certainly exceed your expectations!
If you have any further questions or would like to explore one of our TEFL programs, then please feel free to contact us at your convenience to schedule an appointment. We will gladly answer any questions that you might have and put your mind at ease should you have any fears or concerns.
Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime?