While many teachers have embraced their new-found online setting, others are eager to explore the world. South-East Asia is one of the most popular destinations for those interested in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). This is not surprising, as this beautiful part of the world allows visitors to experience vast cultural diversity, rich history, and breathtaking landscapes, encompassing eleven countries: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Together with Vietnam, Thailand is the most sought-after destination for international English teachers due to its convenient central location, affordable cost of living, and laid-back lifestyle.
Living and teaching in Thailand
Did you know that there are at least thirteen different ways to describe a ‘yim’ (smile) in Thai? There’s a smile for every situation! But this is not the only reason why Thailand has been nicknamed ‘the land of smiles’. Locals are friendly and welcoming and are keen to introduce you to their culture and show you the beauty of their country.
Thailand is the ideal country to choose as a base for your adventure in South-East Asia, as it is conveniently located for your travels to its neighbouring countries. Before you start crossing the border, however, remember to make the most of this beautiful country and everything it has to offer. Being a tropical country, the weather in Thailand is hot most of the year, with seasons that span from rainy to dry. In this kind of climate, the scenery is varied but always stunning: from sandy beaches to river valleys, from highland peaks, to vast flats.
By the Western standards, teaching in Thailand will not make you rich as the salary ranges between $800 and $1,200 – enough to live comfortably and have enough money to travel. This is because life in this country is extremely affordable. A typical meal is around $4 and the rent for a one-bedroom apartment is between $100 and $300. While this can be very appealing, keep in mind that cheap accommodation might mean a bare room with basic furniture. The advantage is that most schools will help you with your search or might even have accommodation arranged for you.
In Thai schools, you are usually expected to work a 40-hour week, but only around 18 of those hours will be spent teaching. You are required to have a degree, and a TEFL certificate is highly recommended. If you are new to TEFL, take a look at what the TEFL Org teach English in Thailand shop has to offer. Some schools have separate areas for local and farang (non-Thai) teachers. If that is the case, take every opportunity you get to get to know your local colleagues, perhaps starting by sharing teaching experiences. This will help you settle in more quickly.
With a quick online search, it’s easy to see how gorgeous Thailand is. With so much beauty, how to choose where to move to? Here are eight locations to choose from, from north to south.
- Chiang Mai is a peaceful city immersed in history and culture located in the north of Thailand – ideal if you are not interested in living by the beach. This means that this area is not busy with tourists and, because of this, life is even cheaper. Here, modern bars and natural beauty have found the perfect balance, making this city very popular among international English teachers.
- Udon Thani is located in the quiet Isan region, close to the border with Laos. This city is surrounded by eco-friendly parks and green countryside, and it is the perfect location for leading a relaxed lifestyle. The capital and the country’s southern beaches are within easy reach – just a short one-hour flight away. Here, the demand for teachers in government schools is high.
- Ayutthaya is an ancient yet vibrant town, ideal if you enjoy a busier lifestyle without the hustle and bustle of a larger urban area. Located just north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya attracts tourists from all over the world with its magnificent ruins of the former capital.
- Bangkok is the capital and the largest city in Thailand, with its 14 million residents. This is an exciting city to live in – there is always something going on and it is impossible to get bored! Living in such a busy environment might seem confusing at first, but once you have familiarised yourself with the public transport system, you will feel more in control. There is a wide range of English teaching positions available and salaries are higher in Bangkok than in the rest of the country, but so is the cost of living. Bangkok is very international – you will fit right in!
- Hua Hin and its stunning beaches attract thousands of expats. This area is popular for outdoor activities and events, from jazz to kite festivals, offering a similar lifestyle of that in Phuket, but not as expensive.
- Koh Samui is a unique island that alternates modern buildings with stunning beaches. As it is an island, food and accommodation is more expensive here. However, the salary from an international school or a privately-owned language academy should allow you to live comfortably.
- Krabi Town is the perfect location to spend your days off on the beach. Despite attracting many tourists, this area has kept the prices of food and accommodation quite low. Krabi Town is a charming location that offers an exciting lifestyle and a friendly ex-pat community, as well as ample teaching opportunities.
- Phuket is an incredible city surrounded by outstanding beaches and incredible landscape on its homonymous island. This area is real paradise for those who enjoy diving, water sports, and spending time on the beach. Life is more expensive here than on the mainland, but salaries reflect that. There are plenty of teaching opportunities here; however, due to the sought-after location, the competition is tough.
While visiting countries that are very different from your own on a social, political, historical, and cultural level is an extremely enriching and eye-opening adventure, it can also be a challenging experience.
Culture shock is one of these challenges. This is true especially when travelling for a long period of time. If you are prepared for it, you will be better able to overcome the obstacles that culture shock and homesickness may pose.
Before you travel:
- Join social media groups of individuals who are already living and teaching in that part of the world. Connect with them to find out about their experience and ask for their advice.
- Join language exchange groups online where you can learn the basics of the language spoken in your host country. Being able to greet people in their own language will go a long way with the locals and it will boost your confidence.
- Don’t let homesickness dampen your spirit of adventure. Bring pictures or some small ornaments that remind you of home to decorate your room.
While you travel:
- Meet up with other expats and take up any opportunity to travel and go out with them – they will be able to show you the best places to visit and the best – yet affordable – restaurants.
- If you started your language exchange back at home, keep it up! Learning the local language not only will it help you fit in with the community, but it will also help you see the learning experience from your students’ perspective.
- Keep in touch with family and friends back at home: remember that they miss you as much as you miss them. Allocate time every week for calls and messages and be mindful of the time difference.
Ready, steady, teach in Thailand!
Are you thinking about teaching English abroad? Or perhaps you are looking for a new teaching destination. Whatever the current stage of your teaching career, Thailand has something for everyone – prepare to be charmed!