Unsurprisingly, You’ll Love It!
So, you’re curious about moving to Thailand and becoming an English teacher, huh? If I were to take a guess, I’d say that you’re probably looking for some warmth, a better cost of living, and exotic new foods. Perhaps it’s the freedom of driving a motorbike through rolling mountains of lush green jungle or the chance of seeing an elephant? Regardless of your motives, you’ve come to the right place to figure it out.
Having spent my college years rowing in Philly, I woke up every day with the sun. The most outstanding colors would explode in front of my eyes as the moon crept behind the horizon and the sun made way for its new day. But like some of you here, I grew restless with the redundancy of my Western lifestyle. So, one day, like many others before, I woke up with the sun. I sat outside, watching light refract in the sky, when the question, “What does the sunrise look like on the other side of the world?” came to mind… and that’s when the journey began.
Fast forward a year and half and I’m in Chiang Mai, Thailand doing just that, catching sunrises from the top of Doi Suthep. My senses became enamored with the colors, smells, and tastes of a world I never knew existed, my curiosity zooming as fast as the Grab driver taking me to school while my bike gets repaired.
Are you picking up what I’m throwing down? So-so? Let me explain a little more…
Easy transition from Western to Eastern lifestyles
I’ve always seen Thailand as the great connector between Eastern and Western cultures. In the larger cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket you will find malls and shopping centers that are home to all your western comforts like H&M, Zara, Coldstone Creamery, and more. If you’re tall and well fed like I am, having accessible professional clothing and comfort food was key! Don’t fret, there’s discount clothing available too! However, even in the larger cities, it would behoove you to learn some Thai so you can communicate your Som Tam (papaya salad) order in case you’d rather go sans Nam-Bplaa (fish sauce), as not everyone speaks English. These cities are also more forgiving when it comes to inevitable social faux-pas as you learn the culture and customs.
Great location for new TEFL teachers
Not only are there schools galore in Thailand, they’re eager for Native English speakers to teach their students. Thailand is known as a TEFL certification hub, which means it’s very well versed in training and hiring foreigners. No matter a government or international school, the administration is legally obligated to provide you with a one-year Non-Immigrant B visa and work permit should they hire you. Some schools will provide you with teaching materials, while others will trust you to be creative, which is great for any kind of teaching style you end up cultivating! (PS- Even if you’re not a Native English speaker, schools will still hire you!)
Government and Buddhist holidays mean LOTS of time off
Buddhism is the predominant religion in Thailand, practiced by nearly 95% of the country. Buddhism observes auspicious days meant for performing merit to Buddha, which is a way of clearing your karma with the universe. The Monarchy also has specific holidays in remembrance of notable royal family members, while the government has days to celebrate various accomplishments. And being the perfect blend of East & West, Thailand also celebrates not one, not two, but THREE New Year Celebrations – Gregorian (Solar) New Year, Chinese (Lunar) New Year, and Buddhist (Songkran) New Year. That’s roughly 20 days of (usually) PTO, not including holiday and term breaks. Need I say more?!
Easy, convenient, and affordable travel to neighboring countries
Since Thailand is situated in the middle of Southeast Asia, it’s also an easy country to travel back and forth from affordably. Trains and busses will be your cheapest, albiet slowest and least comfortable mode of transportation to nearby countries like Cambodia and Laos. If you’d rather catch a plane, tickets through ThaiViet Jet, AirAsia, and Nok Air have incredible budget deals to neighboring countries like Vietnam and Malaysia. Depending on how much time and resources you have, busses, trains, and planes are a great way of traveling through the country, it’s not uncommon to find people driving their motorbikes through Southeast Asia. Its and incredibly intimate way to get to know a country and take in its natural splendors… gas is cheap too!
Low cost of living means opportunities to save!
Since July 2021, the USD to Baht ratio is $1 = 33B. As a teacher in Thailand, you can make between 35,000 – 50,000B+ ($1050 – $1500+) contingent on the location, school type, and position.
If you’re a big city type who enjoys nightlife, controlled chaos, and unlimited variety then Bangkok is the city for you. Not only will you be living on your toes, you are likely to make more money to accommodate big city prices. BKK is home to the famous Kao San Road, the Floating Market and countless breathtaking temples. It is also a competitive cultural hub of Southeast Asia, bringing together a wide variety of cultures and attitudes.
If you’re keener on lush mountainscapes, accessible weekend roadtrips, and eargasmic live music then Chiang Mai is your spot. The provincial city sits in a valley nestled at the base of Doi Suthep, making for a spectacular sunset view. Since the cost of living is generally less in the North than South or Bangkok, it’s a great place to build deep community while enjoying a full life.
If the beach is your vibe, then cities like Phuket, Krabi, and the island of Koh Samui will feel right at home. These spots are usually easy jump-off points to neighboring islands for weekend and holiday trips. You can spend your free time hiking, snorkeling, rock climbing or just chilling at the beach with friends – all free or low-cost activities to help the bank!
Thai hospitality is second to none
Thailand is notorious for several qualities, the two most being rice and smiles. Whether it’s a Grab driver taking you to your hostel or an Auntie serving you Pad Kra Pow (Spicy stir fry basil), you’ll be sure to walk away with a laugh and a smile. People are so kind you’ll probably rethink ever returning home. You could leave your keys in your bike or your wallet at a coffee shop and 8 times out of 10, I could bet you it’s still there when you return – trust me, I’ve done it! Say you need something fixed or your bike breaks down, locals will literally pull over and ask if you’re OK. They will offer a phone call, a push, gas, help of any kind just because. People call it the Magic of Thailand.
The natural landscapes surpass your expectations
One of the most blissfully affronting characteristics of Thailand is it’s abundant in natural beauty. The country boasts 147 national parks, each with their own unique biodiversity, history, and beauty. Among the most popular are Ang Thong National Marine Park off the coast of Surat Thani, Khao Yai National Park an hour outside Bangkok, and Doi Inthanon National Park which is home to the highest peak in Thailand near Chiang Mai. Chang, better known as the beer or ‘Elephant’ in English, are the national animal of Thailand and a huge draw for tourism. Unfortunately, while exploitourism has endangered the well-being of Elephants in the country, activists like Lek Chailert have created Elephant Sanctuaries all over the country. If you’re eager to see this majestic animal, while being ethical, you can check out Lek’s sanctuary in Northern Thailand or visit Kui Buri National Park. Don’t forget to check out the numerous botanical gardens all over the country in honor of various Queens and Princesses of the Kingdom.
Your tastebuds will never be the same, says Anthony Bourdain
Have you ever eaten something so spicy your core turned into a furnace that overheated you from the inside out? Well, that’s Thai food if you don’t order it pret farang (Foreigner spicy). Bourdain visits Chiang Mai in an episode of Parts Unknown, where his co-host explains, “the spiciness and the simple elements makes this bright explosion of flavors… when I got back home, I immediately wished I could be back in Thailand.” The diversity of spices and ingredients in a simple bowl of soup or stir fry intoxicate and alter your tastebuds in a way they will never be the same. The senses of Thailand will stick to you like Khao Niaow Ma Muang (Mango sticky rice) for the rest of your life.
Hopefully, this paints a thoroughly diverse and optimistic picture of what your potential life could look like in Thailand. With over 2 million expats living in Thailand annually, you are sure to have a fully enriching experience delving into multiple cultures, art styles, and adventures. Still considering how you can make it your reality? Check out the following articles to deepen your knowledge base…
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Written by Marina Foster for Teacher’s Friend