Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Every year hundreds of people fly to the “Land of Smiles” to teach English. The list of benefits this choice offers is so large that instead of focusing on them, I have compiled a list of reasons it may not be the best option for everyone. You may want to reconsider if…

You Want to Make A Lot of Money

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the teaching salary in Thailand isn’t the best. In comparison to the cost of living, you can live very well—but when it comes to making those international bank transfers every month, it can be a bit painful. That said, jobs at international schools tend to offer more money and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money and transfer their salaries home each month. You can save, but it definitely takes commitment.

You Want to Party 24/7

The Full Moon Party, Khaosan Road – YES, Thailand is a fun place to party. Alcohol is cheap and there is never a shortage of events to attend. However, if this is your primary reason for visiting Thailand, I think backpacking or a holiday would be a better option. Don’t get me wrong, over the course of my 18 months there I had an endless amount of raging weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should be the job.

You Aren’t Willing to Embrace a New Culture

This is similar to the previous. Many people assume life in Thailand is like the travel brochures and the backpacking blogs. Of course, it can be, but the reality is that the majority of schools are positioned away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country and in my opinion allow for a more authentic cultural experience. I think it’s important to note that in many locations you could be the only English speaker for miles and find it impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge myself and grow—but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated.

You Don’t Like Kids/Want to Teach

The heading of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are a few too many teachers in Thailand who not only hate teaching but dislike children. I understand a lot of people choose to teach in Thailand to see the country or for a gap year etc., but I think a little interest in teaching and not a dislike of the age group you’re going to teach should be a minimal requirement. You’re going to be in the classroom the majority of the week—taking a job you don’t care about just so you can party and see the sites will only make the kids miserable and the workweek seem like a chore. Care about what you do.

You Don’t Like Spicy Food

Ok, this one is a bit of a joke. Of course, you don’t need to like spicy food to teach in Thailand, but be warned – it’s everywhere. The words ‘mai pet’ (Thai for not spicy) can save your life!

This list is basically a compilation of the various complaints I would hear from fellow teachers around the country. Maybe if people knew what they were getting themselves in for before going, there would be a lot less critical and negative stuff written about teaching in Thailand online. Do your research, and try to find a place that is not only suited to your interests and strengths, but also consider your weaknesses.

How Much Do You Need To Start Teaching In Thailand?

Written June, 2016. Needs to be updated.

So, you’re thinking of teaching in Thailand, but not sure how much money you need to get started? Let me help you out.

A TEFL Certification

A lot of schools prefer you to have a TEFL qualification. There are many options on how to go about this. The more you pay, the more you get. Ideally, you would pay around £300 ($440) to do your in-class TEFL. This allows you to get some real class experience before you start teaching. However, not everyone can afford this.

I paid £120 for a 120-hour online course and it has served me well many countries and online. I used i-TO-i. I highly recommend them.

VISA

To legally teach in Thailand, you’ll need to get yourself a non-immigrant Visa “B” from your nearest Thai embassy. This costs £50 ($80 USD for Americans; $80 CAD for Canadians; $90 AUD for Australians).

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Flights

Unlike South Korea, and some other countries, you will have to pay for yourself to get to Thailand. Depending on how far you book in advance, the time of year and what airline you fly with, prices vary. But, on average, you should be able to purchase a one-way flight to Thailand from the UK for about £250 – £400, or about $650-$750 from North America.

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Accommodation

Most recruiters will help you find accommodation close to your school and/or near public transport routes. Like most rentals, this will require a month’s rent in advance plus a deposit. This is more expensive in Bangkok and other cities but still not as much as you’d expect, or at least not as much as you’re used to paying in Britain. So, depending on where you chose to live, expect roughly £150 – £250 ($250-360/mo).

Month’s Living Costs

You will need money to survive up until your first payday. The chances are that this will be just over a month from when you land. You’ll definitely need to bring some cash with you.

Living costs in Thailand are very low. The amount you spend really depends on the type of spender you are. I would suggest that if you’re good with budgeting, then you could get by on about £250 (~$350) (just eat street food and don’t go out too much), or if you’re like me and not very good at watching the pennies, you’ll probably need somewhere around £350 (~$500). That extra £100 goes a long way.

Basic Startup

Like with any other move, you’ll need to buy some basics, like bedding, cooking utensils, a fan etc. As I’ve mentioned, things are a lot cheaper than in the UK, so give yourself a budget of about £60 for these things.

Insurance

Many people choose not to take out travel insurance. I think it is a must! It’s better to be safe than sorry. There are many companies that offer competitive rates. Check out –

Travel Supermarket

You can get a basic package that lasts a year for about £100.

Conclusion…

I would say you could move to Thailand, with everything you need for about £1000 (~$1500) as the bare minimum. However, if you’re not on a budget then I would suggest 1500 – £2000, just to be more comfortable and prepared.

It is also worth noting that some jobs may require you to rent and ride a motorcycle to work (around £40 a month), so look into that before accepting any job.

It is rare, but some schools actually provide their teachers with free accommodation and/or airfare!

I hope this helped those of you looking for answers! If there is anything I missed, or you think some of my pricing is inaccurate then feel free to comment below!

Teaching in Thailand: Part 5 – All Good Things Come to an End

23/11/2014- I left South East Asia after almost 18 months of teaching in Thailand, and travelling around its neighboring countries.

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I did a lot; I saw a lot.

If you get the chance, just do it!

My main tip to people who are thinking about moving to Thailand and teaching is not to believe a lot of the negative experiences written online about it. Sure it isn’t perfect, but life isn’t, is it? The majority of people you meet have an avalanche of pros that outweigh their cons. And just remember, a lot depends on the type of person you are.

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My experience inspired me to teach and travel my way around the world (hence this site and its title), which is what I have been doing since I left. It’s hard to believe that as I write this I have been in Korea for almost 6 months already.

-Liam

Teaching in Thailand: Part 4 – Six Months in Monkey City

Moving is stressful.
However, when everything you own fits into a backpack, that stress significantly decreases.
In truth, my move from Nakon Nayok to Lopburi wasn’t stressful at all.
It was exciting.
Soon enough I’d get a new apartment, meet new people and start a new job.
 I was ready.
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Lopburi is not an unheard of place to many people that travel to Thailand. It’s on the backpacker’s route and was made famous to people in the UK by the popular TV show Idiot Abroad.
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Basically it’s a city overrun with monkeys, making it an intriguing place to visit. Or if you’re a TEFL teacher, to live in.
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At my new school, Anuban Lopburi, I worked with 6 other foreign teachers and taught Maths and Computer, as well as English. My experience there included some of the best months of my life. Lopburi has a good expat community and many things to do.

The department of the school we worked in was an MEP (Mini English Program), which meant the students had a decent level of English. Well, better than anything I had experienced before. This made teaching a lot more fun.
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Lopburi itself is a cool city.  My colleagues and I had mopeds for the duration of our stay, so we had the freedom to explore the surrounding areas and see some of rural Thailand.

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To any TEFL teachers looking to work in Thailand, I seriously don’t think you can go wrong with Lopburi.  Especially if you are worried about the culture shock, Lopburi has a few western restaurants and bars so you can have a good balance of Asia/ home.

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So, if you see a job vacancy for this city, GO FOR IT!

-Liam

Teaching in Thailand: Part 3 – Reflection, one year on.

April 2014.

“I’ve been in Thailand a year. WOW, that went quick.”

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An overwhelming sense of accomplishment is gladly welcomed after you finish something after a long period of time. If you enjoyed that something, it’s combined with a great sense of sadness too.

I’m not going to continue this with the monsoon of clichés (‘it was life-changing’ etc.) because that would be stating the obvious. But, instead, say that a year in Thailand for me wasn’t just a year abroad, a gap year, a way of travelling (even though I thought it would be before I left), but a new way of life and career. I am referring to the idea of a teaching/ travelling lifestyle, more than Thailand itself. The list of benefits this lifestyle offers is huge.

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However, I wasn’t done with Thailand just yet and signed a contract for a new semester, in a new school, in a different part of the country……

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-Liam

Teaching In Thailand: Part 2 – Teacher Liam

Teaching a bunch of kids English, how hard can it be?

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That was the dominant thought in my mind, every time I discussed the idea of a TEFL career when I was back in Wales. However, that pre-imagined vision soon vanished when I was stood in front of a class of 30 children, all staring at me as if I was some foreign alien (which I was)………

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As I nervously led my class through my first lesson, I couldn’t help but think how the term ‘thrown in at the deep end’ couldn’t be better suited than right now. None of the online teaching theory you learn prior helps very much. But, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It doesn’t take you long to get in a routine, judge what works and what doesn’t, and of course work out which students are the best behaved and which are truly menaceful. And you’re supposed to teach them English? A near impossible task.

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Any ESL teacher reading this blog will relate when I say that teaching English as a foreign language can be amazing. The comments and work some of the children produce is absolutely outstanding (for the comedy value, if not the correct English). Anyone who disagrees, approach a 7-year-old Thai kid and ask them to say ‘fox’.

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Every day in Thailand is different, every class you teach is different, every motor taxi ride to school is different, every weekend is different and every day something out of the normal and funny happens. This is how I like to live my life. Bamboo, Euro, Theatre, Nurse, Focus, PP, Troy, Book – These are not just random words, these are the names of a few of my students.

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Being a language teacher also gave me a sense of purpose that I never had with any other job. Helping and bettering people makes you feel like a better person.

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-Liam

Teaching In Thailand: Part 1 – The Arrival

In May 2013, I left my cold and monotonous lifestyle in the Welsh valleys and embarked on a career as an ESL teacher. Here is how it all began….

26/05/2013

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Uncomfortably positioned between an attractive young Indian woman, and a very fidgety old one, on a flight from Heathrow, it hit me like a ton of bricks…… I had just quit my job, uninhabited my home and geographically distanced myself from everyone I knew.

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Sawasdee Krung Thep (Hello Bangkok)

I will never forget that immense feeling of emotion when I first found myself alone in a new country. It was a combination of pure excitement and nerves. My imagination was out of control. I also felt very hot, which will not surprise anyone who has visited Thailand before; the weather is always sweltering.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is huge and complex, but after a marathon distance of walking, at gate 6 I finally found the representative from my agency, LoveTEFL, waiting for me. His name was Lordy, anyone who has used LoveTEFL before will know him. He is a friendly, chilled guy and had no bother answering my millions of questions.

We headed into the concrete chaos of Bangkok City.

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It was dark when I arrived but the advertisement billboards and speeding cars of erratic motorists lit up the highway. The streets of Bangkok were filled were food stalls (this must have been the infamous street food you read about online, I thought to myself), clothes stalls and rushing pedestrians. As we entered the hotel I met the teacher that would be joining me at my school for the next year. His name was Joe, a Cornish Newcastle United enthusiast who had done quite a bit of travelling before. He was an interesting and funny guy.

The 3 of us headed on the cities MR2 subway (an experience in itself for a young boy from Wales) to a bar where the first beer of my Thai experience was consumed. The beer was served with ice. What type of strange world is this?

At the end of the night, we had a meal, soup and water for the equivalent of 1GBP. It was full of flavor and my first taste of Thai cuisine. I loved it.

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Any nerves I was feeling no longer existed.

I was an energy ball of eagerness and excitement.

The drive to the school the next morning was scorching and I felt like an idiot because I was wearing shorts (my definition of smart dress) and the other 2 were wearing shirts and black trousers. Luckily this didn’t matter as the school was vacant when we arrived (my first experience of the unorganized chaos of Thai planning). The school is based about 1 hour and 20 minutes east of Bangkok, in a small town called Ongkharak, in the Nakhon Nayok province (the waterfall province).

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The school is an architectural masterpiece. Its golden bricks shape the structure into resembling a spaceship, and there is an observatory tower at the front of the building overlooking two spectacular lakes and a giant flag

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The following day we returned to school and met the head of English, an attractive young Thai girl with a great sense of humor called Mod (Thai for ant). We also met the assistant director of the school, a middle-aged flamboyant homosexual who no sooner than meeting us was inviting us to his house to ‘play’. I was on edge because our agent had told us we had been hired because of this man’s opinion of our pictures rather than the suitability of our CVs.

A few days of finding our bearings followed. We quickly discovered that there was not much to do in our area of residence but everything was insanely cheap and the people were friendly.

We also made friends with some local Thai lads, an old lady who sells meat on the street (my Thai mother) and purchased some push bikes. The bike choice at the local market was limited, so I ended up with an Angry Birds Limited Edition child’s bike. I looked ridiculous riding it.

We were starting to feel comfortable in our surroundings and I personally was loving absorbing the new culture that was dominant in our everyday lives.

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Then school started…

-Liam