For an ESL teacher, the world is full of possibilities. There are so many countries around the world to choose from to go teach, the choice might be daunting. While there are many great places to go, Thailand is a wonderful option.
There is a huge emphasis in Thailand on learning English from a native speaker. For this reason, there is substantial demand for ESL teachers, and job openings are abundant. This also means Thai schools are more willing to hire first time teachers. There are even tons of programs where you get your TEFL certificate after arriving in Thailand, and you are then placed at a school within the country. Even for experienced teachers, Thailand’s need for native English speakers has perks. Many schools will offer added incentives to make the moving process easier. For example, my company assisted with every step of the visa process, paid for me to stay at a hotel when I arrived in Thailand and helped me find an apartment. This huge availability of jobs also means you have a lot of options. You can teach in any region of Thailand, and you can have your choice if you want to teach primary or secondary school. I knew I wanted to teach older students, live in a city and be near the beach, and that is exactly what I am doing.
Low cost of living
Sure, countries like the U.A.E. are famous amongst ESL teachers for paying a high salary, but Thailand is cheap. How cheap is it? You can get a meal for 1 USD, an hour massage for 10 USD and the monthly rent on my modern, centrally located apartment is 130 USD. In addition, you won’t get rich working as a teacher here, but you will make plenty of money to live comfortably. Because ESL teachers are in such high demand, many Thai schools will pay native English speakers two or three times as much as local teachers. This higher salary, combined with the low cost of living, means you will not struggle to make ends meet as a teacher here.
Making a difference
Thailand is a country where you can feel good about teaching. While teaching is always a worthy profession, Thailand in particular is a place where ESL teachers are doing important work. It is a developing country, and speaking English is a valuable skill that helps Thais advance their education and careers. In addition, there are many opportunities to volunteer here. Some people forgo the salary to volunteer as a teacher at a school that cannot afford to hire native English speakers. If this is not for you, there are opportunities to spend some of your free time volunteering at orphanages and animal shelters, and many seaside towns organize days where volunteer groups clean up trash on the beach.
The Thai lifestyle
There is so much to love about life in Thailand. Everyone you meet is friendly – it’s called the Land of Smiles for a reason. In addition, you can enjoy the small luxuries of life here. For me, those include fresh fruit, yoga classes in the Buddhist tradition and the best smoothies I have ever tasted. Plus, if cooking is not for you, Thailand is perfect. Most homes do not have kitchens, and instead, people typically eat out or get takeaway for every meal. And if you want to experience a culture totally different from the Western world, this is the place to go. I have travelled extensively around Central America and Europe, but Thailand is unlikely anywhere else I have ever been. Everything from the food to the religious traditions were completely foreign to me when I first arrived in this country. I love living here and learning everyday about a new culture.
Experience the real Thailand
While Thailand is a major tourist destination, few tourists truly experience the Thai culture and lifestyle. This could be said for any foreign country, but Thailand in particular is a place where it takes extra effort to learn what life is like for the people who live there. It is very easy to spend all your time at the beach, eating only Western food and barely interacting with the locals. Instead, living in a city most tourists avoid, I get to experience what life is actually like in this country. It’s not always pretty – squat toilets and rats come to mind – but it is worthwhile to see how people live on the other side of the world.
It’s summer all the time
If you hate cold and snow, Thailand is the place for you. The country has three seasons – hot, rainy and hot/rainy. Some people might not enjoy this hot, wet weather, but if you are looking to escape the cold and live in a tropical climate, Thailand is a great option.
Spending every weekend at the beach
This was one of my favorite parts about Thailand. If you work in southern Thailand, you can easily spend every weekend at the beach, and let me tell you, Thailand has some beautiful beaches. You might be working five days a week, but let’s be real – the best reason to come to Thailand is for the beaches.
There are tons of Buddhist holidays. Between these and seemingly random days off (like all the Thai teachers at my school decided to go to Bangkok for a week), I sometimes feel like I am hardly working. Seriously, my fellow ESL teachers and I joke that we are off more Mondays than we work, and so far, we aren’t far off the mark. Since almost every school in Thailand will pay you for these days off, enjoy the many three day weekends.
In addition to exploring Thailand, you also have easy access to the rest of Southeast Asia. Spend your time off work exploring the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia or the busy international city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Other destinations include Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. All of these spots are inexpensive and a bus ride or short flight from Thailand. You will have plenty of time off work, especially between semesters, so you can make the most of it and discover everything Southeast Asia has to offer.
Access to the comforts of home
Most English teachers come to Thailand because they want to experience a culture and lifestyle very different from back home. However, every now and then, you crave the comforts of your home country. In Thailand, these comforts are available in certain areas, especially when it comes to food. Bangkok is an international city and offers every cuisine imaginable, and tourist spots like the southern beaches also have a wide variety of Western restaurants. If it is something other than food you are craving, city malls will offer many Western-style products.
Meeting other English speakers
While most of the Thai population does not speak English, there are many native English speakers residing in this country, including other English teachers and expats. I live in a mid-sized Thai city, and there is a close community of more than 100 ESL teachers. This is a huge plus is you want a guarantee that you will make friends who can speak your language.