Every year, thousands of people travel to the ‘Land of Smiles’ to teach English.
The list of benefits this decision has to offer is boundless, so instead of focusing on those, I’ve compiled a list of reasons why it may not be the best choice for everyone. If you’re thinking of teaching English in Thailand, you may want to reconsider if…
You want to make a lot of money
The teaching salary in Thailand isn’t great. 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 quite painful. The average monthly salary for a foreign teacher is around $1000 and accommodation is rarely included.
That said, jobs at international schools tend to pay better and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money alone and transfer the majority of their salaries home each month. It is possible to save money, but it definitely takes commitment and additional work, and not comparable to the savings potential of other popular ESL destinations such as China and South Korea.
You want to party 24/7
The Full Moon Party, Soi 11, 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 a backpacking trip or a traditional 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 crazy weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should always be the job. Ultimately — you’re there to work. I have seen numerous teachers fired and deported from the country for being drunk at school or for poor attendance due to a few too many Changs.
You aren’t willing to embrace a new culture
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 teaching placements are located away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country, which in my opinion allows for a more authentic cultural experience. However, that may not be everyone's cup of tea. I think it’s important to note that in many schools you could be the only English speaker. Not only that, but outside of the main cities it can be impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge oneself and grow — but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated, which in turn makes them unhappy.
You don’t like teaching
The title of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are far too many ESL teachers in Thailand who hate teaching. 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 for 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, enjoy the sunshine and see the sites will only make the weekdays miserable.
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 during my time. 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.