5 Things to Think About Before Teaching Abroad in Thailand

by Published | Updated

Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for teaching abroad, and it’s no surprise why. With plenty of demand for teachers, opportunities for paid teaching jobs, and a variety of school options, teachers have a ton of freedom to find their own perfect teaching job in Thailand. Not to mention the supremely friendly people, incredible beaches, world class recreation, and delicious Thai food.

kids in thailand
Getting to know your students is one of the best perks of teaching in Thailand

If you’re considering teaching English in Thailand, be sure to read the following list of everything you need to know before you go!

1. Best locations for ESL teachers

Bangkok 

The capital has the highest concentration of teaching jobs in Thailand, as well as the most people and largest diversity of institutions. The central location makes it easy to travel around the country by plane, train, bus, or taxi. There’s also a large network of expats in Bangkok, which is a cultural, colorful, and highly international city.

Chiang Mai 

A popular alternative to teaching in Bangkok, this vibrant city lies in northwest Thailand, nestled next to impressive ancient forests and several national parks. Also a tourist destination, this region has plenty of students and schools, but maintains a peaceful charm and relaxed village vibe. 

Rural Thailand 

There are countless towns and villages in Thailand’s interior that also have a strong demand for teachers. These types of locations tend to be smaller, and offer a more intimate teaching experience with easy access to local culture, language, and cuisine. Some examples of locations for teaching jobs in rural Thailand include Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, and Saraburi.

woman in thai market
Visit the market to eat like the locals.

Southern Thailand

If you’re really into gorgeous beaches, tropical islands, scuba diving, and limestone cliffs, you should consider teaching in some of Thailand’s smaller cities and tourist hubs along the Gulf of Thailand. Some popular locations include Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, and Koh Samui. 

2. Types of schools

Consider researching the different types of schools to see which one appeal to you. Schools vary in hours of work, amount of workload, curriculum, materials provided, amenities, class size, and age of students. You can choose from public or government schools, private schools, language schools, work for corporations teaching business English, offer private lessons to families or individuals, or even teach monks in monasteries.

Picking the right school for you can make or break your experience teaching in Thailand, so don’t be afraid to spend some time figuring out a good fit. If your first teaching job in Thailand isn’t up to your expectations, keep looking. Opportunities to teach English in Thailand are everywhere, and strong networking skills can help.

[Get one-on-one advice via email about which programs are right for you]

3. Tips for inside the classroom

street food in thailand
Fuel up to churn out those lesson plans!

Large Class Sizes

Depending on your chosen location and school, challenges in the classroom will vary, but overcrowded classes are common. Some teachers will have a Thai teaching assistant, but this is not always guaranteed. Students in a single class may have differing commands of English, so it can be difficult to balance the material to all levels of understanding. Additionally, some schools may lack access to quality materials, computers, printers, and other technologies.

Student Motivation

Expectations can sometimes get the best of any international teacher. In some cases, Thai students simply have no motivation to learn English; maybe they plan on being a farmer or shopkeeper and do not see the benefit. Whatever the case, try to have fun and do not lose your enthusiasm. Try not to get discouraged if student progress is slow. The ones who really want to learn will seek your help.

Just do the best you can with what you have to work with. The rest will fall into place.

Buddhist Holidays 

As a teacher in Thailand, you can expect to receive more holidays than you are used to in the U.S. Some of these include Songkran (Thai New Year), Coronation Day, Royal Ploughing Ceremony day, Chulalongkorn day, and Loy Krathong. Some of these holidays last several days, which gives you time to travel and explore, or even better, to celebrate with the Thais and take part in their customs. You can expect to have time off from teaching during these national celebrations.

[Use MyGoAbroad to find & compare paid teaching jobs in Thailand]

fruit in thailand
You'll never tire of all the fresh tropical fruit!

What to Wear

Forget Hollywood stereotypes, most Thai people are quite modest in nature when it comes to clothing and dress. It’s not uncommon to see Thai men and women fully dressed while swimming in the ocean or playing on the beach. In most settings, especially schools and temples, women should be covered above the knee and at the shoulders. 

In your classroom, we recommend wearing conservative outfits and bringing these from home. Arm your international closet with plenty of loose-fitting clothes-items and breathable fabrics. Keep in mind that it can be tough for foreigners, even average sized ones, to find clothing that fits at the Thai markets or malls. 

4. Cultural know-how

Monk Etiquette

Monks are highly revered in Thai culture, which is mostly Buddhist. At least one male in each family is expected to enter the monkhood for at least some period of time. Only men are allowed to be monks, and they are forbidden to touch women as part of their vow of celibacy. Women should take care not to touch monks, recognizable by their bright orange robes. They usually even have their own designated section on buses and ferries too.

The Monarchy

Thais love their King. He is the world’s longest serving monarch, for more than 68 years. They do not tolerate criticism toward him, or the royal family in general. In fact, any insult toward the King is considered illegal, and can result in charges. In 2011 an American was actually detained and jailed for making defamatory comments about the monarchy in an online blog. Remember to take caution, especially when writing anything for public consumption. 

[Read even more advice on teaching in Thailand]

Thai Customs

  • The traditional form of greeting in Thai culture is the wai. All you do is put your palms together at your chest, finger tips pointing up, and give a slight bow.
  • Thais consider feet to be the lowliest, dirtiest part of the body. When sitting, be sure to point your feet away from people, tucked to the side or behind you. Pointing or touching with your toes or feet is offensive.
  • The head is the most revered part of the body. Touching someone’s head, especially someone of a higher age or rank, is considered rude.
  • Hot tempers, bursts of anger, and impatience are frowned upon. It’s better in Thai culture to keep a jai yen, or a “cool heart” even in stressful situations.

Find out more about Thai customs by reading our article on 12 Traits Every Teacher Should Know.

buddhas
Buddhism has a strong influence in Thai culture.

5. Life in Thailand for expats

Humidity & Air Conditioning

Thailand loves air conditioning. Big malls, larger buses for traveling, and many of the nicer private schools have air conditioning, and it’s likely it will be on full blast. If you get cold easily, bring a light sweater or jacket with you when you are teaching or traveling. A travel umbrella is also highly recommended.

Some people experience sore throats or coughs from constantly moving from extreme air conditioning inside to extreme heat and humidity outside. If this happens to you, consult your local pharmacist. 

On the other hand, some schools, especially in rural areas, do not offer air conditioning, so be prepared for the heat when teaching English in Thailand. You may need to bring an extra set of clothes to your placement each day to change into if needed, and stock up on body powder and deodorant.

[Amazing ESL jobs hiring now in Thailand]

Thai Toilets

In Bangkok and the more developed tourist regions of Thailand, it’s not uncommon to find Western style toilets. Toilet paper, though, is a different story. Thais generally use a water spray gun to clean themselves. If that’s not your style, you should carry tissue paper with you, and probably hand sanitizer as well.

chalk
Say good bye to dry erase markers and boards!

You will inevitably run into the infamous squat toilet. These tend to feel less sanitary, but are unavoidable. Just put your feet on the placeholders, and squat down as far as you can to do your business. When finished, you must pour water from a bucket into the toilet in order to “flush.” Footwear is recommended.

Another common thing you’ll see is a bucket of water instead of a spray gun to clean yourself. This may seem unsanitary, and it can be, so use with caution. Instead of being forced to resort to the bucket, bring tissue paper or wet wipes with you at all times. Some new teachers will even bring an extra set of clothes with them everywhere, just in case they get wet while cleaning in the bathroom. 

When You Are Out and About 

The Thai word for “foreigner” is farang. If you are a farang, chances are you’ll get scammed at least once during your time teaching in Thailand. Research common scams in Thailand so you can avoid spending too much money or getting jerked around. Although, bartering is common in outside marketplaces, so talk to the locals and make sure you’re getting a fair deal for goods purchased and taxi services.

[#1 Recommended program in Thailand: Teach abroad with ITA]

man on rope swing
Adventure actually CAN be baht! 

You're ready to teach in Thailand

Now that you’ve learned the basics, you are ready to teach English in Thailand! It’s a gorgeous country, with welcoming people, rich culture, and plenty of job opportunities. Once there, you may never want to leave. Your adventure is waiting!

Find teaching jobs in Thailand now

Topic:  Before You Go