About nine years ago I traveled to Thailand for a vacation…and I immediately fell in love with the place. The food, the culture, the beaches, the friendliness of the people…but most of all, the weather.
Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles.” I think the Thais are so happy because every morning when they wake up they see the sun shining in their windows. I decided there and then that I wouldn’t be going home.
A huge proportion of the Westerners living in Thailand are English teachers, so it was the obvious career choice for me. I thought, if everyone else can do it, why can’t I?
Years ago, it was possible for a native English speaker to walk straight into a school in Thailand without any qualifications and come out with a job—but things were beginning to change by the time I arrived. I would need to get certified first, but once I did, I quickly found work in a secondary school.
I was a bit nervous at first, but I soon found my feet. Thai students are always really happy—they much prefer to play games and joke around rather than open their books to study. The best way to get results is to introduce a level of fun into the learning process. Teaching English in Thailand would not be a job for someone who is too serious.
I teach 16 periods per week (each period is 50 minutes). I start work at 7:50 a.m. and finish at 3:50 p.m. Monday to Friday. I still have a lot of downtime during the day to take long lunches, hang out in the park or just go for a walk. Bangkok is a high-tempo, exciting city, where it is impossible to get bored.
It’s easy to make friends here and I’ve made a lot of good ones. The Thais are just about the friendliest people on the planet and because most of the English teachers here arrived alone and had to start out making friends from scratch, we all look out for new people and make sure to include them.
Right now, I spend my Saturdays in a local university because I’m studying for my Bachelor’s Degree. Study here is inexpensive. My salary easily pays for my apartment, the scooter I get around on, lots of meals out and for my university course. It’s a comfortable lifestyle.
On Sundays, my day off, I normally go to my local gym, the cinema or hang out with friends. Everything is cheaper here—I often stop off for a massage on my way home—an hour with a qualified, skilled masseuse costs about $6.
One of the best perks of being an English teacher is that I get three months’ paid vacation per year (March, April and October). It gives me the time to explore other parts of Thailand. I’ve been all around the south islands in the Andaman Sea and in the Gulf of Thailand, and I’ve headed up north to the picturesque second city of Chiang Mai and the rural heartlands of Pai and Mae Hong Son.
The area around Chiang Mai is particularly beautiful.
I’ve also visited some of Thailand’s neighbors during my time off. Countries like Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia are right on my doorstep. Thailand’s low-cost carriers can fly you to many of these countries from Bangkok for less than $100 round-trip.
The salaries schools pay here are easily enough to get by on comfortably, with plenty of treats and some left over to save, but there are opportunities to make extra money by tutoring students. If you are a good teacher students will often ask you to tutor them at the weekend. I’ve tried this from time-to-time, but these days I prefer to skip it—I enjoy my free time.
I have been in Thailand for eight years now and I have no plans to move home anytime soon.
I love being able to plan a trip to the beach knowing it won’t rain that day. If I was to move on it would probably be to teach English somewhere like South Korea. The salaries there are even higher than in Thailand, you get free accommodation included and the students are known for being very eager to learn.
If you’re thinking about getting into this line of work and adopting the lifestyle that comes with it, my advice would be that you should just do it.
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