Bangkok, Thailand is No. 1 on Time magazine’s 2013 list of the world’s most visited cities. Maybe the tourism ministry was right…going with the slogan “Amazing Thailand.”
So what is it about this country that’s so alluring?
Beyond the temples and beaches, it is my everyday existence. For example, the daily commute to work…I jump on my 100cc Honda Wave motorcycle. The smells from the cooked food stalls smack me in the face. Maybe a bug does as well.
A mini-bus drives by full of kids, some of them sitting on the roof. And by some I mean 15. A motorcycle flies by carrying a family of four…or was it five? They all converge on the main gate and in all this semi-organized chaos you just feel…well…alive. I haven’t reached the school yet, but am reeling from sensory overload and a smile has slowly crept across my face.
I’ve taught in several different rural schools, become fluent in the language, and made friendships and connections in Thailand that will last a lifetime. It has helped me develop as a person and the experience has been an incredible journey.
Another great feature of Thailand is the opportunity to work in many different settings. You can set up shop in a rural farming town, cosmopolitan Bangkok, a larger town, smaller city, hill tribe station, or five minutes from a beautiful beach.
Wherever you teach English, the local Thai community will welcome you with a warm smile and a wai (traditional greeting where palms are placed mindfully together in prayer position). This is true even in Bangkok, which is often thought of as 1,000 villages slammed together.
The Thai lifestyle is easy-going compared to the West, and there’s an attitude of sabai (chill) and sanook (fun). It permeates every part of life, from schools to meals to markets.
Speaking of markets, you can buy sticky rice with sliced up mango and coconut sauce slathered on top for a buck.
Compared to other countries in Asia, the salaries in Thailand aren’t very high. However, you don’t downgrade in terms of lifestyle, as everything from rent to food is inexpensive. The position of teacher in Thailand is highly respected and you’ll be treated very well. Enjoy the work, make an effort to learn the culture, and you will have a great experience.
Traveling and working abroad is a leap of faith. You are putting yourself out there into the unknown. And therein lies the thrill and beauty of it all. It can be wonderful or frustrating depending on the day. My advice is to take the Buddhist middle ground like the Thais. Adopt a go-with-the-flow attitude, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
Oh, and don’t forget to smile.
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