As we all know, it can be stressful when your plans for the future change. Other times, this spontaneous shift provides you with an endless supply of exciting adventures that help you see the world in new ways.
When people decide they want to teach in Thailand, they usually sign a 6-month or 12-month contract, and many expect to return home at the end of their initial commitment. However, Thailand’s easy-going atmosphere, affordable cost of living, and tendency to attract kick-ass expats and foreigners convinces quite a few ESL teachers to change their minds and stay. That’s the beauty of a one-way plane ticket. No matter how much you intend to leave, you aren’t committed to a departure date.
Here are three reasons ESL teachers want to teach in Thailand forever.
1) The culture
Thailand’s culture encompasses one of the most relaxed vibes of Southeast Asia while still providing life-changing experiences. Nicknamed the Land of Smiles, Thailand is known for its people’s tendency prioritize good times and happiness over the work-hustle attitude that we’re so accustomed to in America and Europe. Some expats simply can’t imagine moving back home and diving back into a traditional career trajectory after they see how Thais live. Everything moves a little slower in Thailand and oftentimes, that’s the lifestyle expats are seeking.
Additionally, it’s easy to form lasting connections and friendships with Thai people. They’re so eager to learn about American and other cultures and to share their own traditions with you. The welcoming and kind personalities that you’ll encounter in Thailand will tempt you to postpone your return home because you can’t forge these types of connections stateside. People in your town will likely invite you over for dinner, holiday celebrations and other events so you can experience more of Thailand than the popular tourist destinations.
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California-native Izzy Nastaskin planned to teach in Thailand for one semester and ultimately stayed for three. She explained how her family didn’t initially understand why she would choose to live in a country with the inconveniences that come with living in a less-developed country such as undrinkable tap water.
Those uncomfortable aspects of my day seemed like nothing compared to the love that the Thais continually showered me with,” she said.
One teachers get used to the different way of life (which is usually what they’re seeking in the first place), it becomes a very comfortable and inviting place to live.
2) The travel bug
Anyone who decides to teach on the other side of the planet is clearly interested in seeing the world. Fortunately, living in Southeast Asia is the perfect way to fill the pages of your passport with entry stamps and visas. The low cost of living makes transportation and accommodations inexpensive compared to prices in the U.S. A flight from Thailand to Cambodia is less than $100 and only takes about an hour, and a private room in a budget hostel can cost as little as $10. Plus, you’ll be making a comfortable salary that allows you to afford daily expenses and weekend getaways alike.
There’s so much to explore in that part of the world, and even just in Thailand, that you can’t see everything you want to in a year. The ability to experience entirely new cultures without breaking the bank is an awesome perk of living in Thailand that’s almost addicting. With two airports, multiple train stations and more bus stations than you can imagine, Bangkok serves as the ideal hub for both domestic and international travel.
3) The job
Although some American and English educators make the switch to teaching abroad, many ESL teachers who want to teach in Thailand earned degrees in completely different majors before trying their hands at teaching. While the most important training you could have happens on the job, it can be overwhelming to dive into teaching for the first time when you’re adjusting to a new culture. Because of that, there’s a learning curve, especially when it comes to Thailand’s no-fail policy and less-structured school environment. That being said, there are people who are fueled by such challenges. Some novice teachers feel like they’ve finally hit their stride toward the end of the school year; They know their students’ names, understand Thai social norms and have a bit of teaching experience under their belts.
Primary school teacher Gabriella Wolman has been teaching in Saraburi since May 2016 and recently decided to extend her stay.
I figured I might as well step into a new school year where I can actually start it off feeling like I have some idea of what to do and to approach it with a new, positive attitude, and try my best round 2 with their cute little faces,” she said.
Another teacher in Saraburi planned to teach in Thailand for less than a year; that was nearly five years ago. She has been able to follow the same class of students through most of primary school which has allowed her to thoroughly understand the kids’ learning styles and nurture their educational development. It’s easy to grow attached to your students and can be quite difficult to say goodbye, perhaps even more so than you anticipate.
Regardless of how long you think you’ll want to live and teach English in Thailand, now is the perfect time to get TEFL certified and start your new adventure abroad. Personal growth, new skills and thrilling travel adventures await!
Words by Christine Hayes.