Teaching English abroad is without a doubt one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for myself.
I remember staying up late, getting lost in the Google-sphere of options for various programs around the world, and going to sleep giddy with excitement. But how to choose one?
When I first started, I thought about teaching in Africa, but I knew I needed to make a living. Teaching English in Europe wasn’t on my radar at the time because I had studied abroad in Spain several years earlier and wanted to go somewhere totally new. Thailand wasn’t initially on my list because, well, I didn’t even really know where it was and Asia was a vast expanse I knew nothing about.
When I discovered, however, that Thailand offers short-term contracts (my fear of commitment was really acting up now that I was this deep into my research), I began digging deeper.
By the time I booked my first one-way ticket to teach English in Thailand, I was far too elated to be scared, much too eager to harbor any doubt. The path just felt so…right.
Here are 10 reasons why you should teach English in Thailand:
1. Thai people are the friendliest
I felt this when I first arrived in Thailand, and when I took my first overnight bus to the rural area where I would teach English in a public high school. The locals were so helpful, friendly and accommodating even when we didn’t speak the same language. I could sense they genuinely cared whether or not I enjoyed their country and their culture and they wanted to help see to it that I did. I’ve since been fortunate enough to travel to 20 other countries, and I can say my first impression was right: Thai people are the friendlies in the world.
2. The culture is relaxed and rich
It likely goes without saying that any culture vastly different from our own will be fascinating — but not always in a good way. Thai culture, however, is so rich and varied that it’s hard not to love it. From the predominantly Buddhist belief system, to the food culture, to the motorbikes and frequent smiles, the country just oozes positivity and happiness.
3. Teachers are highly revered
Unlike some countries where teachers are not often respected by students or parents, teachers in Thailand are given the utmost respect by both. Students will wai you (a formal Thai greeting where both palms are placed together and raised to the chest or head in a bow) frequently, and the community around you will treat you like a celebrity. When you tell others you’re a teacher, or kru, you’ll notice a change in their demeanor from when they thought you were just a tourist on vacation.
4. The holidays are awesome
There are many public holidays in Thailand (you can see a whole list here), and then many more reasons for days off of school as well. Even the holidays that aren’t public, like Christmas for example, are usually celebrated with the same holiday cheer you’re used to back home. Students often participate in plays/skits and though they’re quite familiar with American and other Western holidays, they’ll be eager to learn about them from you.
5. The pay is liveable
While not the highest in Asia (see Japan and Korea for that), Thailand has some of the best pay per cost of living on the continent. Teachers with a University degree and zero experience often start out earning $1,000 USD per month, which is enough to live in modest comfort. A typical apartment costs only between $200-400 of that, which is significantly lower percentage than what we’re often used to in the States. Visit Numbeo.com for a detailed cost of living guide.
6. There’s a lot to see
Whether you teach in the North, Central, South, Northeast or Southeast regions (see the differences in regions here), you won’t be disappointed by Thailand’s natural beauty. From the rolling green mountains in the far North to the sprawling white sand beaches in the South or the quaint farm communities of the Northeast, there’s something for everyone to love, and always there will be plenty to see on a weekend trip nearby.
7. You’ll learn Thai from your students
One of the best parts about teaching, at least for me, is the opportunity to always be learning. You’ll learn so much from your students about culture, holidays, food, Thai language and more. They love the opportunity to teach you a thing or two, and they’ll be so excited to hear you say anything in Thai. Even though it’s not a requirement to learn the language in order to teach English in Thailand, our premium TEFL programs (see more here) come with a Thai language course so you can get a head start on your new life in Thailand, or perhaps just gain a few laughs from your class!
8. The food is delicious
Have you ever had Thai food in a restaurant where you’re from? If you think that’s good, imagine what it tastes like in the motherland. Food carts line the streets of almost every Thai city and town (there’s a joke that Thais are never more than 20 feet from food because it’s such an important part of their culture, and you’ll often see them eating at all hours of the day!), and they’re filled with some of the freshest fruits, best dishes and traditional snacks. Even better, most street food costs only between $1-2!
9. It’s tropical
Have I mentioned how beautiful this country is? Well, add to it the year-round tropical climate with temperatures rarely dropping below 80 (F) degrees, and you’re in for a real working holiday.
10. You’ll become a part of the community
Teaching English abroad is one of the best ways to immerse yourself into a culture and become a part of the local community. Locals will know you by name (remember that teacher status!); the food cart owners will remember your favorite dishes; your coworkers will invite you to lunches and dinners and weddings and events. Needless to say, it offers an experience you simply can’t get by just passing through on vacation.
Bonus Point: Thailand has short-term teach abroad contracts!
I mentioned before that one of the reasons I initially chose Thailand was for the short-term teaching contracts, but what I thought would be finished in five months was a love affair with a country that I continue to return to again and again. Not only did I ended up teaching in Thailand for one year, I also taught English in China afterward, and ended up staying in Asia for 18 months before returning home. Oh, and now I run this business to help people like you get started with an experience that changed my life for the better, and I’m absolutely confident it will yours, too.
Words and images from our founder, Jessica Hill.