An ESL Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Teaching English in Thailand

The hardest part about visiting Thailand is leaving.

Trust me, I know.

Over six years ago, when I was first diving into the Google-sphere in search of information about teaching English abroad, I was so overwhelmed. Where do I start? How do I choose a country/program/training course? What if I’m scared to commit to a full year?

I eventually chose Thailand — despite really even knowing where it was — because it offered short-term contracts. My subsequent research revealed a tropical paradise and a highly intriguing culture.

From the limestone rock formations of Krabi and the white-sand beaches in Southern Thailand, to the adventure-rich city of Chiang Mai in the mountainous north, and Bangkok’s seemingly endless sprawl of pubs, shopping and international cuisine, there’s a landscape to cater to every style.

But it’s not just the landscapes and activities that lure millions of visitors to Thailand each year. It’s the super friendly locals, the varied and flavorful cuisine, the year-round sunshine and, perhaps most importantly for me, the rich, unique and uber-inviting culture. I didn’t want just a taste on a two-week vacation. I wanted to be immersed. I wanted to become as Thai as I could possibly become, by trying on traditional clothing and eating the spiciest foods and greeting others as the locals do. I wanted to respect their culture, to live it, while leaving my own idea of normal behind….but just for a little while.

So how does one accomplish such a feat?

By teaching English, of course.  

Teaching English in Thailand allows one to fully integrate into Thai society. Teachers are a respected part of the community, and as a foreigner (known as a farang locally — you’ll hear this a lot!), it’s the prime opportunity to see a country from the ground up; it’s educational arm. You get to bare witness to how another culture educates its youth, how it differs from your own in priorities, teaching styles and more. You’ll live and learn alongside locals, and you’ll be an active participant in the day-to-day life — not just the long tail boat riding, temple hopping and beach going tourist way of life (though there will be plenty of time for that, too).  

It’s the real deal.

For me, despite my initial fears, my five-month contract didn’t prove long enough. I ended up teaching in Thailand for nearly one year, and I still make it a point to return every other year for at least a couple of months to visit my friends, make new ones and explore new places or simply relax and just be.

You see, as a teacher in Thailand, you’ll bear witness to the pure magic of the nation that seeps deep into your skin, through your bones and eventually settles in.

It refuses to leave, calling you back again and again and again…

Don’t believe me yet? Keep reading.

-Jessica Hill, Founder — globalU


About the Countryteaching english in thailand

Thailand is a country steeped in unique traditions, beautiful customs and colorful ceremonies that have existed for thousands of years. Thailand has many archaeological ruins and famous temples. It is also well known for its delicious food, exotic fruits, intricately woven silk and cotton materials, Thai boxing and cultural dancing. Most important of all is the famous Thai Smile, and it’s often referred to as “The Land of Smiles.”

Climate

Thailand is a tropical country in the Northern Hemisphere. It is situated in Southeast Asia and bordered by Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia. It is the only country in this region never to be colonized by a Western country. Until 1940 the land was known as Siam although the Thai people always referred to it as Thai – meaning, “free.” Thailand has also been recognized internationally as a “Newly Industrialized Country” or NIC.

The country has three seasons – summer, rainy, and winter, although the temperature remains fairly constant. Many people describe the seasons as hot, hotter, and hottest.

Summer season goes from March – June (95° F ­‐ 104° F), rainy season from July – October (86° F ‐ 95° F) and winter from October – February (68° F‐ 86° F). Temperatures vary throughout the provinces.

Thai people do not listen to a weather forecast, as each day seems to be the same!

Language

Given that there are different dialects in the regions, the official language, “Thai”, is taught in all schools and by using (central) Thai, one can be understood throughout the country. Once you have mastered the Thai language you can learn the dialect of your region and gain a greater understanding of your new community, but it is not necessary to speak Thai to get by in Thailand.

Religion

More than 95% of the population is Buddhist. Other forms of religion are accepted and everyone has the freedom to choose his/her own religion. Buddhism is seen as a way of life for most people and you will see aspects of the religion in daily rituals throughout the country – from giving alms to the monks each morning, to wearing religious amulets and giving donations to temples for making merit.

The Thai Education system began in the temples, with the monks responsible for educating the people.

Nowadays, although schools are separate from the temples, religion is still a part of our education system. Buddhism is a compulsory subject for all Thai students. However, the emphasis is on learning religion so that it can help in everyday life, for example, learning how to meditate.

It is considered very respectful for a young man to enter monkhood, even if only for a short time. There is no set time when this is to be done; it is up to the individual, although many males choose to do this at the age of 20 or before a significant event in their lives, such as marriage or beginning a new job. The length of time that is involved is normally two weeks to three months. There are other occasions when young males will become a novice for a short time, such as the death of a close relative; the male shows great respect for his relatives and the religion by becoming a novice during this time. After the ceremonies the males resume their normal lives.

Thailand by Region

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces, each with an appointed governor and local administration. These provinces are grouped into four regions – the North, Northeast, Central and Southern regions, each with its distinctive culture and customs.

North: If you live and teach English in northern Thailand you will find it is a mountainous region. Teak forests stretch as far as the eye can see and there are many reforestation projects. Temperatures range from 90°F in the summer to 50°F ­‐ 68°F in the winter, but the humidity is high most of the year. There is a considerable amount of rain during June to October, and this is also the fruit season for this region. People speak a northern dialect that is more melodious than Central Thai – the official language. You will find people friendly and easy-­going and they enjoy meeting new acquaintances.

Central: Bangkok is the center of the region and is renown throughout the world as a cosmopolitan and international city. Bangkok has all the facilities available as in most other major cities in the world. It has plenty of fast food restaurants and supermarkets that sell imported food – it’s enough to make you feel that you haven’t left home (forgetting the traffic jams!), though it’s also rife with traditional culture so many find it’s a good balance of both comforts. The weather is constantly hot – about 90°F with slightly cooler temperatures at night and during “winter.”

The provinces surrounding Bangkok will lead you to rice fields, fruit orchards, industry, lush mountains in Kanchanaburi, and so much more. The provinces to the west are known as the food bowl of Thailand and produce most of the fruit and vegetables eaten in Thailand. Life outside of Bangkok is slower and more relaxed.

Teachers in Bangkok usually make more money to provide for the slightly higher cost of living.

South: The South offers yet another facet of Thai culture. Fishing and rubber production are the main industries. The South also offers coconut trees and white beaches stretching for hundreds of miles – a tropical paradise! The Malaysian influence is evident in aspects of life especially in the four most southern provinces. This is where you’ll find the picturesque limestone formations of Krabi, the unending beaches of Phuket, the famous island of Koh Phi Phi where the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, was shot, the long-celebrated Full Moon party on Koh Pha-Ngan, diving adventures and oh so much more!

The Northeast: The Northeast or “Isaan,” as it is locally known, is an agricultural area well off the beaten path. Traditionally known as the driest region in Thailand, there are many government development projects aimed at increasing the economic level of the people. In this area you will find Laotian and Cambodian influences – on the language, handicrafts, clothes, food and customs. You’ll find elaborate temples, the spiciest food, a slower pace of life and, most importantly, the friendliest people around. People in general are curious to know about foreigners and eager to learn about new cultures and ways of life.

teaching english in thailand

Why Teach English in Thailand?

Apart from the core of Thailand and what makes it tick, there’s everything else about it to completely fall in love with: the various landscapes from beaches to gorgeous mountains, the way a Thai person smiles—infectious and genuinely happy; there’s also the food, which may surprise you, but know this: it’s endlessly delicious and likely cheaper on the street than what you’re used to!

You will never run out of things to do in Thailand when you find gaps in your schedule (see Vacation/Holidays for Teachers in Thailand), from interesting museums to elephant sanctuaries, from bustling city life and people-watching in bazaars (markets) to ornate and awe-inspiring temples, there is a bit of magic everywhere you turn. Thailand is truly an experience, and having the opportunity to immerse yourself in Thai culture while teaching English in Thailand will only enhance your time there.

For the history buffs: Choosing to teach English in Thailand means you’re choosing to work within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) amongst 30-50,000 other foreign teachers. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Thailand form a collective group that promotes economic, political, social, and security cooperations.

At the heart of ASEAN is education—all of these nations center their education on history, culture, languages, and shared values. What that really means is that the very identity of each of these nations is reflected in the quality of their education. Your profession as an English teacher is highly valued and made a priority by ASEAN, so rest assured that you will feel taken care of while teaching English in Thailand!

Explore two unique teaching programs in Thailand

The scoop:

This 140-hour training course in Thailand will teach you everything you need to know to successfully teach English as a foreign language, in Thailand and around the world. When you graduate, we’ll help you find a job.

  • TEFL certification course included
  • No degree required
  • Non-native speakers eligible
  • 3 weeks + job placement

Learn more

The scoop:

A unique opportunity to teach English to young Buddhist monks in their temple school in Thailand. Stay with a local family near the Ayutthaya ruins and gain a behind the scenes experience into Thai Buddhism and Thai life.

  • No degree required
  • No experience required
  • Non-native speakers eligible
  • 1-4 months

Learn more

Qualifications for Teaching English in Thailand

Now that you’re pumped about taking your teaching-English-abroad career to unique and beautiful Thailand, let’s get down to business! There seems to be some debate on what the qualifications are for teaching English across the world, including in Thailand.

While it’s not a government requirement, to put it simply, you do not want to arrive in Thailand without a certificate for teaching English as a foreign language (or TEFL). Or, you can get TEFL certified in Thailand with this program. Especially for those without a degree or any teaching experience, a TEFL certification will greatly improve your chances of finding work (and allow you to negotiate a higher salary), plus it will prepare you for the challenges that lie ahead.

Many places will tell you that you also need to have a degree from a four-year university, and some teaching experience is preferred. However, if you want to teach in Thailand without a degree and/or previous experience, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker; it just might make things a little more challenging. We know you’re up for it!

If teaching at the university level sounds most interesting to you, you do need a master’s degree, and it would be an advantage if it’s in education.

Thailand is also open to non-native speakers of English, as long as you speak fluently enough to teach!

As much as we have done and enjoyed the whole fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thing while traveling, taking your qualifications seriously as a potential teacher in Thailand is important because it comes down to work permits and visas. Taking a chance on that kind of paperwork won’t be worth it if instead you can just adequately prepare before shipping your lovely self off to teach English in Thailand.

 

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“Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to since I moved to Thailand in September of 2014: became close friends with my TESOL group (this September I’ll be going to the wedding of a couple who met in the group); taught in the middle of nowhere Thailand for a year and a half; was ‘adopted’ by a Thai family and ate dinner with them every single night; learned how to fluently speak, read, and write Thai; traveled all around Thailand and Southeast Asia including Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, and Indonesia; and, bonus: taught myself coding in my spare time, which lead to me working remotely in Bali and eventually landing my dream job in NYC!”

Adam Jubert (USA)

Kinds of Schools You Can Work In

There are a variety of school options in Thailand, and while each provides its own list of advantages and disadvantages, they are all solid options for teaching English there.

Government Schools — The majority of jobs you will find are in government (public) schools, which offer a unique opportunity to see Thai culture up close and personal. They also provide a cushy Monday-Friday work week with all national holidays (see Vacation/Holidays for Teachers in Thailand) paid, as well as breaks between semesters, in October and April.

Private Schools — There are private schools that don’t differ much from public schools, though they often pay higher and may have more requirements.

Language Institutes — Private language institutes are schools like English First or Disney English which have expanded around the globe with the ever-increasing desire to learn English. They offer a unique opportunity to teach a mixed bag of age groups and English levels, which can be fun for the teacher who likes a challenge and is quickly bored. They also often pay more than public schools, but working hours will often be nights and weekends, when the clientele is out of work and school.

International Schools & Universities — Both international schools and universities will require you to have a master’s degree in a related field and likely experience, too.  

What You’ll be Required to do

Though Thailand is a place where relaxed moods will change your perspective on how to get things done (or in what amount of time), an ultimate level of professionalism should be exercised while teaching English in Thailand.

You will also be required to dress in a professional and conservative manner. We know what you’re thinking: but isn’t Thailand HOT and super humid?!

Yes, yes it is.

Save your shorts and sleeveless shirts for the beach or pool, and maintain a teacher-like dress of long pants or knee-length skirts, no low-cut tops, blouses with sleeves, and no open-toed shoes. We’d hate for you to get all the way to Thailand only to blow your impression immediately by being dressed inappropriately!

If you’re still not convinced you should take this aspect seriously, think of it this way: if you choose to leave your conservative clothes at home, you’ll stand out in a bad way. Try to find teacher-appropriate outfits that are also lightweight, and you’ll still fit right in!

Men — typically sport dress/khaki pants with dress shoes and short-sleeve, button-up shirts. Tie or bowtie is optional.

Women — frequently wear knee-length skirts or dresses with closed-toed flats or heels and short-sleeve but conservative blouses.

 

Easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

~Connor MacDonald (Canada)

What the Students are Like

We’ve already mentioned Thailand in relation to its broad smiles worn on nearly every individual, but it has to be said that your students will be no exception! Thai students are eager to learn, motivated, and come with a special dash of fascination over native English-speaking countries. Some students may already have some experience learning English, depending on the level at which you teach.

Take your teaching abilities one step further and bring mementos from home to show your students—photos, knick-knacks, a recipe from your culture to prepare for your classroom, or a favorite book of poems or stories to share as a learning tool. Though your students may be motivated to learn English, they may need to first get over their shyness (this is where icebreakers may come in handy). But regardless of first impressions, from children to adults, your time with Thai students will feel rewarding to say the least.

All students at school are expected to “wai” their teachers when first greeting them for the day, which is to place your palms together with your fingers just  below your nose and bow your head to display high respect when walking past a teacher or elder.

This is perhaps very different to other cultures where the teachers have to earn the respect of the student. Here, respect is the norm.

You are not expected to wai each student in return (that would be exhausting!). As a teacher, you should wai those in senior positions to you, and they will return the wai to you. This greeting is a critical part of Thai culture.

Salaries to Expect

The base salary for teachers in Thailand who are TEFL certified is around 30,000 THB/month (~1,000 USD). But as with any other job, the more education and teaching experience you have going in, the higher a wage you will be paid. Your wage will also depend on which avenue you take — public or private — and how long you’re willing to commit to. A native speaking TEFL certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree can expect to start between 35,000-38,000 THB/month. It may not sound like a lot at first, but when you pair it with the super low cost of living, you’ll learn you can live quite comfortably as a teacher in Thailand.

Vacation/Holidays for Teachers in Thailand

It’s okay to be excited about this part! One of the best aspects of teaching English in Thailand is the fact that many holidays are celebrated, leaving you some time to explore! While the first semester is from May through September, the second semester doesn’t begin until November, running through March.

The timing of when you come to teach English in Thailand is crucial, but there are still opportunities to teach in between semesters for specialized language programs just in case you’ve already seen all there is to see in Thailand (ha, doubtful!).

The month of May has four different celebrated holidays; July has three; August, two; October, three… do you see where we’re going with this?

Taking mini vacations or longer trips is a definite possibility during your stay there. We encourage you to get out and see the land with so many different breaks to choose from!

teaching english in thailand

 

Getting a Work Permit

The visa and work permit process in Thailand is a multi-step one. Many countries are eligible for a free 30-day tourist visa, which is how most people enter the country. This means that if you’re from one of the exempt countries you don’t need to do anything before you go, and the folks at Customs will stamp your visa in your passport when you arrive. This is sufficient for most in-country TEFL training courses, which are usually only three or four weeks.

Within that 30 days, you’ll want to convert your visa into a Non-immigrant visa. For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, you’ll want the “B” category of this visa, which states you have intent to work as a teacher in Thailand. Once you have this in hand, you’re eligible to work for up to 90 days, which is enough time for the next step: the work permit.

The Non-immigrant visa and the work permit are both needed to work legally in Thailand. They both require a boat load of paperwork from your employer as well as some extras on your end (a clean criminal record check, a clean bill of health, etc.), but it will be all worth it in the end.

Getting a Bank Account & Getting Paid

The specifics will differ depending on your employer, but programs like this one will help you arrange a Thai bank account where your school can then direct deposit your paycheck. Schools typically pay monthly, and at the end of the month. They will pay you in local currency (Thai baht), and you can use your ATM card to withdraw cash just like you would back home.

If you don’t have a program/agency to help you set up a Thai bank account, you will need to wait until you have a work permit before you can open an account, and you’ll likely want a trusted Thai friend/coworker to go to the bank with you since most (if not all) the paperwork will be in Thai, and the bank employees most likely do not speak English.

Finding Accommodation

Because the expatriate and foreign teacher population is so large and lively, there are many opportunities for roommate-hunting throughout the country. And with the cost of living in Thailand being so low, around 2,500 – 5,000 baht per month is common for a one-bedroom apartment. You might pay more for an apartment or room in Bangkok (if you’re looking for a furnished high-rise condominium with a pool, gym, etc. then you’ll be looking at the 9,000 – 15,000 THB/month range) than you would in Chiang Mai, but overall, you’re likely to feel very pleased with your accommodations while teaching English in Thailand.

It’s quite easy to find already-furnished accommodation, which will include a bed, fridge, rice cooker and a table or desk, plus basic kitchen items. It’s quite easy (and super cheap) to finish out your decor with cheap towels, bedding, pots and pans, etc. from the local market to give the place your own unique touch. Plus, since it’s so cheap to eat out in Thailand (the best street food ranges from $1-3 USD and restaurant food is usually $3-9), most teachers rarely cook meals themselves.

Political Climate and Crime Rates in Thailand

These are important topics to consider when traveling anywhere, so we appreciate your attention on this! As far as the political climate in Thailand, 2016 was an unsteady year when King Bhumibhol Adulyadej passed away after 70 years of rule. Things began to shift, and are now in a state of political change. The state of education is included in these shifts, but education has been affected before in the past, and still remains one of the best countries to teach English in (see Why Teach English in Thailand?).

Crime rate in Thailand is generally not on a spike. The targets for violent crime are not foreign English teachers or tourists for that matter, so you can rest a little easier. However, as with any new country you choose to visit (let alone live in!), you might get an insider scoop on what it’s really like there after some time, especially given the recent political changes. You’ll come to know the ways of avoiding getting involved in any risky situations because you’ll watch your back, be aware of your surroundings, and be smart while drinking (stay in groups).

If your friends or family aren’t convinced that Thailand feels like a safe place, try sending them to this website to draw comparisons/contrasts between your home country and Thailand. For example, Thailand is ranked higher than the United States when it comes to crime levels, but it also has lower drug rates, a significantly lower rape rate, and only ranked 37th when it comes to violent gun crimes (the U.S. is ranked #1). This is one of those cases where it truly is all about perspective.

Ready to dive in?

Explore our teaching programs in Thailand.

 

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Communicating with People Back Home

Speaking of friends and family, it’s sometimes difficult to relay to them how best to communicate with you while abroad. Once you’re in a foreign country, the rules of communication obviously change because you can’t reach out to your home country without paying a fortune. So do your friends and family a favor and tell them just how they can reach you before you leave:

WhatsApp

Probably the most popular texting app, WhatsApp is a reliable form of communication, as long as those you’re trying to reach set the app up on their phone, too (hey, this part seems to trip people up if they’ve never had to use it before!). The nice thing about WhatsApp is that it also has a video chat feature, as well as a voice chatting feature for when you can’t type out everything you want to say.

Facebook Messenger

Though not as strong of a communication platform as WhatsApp, let your Facebook friends know they can reach you via Messenger should they need to. It also comes with a video chat feature, but usually only works well when there are no kinks in the Wi-Fi network.

Skype

Skype seems as though it will always be a reputable way to actually see your family, friends and loved ones instead of just hearing them speak, and they luckily still have free options available. We suggest setting up a time that works for both you and the callee based on your respective time zones, and sticking to that time however many times per month is necessary to update them on your life, or to just let your parents know that you’re still alive (because we all know how much they worry!).

FaceTime and iMessages

If you have an iPhone, iPhone users back home have an advantage over others in that they can send you iMessages (and you to them while connected to wifi) and FaceTime call or video chat you at any point with no need to download something extra. But because not everyone has an iPhone, you may find yourself using iMessages less, and WhatsApp more.

Good Old Fashioned Email

This might be an obvious choice, but the nice thing about an email is that there is no limit on length like there are in texts, messages, or while connected to a potentially spotty Wi-Fi connection while trying to get one sentence through over video chat. Just saying.

Postcards

See how many you can send in one calendar year! Though it may take a while for the postcards to reach their destination, we can tell you the receiver always appreciates them, and they become little mementos to hang on fridges (you may even spark their interest to come visit you and see how amazing Thailand is for themselves!).

Also, bonus: you get to see what a post office looks like in Thailand. Guarantee it will be an experience!

“I’ve had the most amazing journey from China to Thailand, trekking over land and am having a good start in the classroom. Thanks for helping me make this great decision and aiding my transition into your course.”

-Troy Erz, Thailand Course (USA)

 

Obtaining Health Insurance in Thailand

The Thai government doesn’t require you to have health insurance while you’re teaching English there, but for many going without is an uncomfortable feeling. No need to worry, you have options! Depending on how long you plan to stay and teach in Thailand, you may want to consider comprehensive travelers insurance, international medical insurance, or local health insurance.

If you plan to stay at least one year, or perhaps even indefinitely, then the latter might be for you. There is a local company called AIA that insures expatriates who are work permit holders for very affordable rates. If you think you’ll only be around for a semester or less, then you might consider travel insurance (which is usually calculated at a daily rate and becomes cheaper the longer your plan is) through a company such as Allianz or World Nomads. You’ll want to make sure the plan covers all the activities you plan to partake in (often things like motorbike accidents are not covered so ask about this since it’s a very popular way of transportation for teachers in Thailand)!

If you’re planning to be abroad for at least six months, there are long-term international plans for expatriates available (also through Allianz) at affordable rates. We found this article to be quite useful for comparing and contrasting plans.   

Dealing with Taxes 

What would this guide be if we didn’t also discuss dealing with taxes while you teach English in Thailand? If you’re coming from the United States, what you earn as an English teacher is considered foreign earned income and therefore, you are eligible for a foreign earned income exclusion benefit. This will walk you through the process of filing the benefit, and ensure you meet all of the qualifications. If you’re coming from another country, do research on your national tax collection agency’s website, or try to reach out to a teacher who has gone through the process before, either through Facebook groups designed to connect foreign English teachers, or through inquiries on chat posts.

Dealing with Student Loans

Dun-dun-duuuun! Don’t forget about your pesky student loans, too, while teaching English in Thailand! For Americans, we have that nifty income-based repayment plan option that is your saving grace when life takes you to teach English abroad. Read more about it here. Your adjusted gross income (AGI) and student loans are connected, so be sure to understand just what you’re getting into after moving abroad for work. This also has to do with your student loan interest deduction, and whether you will qualify for that when tax time rolls around. When on an income-based repayment plan, be sure to discuss the changes (if any) working overseas will do to your monthly payments with your loan servicer, as the answer to this question can vary.

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Sending Money Home 

PayPal

As long as you have a personal account and your family member or friend has one, too, then it’s free to send money to one another from Thailand back to them.

Venmo

Only requiring a debit card on both ends, this option is just a few clicks away from sending money back and forth. Small fees may apply, depending on your transfer, but it usually only takes 1-2 days to process.

Western Union

Did you know that Western Union (WE) still exists?! We didn’t! Just like PayPal, WE lets you transfer money back home online, though there are fees involved.

How to Make Extra Money while Teaching English in Thailand

If the low cost of living and cushy teacher salary aren’t quite enough to satisfy your financial status while teaching English in Thailand, then there are ways to supplement your income. There’s always teaching online in your spare time by setting your own schedule, or choosing to privately tutor on the side. Many

foreign English teachers choose to tutor, because you can make those connections with students who require or wish to get more help with their English through the institution you’re already working at. Once you’re all set up in Thailand, making those connections and learning where to find tutoring possibilities will come naturally.

There are also other ways to earn more money while teaching in Thailand that have, well, nothing to do with teaching! Have you ever considered becoming a virtual assistant? Small businesses are often in need of help with their social media accounts, scheduling, technical assistance, and anything in between! You may be more qualified for this type of job than you think! In order to find jobs, there’s always Craigslist, but a large portion of quality positions can be found within Facebook groups. Just pop “virtual assistant” into the search bar, select groups, and join up! 

Potential Downsides to Teaching English in Thailand

Even though Thailand remains the only country we’ve never heard any traveler complain about, we wouldn’t be doing you any favors by leaving out the potential downsides of living and teaching there. As with any job, it’s not all roses and sunshine! But we know you didn’t expect that, anyway.

For starters, the culture is very, very different. We know that was a big appeal for why you chose to consider Thailand for your teach abroad adventure, but it’s also one of the more difficult things to get used to. If you’re a go-getter, a list-maker, a full-day planner…Thailand will throw you a curve ball (and probably make you rethink those habits). The culture is so very relaxed that those used to the hustle bustle back home often have difficulty at first. You’ll hear of a thing called “Thai time,” which is pretty much a complete disregard for time, and you’ll wonder why nothing ever seems to get done in an efficient manner, but eventually you’ll come to understand that their value system is different, and that it’s not bad. In fact, you may even grow to like it more.

Another downside might be the lack of enthusiasm from your students. Just think back to when you were in high school and being forced to learn Spanish, or Math, or some other language that you just didn’t understand the application to your life. For many students in Thailand, that’s the same for them. It’s your (sometimes difficult) job to create lessons that will inspire and excite them to speak and learn the English language. And you do have one big advantage in this task: most Thai students are not used to a Western style of teaching, which is often much more engaging and interactive than the traditional Thai way, which is where the teacher talks and the students listen.

That’s pretty much it as far as downsides, unless you’re extremely averse to spicy food, new experiences and endless adventures! (Wink.)

Dive in. The water’s just fine.

The best piece of advice we can offer is to enter Thailand with an open mind, allow the generous people you’ll meet and the unforgettable experiences you’ll have to open it even further, and remind yourself to go with the flow with every last-minute plan change or late bus. Soon you’ll wonder why you even cared about the cultural differences in the first place, and you’ll dread that return home date marked on your calendar!

So whether you choose a short-term option like I did initially, or choose to sign a one-year or two-year contract, you will never run out of things to do or places to explore. The people will be wearing smiles almost always, and you might find yourself wearing one quite permanently, too.

Your new life awaits you abroad.

Dive in.

The scoop:

This 140-hour training course in Thailand will teach you everything you need to know to successfully teach English as a foreign language, in Thailand and around the world. When you graduate, we’ll help you find a job.

  • TEFL certification course included
  • No degree required
  • Non-native speakers eligible
  • 3 weeks + job placement

Learn more

The scoop:

A unique opportunity to teach English to young Buddhist monks in their temple school in Thailand. Stay with a local family near the Ayutthaya ruins and gain a behind the scenes experience into Thai Buddhism and Thai life.

  • No degree required
  • No experience required
  • Non-native speakers eligible
  • 1-4 months

Learn more


Words by Jessica Hill and Jayla Rae Ardelean.