Thailand is a mecca for retirees, people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who want to leave their home country and spend the rest of their lives in Thailand. Tens of thousands do it every year and many of them want to teach English. Teaching English gets them out of the house, supplements retirement income and allows them to integrate into the local Thai community. But as the official retirement age for teachers in Thailand is 60 years old, and many schools won’t hire teachers over the age of 45, many foreigners believe they can’t get a teaching job because they’re in their 50s, 60s or even 70s. True? Not at all and here’s how you can.
Get Qualified – First of all, make sure you’re qualified to teach English in Thailand and, if you’re not, get qualified. Qualifications currently include an undergraduate university degree (in any subject) and a TEFL, with at least one year’s teaching experience if possible.
Of course, even without a university degree, you can still get a job teaching English in Thailand in your 50s, 60s and 70s, but you’ll only have access to the lower-end jobs. If that’s the case though, at least take a four-week TEFL course somewhere like Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket. It’s well worth the money you’ll invest.
Move Outside Bangkok – Although it’s absolutely possible for a teacher in their 50s, 60s and 70s to get a teaching job in Bangkok, it’s likely to be more difficult than ‘upcountry’ (any place that’s not Bangkok). The majority of English teachers in Thailand live in Bangkok so with such high competition, if a school interviews you, a 62-year-old with gray hair and a lot of wrinkles or a 23-year-old backpacker who’s blonde, blue-eyed and wrinkle-free, nine times out of ten the backpacker will win out. (Whether that’s a good choice for the school is another conversation entirely).
But….if you move to a smaller town like Khon Kaen, Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Lop Buri, Samut Prakan or Surat Thani, western English teachers are more difficult to find as younger people don’t want to live there without the nightlife and glamor of Bangkok. That means, when you apply for an English teaching position, you’re at the top of the pile and will be hired immediately. Sure, salaries outside Bangkok are lower but so are living expenses. Much lower. Plus, you’ll be living with the ‘real Thailand culture’ here and not the westernized-version of it, like you would in Bangkok. The people are lovely too.
Look Professional and Dress Well – The most important factor to getting a job in Thailand is the way you look. Thais base all their opinions on appearance. So if you show up for the interview well-dressed in a pair of dress pants, long-sleeved shirt and conservative tie if you’re a guy, and knee-length professional skirt and long-sleeved blouse if you’re a woman, you’re already miles ahead of your competition.
Many people who want to teach in Thailand seem to think arriving for a job interview dressed casually or smelling of sweat “because it’s hot” is acceptable. Arriving like that, they won’t get the job. Even if you’re 65 or 70, you probably will will.
Be Positive and Smiling – Thais love positive people and they also adore people who smile a lot and are friendly Smiling and being relaxed is the basis of much of Thai culture, so if at the interview you seem relaxed, happy and smile a lot, you’ve already projected an image of a happy, confident person who must love Thailand. To the Thais that also means one who’s likely to show up every day and do a great job.
You’re over 60 years old, happy and smiling, dress well, look like you love your life and are willing to do what they want. Do they want to hire you? Of course they do.
Have a Finger in Many Pies – The most successful older English teachers I know in Thailand work at two or three places. That means, they usually have a part-time or full-time job at a language school, university or high-school. Then either in the evenings or on the weekends, they might pick up a part-time job teaching an extra four hours a week. It sounds like a lot of work, particularly for someone in their 50s, 60s or 70s but, actually, it’s not.
Teaching in Thailand isn’t particularly stressful as Thais like a laid-back life. But, if you have a couple of jobs going, if something does happen and they let you go for a ‘younger model’, you always have something to fall back on.
Plus, look at it this way – the more you work, the more you earn and, also, often the longer you live. Working a few extra hours a week teaching could mean you’d be able to save your entire retirement income and live off only what you make in Thailand. Now wouldn’t that be comforting.
Do a Good Job – Finally, once you get that coveted job, do it to the best of your ability. Show up every day, be happy, teach your students well, make an effort to get along with the Thai staff, get to know the Thai teachers and, the most important thing, eat the Thai food everyone will offer you.
In no time, you’ll be such a valued asset to the school, they’ll never want to let you go.
Teaching in Thailand in your 50s, 60s and 70s? Don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s not possible. Of course it is.