Many people come to Thailand every year to teach English. Filled with dreams of beautiful beaches, clear ocean, cheap living and gorgeous girls, teaching in Thailand seems like teaching in paradise.
Quickly though, most teachers learn the problems teaching English in Thailand can sometimes outweigh the benefits.
That’s why, if you’re thinking of coming to Thailand to teach English, make sure you’re aware of all the potential problems before you get here. Because, once you’re here, and the first problem rears its ugly head, disillusionment can set in fast.
Employers often don’t tell the truth in Thailand about salaries and vacation time – Every English teaching job I’ve had in Thailand, I’ve been lied to about salary, benefits and vacation time. Even in my current job working for a large international company, I’ve been promised contracts I haven’t received, salary increases that didn’t materialize, and vacation time I never got.
That’s why I resigned from my latest job (even though I loved the job and my students) and decided to move away from teaching permanently.
And, no, it’s not just me that has been lied to. I have met several hundred teachers in my 14 years in Thailand, and just about every one of them has not been told the truth when it comes to many of the teaching jobs they have accepted.
Getting a work permit can be a problem when teaching in Thailand – Work permits are difficult to get in Thailand and, in recent years due to government changes, they have become even more problematic.
They shouldn’t be but, because many Thai employers and Thai teaching agencies will tell you they will get you a work permit, but then they don’t, you’ll very quickly come across a job that doesn’t get you one.
If offered a work permit and then told, after you take the job, that they can’t get you one, threaten to quit and, if they still aren’t getting you a work permit, then do quit as, working without one is illegal.
Besides, teaching English in Thailand is difficult enough without teaching minus a work permit too. There are schools and companies that will get you one, so make sure your job is one of them.
Salaries for teaching jobs in Thailand are low – A few years ago, when the cost of living was lower, English teaching salaries for western teachers in Thailand were quite good. Nowadays, seeing as how the average teaching salary in Thailand hasn’t increased in over 20 years, salaries are low.
Average teaching salary in Thailand is between 25,000 to 38,000 baht per month for most teachers (approximately $725 to $1,100).
Personally, I don’t know how teachers survive on that, as I’ve never made below 55,000 baht a month (around $1,600) and, in my last teaching job, I made a lot more, yet still found it difficult to live on my salary and save money too.
Teaching jobs in other parts of Asia pay a lot more so, if you’re not too married to the idea of Thailand, unless you have a high paying job with an international school, I’d say try Japan, Korea or Malaysia instead.
Teaching agencies in Thailand have bad reputations – Avoid getting a job through a teaching agency in Thailand if at all possible. Most teaching agencies have bad reputations (for good reason) and almost everyone I know has been scammed by one at one time or another.
My last teaching job in Thailand was through an agency, an agency which is one of the better ones, and I was still lied to on a monthly basis.
In fact, the only job I have ever had in Thailand where I wasn’t lied to was through an agency run by a westerner and not a Thai, and what he told me was exactly what I got.
So, if you’re coming to Thailand to teach English, avoid the agencies if you can. You’ll have fewer problems that way.
Jumping through government hoops can be a problem while teaching in Thailand – There are many ridiculous requirements for work permits, visas and anything else related to working in Thailand legally.
For instance, every 90 days, you have to go to the Immigration office and report your address. Now, I’ve lived at the same place for 14 years, yet, every 90 days I still have to take time off my job and report to immigration. Why? No one really seems to know.
Plus, when you leave Thailand and you have a work permit, you also have to go down to immigration before you leave the country and pay 1,000 baht (around $30) for a re-entry permit.
If you forget to get one before you leave, when you come back, your work permit will be cancelled and you’ll have to start the application process again. Why? No one seems to know.
Traveling to your job in Thailand can be a problem – Cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok (where most of the good teaching jobs are) have horrendous traffic problems. Getting to your teaching job every morning can be an enormous problem and, unless you live close to your job, can require three or four different modes of transportation.
My last job required me to go by motorcycle, then underground train, then taxi, then motorcycle. By the time I got there, I was so tired I just wanted to sleep and getting home at night was even worse.
Some people do live near their jobs but, because most teachers change jobs every year, you either end up moving a lot or eventually are living miles away from where you work.
These are just a few of the problems you will encounter when you teach English in Thailand.
I’ve been here so long that I decided I needed to get out of teaching in Thailand as the problems were beginning to outweigh the benefits.
If you’re planning on coming to Thailand, while teaching can be a fabulous thing to do and very rewarding, do make sure you’re also aware of these potential problems before you arrive and be sure you can handle them.
If you do not think you can, then teaching in Thailand is definitely not for you.