Can You Teach in Thailand With Visible Tattoos? It Depends

tattoo thailand
Traditional Thai tattoo – photo copyright Fuzzmo, Creative Commons license

 

Many westerners who come to Thailand to teach English are young. With that often comes a visible tattoo they’ve had for years or recently had tattooed in Thailand. As Thailand is a conservative country, particularly when it comes to teaching, having a visible tattoo on a teacher is pretty much a no-no. Hence, the worry about being able to get a teaching job in Thailand with a visible tattoo on their hand, neck or leg.

If you want to teach in Thailand with visible tattoos, there are certain things you can do to minimize them and to make sure a Thai school will hire you.




Getting a New Tattoo in Thailand Before a Job Interview – Just a word of warning if you’re planning on getting a new tattoo in Thailand before a job interview for teaching. Having tattoos is fine, having a visible tattoo usually isn’t. So, if you’re going to get a new tattoo before a job interview, make sure it’s on a place on your body that can be covered with pants, a skirt or a shirt.

Plus remember, Thailand is a hot country and teachers can sometimes get away with wearing short sleeves or three-quarter length sleeves for women. But, if you get a tattoo on your arm and it can be seen, you will be almost forced to wear a long sleeve shirt every day you’re teaching, in 100-plus degree heat. Do you really want that discomfort, just to be a little non-conformist?

Have the tattoo put on your stomach, back, shoulder – anywhere where minimal clothing will cover it completely.

The Job Interview – The most important part of getting a job if you have a visible tattoo is the interviewer being able to see the tattoo at the interview. For an interview in Thailand as a teacher, you must dress conservatively or you will not get the job. By conservatively, that means for men dress pants, a long sleeve shirt and a tie (yes, even in Bangkok’s 100 degree heat), and for women a skirt that is at your knee or below, a long sleeve dress shirt and full-shoes (no flip flops or sandals).

But, if you have a visible tattoo, and the interviewer sees it, at many schools that will impact your ability to get the job. So, cover it.

If you’re a man with tattoos on your arms or legs, as long as they’re able to be covered with pants and a long sleeve shirt, you’re fine. A tattoo on your neck or hands is much more obvious so, for the
interview at least, make sure you cover the tattoo with a large band-aid or several large band-aids if necessary. I kid you not.

If you have tattoos on your feet, particularly on the top of your foot, for men as you always have to wear dress shoes and socks, you’re fine. For women, you will have to wear full shoes for school that cover the tattoo at all times.

Thai schools are conservative and teachers are expected to dress conservatively and appropriately. At some Thai schools, once you have the job and are already teaching, having a visible tattoo may not be such a big deal, but that’s something you can ask once you’re employed.

At an interview though, even if it means covering the tattoo with three huge band-aids, if you want the job you’d better.

Having a Tattoo Once You Have a Job – Once you have a teaching job at a Thai school, don’t expect to suddenly be able to unveil your visible tattoo and everything will be okay. In most schools, it won’t.

That’s why, every day you show up at school to teach, you will have to cover your tattoo either with clothing or a large band-aid. I have female friends who’ve been teaching at the same schools for several years and all wear a large band-aid covering their visible tattoo every day. It’s school policy.

Now, a westerner would say, “The kids obviously know there’s a tattoo under there, so why can’t the teacher just show it?” It makes no sense to me either, but that’s Thai logic. They’d prefer you to wear a band-aid for the rest of your life than to show a visible tattoo to the kids.

Of course, some Thai schools are more liberal and will allow a teacher to show a small tattoo on a hand or an ankle or neck once they have the job. But this is something you will have to bring up with your school when you first begin the job. Ask them if you can show the tattoo and, if not, what do they want you to wear to cover it?

Adhere to what they say at all times or, as generally happens in Thailand, they’ll smile happily to your face while behind your back they’re desperately trying to find another teacher who doesn’t have tattoos or doesn’t mind covering them.

Can I Teach in Thailand if I Have a Tattoo on My Face? – Unfortunately, getting tattoos on the face is becoming a little more common than it was 10 years ago and some people with tattoos on their face come to Thailand and try and get a teaching job (believe me, I’ve seen more than one in an interview room at a school I once taught at).

Can you get a job teaching in Thailand if you have a tattoo on your face. No. Not a chance.

Now that was simple. Right?