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Why Do Farang English Teachers in Thailand Accept Low Salaries?

Thai student - copyright Kudumomo, Creative Commons
Thai student – copyright Kudumomo, Creative Commons

Why do farang English teachers in Thailand accept low salaries?

One thing I’ve never been able to figure out since I moved to Thailand more than a decade ago, is why so many farang English teachers accept low salaries? After all, living on 35,000 baht a month is difficult to do in a city like Bangkok, yet this type of low salary is quite commonplace among many farang English teachers in Thailand. Why?

First, let me preface this by giving a little background about salaries for English teachers in Thailand.

When I moved to Bangkok to teach English more than 15 years ago, the average salary for an English teacher had not increased in at least 5-8 years. Now, 15 years later, that average salary for an English teacher in Thailand still hasn’t increased. So, an average salary for an English teacher at a government school in Bangkok, for instance, 15 years ago was around 35,000 baht. The same average salary 15 years later.

Yet…..the cost of living in Thailand has increased by around 20 percent since I moved here. That means, what you could buy with 35,000 baht back in 2002 isn’t remotely what you can buy with the same money in 2017.

How much can an English teacher in Thailand make?

In my first teaching job in Thailand 15 years ago, I earned a 49,000 baht salary plus a 2,500 baht housing allowance, giving me a total of 51,500 baht per month. Already 16,500 baht more than the actual average back then. I walked into that job with one interview. In fact, it was the first teaching job I interviewed for.

When I left the school three years later, I was making a total of 56,500 — 21,500 baht or $715 a month more than the supposed ‘average’. Most of my friends, all who had university degrees and were teaching in Thailand, were making the same amount or more.

When I left the teaching profession eight years ago, I was making 70,000 baht a month. Again, from a job I walked into with a 15 minute interview.

Why do farangs still accept low teaching salaries in Thailand?

So, why is it so many farang English teachers in Thailand, mainly men I might add, are still accepting English teaching jobs paying 35,000 baht a month and sometimes even less?

I have four philosophies. Thai women. Mistaken understanding of actual Thai salaries. Low self-esteem. They do not have a university degree.

Most male western teachers are in Thailand because of Thai women

For many ‘English teachers’ in Thailand, the only reason they live here is because of Thai women. Whether they have a Thai wife or a Thai girlfriend, or like to pay to have sex with Thai prostitutes, it all boils down to one thing. If farang men weren’t allowed to have sex with, date or marry Thai women, 95 percent of them wouldn’t be here.

That also means many of the men who teach English in Thailand aren’t qualified English teachers. A large percentage don’t even have a university degree. So, when a job comes along that requires at least a university degree in any subject, and pays 50,000 or more, many of these men are simply not eligible.

Misunderstandings about Thai salaries

Add onto that the mistaken belief that making 35,0000 baht as an English teacher gives you a lot more money than a Thai and it is no wonder these guys take ridiculously low salaries to teach in a Thai school 40 hours a week.

While, sure, 35,000 baht is more money than most working class Thais earn, where the average salary is around 12,000 baht a month, 35,000 baht a month is nowhere near what an averagely educated Thai will make — not once they are above the age of 30.

My closest Thai friends all make at least 60-70,000 baht a month working in banks, offices, accounting firms, law firms, department stores etc. My oldest Thai friend, ‘old’ meaning the one I’ve known the longest as she’s only 35, just started a new job making 110,000 baht a month. She is an accountant.

So when these farang English teachers talk about their jobs allowing them to ‘make more money than Thais’, they are mistaken as they really have no idea what an average Thai worker in a mid-sized company makes.

Low self-esteem often means low salaries in Thailand

Finally, when you throw in the low self-esteem some of these men have (you’d kind of have to think poorly of yourself to be boffing prostitutes on a regular basis, I would say), it’s no wonder they think earning 35,000 baht a month is all they are worth.

All I wonder though is how long do these men think they can afford to live on such a poor salary? Into retirement, when they won’t have much of a pension, if any, if they have lived in Thailand for many years? Because, let’s face it, when you are making the low salary of 35,000 in a country that is rapidly becoming more expensive, how on earth are you ever going to save for retirement?

And the Thai government certainly doesn’t give you one.

The moral to this story is this. If you are planning on coming to teach English in Thailand and have a university degree, don’t even think about accepting a job at 35,000 baht a month.

Not if you don’t want a lifestyle where a big percentage of Thailand is living better than you, including all the other farang English teachers that won’t work for such a pittance.

Read What’s the Average Salary for an English Teacher in Bangkok, Thailand for more information on the subject, as well as How to Get Paid Well for Teaching English in Thailand. Hope they help!