Ready to start a life abroad by teaching English in Thailand? Find out what teaching English in Thailand as a non-native speaker is really like. Anna tells us about her school life and general life in Thailand, so you can be well-equipped before you go.
Which country are you teaching in/ have taught in?
I was teaching in Thailand a few years back and I ended up choosing Thailand for a few different reasons. My initial idea was to go teach English in Vietnam but because I’m a non-native English speaker (NNES) they only ended up offering me part-time work and I wasn’t willing to accept such a precarious position because I was travelling with my dog and it can be a big hassle. I needed to get a job fast, so I started looking for placements in Thailand. After all, I was in Thailand already and I had done my TEFL there. The pay would be lower but then again, I was a new teacher so willing to settle for less. Also, I could stay in the country that I loved and already was comfortable with.
I applied for a few different jobs, including the Social Studies teacher post in Rayong, near Pattaya where my mum has an apartment. As it happened, this school contacted me first and I wanted to start ASAP, so I packed my things and headed to Rayong. May I add also that my Uni background is in Social Sciences, so the work appealed to me? The downside was that I knew that it wouldn’t help me (at least not much) in the future if I wanted to get English teaching jobs.
What is required to teach in that country?
A TEFL certificate seems to be the minimum. Though, I think that a native English speaker might get away with it in the countryside if the school is really desperate.
What is the best thing about teaching English in Thailand?
Thailand is a good place to start your teaching career because there are other farangs (foreign) teachers around and Thailand is used to Western people and have services for us though this is necessarily not the case if you live far away from the tourist destinations or big cities.
What is the worst thing about teaching English in Thailand as a non-native speaker?
The bad thing is that the pay is not super good, and it can be a bit unorganised. Trying to get your papers done, visas and everything can be a real pain in the ass.
In big cities and holiday destinations, you will find a healthy ex-pat community, in the countryside no. This can be hard to make friends with though there are exceptions.
What is the average monthly salary for an ESL teacher? What is the cost of living?
The starting salary is around 30,000 Baht if you work somewhere remote where the cost of living is also lower. In Bangkok, a NES (native English speaker) can get 40,000 – 45,000 Baht per month. If you are an experienced teacher, you can try to negotiate your salary.
Thailand can be really cheap if you are not looking for fancy accommodation and expensive Western food. If you want to go to a nice restaurant every week and a few cocktail bars you will end up spending a big chunk of your salary. Bangkok’s rents are actually getting really high as we speak and in general, the prices in Thailand have been increasing a lot in recent years.
How did you find your teaching job?
Ajarn.com is a popular website for teachers in Thailand and they have plenty of job listings. That’s how I found mine.
How did you find your accommodation?
The school helped me find accommodation. We drove around a bit and they called the places that I was interested in.
What did you do to prepare to move abroad? Did you get culture shock?
I had been to Thailand before and I have also lived in Australia and London, so I love living overseas. It’s exciting! Thailand is like a second home country to me, so I’m used to some of the strange things here. However, the school system still managed to surprise me.
Read how to prepare to move abroad here!
In the classroom
What type of school do you teach in?
I taught a year in a public school though in the English programme which means it was equivalent to a private school. Therefore, we had better materials and tools than most of the students in the school, such as aircon. It’s really hard to teach and learn without the aircon because the heat just exhausts you.
Which grade(s) do you teach and how many students are in the class?
Classes were quite big, some 25 students perhaps. I taught grades 7,8 and 12.
A typical work week teaching English in Thailand
What is your work week like in terms of days and hours?
I wasn’t really working that hard. I had about 16-17 lessons per week.
What do you like to do when you are not teaching?
Rayong is a very Thai city so there weren’t many ex-pats. I got along with some of my co-teachers but unfortunately, a few left just when we started making friends. Every second weekend I went to Pattaya where my Mum’s condo was though she wasn’t there at the time. But I really enjoyed being in my mum’s nice apartment and spending time in a touristy destination with more things to do.
Personal experiences of teaching English in Thailand as a non-native speaker
What advice would you give to someone thinking about teaching in Thailand?
Be patient! Thailand doesn’t often function the way we are used to in the Western world. Remember to stay positive and laugh at the funny misunderstandings that happen at school. You might get frustrated because the students don’t always take their studies seriously, eg. cheating and copying is common. You can’t change the way the system works though you can try to a certain degree. Do your best and it should suffice.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Some of the kids were super sweet and it was rewarding to see them grow and learn new things.
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Meet the guest blogger
Anna: I’m Anna from Finland. A global citizen who loves to travel and live overseas. I was planning on continuing my teaching career overseas but, unfortunately, my mum got ill, and I came back to Finland to be with her. Even though she is better, for the time being, I decided to stay here for now. In the meantime, I continue my travels and adventures, but my base is in Helsinki now.
Follow her blog; Hammock Stories or her Instagram.
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2 thoughts on “Teaching English in Thailand as a Non-Native Speaker”
Hi. Thanks for the info. How did you do your TEFL? Was it through an agency? Thank you.
Hi, yes there are many agencies you can use. There is the option to do online-only courses or in-classroom courses in a country of your choice. Good luck with your TEFL adventure 🙂