Thailand is an amazing country rich in history and culture. Although the country is modernizing fast and traditions are starting to fade, Thais are still very religious. All aspects of their culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. With great food, an active nightlife and a very low cost of living, Thailand is a great place to work and live.
About 95% of Thais are Buddhists and monks, in their saffron colored robes, are seen regularly in everyday life. If you happen to be up before 7:00 am in the morning, you will often see monks walking barefoot to collect their alms for the day. There are countless temples all over the diverse country and many religious and semi-religious ceremonies and festivals take place throughout the year.
Strong religious and traditional beliefs mean that elders and those in positions of authority are given special respect. Monks in particular, have priority access through airport security and are treated like dignitaries.
Liberal Minded Society
Strong Buddhist beliefs make Thailand, in general, a very safe place to work and live. Thais are typically very friendly, with positive attitudes and are non-judgmental. Non-white English teachers may encounter some discrimination because the idea of an English teacher still tends to be a white foreigner, but in everyday life, racism is not common.
Thailand seems to have cornered the global market on lady-boys. You will see some very beautiful and not so beautiful lady-boys in bars all over the country. Bangkok in particular has some of the biggest gay bars in Asia – known for midnight shows that are interesting whether you’re gay or not.
Wai is a form of respect in Thailand. It is done by joining your hands with fingers pointing upwards, like in a praying position. It’s a show of respect and a greeting at the same time. When greeting an elder or someone with higher status, it’s expected that you will put your hands together in the Wai position as a sign of respect. Unlike the west, children are expected to show their parents respect. The goes with teachers, employers and government staff. English teachers in Thailand will also benefit from this culture or respect and honor, even though it’s not always deserved.
The Thai language is complex with 44 consonants, 32 vowels and 5 tones. Most foreigners find it very hard to learn the language, but it’s not impossible. Knowledge of the local language and custom will open up a new world to you so it is definitely worth the effort. Sign up for Thai language classes as soon as you can and make a commitment to study for at least 15 minutes a day and you will soon be able to have basic conversations. Of course, there are foreigners that live in the country for years without learning much of the language. The thriving tourism industry means that English is widely spoken and most restaurants, hotels and guest houses will have English menus and information.
Muay Thai/ Kick boxing
The most popular martial arts form in Thailand is Muay Thai. It’s similar to kick boxing, only more physically demanding and fast-paced. Boxers can use their knees and feet, elbows and fists during the fight. The sport is gaining popularity throughout Asia and even in the United States. Muay Thai is a sacred sport in Thailand with ceremonial dances and prayers before the start of each fight. There is a lot of respect for opponents and the sport, so you will find a much higher level of sportsmanship in the athletes than comparable sports in the west.
Thai food is fantastic and very inexpensive. You will probably have already encountered many world famous Thai dishes like Tom Yum Gung (soup with shrimp), Pad Thai (fried noodles), Kang Keaw Wan Gai (green chicken curry), Tom Kha Kai (chicken in coconut sauce), Som Tam (papaya salad), Por Pia Tord (spring rolls) and Gai Pad Met Mamuang (stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts).
In cities and towns of all sizes around the country, small kiosks and food stalls open on streets and in front of businesses selling inexpensive and delicious food. For as little as $1, you can have a dish with rice or noodle soup. I personally love the fresh fruit shakes that can be found for as little as $0.50.
Be forewarned that cleanliness and food safety are not at the levels of more developed countries. Travellers diarrhea and other illnesses do occasionally happen, but remember you are only paying a dollar a dish. I still haven’t had any problems with street food, knock on wood.
Largely do to the heat during the day, evenings are when Thailand really gets going. Starting with the street vendors selling everything from fresh fruit to deep fried insects, culminating in thumping techno music dance clubs, nightlife in Thailand is never boring. It seems that every corner of bustling cities like Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai are filled with pubs, discos and night clubs. If you like to party and meet people, Thailand won’t disappoint.
Foreigner bars and restaurants are everywhere and will sell all your favorite food from home with large screen TVs to watch sporting events, movies or sing karaoke.
Arts and Music
The quality of live music, trendy cafes and art galleries is also very high and it seems to be getting better by the second. The very open and liberal minded cultural mean that you will find world class talent, particularly in the two largest cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The jazz scene in Chiang Mai, in particular, is amazing.
Culturally, Thailand is one of the most diverse, open and interesting places to be on the planet. The great weather and low cost make it a popular destination for travellers from all over the world. As an English teacher, you will be hard pressed to find a more interesting place to live and work.
TEFL English teaching job listings in Thailand. New positions are added regularly so check back often.
A general overview of what to expect teaching English in Thailand. Read More
The cost of living in Thailand is very reasonable, particularly if you are able to adapt to a more ‘local’ lifestyle. Read More
Information on visa requirements to teach English in Thailand. Read More
A good overview of the culture, customs and traditions of Thailand. Read More
After taking his CELTA training, TEFL teacher Johnny Ward, taught English in Thailand for 15 months. He shares information on finding a teaching position, living in Thailand and more in this interview. Read More
Amanda Dorough shares here experiences working and living in Thailand. She covers everything from finding a job, quality of life and travelling around Thailand in this interview. Read More