How long have you been in Thailand?
About a year and a half.
Had you visited before?
Where do you live?
Bangkok, not far from Mo Chit BTS station and Chatuchak Park.
What made you move to Thailand?
I love the food, the weather, and having worked at a Thai restaurant in the past, I love the culture. Plus, everything here's cheap.
What degree of education do you have and in which area?
Bachelors of Arts, English Communications
Are any fields preferable to teaching in Thailand?
For mainstream teaching (government schools, language schools), the area of study isn't as important as having a degree. Yes, you can teach in Thailand without a degree (and I have many friends that do), but technically a degree is required to get a work permit. Although I also have friends that have permits without degrees (every law is debatable for a price here), it is certainly easier to at least have a degree. If you want a job in an international school, you will almost certainly need a degree related to education (likewise for some university positions, plus a Master's degree), but otherwise any degree will do.
Do you need teaching certification to teach in Thailand?
Yes and no. I completed a TEFL program (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) here in Thailand, and I'm glad I did; it's one thing to know English, but it's another thing entirely to teach it. Although I wouldn't say the course was groundbreaking in any way, it was good to practice how to structure a lesson and practice grammar I haven't used in years.
You will see both TEFL courses advertised and CELTA/DELTA courses. The main difference from what I've found is that the CELTA focuses more on grammar and English, whereas a basic TEFL course is more about lesson planning and whatnot. The CELTA is supposedly accepted more universally in-and-out of Thailand, but I'm glad I did just a basic TEFL program. Also note: you can do both online and in-class courses; that's entirely up to you, although most places that require a TEFL require one that included actual teaching hours.
Most schools/language schools require some sort of TEFL certificate to teach, but it's not always necessary. I work with two teachers who came straight from university without TEFLs, but because they have never taught before, it's actually surprisingly obvious. Sure, you can "wing it," but that's not the best for either you or the students.
What insurance do you have?
What does the health care in Thailand look like? How do you proceed when you are ill?
Many clinics and hospitals exist, especially in the capital, and although I've not been sick enough to need one, the prices are far more reasonable (without insurance or with) than in the US; a typical "go to the hospital sick" costs around $30 USD in most cases, and drugs are extremely cheap.
Do most schools provide insurance or benefits of any kind?
In my experience, no. I think some non-government full-time positions provide benefits such as healthcare plans, but there is far less emphasis on healthcare packages (at least for foreigners) in Thailand than the US or Europe. Most government schools or agencies will either laugh at you if you ask or ignore you.
What can you recommend in terms of flights to Thailand?
Check around online, and definitely try to book early. It's expensive to get here, but cheap once you're here. I have previously used websites such as kayak.com and cheapoair.com, but in my experience one site is about the same as the others. Prices will likely be higher for "high season" in Thailand, between about November and April or so.
Information on Visas and Work Permits
Please describe the process and the problems that occurred when getting a work visa.
HA! Well, I was here almost a year before I finally got one. The main problems are A) getting your employer to actually do the paperwork, B) constantly changing rules, and C) ridiculous amounts of copies and paperwork needed.
I worked for a teaching agency for the first six months that didn't even bother starting the process; although they said in the interview that they'd get me a work permit, they never did. I now work for a government school, and the process still took at least 4 months all said, plus many fees I had to pay. Definitely check online websites (thaivisa.com, ajarn.com) for visa articles, but don't let it discourage you from coming over; it's just unfortunately a huge hassle.
Note: I'm writing from a Bangkok point of view, with the labor department and immigration offices seeing thousands of people per day. I've heard far easier stories from friends of mine teaching outside of the city.
Can you work without a work permit?
(This is just my opinion - your experience may be different) Unless you work for an international or actually "legit" language or government school, it's not that big of a deal; I worked work permit-less for around a year with no problems. It's highly common to work without a work permit, just don't be stupid and go reporting yourself to the police.
Note here: "work permit" and "visa" are two separate entities in Thailand; you must have a Non-Immigrant B visa (which is sponsored by your employer or school) before you even begin the process for a work permit. Just because you have a "valid" work permit doesn't necessarily mean you still have a valid visa. Again, check online sites (thaivisa.com, ajarn.com) or many articles about work permit and visa issues.
How long in advance do you have to apply?
For the visa, it's best you COME to Thailand with one. Try to arrange a sponsor before leaving your home country to get a Non-B visa; it lasts longer, and is often cheaper from your home country. If you can't, Laos is the easiest (and only) border country that currently issues "double entry" Non-B and Tourist visas (at least to US citizens). Each visa is valid for 60 days, usually with the ability to pay about half the original cost again for a 30 day extension. For a single-entry visa, you can get a total of 90 days after extending, and for a double-entry visa, you can get up to 180 days after two extensions AND a "border run," which entails crossing into another country (Cambodia and Laos are the closest land borders to Bangkok) after the extension on your first "entry" expires.
Work permit wise, it depends on the school. I've heard of work permits being issued in as little as a month, although mine took over four. It's all according to who you have helping you get the permit and how motivated they are to help. Once you GET a work permit, though, it gives you the ability to extend your Non-Immigrant B visa through the duration of your work permit validity date (usually your contract termination date), although you still have to pay to get your visa changed again (some schools will pay, mine didn't) and you're still required to "check in" every 90 days at an immigration office (which is luckily of no extra charge).
Remember, this is the bare-minimum story; check around to make sure nothing has changed, because although this is accurate as of December 2013, it may all change at a day's notice. This is Thailand.
Any inside tips?
Getting a work permit in Thailand is much more about having the ability to extend your Non-B visa for a year than it is the "legality" of working in Thailand. Yes, having a work permit certainly helps (you supposedly must have one to open bank accounts, although I opened two without one), but it's truly not the end of the world not having one provided you can manage to keep your visa status in good shape. Hellooooo visa runs.
It helps a lot to have a Thai friend who can help you navigate the system of chaos. Your school should provide you with someone to help, but don't just expect that the person assigned A) knows what he/she is doing, or B) cares enough to help. Often, schools require Thai staff who already have jobs and lots to do to help foreigners with visa issues without paying them for the extra work. If I were these people, I'd certainly not be so helpful... just keep that in mind.
Bangkok-specific: immigration is located in furthest-back building the massive Government Complex in the northern area of the city on Chang Wattana Road. There are motorbikes that will take you there from Mo Chit BTS station for about 200 baht ($6.25 USD). It is not uncommon for it to take you all day and then some to get anything accomplished there, although I must say it's a fairly efficient system considering this is Thailand. Always remember that they'll often want two copies of pretty much EVERYTHING that is related to your application. Luckily, there are print shops in both the immigration and labor departments, but you don't want to spend all day. The shortest it's taken me to get something done is about an hour and a half; the longest is two days, all day.
Money and Expenses
Note: any mentions I use in US dollars are rough estimates based on the ever-fluctuating $1 = 30 baht. Just use these numbers as an estimate. Also note: most of my expenses are based in Bangkok in December 2013, which as far as capitol cities go is quite cheap. Prices in other provinces will vary.
What are your monthly expenses for rent/utilities?
I am living in a fairly nice, modern, Western-style condo, so my prices are higher than what you can pay if you want just the basics. See my last entry in this section.
In the Chatuchak area of Bangkok (northern area), my rent is 12,000 baht per month ($400 USD), and I usually pay about 500-700 baht ($15-$25) for electricity. If you pay the "government direct" rate as I do, your power bill will be far less than what many apartment complexes charge; I pay less than half of what I used to pay for a place half the size of mine now (it was apartment-rate power billing), and I have far more power-using devices too.
I pay something like 30 baht ($1 USD) every other month for water, which is basically free.
I have DSL internet - not the best, but I've had worse even in the US - through True (a large provider in Thailand), and pay 650 baht ($20) per month, which is expensive for Thailand.
Phone bill: I have a pre-pay TrueMove mobile number, which is handy in that there is no contract required, and I pay for a little pre-pay package each month including 500 MB of data and 200 minutes for 400 baht ($13). Even the top, unlimited data for smartphone packages are less than $30 per month, and within Bangkok, coverage is great.
Total, rent + bills, my monthly expenses run about 13,000 baht ($410 or so), and keep in mind that in the past, with lower-quality digs and internet access, I was paying about 6,000 baht (under $200). It's all in what you want. You can obviously pay a lot more than I pay now, but my former accommodations' $200/month is on the lowest end of the expense spectrum here in Bangkok when you're only counting rent/bills (no travel or food).
What are your daily expenses for food?
I don't know that it's fair to allocate a "daily" food expense amount, since some days I spend nothing and some I can spend hundreds of baht. But weekly, I'd estimate I spend about 1,000 baht ($30 USD) on food. I have a kitchenette that I cook in quite frequently, but honestly, if you don't plan on staying in Thailand more than a year-ish, it's just as cheap or cheaper to eat out every day and not buy the cooking equipment. (Thai apartments/condos don't typically have built-in kitchen facilities like those in Europe/the US).
That's about 4,000 baht/month ($125) on food, although I've spent FAR more and FAR less depending on my budget. The bottom line: eat Thai food, it'll be cheap. Eat foreign food, it'll be more expensive to varying degrees. In Bangkok, you can literally find almost anything... for a price.
What are you monthly expenses for social activities?
I'll take this to mean movies/bar hopping. I'd say I spend maybe 4,000-5,000 baht on these things in a normal month, although this largely depends on what you like to do. If you like to bar hop (as I have been known to do), you can easily spend this entire amount in a night. Everything is cheap in Thailand compared to the West, but drinks are about the same as your home country, depending on where you go. A cheap Thai beer can be about 30 baht in a low-end bar/restaurant ($1), but if you go to clubs or foreigner-centered areas of town (Bangkok or otherwise), the prices will be on par with what you're used to at home.
Movies are cheap; the IMAX across the street from my house costs about 250 baht ($8), regular movies about 170 baht ($5), and special days (Wednesdays) are 100 baht ($3.50). There are some good cheap used book stores I've found too, with books averaging under $5.
Again, remember: everything in Thailand is cheap (aside from alcohol and technology) compared to Western countries. But, once you start teaching and earning Thai baht, it begins to seem much more expensive.
How much do you spend commuting?
I spend around 1000 baht ($30 USD) each month, which includes buses, trains, and taxis.
How much in total are you spending each month?
My average spending, everything included, is about 22,000 baht ($700 USD). I actually am paying far more due to student loans I'm paying back, but that's beside the point.
What is your preferred method of payments?
I typically go to any of the seemingly zillion 7/11 convenience stores or a Tesco Lotus Express store. Almost all bills have a barcode that you can use to pay basically anywhere. The stores charge a minimal amount (30 baht for 7/11 power bills, although Tesco Lotus Express only charges like 5 baht), and your bills are instantly paid. Alternatively, almost any ATM will let you pay almost any bill with a Thai bank account. They even have barcode scanners built in, although I haven't had much luck with them.
Did you open a Thai bank account? How?
Yes. At first, I didn't have a work permit, which makes it difficult to open an account. Without a work permit, it's technically illegal to open an account, but if you act very nice and play dumb to some extent, as well as avoid the very foreigner-centered branches in Bangkok (Central World, Paragon, etc.), you're likely to find a bank that lets you open an account. This is Thailand; money talks. If you're working for an agency or other employer, it helps significantly if you have a letter of sponsorship in some form.
You'll want a "savings" account, which is the equivalent of a "checking" account in the US. My second account was far easier to set up because I had a work permit; just pay the fees and you have an account in minutes, really.
One note: to my knowledge (and I've looked around quite a bit), Siam Commercial Bank (SCB, the "purple" bank) is the only bank that will let you do international money transfers online (and with the lowest fee- 300 baht/$10 USD). This usually isn't something anyone needs to do unless you're like me and have student loan payments to make.
In terms of GETTING money here from your country, it's up to your bank. In my case, I have a US based bank that doesn't charge me fees to use my ATM card here in Thailand. It's thus cheapest to use my card. Friends of mine from the UK typically do online bank transfers from their home bank. It's all up to the fees.
Accommodation and Public Transportation
How would you describe your dwelling's standard of living? Good? Bad?
You can live FAR worse off than me; my first six months here, I lived in a basic college dorm style studio with air con but no hot water or anything else (no fridge either). It cost a whopping 4500 baht ($150 USD), and you can find places for even cheaper. After a while, though, and realizing I wanted to stay in Thailand, I have since moved to a quite nice, brand new Western-style condo with one separate bedroom (30 square meters). It's on the 7th floor with a nice balcony, 2 air cons, HOT WATER (a biggie for me), is across the street from a cinema and large shopping mall, has a great pool/gym/sauna/mini-library, and makes me happy to come home each day.
You can get anything from 3rd-world dwellings if you really don't care about where you stay to London-style flats in the center of the action. I'm not far from the very convenient BTS Skytrain, close to my primary job, and couldn't be happier. Honestly, where I'm living now is as nice or nicer than places I've lived in the States... and for far less.
How easy was it to find a place? Do you have any helpful websites?
There are places everywhere, but it's extremely helpful to have a Thai friend go along with you; you will almost certainly be ripped off if you go in alone as a foreigner, as with everything in Thailand.
The best way to find a place is literally walk around and go into anything that looks halfway interesting. Websites in Thailand aren't as accurate as they are in Western countries. That said, ddproperty.com is a good site to get general ideas about prices in neighborhoods you're looking in.
What is a typical Thai condo/apartment like?
As said earlier, you can get anything from a basic 3rd-world style hell hole studio for next to nothing to a 5 star condo resort. Thai style apartments may have Thai toilets, I warn you (a "squatter"), and often do not have bathroom sinks. Everything, in such case, is done using the shower head.
How is the public transportation?
Bangkok's BTS Skytrain/MRT subway are among the nicest I've used, owing primarily to the fact that they're so new. In Bangkok, unless you have infinite patience and enjoy sitting in traffic, if you can get somewhere via these trains, I'd say go for it.
Buses in Bangkok vary. The red, pink, and some blue buses are cheapest, non-air conditioning, but cost something like 8 baht ($0.25 USD, a quarter). In the evenings this is fine, but in the midst of a hot day, I'd recommend an air-con bus, typically orange, blue, or yellow, and prices on those generally start at 11 baht ($0.34), depending on your destination.
Outside of the capitol, transportation is a bit more difficult. Most cities/towns have a "baht bus" system, sometimes a songtow, that usually follow set routes and cost something like 10 baht. They're basically pickup trucks with bench seats and usually a roof. Pattaya is filled with them. Alternatively, motorbike taxis exist everywhere I've been in Thailand.
How do you get to your school/job?
I take a city bus, which costs about 11 baht each way ($0.35), aircon usually. Others I know take taxis or motorbike taxis every day, or if you live off of the Skytrain, that's even easier.
Where do you locate/store your valuable objects?
I have yet to have a single problem with theft... or crime of any kind. My first apartment, as cheap and basic as it was, still had a thumbscanner to enter the building, and the place I'm in now may as well be Fort Knox for all the security. Perhaps I should be more paranoid, but Thais (in my experience) are generally less prone to theft than the US; it's a culture thing the way I see it.
Tell us about your English teaching job
I actually work at three different places: a government school (my full time job) and two different language schools.
I teach in the Mini English Program at my government school. My hours are roughly 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., although they're fairly flexible with my schedule. I'm lucky; this semester, we don't' have extra duties like "gate duty" at 6:30 a.m. like I've had before, nor are we required to sit through most of the ridiculous morning assemblies. These assemblies often bite into the first school period, and it's not uncommon for the entire first and sometimes second or third period to be gone before classes actually start. But that's another matter.
My language schools: depending on what classes I've been offered, I work most evenings after my government school and Saturdays and/or Sundays. (Remember: I have student loans to pay, so not everyone needs to work as much.) These classes come and go as the two schools I work for get contracts. Most of my corporate classes are two hours long and most material is provided for me (to some extent, at least the guide format), but it depends on the client.
It's hard to give much advice in this category; all schools and jobs will be different, obviously.
How many lessons do you have to prepare in a week?
Preparation-wise, I've been at my school over a year now, so I have basically written everything I need for classes since I've had them before. My government school is fairly easy, and I only teach 15 or so classes per week out of 40 hours I'm supposed to be there. Sure, there's lots of planning involved, but once you get started and get the hang of it, it's really not that difficult.
My school supposedly requires lesson plan submission every week, and although I do have them in some form, I've never actually been asked for them.
Most language schools will provide the bulk of what you need for your lessons with them, so most of your lesson planning will come from a primary/high school if you work there.
How many classes/hours do you teach per week?
This term, I teach 16 periods at my government school. I also teach an additional 15 or so hours outside of regular school hours.
How many students are in one class?
This depends on your position and school. My classes at my government school range from 14-30 students, but other teachers at the same school have classes upwards of 60 students. It all depends on your program and school.
What is the average age of the students?
I teach Mathayom 1-4, which is basically US grades 7-10. Most of my students are 12-15.
At my language school classes (and corporate classes), ages vary from high school age to 50+ years old. It all depends on the classes.
How do the students behave during class and in terms of homework and exams?
This is a heavily loaded question; I work in an English program whereby I have smaller class sizes, air con (most classrooms in government schools don't), and students whose parents pay money for them to be there... hence, better students. My students, although talkative at times, are quite good. Exams, though, when I proctor for the general students... cheating is to be expected.
In general, my experience with students is that they are far more respecting of teachers than those in Western countries. Sure, they're still kids, but you are highly unlikely to encounter truly rude students or have them talk back to you. It's a different, more disciplined culture than that of the US and UK, for sure.
What advice would you give someone planning or considering teaching abroad?
Realize that the system is far different than what you're used to, and you do not have any control over it. Your best bet is to not take things too seriously and do what you can for students within the parameters the school sets for you. Don't bother trying to "fix" this system, which most foreigners agree is broken to some degree; Thais are extremely proud and resistant to change in my experience.
How would you describe a good teacher/ good lesson in Thailand?
You've got to keep the students interested. This isn't a Western school where students expect to sit through a class every day. You must incorporate games or at least make lessons fun, or you won't be liked. And in Thailand, if you aren't liked by the students, no matter how much you think you're teaching them, you're out of a job.
How are you interacting with the students?
I think I'm pretty good; be fun, easy going, and show interest in the students. Everything will be fine. Don't be too serious! Teaching in Thailand is somewhere between a lesson and a show.
How do you structure your lessons?
Again, this is a loaded question. I'm primarily a science teacher, so my lessons are different than typical English classes. For basic English classes, a good pattern to follow is "present, guide, produce..." have a lesson presentation, guide the students through an activity, then give them an activity to do on their own. Remember: English isn't their first language, and they don't want to just listen to you ramble on the entire period.
This also heavily depends on your age/proficiency range. Lower level students need far more hands-on and less teacher talking than higher level students.
What skills do you try do develop in your lessons?
This question is geared towards schools where you are just a general English teacher; in that case, you'll have some kind of list of things you should generally teach throughout the year, although schools widely vary on the level of control they place on you. I have dedicated reading, speaking, and writing classes, so those are obviously what I focus on in classes. To me, the main goal is to get Thai students to be able to communicate with foreigners; everything after that is gravy.
Where do you get your teaching material from and can you recommend any helpful teaching websites?
Google.com is your friend. There are lessons, materials, and ideas galore to be found; it just takes time to find it. Also, websites like www.ajarn.com are quite helpful.
Can you describe your teaching style?
I try to keep their attention by continually asking them questions, but remember: if you have a class of 50 students in a regular government school, this style won't work. You have to adapt to what you have; I'm lucky.
My style is fairly high-energy, which seems to work for Thai students. Just remember, your job is to get them speaking/understanding English, which means they shouldn't be listening to you the entire time. I always try to keep that in mind.
How do you solve difficult situations within the classroom? (e.g. students not paying attention, are shy , they don't understand you...)
Hand gestures and pointing to objects/props are extremely helpful. Make sure you speak slowly, and don't ever appear mad or frustrated. Keep the atmosphere light and happy, and generally you can work anything out.
Why did you choose to teach in Thailand?
I love Thai food, I love warm weather, and I love the beach. Sounded like paradise to me... and it's not far from it!
Travel and leisure time
Do you get any vacation time off?
Yes, kind of. Some schools will give you year-long contracts with vacation included, and some only contract for the school term. Either way, you get a few weeks between semesters in/around February/March/April and October/November. School schedules vary. The Thai school calendar is also full of random days off, which you likely won't know about until they happen if you end up at a school like me. Most schools will pay you for these official holidays, although some agencies will not. Make sure you check.
Do you have any recommendations of where to travel?
Phuket is my favorite place so far. If you're in Bangkok, Hua Hin and Pattaya are both beach destinations that aren't more than 3 hours in a van from the city and are great for weekend getaways. If you have time and enjoy mountains, the region around Chaing Mai is beautiful.
How much does travel cost in Thailand?
Within Bangkok, travel is CHEAP. Taxis, especially if you have British pounds/Euros/US dollars, are ridiculously cheap. The Skytrain/Metro systems are relatively cheap (again compared to Western countries), and buses are next to nothing.
Traveling outside the city, especially if you're not in a hurry and willing to take overnight coaches, is still cheap; a 13 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket in a "VIP" very nice bus/coach (as nice as 1st class airlines to me) cost me about 1060 baht (just over $30 USD). Expensive travel (for Thailand) exists in the form of taxis in very touristy places like Phuket and Pattaya; there, you're better off renting your own motorbike if you're brave enough.
How are you traveling and how much are you spending on that?
I've flown (to the far south of Thailand) with Air Asia for about 1000 baht each way ($30 USD), but usually I take buses; they're usually far cheaper if you can work your time around it. The key to this: look around. Ask around. Don't be shy.
That said, if you can catch Air Asia, Nok Air, or another "cheap" airline early enough or during a sale, it is sometimes cheaper to fly than take a bus. From Bangkok, though, it's not incredibly expensive (by Western standards) to get anywhere.
The main bus terminal, Mo Chit Bus Station (also spelled "Mor Chit" or "Morchit," and also called "Chatuchak Bus Station" and "Northern Bus Terminal"... typical Thailand), has buses everywhere and is where I generally leave from. It's not far from Mo Chit BTS or Chatuchak MRT stations. There are also bus stations in Ekkamai (right next to the Ekkamai BTS station) and a Southern Bus Terminal, although I've never been there. A simple Google search can help you find general timetables for buses, although it's best to show up at the terminal itself or have a Thai friend call to ensure correct timetables. Websites aren't always trustworthy.
Thai Culture, customs, and politeness
Did you experience a culture shock?
No, but I've lived in Germany prior to coming to Thailand so I'm accustomed to adjusting to different cultures. I also worked in a Thai restaurant, so I was at least accustomed to the food.
Basically, if you're an uptight person or don't adapt to change well, I don't recommend Thailand. I've met people that simply can't cope with the slow pace of things, among many other issues... but me, I love it. I love the different-ness of it all.
What tips do you have how to behave with the Thai people?
Just be polite and you can't go wrong. Don't be arrogant, and don't always begin a sentence with "Well, where I'm from...," because they don't care. And remember: nothing is done in a hurry here.
How do you recommend behaving yourself in public as a teacher?
Use common sense. Don't go drinking straight from the whisky bottle with students, obviously. But you don't have to feel like you're under constant scrutiny... Thais are seriously not that uptight. Just don't be rude!
How should you talk to superiors?
Be polite! And remember: they're always right. No sense in arguing for the most part, and if you do, be sure to be tactful almost to the point of making whatever you're suggesting seem like their idea. I've worked for 4 companies, and this seems to be a common way to deal with things.
How do you dress at school and in public?
My school requires nice trousers and a tie, although dress code widely varies according to your school. It's really no different than a Western country, except that it's HOT in Thailand. Be prepared for that.
In public, anything goes. Some temples require no bare shoulders or no shorts, but otherwise you can pretty much wear anything.
Have you learned any Thai? Are you attending any language courses?
Honestly, I'm a fairly good teacher, but a terrible student. I lived in Germany for six months and didn't learn nearly enough German, and now I've been in Thailand for over a year and still am not much past basic numbers. I should learn, but I just can't be bothered at the moment. They say the easiest way to learn is to get a Thai boy/girlfriend. Which I've done, so hopefully that's the first step.
What are some important Thai phrases?
Kop kum krap (or kop kum kop) (man)
Kop kum ka (woman)
S-wa-dee krap (kop) (man)
S-wa-dee ka (woman
mai pen rai = no worries, it's ok, no problem
mai ped = not very spicy (although it still will be!)
mai sai plik = no chili peppers!
Men say "krap" or "kop," and women say "ka" after every sentence to make it sound polite.
What is considered rude and disrespectful?
... not much in Bangkok, honestly. In the provinces, likely things crop up, but if you just act as your common sense says, you'll have no problems. I have noticed pointing/doing anything with your feet is rude, and I've heard that you aren't supposed to touch a person's head, although I haven't personally seen that.
What do you think are the most important do's and don'ts if you want to leave a good impression in Thailand?
Do: use common sense, be polite, and realize you're a guest in Thailand.
Don't: try to argue about politics or religion.
Safety, problems, and miscellaneous
What can you tell us about security and crime rate in Thailand?
I've never personally had any problems with either. The recent political unrest has caused worries here in the capitol and elsewhere, but honestly I have yet to encounter anything bad. Being a foreigner, aside from trying to rip you off, most Thai people typically leave you alone... I'm not sure if this is just me, but I haven't heard of anything crime-related from any of my foreign friends, aside from an iPhone stolen from a friend of mine in the south of Thailand.
How long have you been in this country and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been here about a year and a half, and have no plans to leave.
What kind of problems have you faced and how have you dealt with them?
The biggest problems I've faced related to working with a teaching agency that didn't pay on time or the correct amount. Your best bet is to do as much research about any employer you work for as you can, and ask around. If they start to jerk you around, remember: as an English speaker, you are a commodity in Thailand and are sure to find another job (at least as a native speaker, almost immediately if you have the personality). I was royally screwed out of money and work permit, if you'll pardon me, and I'm certainly not the only rookie it has happened to. But, I luckily already had a second job, I used it as a learning experience.
How do you stay in touch with friends and family?
I use WhatsApp messenger if you have a smartphone (which is almost a must in Bangkok, if for nothing else but the maps), email, and Skype. Skype credit is extremely cheap even to call regular telephones.
An app called Line is more popular here in Thailand. It's also cheap for those of you old-school type people to pick up international calling cards, although I've never used one.
Do you have any helpful links about living and teaching in Thailand?
Do you have any other important information?
Don't take things too serious. If you're really to enjoy living and teaching in Thailand, you've got to go with the flow.
Just do your best for the students and take life as it comes.