For once in my life I can use "I know what you mean" literally. I am a male South African (coloured) and I teach in a smaller province in Thailand. I have been teaching for about 7 months and apart from frustrations here and there, I can say that I genuinely enjoy it. My hair is fairly long and naturally wavy so I had it chemically straightened in Bangkok and since then everyone seems to think I’m Thai. Thais tend to think that everyone in South Africa has black skin.
I came to Thailand with my girlfriend and within two weeks we both had a job in the same school - quite fortunate, I know. Neither of us have degrees, but we have TESOL certs and various tertiary qualifications. The process of getting the job was a little strange or different to what I'm used to. We both applied for the same job posts that we found online and many of these applications required a picture. My girlfriend got quick replies and I hardly got any or was told that I would be 'kept in mind' for future positions.
I started wondering why there was such an instant desire for her over me when there isn't much difference when it comes to our CVs. We are both 20, we both have tertiary qualifications, TESOL certificates, the same teaching practice ( when I say the same , I mean identical in terms of students and amount of hours ) and our passports and visas are identical with dates. I was new to Thailand and didn't know much about the culture, but I suddenly realized that my girlfriend was preferred over me because she is Caucasian.
Anyway, after taking some time to think about what we were going to do, we received a phone call from a British employer stating that we are in luck. A school in a smaller province needed two English teachers and we fit the profile. He said that we basically had the job secured and just needed to come in for the paperwork. We went to the offices and all our paperwork was photocopied and we filled out a form with very minimal details required. My girlfriend was then asked into the Thai manager's office for an 'interview'. Things felt a little odd - I realized this was in fact an agency and the British guy was just a recruiter. Now his story changed a little, he said that the school will just need to interview us but he was sure that we have the job. My girlfriend was out of the manager's office in two minutes and that was it. I wasn't 'interviewed' and now we just had to go to the school on Monday morning for the interview.
At first the school didn’t want to hire us because we didn’t have degrees even though the agency pretty much ‘promised’ us the job. Seven months have passed and I haven’t had any major issues. I do however notice the photo thing Xandra mentions on a regular basis. I teach upper primary grades and my girlfriend the lower grades. When it comes to private tutoring, they always ask my girlfriend. We have the same accents and knowledge but they have literally stated before that they want a white female tutor. Sometimes my girlfriend tells the parents (of older students) that I’m better suited to tutor them as I teach the upper grades but then they become awkward.
Skin colour is a huge part of Thai culture and it’s not going to change anytime soon.