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The highs and the lows of living and teaching in Thailand

Our survey said.........

Living and teaching in Thailand is an incredible experience and that's probably why so many foreigners come to the country each year to teach English.

Many new teachers are tempted to the kingdom by YouTube videos showcasing Thailand's tropical beaches, magnificent waterfalls, colourful festivals and raucous nightlife, but while these things do make life in Thailand ‘amazing', they're not the kind of things that teachers are able to appreciate on a daily basis.

Furthermore anyone who has spent time dealing with the realities of life in a Thai school will soon tell you that the living here is not without its share of challenges.

To get an idea of exactly what teachers love and loathe about life in Thailand, we conducted a brief survey and with foreign teachers based in Chiang Mai.

Research methodology - how we did it

Thirty foreign teachers from Varee Chiangmai School were asked to write down the best three things and the worst three things about living and teaching in Thailand. The teachers who took part were from a range of countries including, the UK, the US, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.

The participants also ranged in age and experience from fresh-faced enthusiastic graduates to jaded veterans long past their prime.

Living and Teaching in Thailand - The Pros

There was a pretty clear consensus about what makes life in Thailand so good with the most popular answers being - friendly people and great food. Interestingly, the third most popular answer was great students, with many teachers commenting on how friendly and polite Thai students are.

The quality of life in Thailand also featured high up the list of pros with natural scenery, Thai culture, Thai festivals and the climate also being popular answers.

The graphic below ranks the most popular answer. The full report, which can be found here has all the teachers' replies including some rather random answers such as ‘lack of feminists'!

Living and Teaching in Thailand - The Cons

There was also some common consensus on the greatest challenges for teachers living in Thailand, with the top two places going to road safety and immigration.

It may be worth remembering that this survey was conducted in Chiang Mai where the roads are notoriously dangerous and the immigration department is..... well, I have to go there next month so let's just say it could be a lot better!

General inefficiency was a big complaint from many teachers - this referred to situations both inside and outside the school grounds. The summer heat and poor air quality were other popular factors and anyone who has been to Chiang Mai during the burning season will know how bad the air quality gets.

Interestingly, annoying expats (you know - the ones who spend all their time complaining and saying how much better everything is ‘back home') also made the list.

Further down the list there were a few other random answers including - ‘Thai people are too polite'.


While this is hardly scientific research, it does provide some useful insights to life in the Land of Smiles. For westerners contemplating a year or two living and working in Thailand, I'd say ‘just do it'! It's great country, you'll met some great people, enjoy some awesome food and visit some beautiful places.... things won't always go according to plan, and there may be days when you just want to scream - but hey - that's life, and you probably couldn't truly appreciate Thailand without experiencing the ups and the downs.

Daniel Maxwell
Varee Chiangmai School



@Bradley. You need to get yourself out in the sticks for a while. You will be much more appreciated there. You will also make the same amount of money, 11-12 contracts. Or you should check out BKK suburbs. You will be make more than you make now,30-50,000, cost of living is low and most jobs have a 11-12 month contract. Phuket is in high demand for it's location. Therefore they know you are EASILY replaceable. Staying at a job like that will make you hate teaching. I've done it. It took me a while to get back to loving it. Good luck, and get out while you can.

By Ron, Rangsit (27th September 2015)

Having worked at Varee many years ago and having tutored students from that same school many years later my personal opinion is the students have become lazier and know how to get around personal improvement. Having worked in many other cities as well I believe this not only happening in Varee but in most school. Nepotism is alive and well and the unofficial cast system is gaining relavence again. These are the reasons for immigration problems and inefficiencies in all areas of Thailand at the moment.

We westerners are becoming less and less important because we keep asking for others to solve our problems for us. 12 years ago I saw newby teachers (me included) entering classrooms and finding out the realities of teaching. i was lucky enough to be around a group of people that did not ask for help but researched. We were constantly reading books for ideas and as uncool as this may seem teaching pschycologies (sorry about the spelling. never my strong point) was very popular. These days I see many newbies spending there free time on Fartbook (seriously most of the stuff on facebook is just hot air and we can add twitter) and talking about how their assistant teacher does not help them.
I can only hope that more creative people who now how to tell stories and can convert the curriculum into true Sunook become more frequent in Thailand. THe Thai word Sunook does not mean fun. Sunook = 70% interesting and 30 % fun. Personally i dis brand names and consumption. You would be amazed how the kids want to argue the point. They love they bright shiny distractions. Unfortunately most western teachers are now in the same boat.

Teaching is great fun and I cannot imagine doing something different, i suspect I have this opinion because I am an old fashioned teacher. Question everything and take your students into this world. It is such a big change for them as both Westerners and Thai teachers are now preparing students to put the correct word in the correct box. Pass that test so you can go into debt and become so over educated. So educated that you think it is socially good for sport people and actors to become part of the elite money earners. Go forth and be Entertained.

By been around, Chantaburi (19th September 2015)

Hey, Bradley... Just a thought, but why don't you get a job that you DO like instead of complaining about the job you have?

It's like someone ordering a curry and complaining that it's spicy!

Thailand has seen the rise of agencies because teachers are so unreliable that schools simply don't have the time/resources/will to hire them directly.

But there are still plenty of well-paid opportunities for teachers in Thailand that offer good money and great working environments.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (18th September 2015)

I'm a Teacher here in Puket. I've been here for nearly 2 years now and have been teaching in various schools around Phuket, and various levels. At the moment I'm teaching in a Government school in Patong. I'm employed through an Agency in Phuket Town and have been with this agency for over a year now. This is only my version of how it's been for me, so please don't shoot me down. I personally have had enough of teaching here. The school I'm teaching at does not provide me with a regular enthusiastic Thai assistant teacher, I'm trying to teach kids as young as 5 yo who cant even speak or understand their own language. I'm supposed to teach a syllabus that they have no concept of at all. I have teachers at this school that will not even acknowledge me. They think we are making lots of money. Here's my calculations on what I actually earn over a year. 30,000฿ p/m less tax = 29,000฿ p/m now given I don't get paid for school break nor holidays I'm actually only working about 8 months of the year so that equates 8 months for 12 months is less than 20,000bht a month in real terms. And of course I have to pay for all my permits and visas out of that. I can't survive on that sorry but I can't and I don't know too many people that can as a single person. Other countries pay a lot better and give much better incentives for teachers and make them feel welcome, not so here. The obvious question, so why am I still here? I can't afford to save money to leave that's why. There is a lot more to this but enough for now.

By Bradley Bell, Phuket (17th September 2015)

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