Ajarn Street

The tattoo curse

Is body art affecting your job prospects?

"I once went out with a girl who had 'love' and 'hat' tattooed across her knuckles. She'd lost a finger" Peter Kay, comedian.

Ajarn reader David once wrote in with an interesting question. "I'm a very clean and well-presented teacher and I have all the qualifications necessary to find a teaching job in Thailand. The only problem is that I have a tattoo that almost entirely covers my one hand. I'm wondering if this will go against me when I interview for jobs?"

Hmmm.......interesting one. Of all the teachers I ever interviewed for jobs, I don't think there was one instance where I was confronted by questionable body art. There may have been the odd swallow in flight on a lady's upper arm and a tribute to a loving mother on a gentleman's forearm, but by and large, discreet tattoos have always been acceptable to me. I suppose that beauty is in the eye of the beholder isn't it?

But what do I know? Let's hear from the tattooed teachers out there. Has your tattoo truly held you back in your search for teaching jobs?

What kind of tattoo do you have and more to the point where is it? Is it a discreet and barely noticeable allegiance to your favorite football team or is your back a glorious scene from a traditional Boxing Day fox hunt with riders on horseback, blowing on bugles as the fox's tail disappears up your bum?

If you have a clearly visible tattoo, do students comment on it? Does the school owner shake her head every time she sees the dotted line with 'cut here' that circles the circumference of your neck? 

Do you have to take measures to cover up your tat before you walk into a classroom?

If you're a teacher recruiter, we'd love to hear from you as well. Any tattooed teacher stories you would like to share? What are your views on employing the 'painted gentleman"?  


A lot has changed,ask any good tattooist about their customers and it will cover all classes and professions from stockbrokers to lawyers to housewives.Not having a tattoo and being happy about gate duty doesn't make someone a good teacher.I do not miss "teachers" who think they are the best thing since sliced bread.If they were a bar of chocolate they would eat themselves.

By Stuart Branwhite, greenock (9th March 2018)

Not too long ago the only people that had tattoos were seamen, carney's, drifters and criminals. Not much has changed since then...

By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (8th March 2018)

Tattoos are fine by me but short sleeved shirts are not appropriate when someone has tattoos and is a teacher.I worked with someone who insisted on rolling up his long sleeves and displaying some of the worst ink I have ever seen,really horrible to look at and I say that as someone who likes tattoos.

By stuart branwhite, greenock (7th March 2018)

I have taught thirteen and fourteen year old female and male Thai students who have tattoos,not stickers but genuine ink tattoos.I have worked with with people who are teaching and they have worn short sleeved shirts displaying their ink and for me it doesn't look good.I feel the same way about UK policemen sporting beards and displaying tattoos on their arms.Clean shaven and long sleeved shirt please.

By stuart branwhite, greenock (7th March 2018)

I wish to teach English in Thailand.i am a frequent visitor and also married to a national. I am heavily tattooed including hands. Is this going to effect my employment chances?

By Greg, Australia (4th April 2015)

As time passes by, people care more about your talents than body parts.

I have taught before in Taiwan and now in Thailand. Being a woman and having two big tattoos on my back did not give me any problem in my professional life.
Teaching in a country with tropical climate I was bound to wear blouses that was much "airy" (but not vulgar) and my tattoo was seen by my colleagues and students and parents on the second day of my job.

There will certainly be one or two or more questions about it, but definitely not the kind that would be questioning your teaching skills.

Just do your job well and tattoos will not be able to over power your work.

Cheers ^_^

By Anjeela Bhutia, India (22nd June 2013)

I had tattoos when I started teaching Primary school in thailand. I had a wrist tattoo and a large text piece tattoo on my right arm (it was placed so that when my arm is by my side, it can't be seen). My students (P1's) did soon notice and started to ask me about them in Thai - obviously I couldn't respond - none of my coteachers seemed fussed though. I asked both specifically if I should cover them, one said yes (she was my age), other - who was older - said no.

Tattoos don't define a person at the end of the day, character does :)

By Sally Stephenson, New Zealand (18th March 2013)

I have tattoos covering both arms. Even when wearing long-sleeved shirts, my tattoos are still visible. I've taught at five different schools so far, and not once has it been a problem. Of course, the students see them when I'm writing on the board, and there is always the brave one or two who will ask about them at some point during the course, but most of the time they're more interested in the stories that go with them than judging me for them.

Even doing private tutoring for rich kids hasn't been a problem. Their parents might be conservative, but I haven't once been denied a job just because I have some ink on my arms. I'm not entirely sure about your situation, since it covers your whole hand and mine barely extends onto the backs of my hands, but I'd say you can find a job. Perhaps it might be a little more difficult, but rest assured you'll find jobs if you look for them.

By Dallas, Bangkok (22nd January 2013)

This is in response to "Del",

I personally have visible tattoos and your opinion on them is somewhat disturbing. Even as a foreigner and teacher in Thailand the fact that you are still so close minded really surprises me. "Anyone who isn't intelligent enough to realize the implications of visible tattoos shouldnt be teaching young children". Oh that's right because having tattoos means you commit crimes, do drugs, and are "not intelligent". You didn't say it Del but you might have well.

If you are applying for a position dress up and cover your tattoos. Make sure you ask your English director on his/her stance on tattoos and go from there. For important events I cover up even when not required to. But don't think that having tattoos will get you eliminated from positions. Remember this is a country that allows a lot more then western countries do (I know I have a few openly gay and lady boy students).

By Miles Alty, Rayong (20th January 2013)

Personally I would advocate a zero tolerance policy towards visible tattoos. Why? Simple really, anyone who isn't intelligent enough to realize the implications of visible tattoos shouldn't be teaching young kids. Wisdom comes with age, and I know that for many the tattoos were youthful mistakes that they now regret. Anyone can make a mistake, but if you are going to do something stupid like that at least put it where it can be covered up.

For some older doesn't necessarily mean wiser! There is one teacher at my school who has tattoos on both arms and walks around in short sleeve shirts on a daily basis! He has tattoos that can be easily covered, but doesn't bother! Even if no-one complains, really he should know better- and he teaches kindergarten and primary kids - the most impressionable age - how irresponsible is that! It's not just the kids who see them but also the parents, other teachers and visitors to the school.

By Del, Thailand (5th January 2013)

I have multiple tats on both arms dating back to my days in the navy.
I was asked about them at the interview and took the time to tell the director that they were navy tats (anchor with RCN, my ship in a wreath, etc) from my time in the service, what they were and that I could cover up when prudent to do so.

I have NEVER had a problem with them and with the exception of those rare days (like grad) when I need to cover them I never do.

It has never been an issue.

By Dave, Thailand (4th January 2013)

Thais are conservative, especially in school settings. Where I've worked in schools with tattooed Western teachers, those teachers were required to cover up their body art. For a female teacher who had some design around her ankle, she had to wear a bandage covering that body art. For a man with large tattoos on his arms, he had to wear long-sleeved shirts all the time. If you catch your Thai interviewers casting a glance at your tattoo during an interview, you can forget about that job.

By Guy, bkk (4th January 2013)

I have lived in Bangkok for three years and have around 18 tattoos, but I can cover them up. Some school director's have asked if I have tattoos, I say yes, but I also said I can cover them up. My dilemma is the heat, because they are all down both arms upper and forearm, and OMG it is so bloody hot. However, I do have tattoos near my wrist and more often than not they can be seen when I move my arms, but I have not been hauled over the coals for it.

My students have seen my tattoos and have wanted to know how many I have, in one or two instances I have uncovered my arms, but have said shhh, don't tell anyone!!

David, I would just wear a thin materialed glove, better than losing out on teaching here. I'm sure you will be fine. Especially, when you have Thai friends at school and they want to compare tattoos, like it's a secret society, lol.

By Wendy Livesey, Bangkok (4th January 2013)

Post your comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear instantly.

Featured Jobs

NES Kindergarten Homeroom Teacher

฿50,000+ / month


Physical & Health Ed & ELL Teacher

฿35,000+ / month

Nakhon Ratchasima

English, Science and Math Teachers

฿42,300+ / month


Kindergarten / Primary Teacher

฿65,000+ / month

Chiang Rai

Pre-Kindergarten Homeroom Teacher

฿50,000+ / month


NES English Language Teachers

฿600+ / hour


Featured Teachers

  • James

    Australian, 62 years old. Currently living in Australia

  • Ankamah

    Ghanian, 40 years old. Currently living in Ghana

  • Hammadi

    Moroccan, 39 years old. Currently living in Morocco

  • Jason

    American, 52 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Cecil

    French, 41 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Barry

    Australian, 59 years old. Currently living in Thailand

The Hot Spot

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting ajarn.com and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.