Nowadays, when it comes to teaching English abroad there is a seemingly endless list of countries to do so in. South America, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia all advertise and desire more and more TESOL teachers each year.
Now, more than ever, being a native speaker of English (Or even non-native speaker) is a valuable world export and can be an easy, economic, and deeply rewarding way to see the globe. So, with so many different choices, and with certain countries like The U.A.E., Turkey, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea all proffering more lucrative paychecks than the Thais usually offer... why choose Thailand?
1. The weather: Unlike more temperate and wavering climates, Thailand's weather might drench you now and then in the rainy season but it will certainly never freeze you. Being the change-of-season and autumn enthusiast that I am, even I can get behind living in an endless summer at least for a short period of my life. Sometimes a change of weather is only fun in theory- the sun is pretty great to have all the damn time. And let's not forget the appeal of being able to plan a trip to a tropical island sitting in your backyard- relatively unhampered by weather conditions- any month of the year.
2. The people: I'm sure you've heard it so often you might be sickened by the cliché: Thailand is the land of smiles. But it is. Even in the moments when said smile feels forced or passive, it is still indicative of one important thing: Thailand is a culture that celebrates a welcoming spirit, friendly coexistence and positive life attitude. Some countries can be hard to live in because the people are reserved, disdainful, skeptical, or distrusting of foreigners. Thailand is a far cry from being one of them.
3. Salary: Undoubtedly a reasonable and key factor in any career choice, a common criticism of teaching in Thailand as compared to other nations (Like South Korea, or Taiwan, for example) is that the pay is less. The average salary runs at about 1,000 USD per month of teaching at a salaried job. That can initially seem like very little. But understood in relation to the cost of living and daily expenses, it is more than enough to live comfortably and save for future travels. I put away half my paycheck each month without even planning a budget.
4. A comprehensible infrastructure for TESOL/TEFL teachers: Teaching in Buenos Aires sounds like a dream, so does teaching in Germany or Spain. But, and especially if you are an EU Passport-less American like I am, teaching outside of Southeast Asia can be a lot more of a challenge. Finding jobs, coordinating visas, and arranging affordable living arrangements is almost inconceivably easy to do in Thailand. My friends that have attempted to do the same in Europe and South America have complained of the frequent difficulties: most of them are working up to six different jobs (As opposed to just one in Thailand) to make ends meet.
5. The food: It's delicious. And cheap. Eating out is a unique and lovable part of Thai culture. Family-owned Thai kitchens are ubiquitous and food carts are equally so. Each evening around six, large parts of every town, city, and neighborhood turn into a communal eating affair. It makes the area feel alive, neighborly, and aromatic with all the spices wafting through the air.
6. This country is beautiful and there is so much to see here. Thailand is deceptively enormous; it would take a full day or more of driving to reach the northern border commencing from its southern counterpart. And in between awaits an endless array of stunning beaches and islands, jungles and national parks, world heritage sites, ancient capitols, golden temples, and majestic ruins. There is so much to see here that I often feel it takes spending a year living here or more to even begin to see it. Those who opt to just backpack through for a few weeks are truly missing so much.
7. Proximity to culturally rich and exotic countries: Thailand is snuggled between and amongst some of the world's most interesting, exotic, stunning, and rapidly changing countries. Living in Thailand provides a backdoor filled with nations such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, China and Indonesia- just to name some of them.
8. Diversity of location choice: Being the geographically large nation that it is, teaching in Thailand provides a lot of choice when it comes to the type of environment you desire to live in. There are of course competitively sought after teaching positions on the islands and beaches (For a typically much-lower salary), as well as some considerable choice when it comes to cities and countryside. Chiang Mai and Bangkok, for example, are the two largest cities in Thailand, and the two couldn't possibly be more different. What kind of environment and city do you prefer to live in? That choice is conveniently available to you.
9. A large and comprehensible network of backpacker culture: Thailand is a mainstay on The Banana Pancake Trail, and so for the young and vibrant who love to socialize (party), meet travelers their age, and keep fresh with the mobile, there is a constant stream of backpackers pouring through the country to meet, network with, befriend, inspire, and be inspired by.
10. A large and comprehensible network of expat culture: If you choose to live and teach in Thailand, that does not necessarily mean that you are going to be living in the jungle next to a wild elephant camp with a bungalow for a home and nobody to talk to. If you choose to live in a city, you can easily expand your friendship and intellectual circle in the easily accessible expat communities there. For example, in Chiang Mai, where I live, there is an endless stream of events, book clubs, activist clubs, hiking clubs, everything else clubs, and just general expats to keep you busy and social with likeminded individuals.