Making the move to a foreign country can seem a bit frightening. There is so much to know and prepare for before boarding the flight, especially an exotic place like Thailand. Don’t worry, that is why we have compiled a list of 10 things you should know before moving to Thailand to teach English.
1. Thailand is Primarily a Buddhist Country
Be aware and respectful of the cultural differences between Thailand and your home country. Thailand is primarily a Buddhist country with thousands of Temples and Monks. To go to the temples, you must dress modestly by covering your knees and shoulders. Furthermore, there is certain etiquette to interacting with Monks as they are highly revered and should always be giving priority. It is disrespectful for women to speak or touch monks, so please keep this in mind when visiting the temples. Along with Monks, the Buddha figure is also extremely highly regarded so please be respectful when you see a Buddha statue.
2. Long Live the King!
The King is highly revered and loved by all Thai people. It is extremely disrespectful and actually illegal to say anything rude about the King. In addition, many Thai people do not like to discuss the King with foreigners and so it is simply best to avoid the topic altogether. In addition, the King’s portrait and depiction are highly revered and because it is on the Thai currency, it is important for you to be careful with the money in Thailand and do not step on the bills.
3. Beware of Your Feet!
In Thailand, feet are seen as extremely dirty and your head is regarded as sacred. Therefore, it is extremely disrespectful to put your feet up on furniture and to show anyone the bottom of your feet. In addition, you should not touch other people’s heads. This includes children when you are teaching them.
The Wai is the traditional greeting used in Thailand and is a show of respect to others. To wai, you place both hands in front of your chest touching one another and bow. Every day at school, you will Wai to your coworkers, boss, and director. The higher up the person (i.e. the director of the school or the King), the deeper the bow. You will also Wai to students to greet them coming to school, however, you do not Wai to young children.
5. Cooking? No Way!
As you will be living in your own apartment, the majority of the apartments are studio apartments and do not come with a kitchen. In Thailand, most people primarily eat out and do not cook, as it is cheaper to do so (a meal will cost roughly 1 euro). Therefore, it would be best to learn some key phrases in Thai relating to food or purchase a small stove for your apartment.
6. Cash Only Please
Like many developing countries, Thailand is primarily a cash-based society. This means that you will rarely be able to use a card to pay for anything. When you first move to Thailand, we recommend bringing your debit card from your home country to withdraw cash once in Thailand. The ATM will give you the best exchange rate as opposed exchanging cash at a money exchange provider.
7. Negotiate Much?
When shopping at a marketplace, Thailand is primarily a barter system. Whatever price you are first quoted, be sure to ask for at least half the price because they are most likely giving you the foreigner price. However, this is not the case when purchasing food, only clothing, and other goods.
8. Patientience is a Virtue
The school system in Thailand is extremely different from western schools. In Thailand, there may be days when your classes are canceled for no reason and nobody will tell you. The only way you will find out is simply by sitting in your classroom and having no-one show up. You need to be patient and accept it and simply go with the flow.
9. Pack Less Than You Think You Need
We recommend only bringing one check-in suitcase and one large backpack to use on weekend trips. Believe it or not but you will most likely end up wearing the same outfits. Not to mention that you will purchase a lot of clothes and souvenirs while you are here. However, we do recommend that you pack your teaching clothes, as it may be difficult to find the right size in Thailand. Be sure to read more about what to pack and download our ultimate packing guide.
10. Squatty Potty
Generally, in Asia, there are many squatting toilets, however, there may be some western toilets depending on the area. On this note, there may not be toilet paper in the bathroom, as most people use the “bum gun”. Therefore, for your comfort, we recommend always having toilet paper on you, along with hand sanitizer in the event that the sink does not work (which happens quite often in Thailand).
These are simply a few things to know before departing for the land of smiles. If you have any specific questions, do not hesitate to contact one of our specialists!
What is something you wish you knew before going to Thailand?