I've been teaching in Thailand for 3 years. It's a myth that it's an easy gig.

After residing in the UK for six years and working in the university sector in London, I made the decision to move to Thailand for a change three years ago. While I felt like I was advancing in my career, the escalating cost of living and inflation in the UK left me feeling like my overall quality of life wasn't improving. This prompted me to seek a significant change. Now, after teaching in Thailand for three years, I've noticed a prevalent misconception that teaching in Thailand is an effortless endeavor. Unfortunately, misleading stories shared online have contributed to this misunderstanding.  

Being a teacher here can be tough, but rewarding

James Gane giving a speech at his international school's prom night event.
James Gane giving a speech at his international school's prom night event. 
James Gane

I work in an international school based in Bangkok and teach secondary school students — aged 11 to 18 — in class sizes that I would consider small, at around 16 students per class.

I feel responsible for not just their educations, but also their futures — because teachers can make a really big difference in their prospects for university. One student sent me a gushing email after they got their SAT results, and that made it really worthwhile when the workload gets crushing.

There's a perception that foreign teaching in Thailand is easy enough that you can get drunk and high every night, but that's simply not the case.

A common refrain among the full-time teachers I've spoken to is that the workweeks are long and draining. I typically work 45 to 50 hours a week.

It's also work that can be precarious. Schools here typically employ teachers on short and fixed-term contracts. As my right to stay is based on my work permit, not getting my contract renewed would mean having to leave the country.

A little preparation goes a long way in securing a good teaching job

When I decided I wanted to leave the UK, I began training to become a teacher by pursuing a PGCE — or a postgraduate certificate in education. It's a master's level qualification that takes a year to complete, and it has made all the difference in my time here in Thailand.

With it, I've been able to secure a job at an international school that pays me around 100,000 Thai baht a month — or around $2,800.

That affords me the ability to live in a condo near the Siam neighborhood in Central Bangkok. I'm a 10-minute walk from the city's most central malls and five minutes from the nearest BTS — or Bangkok Mass Transit — station.

Though you only need a bachelor's degree or TEFL — teaching English as a foreign language — certificate to teach in Thailand, the difference in pay can be stark. I've seen jobs advertised for those qualifications with less than half the pay I make now. I don't imagine you'd be able to save much or make visits home on such a pay.

As a 34-year-old though, I recognize that I have a different perspective from someone who's in their early 20s and only looking to teach here for a year or two.

Despite some of the drawbacks, I love life in Thailand

James Gane at the Signature Bangkok restaurant.
James Gane at the Signature Bangkok restaurant. 
James Gane

I love Thai people. They're kind and polite, and it makes living here such a pleasure. And I love living somewhere that's warm and sunny all year round.

Back in London, I was living in a shared apartment and had to commute an hour to work. Right now, I'm living centrally with my partner, and pay around 30,000 baht in rent for it.

I also worry less about safety here. I've not seen a single fight in my time here, whereas back in London, I'd see a fight or some other form of casual violence every time I had a night out.

Plus, I've yet to visit somewhere with a more international and diverse food scene than Bangkok. You can get everything from amazing street food for 60 baht to Michelin-star restaurants.

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