Working as a foreign teacher alongside Thai teachers at Thai schools can be a unique and rewarding experience.

Working in a foreign culture can also be both exciting and challenging. You may encounter different attitudes, customs, and expectations from what you're used to in your home country. It's essential to approach the experience with an open mind and a willingness to learn.

In Thailand, it is common for people not to greet each other verbally, which can be confusing for foreigners who may feel ignored or think it's impolite. However, as a guest in their country, it's crucial to adapt to their cultural practices instead of expecting them to adjust to yours. Thais often use the wai gesture, a short wave or smile to acknowledge others. They also tend to speak quietly and appreciate a low tone of voice rather than a loud one. Foreigners who speak loudly may be perceived as aggressive and unfriendly by Thai teachers.

Depending on your level of Thai language proficiency, communicating with Thai teachers and staff will often be difficult. Unless you’re working at an international school or in the faculty of liberal arts or humanities at a Thai university where many of your Thai colleagues will have been educated abroad and speak decent English, in most Thai schools you will have communication issues with most of your Thai colleagues. Again, it’s Thailand. They speak their language. Not to mention their shyness in speaking English.

But not to worry, if you don’t speak any Thai yet, my suggestion is to use simple language, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly. By doing so, you will be able to communicate more effectively and achieve greater success speaking to your Thai colleagues.

Face is important in Thailand, being unable to make themselves understood by a foreigner results in a great loss of face. To avoid embarrassment, many thus choose to avoid speaking to foreigners. It’s wrong to expect Thai teachers to speak English. Only a minority of Thai teachers do, often the extroverted ones, the head teachers, or the coordinators. It may seem odd but most Thai English teachers do not speak much English, remember this.

If you genuinely want to be appreciated by the school faculty, try to communicate with them in Thai, and learn to speak and practice your Thai. Trust me, they’ll love and respect you for it. Frankly, it baffles me as to why so many foreign teachers are so lazy and unwilling to adapt to Thai culture, learn Thai, and immerse themselves more in Thai culture.

With the exception of Filipino teachers who adapt extremely well, I find that too many western teachers feel superior and think that they know it all. Many totally fail to adapt to Thai culture, and this can be frustrating for locals. It is important to recognize that things are done differently in Thailand, and it is essential to respect and understand the Thai way.

Thai teaching methods may differ from what you're used to, and you may need to adapt your teaching style to fit with the Thai educational system. Collaboration with Thai teachers can help you learn more about their teaching methods.

When Thai teachers teach English they use the obsolete grammar-translation method. There’s no point in criticizing them or advising them that this is not the best way. Trust me, many have tried before you and failed miserably. Criticism is a big no-no in Thailand – just don’t. Leave the Thai teachers do their thing their way, you do your thing your way, which is helping your students communicate in English; the reason you got hired to work at the school in the first place!

As a foreign teacher, you may be responsible for teaching multiple subjects or classes. Thai schools often have long teaching hours and extracurricular activities that you may be expected to participate in. It’s worth mentioning that legally speaking, a school is not allowed to have you teach more than 24 50-minute periods. They can ask you to do more and in fact many teachers teach well over 24 periods, this should be paid extra.

In comparison to other countries, I think that the workload is a little less in Thailand. The atmosphere is often relaxed, mistakes and misunderstandings are quickly forgiven and nothing is taken too seriously as long as you “go with the flow” – this is so important in Thailand. Don’t try to change the system, you can’t. It’s the Thai way or the highway. Enjoy your time at the school, be helpful, show initiative and interest in your colleagues, your students and you’ll quickly find out that the Thai staff is eager to help you adjust to the new environment and assist you with whatever difficulties you may face in and outside the school.

Overall, working as a foreign teacher alongside Thai teachers can be an enriching experience that offers opportunities for cultural exchange and professional growth. However, it's important to be flexible and adaptable to make the most of the experience.


Blog by Frank Anderson in Konkaen


Note that the author of the blog is expressing personal thoughts and musings, which do not necessarily reflect those of KruTeacher. Therefore, cannot be held responsible for any potential inaccuracies that may be present in the blog.

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