If you find a position in Bangkok, you might be surprised by how many friends you suddenly have back at home! Bangkok is for intrepid adventure seekers and culture vultures—but not the faint hearted. There will be plenty to entertain and fascinate you and your visitors. For the right candidate, Thailand’s capital is magnetic!
Search Associates (SEARCH) works with 14 schools in Thailand, including seven in Bangkok. Salaries vary considerably, though most schools offer between $31,000 and $45,000 per annum for a single teacher with a BEd and minimum of four years’ experience. Be sure to review each package thoroughly; there are so many pieces which make up the full picture, including air fares, medical insurance— sometimes including dental— free or subsidised school places for teachers’ children, and relocation allowances, etc. This is another reason why the SEARCH database is so great: you will be able to compare packages across all SEARCH schools!
It is safe to say that Bangkok is on the “main highway” connecting places like Dubai, Singapore, and Hong Kong. International education in these cities is well-established. Competition for places, particularly in better-known, better-paying schools, is intense.
All good schools now seem to be aware of the importance of a strong, flexible professional development (PD) program in order to attract the best teachers and help develop their careers. Expect no less in Bangkok. An important regional hub, the city also hosts a number of international conferences and education events. Some schools even provide a sum of PD money for teachers to use at their discretion.
Bangkok is one of those places where you can eat and live so cheaply that you could save much of what you earn. The food is justifiably famous and always very fresh. Street food—available everywhere— is cheap and delicious. You really don’t even need a kitchen! Most homes don’t have an oven because cooking there is stove top. Entertainment is not expensive either, though the range of options will test your ability to keep tight control of your wallet!
In your first year, you will probably find that your school will provide accommodation in a secure area with excellent recreation facilities, which you will share with fellow teachers. Families tend to prefer this. Some—usually single teachers—prefer to move into the center of the city, and are given an allowance to do so.
It would be easy to paint an idyllic picture, but living in Bangkok does have its challenges. First, you must be okay with heat and humidity, and many buildings—not our schools, of course—will lack air-conditioning. It’s simply not your place if you have asthma. Traffic is—as in many big cities—dreadful. The quickest way around is to get a motorbike taxi—close your eyes—or a tuk-tuk—close just one eye! Be prepared for language challenges. Cabs are everywhere, but not many drivers speak much English. Likewise, many shops and small service centers lack staff members who speak much English. You will become talented at mime! The bureaucracy varies in efficiency, so it always pays to pack a good book for the wait, just in case. If you ask for assistance, Thai people are likely to be polite, respectful, and very helpful. Nevertheless, in an animated city, you can encounter characters of all types living different kinds of lives.
Senior Associate Harry Deelman laughingly remembers the results of a talk to candidates, which he gave in 1993 as Headmaster of a new Bangkok-located school at the Search Associates’ January Fair in Auckland. He said things like "Don't come to Bangkok if you hate heat, humidity, and traffic jams. . . Don't come to Bangkok if you like frequent outdoor exercise . . . Don't come to Bangkok if you dislike near-constant pungent smells," and so his disclaimer continued. Harry recounts,
"Nevertheless, 37 keen candidates came to my sign-up table, with just two days (as the sole NIST recruiter) to interview all of them. Nine accepted job offers at NIST, and I think all nine renewed contract at least once thereafter. . . . My ‘Don't come to Bangkok’ speech was quoted back to me for many years!”
While the city boasts a never-ending menu of things to fascinate and to frustrate, to delight and to disturb, peace and quiet in its parks and temples makes for a lovely balance. If you have children and seek wide open spaces for play, it is worth inquiring about during your job interview. The river does not have many waterfront public or walking areas because homes and businesses usually back up onto its banks However, the parks—even downtown—are full of sweet-smelling flora, beautiful birdsong, and the occasional water monitor lizard that will have your children shouting, “Crocodile!”
Bangkok is a culture seeker and photographer’s dream, and Thailand, too, is blessed with a fantastic array of beautiful and exotic destinations. Whether you like nature, wildlife, food, geography, or history, this is a fantastic country. History buff Bill Turner drove two hours west of Bangkok to the bridge on the River Kwai, at Kanchanaburi, and then up Hellfire Gorge on the infamous Death Railway. Within two hours’ flight time, you can be in Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. One popular pastime for teachers is to drive or fly to the coast or islands. In less than four hours by car, you can be on perfect tropical beaches to forget your preparation and assessments for a few hours! Krabi, Phuket, Ko Samui—all are close by. Bangkok is served by two airports. The smaller, Don Muang, is the main hub for flights to the islands and other regional destinations.
Thailand’s capital is understandably a very popular destination for adventurous teachers to feel right at home!