I’m not a native English speaker, can I work as a TEFL teacher in Thailand?
The simple answer is yes. If you are from a country like Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands or the Philippines which all have a pretty high level of English (particularly with younger folks) then it will be pretty straightforward for you to find teaching work in Thailand.
You won’t be as limited as you might think either. Schools (large and small) along with English-language centres, tourist organizations and hotels will all hire anyone (including Thais) with a sufficiently high level of English. As it happens, I worked in an international school where the Chinese teacher was proficient enough in English to allow her to teach both Mandarin and English to students from all over the World.
Why is it more difficult for non-native English speakers to find TEFL work in Thailand?
Thais are very big on appearance. If you drive a big truck with chrome wheels and lots of flashing lights then you must be rich! This is deeply engrained in Thai culture and unfortunately, the fact that you have Dutch citizenship could hinder your chances of obtaining work even if you speak perfect English.
The reality is that a lot of Europeans speak better English than many folks from England but as far as a Thai employer is concerned, an English person can speak better English than anyone else and you need to set yourself apart in order to ensure they hire you!
How can a non-native English speaker increase their chances of finding teaching work?
Be professional, dress smart and learn basic Thai manners. The fact that Thais are very keen on your appearance will work in your favour in some respects. Although a native English speaker might be more attractive on paper, they might be more inclined to work with a non-native English speaker who presents themselves well.
Whenever meeting an employer, casual business dress is recommended at a minimum. Wearing a shirt, closed shoes and long pants or a long skirt will win you a lot of points with an employer if your competition turns up with a shaved head, facial piercings on show and tattoos all over their arms and legs.
Do the visa and work-permits differ for non-native English speakers teaching in Thailand?
Thai law is constantly in a state of flux and cannot be depended upon for too long. For all nationalities, employment is prohibited on a tourist visa (although you will be working on your tourist visa for a while until your school gets your paperwork in order) and none should have any more or less difficulty obtaining a work permit over any other.
One thing that is worth knowing about is the visa exemption. For economical and political reasons, Thailand exempts 48 (at the time of writing) countries from the need of a visa in order to enter the country as a tourist. This list includes:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- United States
Be sure to do a quick Google before you take this article as gospel however, things change all the time!
John Peden writes all about life teaching in Thailand on his blog, along with his girlfriend Michelle Aitken. If you are interested in finding out more about what you can expect as a TEFL teacher in Thailand (including Bangkok and Chiang Mai) why not take a look at this article on saving money on your flight to Thailand (to teach) [http://www.goteachthailand.com/how-can-i-save-money-flying-to-thailand-to-teach-english/] that will get you started.