I spent a year teaching English in Northern Thailand. I can say without a doubt that it was one of the best experiences of my life. In fact, due to my enjoyment and deep understanding of Thai culture, I was hired on by a non-profit organization in Northern Thailand to help recruit foreign teachers and revamp their orientation program. Here are the five tips that I think are the most important advice anyone should heed before coming to live in Thailand.
Get a Motorbike
I cannot even begin to emphasize how important the motorbike is. The difference between teachers that chose to rent out a motorbike vs. those that stayed home all day was night and day. Those with the freedom of a motorbike loved Thailand – the rest remained bored and cynical. A motorbike gives you the ability to explore your city, meet up with Thai friends, and find new places to eat. With a little searching, one can find a bike for rent for around 2,000 bhat a month in any Thai town. Some people are afraid to ride their first time, but it is very easy to learn.
Explore Your Province
I spent a year living in Lampang. Many new to Thailand might be quick to brush it aside as another boring Thai province and instead spend their weekends traveling to Chiang Mai. This interpretation couldn’t be further from the truth. Every Thai province is packed full with an incredible amount of interesting temples, national or provincial parks, coffee shops, waterfalls, and caves. It took me a while to realize this about Lampang, but once I did, I set out almost every weekend to discover a new area. Again, this would not be possible without a motorcycle. My best memories of Thailand were spent exploring areas of Lampang with my friends on our motorbikes.
Learning Thai is no easy task, but being able to communicate with locals in their native language was by far the most rewarding experience of my time in Thailand. I was ambitious and set out to learn the language which I now speak almost fluently. This was not because I am gifted in languages, but rather because I put in the time to learn it. Learning Thai has not only helped me expand my understanding of the world around me, but it also gave me a unique appreciation for Thailand that very few people I know quite understand. Click here to hear specifically how I mastered Thai in under a year.
Go to the Gym
As a teacher in Thailand, I had a lot of free time. With school getting out at three everyday, I barely knew what to do with myself. I knew a lot of teachers that just went home to watch Netflix, but I chose to spend my time more productively. Almost everyday after school I would spend a few hours studying Thai and then hit the gym before dinner. I was probably in the best shape of my life at this time. Another reason I could go to the gym everyday – I had a motorbike. Just being in good shape improved my overall mood helping me to further enjoy my time in Thailand.
Stay Another Year
I honestly think my biggest regret – perhaps in my entire life – was not staying another year in Thailand. Yes I can always go back and visit, but I will never have another opportunity to fully immerse myself in Thai culture again. After Thailand, I rushed home to get a political consulting job in Washington D.C. While I am glad with all I have accomplished now, once I started going down a more serious career path the opportunity to live in Thailand again quickly closed behind me. My best advice is if you’re young and a teacher in Thailand already, don’t rush to return home. I wish I would have stayed that extra year, but I probably would have chosen to live in a new province – perhaps Mae Hong Son – to get a new experience.