Sean, what made you choose Thailand out of ALL the places in the world you could have gone?
I honestly did not do much research on Thailand or any other countries for that matter. I simply wrote down about ten countries Premier TEFL had to offer on their Internship page and began to narrow them down. My top three countries it came down to were Costa Rica, Vietnam, and of course, Thailand.
For whatever reason, I could not stop thinking about Thailand; something inside me kept pulling me towards the land of smiles. I am extremely happy with my decision and extremely happy with my life.
You’ve travelled Colombia, right? Are there any similarities or total contrasts between Colombia and Thailand that you didn’t expect? What’s unique about Thailand?
Yes I traveled to Colombia last year in June and caught the travel bug. Colombia is on my list of countries I’d like to teach in down the line. There are not too many similarities between Thailand and Colombia other than the tropical climate and how you may witness an entire family with chickens and groceries on one motorbike.
Walking down the streets in Colombia very few people will smile back at you, however, in Thailand nearly everyone will give you the biggest most genuine smile. This alone is a reason to visit Thailand. Additionally, I did not try much street food in Colombia but the street food in Thailand is unparalleled and better than most restaurants.
One last difference between the two countries is the mass amount of sugar they consume in Thailand, everything from Pad Thai to tea/juice may be served with far too much sugar.
When you decided to go to Thailand, what made you decide to take on this adventure with Premier TEFL? Is there anything about us that stuck out to you?
I was researching many TEFL programs and what really stuck out about Premier TEFL, other than the user friendly website, was the internship program. Some big must haves for me were and online program I could complete at my own pace and a guaranteed job after the course was finished.
I spoke with a travel advisor from Premier TEFL and she mentioned both of these were offered through the internship program, needless to say, I was sold.
Did you have much culture shock when you first got to Thailand? If so, what are your top three tips for overcoming it?
Yes, there is a huge difference in cultural norms between Thailand and California. Some of these came as a pleasant surprise and others are still a struggle to overcome.
I’m really enjoying the “mai bpen rai” lifestyle, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s essentially the ‘hakuna matata’ for Thai people. No worries or “mai bpen rai” runs deep here and I feel Southern California/America is really missing this one. One cultural shock that is still a struggle to overcome is the mass amounts of plastic and trash that accumulate everywhere/everyday.
If you go to 7/11 to buy a bottle of water they’ll put the plastic bottle in a plastic bag and include a plastic straw. In addition, there are very few trash cans, even in night markets and heavily populated areas. I’ve made efforts to reduce my own carbon footprint with reusable cups and bags, however, the average Thai citizen does not.
What was the most exciting/interesting thing you noticed when you first moved to Thailand?
More interesting than exciting, but it appears there are no age limits for driving a motorbike. In addition to children driving these bikes there are no regulated laws requiring Thai citizens to wear their helmet.
It is very common to see a “farang” (foreigner) pulled over and paying off a police man for not wearing a helmet while dozens of locals cruise by with no helmets. I know because this happened to me (I had my helmet on but my passenger did not).
The most exciting aspect of Thailand is what I mentioned above about the Mai bpen rai lifestyle, I love how laid back people are here.
What does a typical day in the life of Sean in Thailand look like? Give us a brief rundown
Morning: On a typical school day, I’ll wake up around 6:30a put on my dress shoes, black slacks, white button up and a tie and head out the door. Weaving through morning traffic I arrive at 7/11 to pick up a toastie (grilled ham and cheese sandwich), a banana, and a coffee. From there I head to school.
Once at school I sign in, then power down my toastie and take a few sips of my americano before heading down to morning assembly. I rarely know what’s going on at morning assembly other than the national anthem and the school’s anthem. Once the assembly has concluded I head back to the office to gather my things and head to class.
I typically have 6-7 classes in a day (which is way above your average foreign language teacher) so my days are packed with back to back classes.
Afternoon: Once the clock hits 12, myself and the only other foreign English teacher (Anne) head out to a local cafe/restaurant to indulge in some Thai food. Upon arrival back to school, if I have time before class I will head out to the sport courts to enjoy some takaw or basketball with the students.
If you don’t know what takaw is, look it up, it’s a really intense Thai sport combining hacky sack and volleyball. After lunch period is over I roll through the 2-3 remaining classes for the day then get back on my bike and head home.
Evening: Most evenings after school you can find me at the gym. After that, I head to one of the many of places to eat including the night market, curry restaurant, duck noodle restaurant, or if it’s a Friday at the local bar.
No matter where I am in the evenings I am usually spending it with a handful of the other foreign English teachers placed in Chaiyaphum.
We’ve heard you love some karaoke. What are the karaoke bars like over there? Is the nightlife as amazing as everyone says?
Yes, I do love karaoke however I have yet to find a karaoke bar with western songs hence the singing in the classroom. Little did I know, some places that advertise themselves as a karaoke bar are not just karaoke bars but also double as brothels.
What are the Top Three Tips you’d give a future teacher in Thailand, and why?
1. Don’t get upset at the lack of communication and last minute changes.
2. Get out of town during the long weekends and explore.
3. Understand and respect the hierarchy of who and when to Wai to co-workers and locals.
What is the number one thing everyone has to see/do when in Thailand and why?
Other than the typical tourist destinations (Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai) go to a rural, off the beaten path, province to see the real Thailand. Chiayaphum, Khon Kaen, Nong Khai, etc.