Money: avoid splashing out on all that over-priced travel kit before you leave, Thailand is cheap and there’s plenty of decent apparel on sale, as well as laptops, mobile phones etc. Reckon on $500 minimum for living expenses (food and rent) per month while you job hunt, You might not save too much in this country so bring your summer job savings if you intend to do some travelling in the recess.
Summer clothes: it rarely gets cold in Thailand, in fact mostly it’s hot and humid so bring light clothes. For your teaching job you will need to look smart – conservatively dressed. Arrive with two sets of smart clothes, but it’s better to plan your outfit shopping here once you’ve seen what other teachers typically wear. A jacket isn’t necessary but pack at least one tie. In your free time you’re likely to be wearing T-shirts, singlets and shorts mostly. Vests are a good idea under your shirt to wick sweat and avoid embarrassment in front of your kids.
Shoes: are needed for your teaching job obviously, though you’ll likely be leaving them at the door to your classroom. In Thailand everyone goes barefoot indoors, it’s wonderful. Make sure your socks have their holes darned! If you wear a large shoe size then bring your own. During leisure time here everyone goes around in flip-flops. In other words, leave your doc martens and most other shoes behind.
Medicines: if you have a particular condition, diabetes for example, bring enough to last while you establish local suppliers. The medical professional in Thailand is very good and you needn’t worry too much about obtaining prescriptions and attention. Contact lenses are likely to be found at one of the many local optometrists. Ensure you have your travel insurance in order for initial arrival, but you can sign up for private medical care for about $600+ per annum. Once formally employed you automatically join the social security system.
Language: you needn’t arrive with any proficiency in Thai language, there’s enough people speaking basic English and once here the options for learning are better. There’s no harm in making a start with some online courses.
Right attitude: you will be joining the noble profession of teaching, regarded with respect locally, and expected to be professional and serious. Avoid coming with the idea you’re simply here to travel around and make classroom appearances. Your salary might not seem much but it’s quite good by local standards and you’ll be living comfortably.
Open mind: Thailand is very much an ‘Oriental’ country, that is to say it was never colonised and although it’s been welcoming foreigners for decades it prefers to remain ‘individual’. Being a Buddhist country it has an entirely different set of values and etiquette, characterised by passive and polite behaviour, a forgiving and patient demeanour and respect for others. Enthusiasm towards teaching is good, but temper it with a soft approach until you have learnt to fit in with the locals. Thais are fun loving and communal and will expect the same of you.
Cloud computing: set up your drop box and social media before arriving, so that you have everything safely stored and a place to leave all your keepsake photos. You’ll have plenty of experiences to ‘share’ so get your Facebook and blog all ready. Access to the internet here is easy, you can buy a 3G or 4G Sim card, pay-as-you-go, on day one in numerous shops.
Sense of adventure: you’re going to be eating weird things, and using squat toilets occasionally, conversing in simple English, becoming the centre of attention, getting occassionally ripped off, dehydrated, fed up with the noise… learn to laugh at it all and be willing to try new things, that’s what travelling to new parts of the world is all about. Thailand isn’t too strange, there will be plenty of other foreigners about, and the locals are very hospitable. Never lose your cool here.
Your favourite teddy bear: Thailand is all about being cute. Your new boyfriend or girlfriend will be impressed.