A reader recently asked:
If you were starting off – would you go to Thailand or South Korea?
Personally, I would recommend starting out in Korea. But – the right answer for me is quite possibly not the right answer for you.
Two major issues need to be considered and you need to move to your strengths and avoid your weaknesses – at least with your first job.
Thailand’s advantage is a warm and hospitable culture of friendliness. It is perhaps one of the easiest countries in the world for a foreigner to live in and comfortably adapt. Add to that wonderful weather, beautiful beaches and – well – what more could you ask of a country?
Koreans can seem a bit distant and unfriendly, perhaps just a bit wary of foreigners. Add to that some really cold weather and even hot and steamy summers and well, all of us should be heading to Thailand!
If you have never lived abroad before and are concerned about your ability to adjust and succeed in a foreign culture, then Thailand might be your best bet of the two countries under consideration here.
BUT – I said I would go to Korea! Why?
The second major factor in your decision making for choosing a country is:
Teaching Setting, Requirements and Expectations
On this issue, Korea comes out far ahead of Thailand.
In my opinion, Korea asks far less of newbie teachers and pays and provides far more.
Most teachers in Korea will teach 25 or fewer classroom hours per week and classes, especially in language schools, are usually kept quite small. There is a strong cultural respect for teachers that helps smooth over any mistakes or major gaffs you might make.
In Korea, teacher training is not required to obtain your legal working papers (a good TEFL Certification is required in Thailand). While I think teacher training should be mandatory everywhere, not everyone can afford a good course when first starting out and schools in Korea are flexible enough to let you learn on the job.
To Korea’s advantage add in the ability to be hired directly from abroad without having to go there, reimbursed airfare, paid accommodation and a few other benefits such as being able to save (fairly easily!) up to US$1000 a month on the job and I think Korea is hard to beat.
Thailand – on the other hand – almost always hires on the scene, does not usually offer airfare or accommodation, and you will earn enough to live well on the local economy, but you won’t be paying off debts or saving any serious money while working there.
Of Taiwan, Korea, Saudi Arabia or Thailand – my experience was that Thailand asked more of a teacher and paid less than any of the other countries. Saudi asks a lot – but pays accordingly.
Add in Thailand’s required teacher training which means another four weeks without wages plus US$1200-2500 in tuition costs and Thailand can be an expensive place to get started. Oh yeah, add in airfare to get there and a two-month security deposit plus the first month’s rent for your apartment, and your costs can really start adding up before you have even received your first wages.
TED’s Tips™ #1: If money is not a consideration and you have the seed money to get started, Thailand might be your best option. But if you have concerns about large classes and working more hours – Thailand may not be a good option for you.
TED’s Tips™ #2: If money is a driving force in why you want to head overseas – Korea is your best bet by far, especially for newbies. But if you are concerned about culture shock or just can’t tolerate frigid winters – then Thailand might be your best option.
TED’s Tips™ #3: China can be a good middle ground. Scout the market a bit before making a final decision.
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