Top tips for teaching job interviews in Thailand
If you’re looking for a job teaching English in Thailand then you should take note of a few cultural expectations. Get it right and you’re halfway to landing that plumb job.
Those who are arriving in Thailand for the first time and looking to stay and teach will be at a slight disadvantage over others who have a better understanding of ‘Thainess’ , since Thailand takes its teachers very seriously. Who doesn’t, but here in the Kingdom you will need to meet some minimum ‘presentation’ requirements before they let you loose on their kids.
Presentation is indeed a keyword in Thailand. Appearance is paramount, from glittering temples, to the way you dress, your hand writing, facial hair, you name it. Sometimes the fidelity of your teaching skills and expertise may well take a back seat. At Thai schools, the teachers are expected to set a good example, in appearance any how. And this may extend beyond the tie you wear.
When going for a job interview in a Thai school, they will likely judge you from the minute you walk in, in the same way we sub-consciously judge people by their accents. In fact, Thailand is a conservative society, especially in education, where teachers are highly respected and admired, so parents will be really concerned about your behaviour in and out of the classroom.
For one, always turn out neatly presented, conservatively (despite the heat), clean shaven, wearing a tie, knee length skirt, blouse and hair tied back (sorry gents but long hair and beards won’t get you far, and if you’ve got dreadlocks, then forget it!). Look around you, note how Thais are generally well dressed, certainly at work.
A quick lesson in Thai etiquette is a good idea, being too assertive might not have the desired effect here, showing respect to those older than you, learning when and whom to ‘wai’, and how to do so correctly is a good idea (if you don’t know how then rather not, you might embarrass yourself wai-ing the receptionist who’s 10 years younger than you). Duck your head slightly passing those older than you, remember to remove your shoes, don’t touch others, just smile passively.
Being softly spoken is perhaps a better idea than being assertive. Showing an ability to remain calm and in control works well. Remember too, that your overall behaviour is important, especially if you will be living locally in the community. As a farang you will stick out like a sore thumb, everyone notices and reports on what you are up to. So, bringing that bar girl back to your apartment, even at 1am, won’t go unnoticed. A rumour about town that you’re seen hanging out with the wrong girls (or guys) won’t endear you much to the school.
Of course, in Bangkok you can be more anonymous and get away with a bit more, especially in a language school. If the recruiter is a farang, then the above will apply less. But it’s likely they have been here long enough to have ‘Thai expectations’, especially if the school’s reputation (and by extension profitability) are at stake.
Ultimately it all boils down to what the parents think, and if they are stiving to be good middle class Thais, they will not be too keen on a teacher role model who doesn’t understand the importance of maintaining face and appearing ‘good’. So, your job depends on it.
Many of the TEFL courses in Thailand will give you a session of coaching on Thai cultural etiquette, how not to make blunders in the classroom, and what will impress the pants off the Thai employer. If you understand ‘Thainess’ they will love you.