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Find Out Which Teach Abroad Program is Meant for You!

Thinking of teaching abroad in Asia, but don’t know where?

We’ve got the quiz for you. With teach abroad programs in countries like Thailand, South Korea, China, Myanmar, and Vietnam, it can be hard to choose where you’d like to start your new adventure abroad. That’s why you should take this quiz to find out which teach abroad program is meant for you! Take your first step into your new career change by exploring your options. Take the quiz now!

What You Need to Know Before Moving to Asia

So you hold a passport from either the US, UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Ireland, and you’ve decided you want to spend a couple of months abroad teaching English in Asia. That’s great! That’s what XploreAsia is here for. We facilitate and support your adventures abroad. However, you can’t just embark on your journey without knowing the differences between individualist and collectivist cultures. 

Why?

If you come from an English speaking country, there’s a high chance you’ve been accustomed to individualist culture. To name a few, US, UK, Canada, and Australia are well-known countries that have an individualistic culture. Collectivism is far different than individualism, and depending on which culture you have grown accustomed to can determine your general outlook on life. It can determine how you perceive relationships, how you evaluate yourself, and what you may prioritize more: yourself or your community. Knowing the differences between the two cultures can help you grasp a deeper understanding of collectivism. 

What is Individualism?

It is the social theory of favoring independence and self-reliance. The right of an individual precedes the group. In addition, there’s an emphasis on being unique and standing out from others. Because independence is highly revered in individualistic cultures, many people believe that you should be able to solve your own problems. It can be seen as embarrassing if you are too dependent on others for help. People from these cultures also tend to hold self-concepts that are distinctive. 

What is Collectivism?

It is the social theory of favoring the benefit of the group over the individual. It is common knowledge to sacrifice your comfort for the greater good. Because collectivistic cultures place a big importance on their community, it’s common to find people reach out to family and friends for support, and rely on each other during difficult times. Social-cooperation is also very important. People prioritize harmonious relationships and avoid confrontation to maintain relationships. Different from individualism, people from collectivist cultures hold self-concepts that are centered around interdependence and their roles in groups.

What Can You Expect?

Upon moving to Asia, you will come to interact with the locals. At first, you might not notice it, but you will gradually come to understand what it means to hold collectivistic views. This can be an eye-opening change for someone who has only had experience with individualistic culture. In many Asian countries, people are more attentive to other people’s needs and opinions. They are focused on maintaining a good image of themselves and fulfilling a social role within their community. Therefore, you might meet people who value social gatherings to a great degree.

Social gatherings are known to strengthen bonds between colleagues or friends, as they are seen as important events that can help build a stronger community. Community is a big part in the collectivist culture and it comes as no surprise that people feel obligated to fulfill a social role in their community. Whether it is to be a good daughter to your parents, or a loyal friend. 

You can see the clash between individualism and collectivism play out in a work setting. In an individualistic work setting, creativity and individual achievements are valued, and a lot of times, people are awarded bonuses based on their performance. However, in a collectivistic work setting, teamwork is valued. It is frowned upon if someone were to disrupt group harmony. More importantly, hierarchy is very prominent in a collectivist work setting. A lot of people try and read the atmosphere to avoid upsetting anyone, especially their superiors. So when you get placed in a new work setting in Asia, you may find it hard to understand the significance placed on group work and how a lot of people may tiptoe around their employers.

Enjoy Your Adventure in Asia!

Moving to Asia will surely be quite the adventure! Understanding the collectivistic values in many Asian countries will save you the confusion you might experience during your time abroad. Don’t get too caught up on thinking like a collectivist, though! This post is just meant to help you become aware of the differences between each culture. Keep in mind to respect the social etiquette in the country you are staying in and enjoy your adventure in Asia!

5 Things No One Tells You About South Korea

Picture This:

You’ve come to South Korea to teach English, and the first week you’re here, everything seems fascinating. You’re trying out new food and visiting new cities. However, a month goes by and you’re starting to miss home. It’s harder to communicate with the locals and understand why they act the way they do. Feelings of frustration are rising. What’s happened?

 

 

This is a perfect example of a “honeymoon phase” ending. It’s something that people experience when they live in a different country for an extended period. Of course, this is no exception to teachers who move to South Korea to teach English. This post isn’t meant to scare you off, though! It’s meant to teach you about the hidden facets of South Korean culture in today’s modern society. Knowing this beforehand will help you combat the culture shock you will experience living in Korea. 

1. Age Importance

First on our list is the importance of your age.

South Koreans place great importance on your age, especially in an office setting. When you enter a new workplace and meet your colleagues, you will bow and exchange formal words. As time pass, some of your colleagues will start talking to you informally, but this doesn’t mean you can too. You are allowed to speak informally to a colleague who is the same age as you. However, when interacting with a colleague that is either at a higher position than you or is older than you, you must remind yourself to use formal words.

2. Drinking Culture

Drinking alcohol is a big part of South Korean corporate culture. It is a stress reliever for many overworked employees and also plays a big part in building business relationships. Being invited to go out for a drink with your office superior is seen as a compliment, making it hard for people to turn it down. Therefore, people who have office jobs often feel obligated to attend after-work dinners with their employers. Unfortunately, at these dinners, people are pressured to drink. In South Korean drinking etiquette, offering a drink to another person is a sign of generosity. As a result, refusing this drink could come off as a rude gesture. The extent of how much South Koreans drink isn’t a concern that Koreans seem to understand. Drinking is seen as a normal activity that can strengthen bonds between friends or colleagues.

3. Herd Mentality

South Korea is a collectivistic country, often placing a lot of importance on the group or community rather than the individual. Therefore, the herd mentality in this country is present and particularly strong, and this can be seen especially in fashion trends. Once something starts to trend, everyone seems to hop on the new fad. Whether it is hairstyles, clothes, or makeup, you will see a lot of people in Korea who have strikingly similar styles. It is almost to the point where they look alike. Wanting to conform to social norms and to be seen as a part of a group is normal in any country for most people, however, in South Korea, people take collectivism very seriously. Eating alone at a restaurant or school can be seen a bit weird and people oftentimes assume you’ve been ostracized by your peers if you do so.

South Korea is a collectivistic country, often placing a lot of importance on the group or community rather than the individual.

Speaking of being ostracized by your peers, there’s a particular way of bullying in Korea that is quite severe. It is called ‘wangtta’ where a group of people collectively ignore a person as a form of bullying. A lot of times people don’t speak to this person and associates them negative qualities. Sometimes, people who are labeled as ‘wangtta’ continue to be a ‘wangtta’ throughout most of their school year. As a collectivistic country, making a person a ‘wangtta’ would be the harshest form of bullying. Of course, once someone starts bullying, everyone collectively does it as well. This makes it hard for someone who is a ‘wangtta’ to break out of their isolation.

4. Humor & Sarcasm

Humor in each country is different and can be confusing to understand, and this is no exception for the humor in South Korea. In this tiny Asian country, making a fool out of yourself or dissing others is a common way to make others laugh. South Korean humor also includes a lot of hitting. For instance, physically hitting your friends as a joke can be seen to be humorous. It implies that you have a close relationship with your friends. Although it looks painful, it’s a lot different than bullying. If you see both parties laughing while the joke plays out, then it’s most likely that it’s just a friendly hitting! 

Sarcasm does exist in South Korea, but it is usually used between friends. Sarcasm is usually used to make fun of a person in a snarky matter. For example, one might say, “You seem to be working hard,” in an exaggerated tone that makes it quite obvious that they are making a sarcastic joke. So, if you were to throw a sarcastic comment in a monotone, Koreans will have a hard time understanding that you are joking and might take it literally.

5. Lookism

You will be surprised how much Korean people, care about looks and weight. Korea is known as the world’s plastic surgery capital with an estimate of 1 million surgeries conducted in a year alone. This prevalence allows a lot of female teenagers to be gifted a blepharoplasty as a normal middle or high school graduation present. A blepharoplasty is also called a double eyelid surgery, which allows a person with monolids to attain a bigger eye shape. This is a sought out facial feature in Asian beauty standards.

The prevalence of plastic surgery can be correlated to lookism. Lookism is discriminatory treatment toward people who are deemed physically unattractive. This includes fat shaming, which is normalized in Korea. It’s so normalized to the point that the media often portrays TV personalities who have “bigger” bodies to be ridiculed by referring to them as ‘pigs’. Often, this type of name-calling is seen as humorous. This kind of social pressure keeps Korean women thin. So thin actually, that two in ten women suffer from undernourishment according to a 2009 report by the Ministry of Health. 

Experience South Korea For What It Is

We understand that moving to a new country will be a significant transition. And while this blog post might provide you with useful information, it’s a different story when you arrive on new land. That’s why XploreAsia provides our soon-to-be teachers with a cultural immersion orientation course. Provided online and in-class, this course strives to help you understand multiple aspects of South Korean culture. We touch on subjects such as politics, society, life in South Korea as well as the South Korean school system. 

We also arrange in-country cultural excursions outside of the classroom so you can experience interacting with the locals and culture. These excursions are accompanied with in-class Korean language lessons so you can build your basic understanding of the Korean language. All these efforts are to ensure you experience a seamless transition into your new life in South Korea. So don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, XploreAsia is here to provide you with the support and guidance you need.

How to Choose Your Optimal Time to Teach Abroad

Deciding to teach abroad is already a big leap, but if you’ve gotten this far and are now determining when to go, that in itself can be another big decision. To help alleviate some of the stress, here is a breakdown of how we like to filter our favorite places to go and when.

Semester Dates

One of the largest factors to consider when coming over to teach: semester dates. Whether you’re on a strict schedule or flexible timeline, here are some dates to consider:

South Korea

The academic year in Korea runs from February to March with breaks in July and August for summer and January and December for winter, similar to that of Western countries. 

Unlike the United States however, Koreans generally spend 220 days in school compared to the 180 days in the States. The contract length for the South Korea program is one year, so you can spend this time getting fully immersed in Korean culture and making friends that will last a lifetime.

Vietnam:

The school year in Vietnam typically lasts from September to May and the school week is six days, with children usually only attending school for half the day. If you are unsure if the decision to teach abroad is right for you, Vietnam is a great place to start because the shortest contract is 4 months.

China

In China, the school year runs from the beginning of September to mid-July, and a school day typically goes from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a two-hour lunch break. 

Like the Vietnam program, this program is perfect for if you would like some flexibility with your time abroad, because the contract length can be anywhere from 4.5 months to 9 months.

Thailand

The best times to take your TEFL or TESOL course in Thailand are October and April as they take place during school breaks. Throughout the country, schools have their break months in March and April for summer and September or October for winter break, so after your course is over, you can start teaching right when everyone else starts back up at school.

Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly Burma) is great for those with the most flexible and adventurous schedule. Because Myanmar has experienced so many tumultuous changes within the last century, it is in dire need of all forms of education in order to keep up with the ever growing wave of globalization. So although the academic year generally runs from September through April, the steadily-developing country welcomes teachers at all times.

Weather

Depending on where you’re from, the notoriously hot and humid weather can seem like a breeze and the same can be said for the brisk cold found in China and South Korea during the winter months. But if you’re unsure, here’s a fast and easy cheat sheet for our placements:

China

According to China Highlights, Beijing (where we do the majority of our China placements) is suitable for travel all year round. In terms of season, September to November are the best months to visit. Summer in Beijing is hot and humid, while winter is cold and dry. Spring and autumn are short and cool. 

Seventy-five percent of the annual precipitation is concentrated in summer from June to August, with frequent showers in July and August. The coldest month is January at an average of -4 °C (25 °F), and the hottest month is July at an average of 26 °C (79 °F).

South Korea

Unlike many other Asian destinations, South Korean weather is fairly straightforward and easy to understand for travelers used to living with seasons. There are only minimal regional variations throughout the country, and the year divides neatly into four distinct seasons. 

There is a delightful spring (April to June), a muggy and wet summer (July to August), a refreshing autumn (September to November) and a freezing cold, snowy, but dry winter (December to March). From summer highs of 30°C (86°F), the temperatures in winter can plummet to as low as -20°C (-4°F) on occasion in the northern regions of the Gangwon-do Province, although it can be significantly milder along the southern coast and on the holiday island of Jeju in the far south.

Myanmar & Thailand

Myanmar and Thailand both have tropical climates with three main seasons: hot (March through April), rainy (May through October) and cool (November through February). While southern temperature never drops below 16 °C (61 °F) northern mountains in Myanmar can be covered with ice-caps. 

Conversely, the hot season can reach temperatures of 38 °C (101 °F) followed by heavy rainfall in late June through September and getting as much as 225 mm (8.9″) of rainfall.

Vietnam

As a country that has more than 2,000 miles of coastline, the weather in Vietnam cannot be categorized as easily as the others. Depending on where you are in the country, you will have fairly differing experiences with the weather.  In Hanoi and the north, May to October is hot and humid with high rainfall; November to April is cooler and dry. 

In the far north, December and January can be particularly cold. Central Vietnam experiences hot, dry weather between January and August when temperatures can hit the mid-30°C’s; whilst high levels of rainfall can occur in September, October and November. Southern Vietnam is generally dry and hot from November to April, and warm and wet between May and October, with the highest rainfall in June, July, and August.

Holidays

Another aspect to take into consideration, especially if you’re a Westerner, is which holidays you are willing to miss, if any. For example, although autumn in China and South Korea and the cool season in Thailand and Myanmar are notoriously the best months to visit for climate reasons, they also run over holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. 

While stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is certainly encouraged, for some, the prospect of celebrating a traditional holiday away from home may heighten homesickness when not around family and close friends.

Alternatively, it’s also an incredible experience to celebrate your native or even local holidays while overseas such as Songkran (the Thai New Year), the Mid-Autumn Festival in China, or the Hung Kings’ Festival in Vietnam.

Songkran Water Fight

Although there are many things to consider when making the life-changing decision to teach abroad, we hope this information will help you feel all the more prepared for flying overseas. Whenever you choose to embark on your overseas adventure, know that your options are limitless and you can mix-and-match as your heart desires.

 

Celebrating Women in the XploreAsia Community

This March, we celebrated International Women’s History Month by highlighting some incredible women who became teachers through our programs! At XploreAsia, over 75 percent of our participants are solo female travelers and some of them have shared with us some words of wisdom that they’ve gathered throughout their journeys abroad: 

Allison Scott

Allison Scott is an American who has been teaching English in Thailand since Nov. 2018.

“Say yes to everything.” Saying yes to opportunities has led Allison to have some amazing experiences in Thailand. Some other advice she has for incoming teachers is to learn to go with the flow, because nothing ever goes as planned as a teacher!⠀

Kate McNaughton

Kate McNaughton is from South Africa and has been teaching in South Korea since Aug. 2018. She teaches elementary and middle school students, and also has one Adult class!

“Don’t be afraid to take risks. Sometimes moving to a different country seems daunting but life is what you make of it. Enjoy every moment of your new city, your new life. Explore. Try new things, new food, make new friends from all over the world and make the most of the opportunities you’ve been given.”

Shauna Dunkley

Shauna Dunkley is a Canadian who moved to Thailand in Oct. 2015 and hasn’t left since! She teaches kindergarten at a private school in Nonthaburi, Thailand and loves it.

“Never be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

Tamryn Iyer

Tamryn Iyer is from South Africa and has been teaching in Vietnam since Sep. 2018. She teaches students from kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade!

No matter your salary, no matter your apartment, no matter the tax you pay… happiness starts with you! In any experience you choose, working abroad, packing shelves at the grocery down your road, it’s totally up to you to make it the best experience of your life!”

Lindsey Gall

Lindsey Gall is an American who originally came to Thailand in Nov. 2014. She initially taught for two years, then taught in another country and after traveling for a bit, came back to Thailand in Oct. 2018 because she missed it so much!

“Go for it! I know it can seem scary at first, but the kindness that you encounter on a daily basis from the locals everywhere, from total strangers, is both remarkable and humbling.”

Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson is from Canada and has been teaching in Thailand since Nov. 2018. She teaches grades M 1 and 2 (children aged 13 and 14) students in Chanthaburi.

She has had some amazing experiences while living in Thailand, and one of her favorite things about living there has been making true connections with Thai people. In her time there, she has found Thai people to be the most kind and genuine people she has ever met.

“Always expect the unexpected, and just go with whatever presents itself because it always turns out how it is meant to.”

Pearl Simelane

Pearl Simelane is from South Africa and has been teaching in South Korea since Aug. 2018. She teaches elementary and middle school students in Suncheon, a small city in the southern region of the country.

“It’s been such a beautiful journey. It’s scary at first but the little humans with genuine, heartwarming smiles make it so easy. A smile and a little encouragement every other day goes a long way and it’s so rewarding to watch them bloom with newfound confidence.”

Caroline Byerly

Caroline Byerly is an American who arrived in Thailand during Oct. 2018. She teaches English, Math and Computer to students in grades P1-P4 (first graders to fourth graders) in Chaiya, Surat Thani.

“Don’t be afraid to take a position that isn’t your ‘dream placement!’ You learn the most about yourself when you’re outside of your comfort zone. Be up for the challenge and embrace your new community!”

Jade Kelly

Jade Kelly is from South Africa and taught in Thailand from Aug. 2018 until Feb. 2019.

“Embrace the whole experience and especially the unexpected! Immerse yourself in the culture! Don’t give up and remember when things get tough that you chose to put yourself in this situation so that you would grow and learn new things! Be positive and just enjoy it all, it’s amazing!”

Amber Rondeau

Amber Rondeau is an American who teaches children ages 2.5-7. She has been teaching in Thailand since July 2018 in Surat Thani!

Travel with an open heart and accept everyone you meet. Keep your guard up, but don’t make judgements about others. Your instincts will tell you what kind of person they are.

We’d like to thank these courageous women and countless others who have taken their TESOL courses with us and who are changing lives all around the world. They inspire us each and every day!

The Twelve Days of Christmas (at Rescue P.A.W.S.)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (at Rescue P.A.W.S.)

Rescue P.A.W.S. landscape logo

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a cat curled under the tree!

Saba is one of three cats we found tied up in a bag and thrown over the wall of the temple where our clinic is based. We took her and her siblings in and now they are happy, healthy and ready for adoption. If you are interested in adopting, contact us here!

Rescue Paws volunteer walking towards kennel
Rescue Paws volunteer with cow

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Whenever we are unable to return a dog to its pack, we try to find it a forever home. Pictured are two dogs we took in to sterilize and care for that were adopted by two families.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Our volunteer program is the backbone of Rescue P.A.W.S. Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to help nearly as many dogs as we do. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit our website to apply!

Rescue Paws volunteer with dog
Rescue Paws volunteer training dog

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

At Rescue P.A.W.S., not only do we look after dogs but we also look after cats. All of our rescued animals are like siblings here!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Rescue Paws volunteer holding dog on the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand

Stray dog overpopulation is a massive issue throughout all of Thailand. In the span of six years, one male and female pair can produce up to 67,000 offspring. Here at Rescue P.A.W.S. we help to reduce the number of strays by sterilizing dogs, which in turn helps increase their quality of life.

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

While on a feeding run one day, we noticed one of the puppies, Snooze, had swelling in her paw. We took her back to the clinic to sterilize her and treat the wound. She will be returned to her to her pack as soon as she heals.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Rescue Paws volunteer holding dog on the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand

Our volunteers partake in daily feeding runs to local packs around the area making sure the dogs are properly nourished. We feed the pups both dry and wet dog food, all thanks to donations. If you want to help us feed the street dogs in Thailand, donate here today!

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

For the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

One of the most crucial parts of being a volunteer is socializing with the dogs. We give each dog extra love and care so that they grow up friendly and properly socialized.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Rescue Paws volunteer holding dog on the beach in Hua Hin, Thailand

Not only do we socialize the dogs, but for those that are with us for longer, we also train them. Pictured here is Cloud, who is up for adoption! If you are interested in adopting, please message us here.

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten clean kennels, nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

Our volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that our dogs are happy. Part of their daily tasks is cleaning the kennels so that all the dogs staying with us are comfortable and happy.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven toys donated, ten clean kennels, nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

One of our lovely volunteers, Nikita, was generous to donate some much-needed toys, leashes and collars for our dogs. This year, we have been lucky to receive donations from so many kind individuals. But unfortunately, we still need more help. With one sterilization costing around 2,000 baht ($60 USD), any amount goes a long way! To donate, click here. All of us at Rescue P.A.W.S. and XploreAsia appreciate the donations that have and are being made that enable us to continue helping the community.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve strays transformed, eleven toys donated, ten clean kennels, nine dogs a-learning, eight licks a-landing, seven dogs a-feeding, six dogs a-hugging, five sterilized strays, four purring cats, three volunteers, two rescued pups and a cat curled under the tree!

It warms our hearts to see so many lives of animals transformed after they come through our doors. It’s truly incredible what a little love and care can do to better the lives of these precious animals. Thank you to all of our donors, volunteers, and to our amazing team for helping make Rescue P.A.W.S. the organization that it is. 

Volunteer in Thailand with Rescue Paws
If you or anyone you know is interested in donating, volunteering, or interning with Rescue P.A.W.S. contact XploreAsia or Rescue P.A.W.S. today!
Do you love animals? Want to give back to the community? Come join us in beautiful Thailand and get involved with Rescue P.A.W.S. You can also make a positive impact by visiting Wagging Tales Cafe, our non-profitable coffee shop where all proceeds go towards Rescue P.A.W.S. itself. Learn more about the Rescue P.A.W.S. volunteer program here

Work in Thailand: Orientation Week at XploreAsia

Work in Thailand: Orientation Week at XploreAsia

Work in Thailand

Whether you’re coming to pursue work in Thailand as an English teacher or through one of our various internship programs, your first week will always include a cultural orientation. At XploreAsia we believe that immersing yourself in the culture is critical to your success here in Thailand. During your first week in Thailand you will partake in various cultural orientation courses about Thai culture, politics, and language. We wouldn’t throw you into working in a new country without giving you the basics first (who do you think we are)!

XploreAsia’s Cultural Orientation courses are designed to prepare future English teachers and workers for all aspects of life in Thailand. Each course delves into the heart of each countries culture and values through online classes before you arrive in the country, and once in the country, through active-learning cultural excursions to various sites of cultural and historical significance.

Thai Cooking Class

One of, if not, the best part of Thailand is the food. Thai food consists of four distinct tastes: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. Most Thai dishes are not considered satisfying unless they combine all four tastes.  A typical Thai dish includes rice or noodles, vegetables, meat, and lots and lots of herbs and seasonings. The most common street foods being, “pad thai” and “som yom”, or papaya salad.

Thai cooking class is one of our most popular cultural orientation classes. During this course you will learn the basics of Thai cuisine and how to make both of these popular dishes. A very important phrase to know as a foreigner or “farang” in Thailand is,“Mai ped”, or no spice. For those that are looking to work in Thailand, “mai ped” tells the locals to hold back on the chili flakes that they love to saturate local dishes with.

XploreAsia’s Thai cooking class not only acted as an immersion into the culture, but also a useful lesson on how to make an easy, fast, and affordable meal when living in Thailand.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai, meaning “the art of eight limbs,” is a boxing sport of Thailand that combines physical and mental discipline using the knees, shins, fists, and elbows.  During this lesson, Muay Thai instructors demonstrate and teach common defense moves that may be useful when working in Thailand.Through this active cultural learning excursion, you will learn how to side kick (Tae Tad), kick to the inside of the knee (Tae Pub Nai), elbow strikes (Sok), and many more aspects that make this sport so popular among the Thai locals. Make sure to pack your workout clothes when coming to Thailand as many of our participants have said this is the best workout they’ve ever had.

Work in Thailand: XploreAsia teachers partaking in Muay Thai

Work in Thailand and learn how to Muay Thai

Rescue Paws

It wouldn’t be cultural orientation week without a visit to our non-profit organization, Rescue Paws. When you work in Thailand, homeless dogs are around every corner and in 2013 we co-founded Rescue Paws as a way to help the stray dog population here in Hua Hin through sterilization and education.. With an increasing number of stray dogs in Thailand, Rescue Paws befriends local packs in the area, , and then makes an effort to decrease the stray population through vaccinations, sterilizations, and adoptions.

The majority of dogs brought into the Rescue Paws clinic  are in life threatening conditions, and living a poor quality of life. Once an animal is treated, they are returned back to their original packs. Unfortunately, some are not in the condition to be returned to the streets. In this case, these animals are put up for adoption and put into a forever home. A visit to Rescue Paws not only helps spread awareness of the organization, but participants get the chance to learn about the importance of animal sterilization as well as hangout with the amazing pups!

Rescue Paws is completely run on volunteers and donations so there are ample opportunities to volunteer or donate to the organization during your time working in Thailand.

Sidenote: follow Rescue Paws on social media and if you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering, adopting, or donating to Rescue Paws, contact coordinator@rescue-paws.org.

Work in Thailand: Sprite enjoying his day at the beach

Sprite enjoying the beach!

Temple Hike at Wat Thum Khao Tao and Monk Meditation

Next on your cultural orientation is a temple hike to Wat Thum Khao Tao and a visit with the local monks here in Hua Hin. Rescue Paws’ clinic is actually located on the temple grounds, so it’s a nice transition from one excursion to the next.

Wat Thum Khao Tao, meaning “Temple, Mountain, Cave, Turtle”, was used as a halfway house for monks traveling from the North to the South. The cave is still frequented by traveling monks, but also is a sanctuary for those that work abroad to experience the spirituality of the Thai culture. Dragon fixtures, Buddha statues, and monk figures, were present around every corner of the cave. With this, a giant Buddha is located at the top of the mountain. The statues around Wat Thum Khao Tao represent the hope for further awakening and the devotion the Thai people have towards their faith. This cave is certainly a bucket list destination for those working abroad!

After your temple hike our participants partake in a guided meditation with the local monks that live at Wat Thum Khao Tao. Through meditation, you are educated on the basics of meditation and how the mind and body work together as one. The monk will also talk to you about the importance of meditation and how this practice will bring peace, happiness, and serenity to your life.

Work in Thailand: Teachers at Wat Thum Khao Tao

Group photo at Wat Thum Khao Tao

Beach BBQ: Leaving Behind Fears of Working in Thailand

Last but not least, cultural orientation week ends with a beach BBQ. The beach BBQ is a time for everyone to celebrate and reflect on the past week. Not to mention a time to have fun and enjoy amazing food with your new friends!

XploreAsia goes to great lengths to provide the most comprehensive culture orientation possible by bringing aspects of all major areas of existence here in Thailand right to the classroom for our clients. We provide traditional classroom learning on life and business in Thailand alongside an array of hands-on experiences that require you to completely immerse yourself within the culture.

Work in Thailand: Teachers at Wat Thum Khao Tao

Are you ready to work in Thailand? Visit our website. We hope to see you on our next cultural orientation week!

Thailand Budget Tips for ESL Teachers

Thailand Budget Tips for ESL Teachers

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So, you’ve come to Thailand to teach English and now you want to use your weekends to explore and travel, really discover those hidden gems of Thailand. There is only one slight problem – you’re living on a Thailand budget and need to ensure your rent and bills are paid off, while still being able to put food on the table. Traveling to Thailand on a budget can easily be done, but does require research and planning. We’ve learned a few things during our time here in Thailand and want to share a few pointers from one budget traveler to another.

travel, Thailand budget, beach, paradise, beautiful, ocean, adventure

Thailand Budget Tip #1

When it comes to choosing your accommodation, it is important to remember that you will most likely, only be sleeping here. You will most likely be out and about most of the time exploring all that is Thailand. You’re in a beautiful, amazing country, why would you want to spend all of your time in your room, right? Of course, we all want a clean, comfortable room and bed, but sometimes we have to make sacrifices—especially when you’re on a tight budget. I have yet to come across an affordable hostel that is not only clean, but also accompanied by a gorgeous view. The Thai people take care of their hostels and hotels better than I take care of my place back home. Sure, the bed may not be the most ideal size or comfort level, but you will survive, I promise.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to stay in the heart of each city or town that you are visiting. The hotels and hostels that you would find here are likely to be more expensive than a hotel or hostel off of a side street, a short walk from the heart of the town/city. If you place yourself in a less populated area, you may also get to experience that town or city from a more true and honest perspective. Whatever you decide to do, make sure to do your research on the hostels in the given area. My favourite website to use for the Thailand budget is hostelworld – it shows you all of the hostels available for the specific dates and locations you want and you are able to sort the results by many different filters (price, room, facilities, rating, type and payment). Hostelworld allows you to book right through their website, has an extremely easy cancellation process, and they give you all of the contact information you need. Not to mention, they provide reviews for each hostel, as well as all of the amenities that are both included and not included. For example, a beautiful  hostel (rated 9.1) in Koh Tao island is only $9.70 USD per night for a 6 bed dorm with air conditioning – extremely affordable if you ask me! You just have to take the time to sit down and look at the options available, compare what is offered, and make the smartest decision for yourself.

Pro-tip: Hostels generally have a cancellation policy which requires you to inform the hostel between 3 – 7 days prior to the day you are to arrive; giving many of us more than enough time to change plans, if need be.

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Thailand Budget Tip #2

Our given mode of transportation is very important to the Thailand budget. This past weekend I took a van, a bus, and a train so I can tell you all the ups and downs of each. First off…the vans. Not only do they run all over Thailand, but they are extremely affordable, comfortable and air conditioned. I took a van to Kanchanaburi on Saturday and the total cost was 220 baht, which works out to be approximately $6.25 USD – this is for a 3 hour (220km) drive.

Next up…the busses. Now, I don’t mean coach busses, I mean those colourful busses with all of the windows down and the doors open so that you see the streets of Thailand. The bus I took was from Kanchanaburi to Erawan Waterfalls & National Park was about an hour and a half drive from Hua Hin, depending on if the driver is going the speed limit. This mode of transportation cost 50 baht, approximately $1.40 USD.

travel, budget, Thailand, adventure, teach abroad, XploreAsia

The Truth About My Thailand Budget

Now, I will be completely honest when I say this trip wasn’t exactly the most comfortable. It was a very hot day, and although there are fans on the roof of the bus, with open windows and doors and long stop lights, it got a little toasty at times. The seats themselves were made of a material that you stick to if you are at all sweaty, and you feel every single bump in the road.  Inexpensive – yes, comfortable – no. But it did the job. Although I was happy to get off of that bus, this is not to say I would never take another because of how inexpensive it is.

Lastly, the trains. I took a train from Bangkok to Hua Hin late in the evening one Sunday. From my own personal experience, the trains do not run as often as the vans or busses, however, they are comfortable and air conditioned, and they even give you a blanket and a snack. The price of the train depends on the time you are traveling – as my roommate took the train from Bangkok home to Hua Hin on a Monday afternoon and it only cost her 95 baht per person ($2.70 USD), whereas when I took the train this past Sunday evening, it was 400 baht per person ($11.40 USD). That being said, it is best to book any travels via train in advance to ensure that you get the class and time that you would prefer. Another mode of transportation that I have yet to experience  – is the ferry. Using the ferry to get to Koh Tao is seemingly the most affordable option and the easiest mode of transportation. With this, you will embark on a  6 hour catamaran ride. Who wouldn’t love to be on the open water for a whole 6 hours? Perhaps an individual who gets seasick. The price for this, one way, is 1047 baht – approximately $30 USD…so cheap! I believe that, if you can stomach it, ferries would be the most beautiful mode of transportation as the views will be amazing every which way you look.

Thailand Budget Tip #3

The food you choose to eat while in Thailand will honestly make or break your budget. Yes, it is okay to splurge on Western food every once in awhile when you are having a craving from back home, but try not to make it a habit (as this will become a very expensive habit). Eating as the Thais do – street food for every meal – is beyond affordable. One day for breakfast, I got 10 freshly cooked, deep fried pastries and 3 sticks of chicken all for 30 baht – $0.85 USD. 

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If I compare this to an average western breakfast of an omelette with a smoothie from my favourite western restaurant – The Baguette – this total comes out to be 145 baht – $4.15 USD. Now I know that $4 USD for breakfast is unheard of back home, however, this does add up especially when you have much cheaper options available to you…literally across the road. The same goes for dinner. You can get Pad-See-Ew for 40 baht ($1.15 USD), or you can get a burger and fries for 150 baht ($4.30 USD). Trust me when I say, you will enjoy the Thai food so much more than the Western food – nine times out of ten, it is not exactly how we make it back home, it is better. Why come to Thailand to eat burgers and pizza anyways.

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I used to be such a picky eater, and since coming to Thailand, that part of me disappeared – in a good way. When I go to the local markets I am willing to try what I like to call ‘mystery meat’ as I have no idea what I am about to eat, but it is always so delicious. I have been overly pleased with every meal in Thailand so far, whether it is so spicy that I am crying between bites, or so delicious that I eat it too quickly to even enjoy the flavours.

SO! Are you more confident that you can travel on a Thailand budget? I sure hope so. Get out there and start exploring!

Interested in teaching or working in Thailand? Visit our adventures page!

Thai Culture: The Do’s and Don’ts

Thai Culture: The Do’s and Don’ts

You’ve booked your flight, packed your bags, and are ready to embark on this new adventure with XploreAsia—teaching English in Thailand. This once in a lifetime opportunity attracts people from all over the world, and for good reason. Teaching abroad will change your life. Now, that’s not to say that it won’t be without challenges— but overcoming these challenges is what makes an experience like this so rewarding, unique, and meaningful. You get what you give in Thai culture. Through XploreAsia’s internationally accredited TESOL course you will learn the necessary skills to teach English in Thailand while also making a difference.

Here at XploreAsia we know how scary it can be to come to a new country (we’ve been there). We believe that having a basic understanding of Thai culture is essential to your success, therefore, we provide all of our future teachers with a cultural orientation week upon arrival to Thailand. Your first week in the program will include lessons on Thai culture, language, politics and more. Because we want each and every individual that comes through our program to succeed and embrace the beautiful and unique lifestyle that Thailand has to offer, we’ve created a basic guide to the cultural “Do’s and Don’ts” of Thailand.

DO: RESPECT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES

Thai culture is greatly influenced by Buddhism and is the world’s most heavily Buddhist country. About 97% of the population is Buddhist, making Buddhism one of the cornerstones of Thai culture. The Buddhist beliefs and values play a vital role in the day to day life of Thai people as well as the many tourists that flock to this country every year. Some of the most prominent values being respect, self-control, and a non-confrontational attitude. Thai cultural expectations revolve around these values and it is truly beautiful to witness and be a part of. Although Thai culture may be very different from our own, there are behaviors one can avoid in order be respectful and truly assimilate into the Thai lifestyle as smoothly as possible.  

Thai culture: Buddha statue at Wat Thum Khao Tao

Buddha statue at Wat Thum Khao Tao 

DON’T: PDA

First things first, we all know how sweet it can be to show affection with our partners and friends in public. However, Thai people are very discreet and prefer to keep PDA to a minimum. Therefore, it is best to refrain from being overly affectionate in public as to not make others uncomfortable. Being a highly Buddhist country, the religion influences certain behaviors as unacceptable. In this instance, PDA.

DON’T: PECULIAR MANNERISMS

Another example has to do with certain parts of the body. In Buddhism the most sacred part of the body is the head. The feet are considered to be the lowest and filthiest. Therefore, it would be highly offensive to touch another person’s head and disrespectful to point, push, or step on anything with your feet. Most importantly, one should always avoid facing the bottom of your feet towards another person, as that is seen as a major sign of disrespect.

Pro Tip: Don’t step on Thai money. Since the King’s image is on the face of all Thai bills, stepping on it would be considered disrespectful to the monarchy. And Thai people take their monarchy very, very seriously.

Thai culture: Monk at our local temple located in Hua Hin

Visiting our local monk in Hua Hin

DO: RESPECT THE MONKS

Monks are a significant aspect of Thai culture. You can encounter monks casually passing by, in temples, or even at the train station. Although we treat them with the most respect, it is important to remember that monks are prohibited to touch or be touched by women. Therefore, women should be careful to not come in physical contact with a monk.

DO: MAINTAIN FACE

The notion of “face” is important in Thai culture and there are many aspects that involve the concept of “face”. In general, it is best to avoid being overly emotional in public. Particularly, being angry or confrontational towards others. Maintaining “face” shows respect and dignity. AKA, keep your emotions in check.

Thai culture: Having a laugh while eating at the beach barbecue provided by Xploreasia

Showing our best smiles while enjoying a barbecue dinner provided by XploreAsia

DO: WAI

While in Thailand you will 110% experience a Thai greeting known as the “Wai”. Don’t be shy, the wai is a common Thai greeting, almost like a handshake. “Wai-ing” someone is easy – just press your palms together in front of your chest and bow your head slightly. Do keep in mind that there are different variations of the wai in Thailand. Thai culture greatly honors and respects the elderly, so when greeting someone older than you, make sure to do a very traditional and powerful wai as a demonstration of respect. Nevertheless, don’t worry (“mai pen rai”), if you get it wrong, making an effort shows a great amount of respect in and of itself.

Fun fact: The phrase “mai pen rai” is a very common expression in Thailand, translating to  “don’t worry”, “it’s okay”, or “take it easy”. Something extremely fascinating about Thai culture is how open and safe it is towards the LGBTQ community. It is a great place to be respectful and accepting towards everybody. With that, don’t forget to live the mai pen rai life! Life doesn’t have to be rushed and in a hurry at all times. Just smile, enjoy your time, stay calm, and mai pen rai!

Thai culture: Visual of how to do a Wai

 

DO: PICK THE RIGHT SHOES

Stay comfy while you teach in  Thailand by wearing flip flops and slip ons! While exploring in the warm and humid weather of Thailand, it’s easy to slide on a pair of flip flops and easily go on with your day. Not only will this keep you cooler, it’s also an easy way to take off your shoes – given that this is a common practice to do before entering temples, homes, and occasionally businesses. In addition to taking off your shoes when visiting temples, make sure to always wear appropriate clothing to cover your knees and shoulders.

Thai culture: Slipping off your sandals

 

Are You Ready for Thai Culture?

Last but not least, DO make sure to have an open mind. Be open to learning new things, experiencing new cultures, and DON’T forget to have fun. Thailand has a vast and rich culture and there is so much to learn about this beautiful country. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes because that’s part of the learning process. At XploreAsia we are here to help enhance your cultural experience in addition to supporting you throughout your teaching journey.

Thai culture: Xploreasia teacher practicing her Thai language at Hua Hin local market

Xploreasia teacher engaging in Thai culture by practicing her Thai language skills in Hua Hin’s local food market

 

If you are interested in any of our programs, visit our Adventures page and follow us on Facebook for more information! 

What to Pack for Thailand: Packing Tips for ESL Teachers

What to Pack for Thailand: Packing Tips for ESL Teachers

Preparing to take your TESOL course and teach English in Thailand is not a one-step process by any means, but it can be simpler than you might realize. For chronic over-packers, there is the 3-pile process: one of necessities, one of maybes, and one of wants. What to pack for Thailand? One suggestion is to pack only the first pile and scrap the rest. 

I never abided by that rule because I could never decide what would go in which pile. So instead, here are some my packing tips (and tips from others!) on how to prepare for your adventure abroad teaching English in Thailand:  

 

1. Don’t forget these important items:

  • Passport, License, and Visa (and copies), teaching documents (official degree certificate and transcripts), and extra passport photos
  • ATM/Debit/Credit Cards (let your bank know you’ll be in Thailand!)
  • Cash to exchange (roughly $200-600)
  • Any daily medication (with copies of prescriptions), bug spray, sunscreen, and lotion
  • Laptop and chargers (with converters/adaptors –Thailand uses 220V, and the plug-in style is the same type you would bring to Europe and North America)
what to pack for Thailand

2. For teachers, bring at least two formal outfits.

Here are more teacher suggestions on what to pack for Thailand:  

Women:

  • 2-3 longer skirts that cover the knee
  • 2-3 blouses that cover the shoulders and chest
  • 1-2 dresses that cover the knees, shoulders, and chest
  • Closed toe shoes

Men:

  • 2-3 dress shirts
  • 3-4 pairs of dress pants/trousers
  • 1-2 ties
  • 5-7 dress socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes (1 brown, 1 black)
Teaching Tip

When teaching English in Thailand, presenting a small gift from your home country to the school makes a fantastic first impression and can help you create some lasting friendships right away. Consider these gift ideas:

  • Treat: chocolate, maple syrup, or cookies
  • A travel book with pictures of where you’re from
  • School supplies: children’s books, magazines, colored pencils, construction paper

3. Bring a small duffel bag or backpack for weekend trips

This was a definite necessity when I studied abroad, and one of the first things I put in my suitcase. It’s so helpful for shorter weekend trips, and I guarantee you’ll be making at least one or two trips while teaching in Thailand! 

Culture Tip

Sizes in Thailand tend to run on the smaller size, and finding larger Western sizes can be challenging in small towns. Regardless, it is still possible to find these larger sizes at bigger shopping malls in cities. Also it’s important to recognize that Thai culture values modesty, so remember that when packing clothes. 

what to pack for Thailand
what to pack for Thailand

4. Bring a rain jacket, sweatshirt, and good walking shoes

These items were not forefront on my mind when I was wondering what to pack for Thailand, but you’ll definitely be grateful for them once you’re in the country. Bus rides and airplanes can get chilly, and broadly speaking, Thailand’s rainy season can run from May/June to October.     

There are some gorgeous national parks all around Thailand, and you’ll want to bring some comfortable walking shoes for hiking and exploring.  

Culture Tip

For women, a long scarf to cover your shoulders or knees can be useful when visiting a temple or the Grand Palace.  The one I brought became one of my most essential items: I used it at the beach, as a cover-up, and also as a blanket on some very chilly bus rides.

What to pack for Thailand: Helpful Items

  • A Kindle: English books aren’t as easy to come by, so if you’re a big reader, having a Kindle is wonderful for traveling.
  • Consider bringing an extra inexpensive, unlocked phone with you to Thailand to function as your Thai phone. It’s simple to buy one once you’re in Thailand, but it’s sometimes nice to know that you already have one you can use.
  • A small coin purse for loose change, and a money belt for weekend trips.

______________________________________________

I had the chance to sit down with Tara, one of our TESOL Course participants, and chat about how she prepared for taking the TESOL course and for her adventure teaching in Thailand:

What are some things that you didn’t think to pack first but are grateful for now?

Photos from home. It’s not something that I thought I’d want once here in Thailand, but just having a few photos from home can be so comforting. I also brought a travel journal that I’m looking forward to filling with thoughts and memories from my experience.

What is one item that you wish you’d brought to prepare you for teaching in Thailand?

More skirts! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find longer black skirts that are light and breathable. Most of the skirts I’ve found here in Thailand are made of heavy material and are pretty expensive. I also wish I’d brought more breathable, light blouses for teaching.

You only brought one backpack on this trip. That’s pretty impressive! What advice do you have for anybody that’s worried about over-packing?

Roll all of your clothes. It saves so much room. And invest in some zip-up cubes. I swear by them. It makes my bag so organized, and it helps me keep track of what I have. Another tip I’ve learned is to bring a separate bag of dryer sheets to keep your clothes smelling fresh!

Generally, just remember to bring what’s necessary and don’t worry too much about bringing duplicates.

What is one thing you wish packed more of?

Bug spray! I use it so much here. I’m almost out. It’s not too easy to find great bug spray here, so I definitely wish I’d brought a couple more bottles. Another important thing I brought was electrolytes. They’ve been super useful here because it’s so hot, and you’re constantly sweating. I’m almost out of them too – it would’ve been nice to have more.

Thank you so much, Tara! You gave us great input on what to pack for Thailand. We’re so excited for your adventure teaching English abroad, and we can’t wait to congratulate you on finishing your TESOL Course!

I’d love to hear from you: What to pack for Thailand? What are some of your packing tips? Have any of you traveled to Thailand before? What are some essential items you always bring with you when traveling abroad?

Ready to start your adventure living and teaching abroad? Sign up for one of our amazing TESOL Course and teaching programs today! 

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