I taught in Thailand for a year and extensively travelled the beautiful country that it is. The entire plan was no matter how much I love a place, I would keep on moving. Which brings me to my current living situation of teaching in Taiwan for the last 6 months. Here are a few key differences between teaching in these two countries.
Thailand: You will most likely be working at a public school. Set hours, set pay and lots of holidays to enjoy. The Thai teachers are also very welcoming and insist you participate in their activities. (My personal gripe with working at a public school in Thailand was writing midterms and finals with only a two day's notice and they wouldn’t explain how they wanted them set.)
Taiwan: You’ll likely be working at a cram school. Perfect for the night owls as you’ll be working afternoons. My earliest class starts at 2:00 pm. That being said, you get paid per hour and your schedule will vary depending on the influx of students. My school offers a six-month guaranteed wage just in case you're short on hours but so far, I’ve been above the minimum required hours. Foreign and Taiwanese teachers are friendly at work but there isn’t a big sense of camaraderie, since teachers are always coming and going at these type of schools. Overall, it’s a very easy job.
Travel and Tourism
Thailand: Thailand has so many holidays! On the long weekends, my friends and I would head to the further provinces that we couldn’t visit on a regular weekend. There are plenty of bus routes that will take you all around Thailand and at an incredibly cheap price. (Little word of advice: Don’t expect them to usually be on time. At some point one of the buses you're on will break down, but that’s part of the excitement of travelling in Thailand.) Around October, you get a month off and two more months in the summer. The pay isn’t great but you should be able to travel quite a lot of Southeast Asia if you do it frugally.
Taiwan: Taiwan has amazing transportation, including the high speed rai. They also have three international airports. You can travel from north to south in less than 3 hours. So yes, it is small, but there's an abundance of attractions to whisk you away on the weekends. For longer holidays you have Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan, and South Korea which are all reachable within a 3 hour flight.
Wage & Cost of Living
Thailand: When you convert your wage in Thailand to your home country, it’s not going to seem like a lot. But honestly, it's more than enough to live comfortably, party and travel at the same time. If your main objective is to save, it’s still possible but won’t be as much as other countries in Asia.
Taiwan: Coming from Thailand, Taiwan seemed a lot more expensive. If you’re arriving from a Western country then you’ll be delighted to see the prices of most commodities. Rent is very cheap but groceries are expensive. Most families decide to eat out everyday instead of cooking. Eighteen per cent of your wage is taken in taxes for your first six months, but you’ll end up with a nice hefty refund at the end of the year.
Thailand: My mouth is watering just thinking about all the delicious Thai food I ate while living there. It is an explosion of flavours…by that I mean mostly spice. If you’re vegetarian it’s also pretty easy to find a delicious meal. Thailand also has an abundance of fruits; try every weird fruit you can find. My personal favourite was the mangosteen.
Taiwan: About two million people in Taiwan eat vegetarian food and seems to me that there is more of a variety than in Thailand. Night markets are probably the best place to sample the local cuisine. Taiwanese love to queue, so if you see a long queue outside a food shop then it’s probably a place worth trying someday.
The Expat Experience
Thailand: I encountered nothing but nice people in Thailand. It’s a very welcoming country and it’s not known as the land of smiles for nothing. There was a lot of horrible news going on around the world while I was in Thailand but seeing the locals so cheerful and warm-hearted, helped me see that there is still a lot of good in this world if you turn off the news and go for a walk in the neighborhood.
Taiwan: There is a lot less tourism coming to Taiwan compare to Thailand, so being a foreigner is very intriguing to the Taiwanese. There will be a multitude of stares everyday. Also, the possibility to have many conversations with the locals that just want to have a good laugh with you. English has had a big push in Taiwan because of that, the majority of people you’ll run into will at least know some basic English. They are also very helpful and if you ever need help finding a place they will go out of their way to make sure you found your way.Add this article to your reading list