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Teach English in Isaan, Thailand

Isaan, often referred to as Thailand's heartland, represents the northeastern region of the country. It's a vast expanse of rural landscapes, interspersed with bustling towns and ancient temples. Less touched by the throngs of international tourists that flock to Thailand's southern beaches and northern mountains, Isaan offers a more authentic glimpse into traditional Thai life. The rhythms of Isaan are dictated by the rice planting seasons, age-old festivals, and the reverberating sounds of traditional Mor Lam music. Here, teachers will find themselves plunged into an immersive cultural experience, where the warmth of the locals and the region's unique heritage promise a rewarding teaching journey.

Reasons to Teach English in Isaan

  1. Authentic Thai Experience: Unlike more touristy areas of Thailand, Isaan provides a genuine experience of the country's culture and traditions. By teaching here, you'll get to witness and be a part of age-old ceremonies, festivals, and everyday village life.

  2. High Demand for English Teachers: With the rise in importance of English for global communication, there's a growing demand for teachers in less urbanized areas like Isaan. Schools here are keen to have native speakers or fluent English teachers to enhance their students' proficiency.

  3. Cost of Living: The cost of living in Isaan is significantly lower than in Thailand's major cities. This means that teachers can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without the hefty price tag.

  4. Explore Uncharted Territories: From the magnificent Khmer temples of Phanom Rung to the Mekong River's serenity, Isaan boasts a myriad of lesser-known sights waiting to be explored.

  5. Strong Community Ties: The sense of community in Isaan is profound. As a teacher, you'll quickly become a valued member of the community, fostering deep connections with both your students and their families.

  6. Delve into Culinary Delights: Isaan is renowned for its distinct and flavorful cuisine. Teaching in this region gives you the chance to indulge in authentic dishes, from the spicy Som Tam to the tangy Larb.

  7. Language Immersion: If you're keen on learning Thai, there's no better place than Isaan. Immersed in a community where English is less commonly spoken, you'll have ample opportunities to practice and hone your Thai language skills.

Understanding Isaan's Education Landscape

Isaan, despite being one of the less developed regions in Thailand, has been progressively investing in its educational infrastructure. As Thailand aims to boost its English proficiency, there's been a heightened demand for qualified English teachers even in its less urbanized areas like Isaan. This region offers a more authentic Thai experience and allows teachers to immerse in the local culture while making a tangible impact on students' lives.

Eligibility and Requirements to Teach English in Isaan

The requirements to teach English in Isaan will be similar to the standard requirements for teaching English in Thailand. However, given Isaan's unique setting, schools might occasionally have additional or specific preferences. In general, the requirements to teach in Isaan include:

  1. A bachelor's degree in any field.
  2. A TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA is beneficial but not required.
  3. Native English speaker or a high level of English proficiency.
  4. Clean criminal record.
  5. Teaching experience is preferred but not mandatory.

It's worth noting that while some schools in bigger cities might require a degree in education or English, schools in Isaan, especially in rural areas, might be more lenient given the shortage of teachers.

Salary and Benefits for Teaching English in Isaan

In Isaan, the cost of living is significantly lower compared to cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai. As such, while the salary might appear modest on paper, it often stretches further than in other parts of the country. On average, English teachers in Isaan can expect to earn between 25,000 to 55,000 THB per month.

Benefits may vary by school and contract but typically include:

  1. Health insurance.
  2. Work visa sponsorship.
  3. Paid holidays.
  4. Contract completion bonuses.

Some schools might also offer assistance with relocation expenses or provide opportunities for additional income through private tutoring or weekend classes.

Cities in Isaan

Isaan, or Northeastern Thailand, is a vast region known for its unique culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and historic landmarks. It's also one of the lesser-explored areas by tourists, making it a haven for those looking to experience authentic Thai culture. Let's delve into some of the notable cities within Isaan:

1. Khon Kaen:

Khon Kaen is one of the major cities in Isaan, boasting a blend of tradition and modernity. The city has universities, shopping malls, and an airport, making it an educational and economic hub. Attractions include Phra Mahathat Kaen Nakhon and the Bueng Kaen Nakhon Lake.

2. Udon Thani:

Known for its archaeological wonders, Udon Thani is close to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ban Chiang. The city itself is lively, with markets, parks, and a mix of local and expatriate communities.

3. Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat):

Often referred to as Korat, this city serves as the gateway to Isaan. Nakhon Ratchasima has historic sites like Phimai Historical Park and is known for its vibrant markets and urban parks.

4. Surin:

Surin is famous for its annual Elephant Round-up Festival. The city celebrates its deep connection with elephants, and it's a spectacle to witness these majestic creatures participate in various events.

5. Roi Et:

Characterized by its tall Buddha statue, which is among Thailand's tallest, Roi Et encapsulates the spiritual essence of Isaan. The city's name means "one hundred one," indicative of the original 11 satellite cities around the main province.

6. Sisaket:

Bordering Cambodia, Sisaket is home to the renowned Pha Taem National Park, where prehistoric cliff paintings depict scenes from thousands of years ago.

7. Loei:

Distinctive for its cooler climate and beautiful landscapes, Loei is often called the "Switzerland of Isaan." It's a great place for nature enthusiasts, with national parks like Phu Kradueng and Phu Ruea.

8. Buriram:

Sport enthusiasts might know Buriram for its modern football stadium and race track, but it's also rich in history with sites like Phanom Rung Historical Park showcasing Khmer architecture.

Living in Isaan

Isaan, unlike the metropolitan areas of Bangkok or the touristy islands of Phuket and Koh Samui, provides an experience steeped in authentic Thai culture. Living in this region offers a unique chance to immerse oneself in the heartland of Thailand. Here's what life in Isaan entails:

Traditional Essence:

Isaan remains relatively untouched by the wave of westernization, offering a more traditional Thai experience. The pace of life is slower, and there's a strong sense of community. Local festivals, such as the Bun Bang Fai (Rocket Festival) and the Elephant Round-up in Surin, showcase the rich cultural tapestry of the region.

Culinary Delights:

Isaan is renowned for its distinctive cuisine. Dishes like Som Tam (spicy papaya salad), Laab (spicy meat salad), and Gai Yang (grilled chicken) can be savored at their authentic best. The local sticky rice is a staple and is often enjoyed with various flavorful accompaniments.

Affordable Living:

One of the significant benefits of living in Isaan is the cost of living. Everything from housing to food is considerably cheaper than in larger Thai cities. It's possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle on a teacher's salary, with money left over for traveling and other activities.

Natural Beauty:

Isaan is dotted with serene lakes, dense forests, and picturesque landscapes. The Mekong River that runs along the region's north and east offers stunning views, especially during sunrise and sunset. Nature parks like Pha Taem in Sisaket are perfect for weekend getaways.

Warm and Welcoming Locals:

The people of Isaan are known for their hospitality. As an expatriate teacher, you'll find communities eager to interact and share their way of life. This warmth extends to the classroom, making the teaching experience all the more rewarding.

Language Barrier:

While Thai is spoken nationwide, the Isaan region has its dialect, known as "Isan." It's similar to Lao. As an expat, it might be a bit challenging initially, but picking up basic phrases can significantly enhance the living experience.

Urban Amenities:

While Isaan offers a more rural lifestyle, cities like Khon Kaen and Udon Thani are well-developed with malls, cinemas, international restaurants, and even expatriate communities.


Isaan has a tropical climate, with a pronounced rainy season. While the region can get quite hot, places like Loei, known as the "Switzerland of Isaan," can experience cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings.

Teacher Stories

Anna from the UK: "When I first decided to teach English in Isaan, most of my friends hadn't even heard of the region. But over the past year, I've found it to be one of Thailand's hidden gems. The locals are warm and friendly, and they're always eager to learn. Being one of the few foreign teachers in my school has allowed me to form genuine connections with my students. Plus, the cost of living is so affordable that I've managed to save and travel across Thailand during my holidays."

Liam from Australia: "Isaan might not have the beaches that places like Phuket or Koh Samui boast, but it has its own unique charm. The cultural festivals here are vibrant, and it's been incredible to be a part of them. Teaching English here has also given me a chance to learn Thai and delve deeper into the local way of life. It's been an enlightening experience."

Naledi from South Africa: "I was initially apprehensive about teaching in a region less known to tourists, but Isaan has been a pleasant surprise. From the spicy local cuisine to the serene temples, there's so much to explore. The best part has been the close-knit community of teachers and the support we offer each other."

Connor from Canada: "Teaching in Isaan has been an adventure in the truest sense. The pace of life is slower, which was a welcome change from the hustle of Toronto. My students are curious, respectful, and eager to engage in conversations, making every day in the classroom rewarding."

Moving Towards Teaching English In Isaan

If you're considering teaching English abroad, Isaan offers a unique experience that deviates from the typical touristy locales in Thailand. The region, while lesser-known, promises genuine interactions, rich cultural experiences, and the chance to make a tangible impact in the community.

Isaan might not have been on your radar before, but perhaps it's time to consider this uncharted territory. After all, the most memorable journeys often begin off the beaten path.