Teaching in Thailand – a woman’s perspective
Thailand is a man’s world and Kate Parkin knows it.
Despite the challenges Thailand presents, Kate has made a living teaching on Phuket for the past three years. Calm, patient and most certainly well-adjusted, Kate has learned how to deal with circumstances many women refuse to cope with.
EH: How many schools have you worked for?
KP: Two. First at Phuket Wittayalai and now at Darasamuth.
EH: You teach secondary levels but do most schools want women teaching young learners?
KP: That’s a general preference held by most schools.
EH: Do female teachers have to dress a certain way?
KP: Yes: conservatively. In some schools women aren’t allowed to wear trousers.
EH: Has anyone ever said anything that you thought of as blatantly sexist?
KP: I personally haven’t experienced any blatant sexism.
EH: Have you experienced any sexual harassment here?
KP: No. Some taxi drivers can be too friendly but nothing I can’t handle.
EH: Do you feel Thailand is safe for women?
I think Thailand is very safe but you always have to be careful and have a bit of common sense anywhere you are.
EH: What’s the most difficult aspect of life in Thailand for females?
KP: Dating, and maybe female perks such as waxes. The waxes here are either cheap and unsanitary or far too expensive.
EH: Speaking of dating, you have a boyfriend. How long have you been with him?
KP: Over a year and a half now.
EH: What attracted you to your boyfriend?
KP: He’s relaxed. He’s helped me to calm down and he’s balanced me out.
EH: A lot of assumptions are made regarding western male-Thai female relationships; what assumptions do people make when they see you and your boyfriend?
KP: Some people see my boyfriend and assume he’s got more money than he does. Or we go to nice restaurants, because that’s where I want to go, and people think he’s trying to be more “high-so” than he is.
EH: Many female expats feel ignored by their male counterparts. Do you agree?
KP: Yes. I think that because of the culture, they feel that life with a Thai woman is easier. Or friends tell me that they feel they are a second choice only after some men realize they may have to pay for sex.
EH: Have you been able to build close friendships with western women in Thailand?
KP: I have a few close friends but seeing them come and go so often gets tiring. I also get along with men more easily so I find myself hanging out with them more often.
EH: What do you think women should know before moving to Thailand to live/teach?
KP: Western women will always be bigger than the average Thai woman. This results in most clothes being ridiculously small to the average western woman and this new ‘size’ label can make some women feel self-conscious. But you can’t take this to heart and you should aim for a good fit rather than what the label says.
Is there anything a woman should bring from home that they can’t easily get in Thailand?
Yes: Shoes, lingerie, and tampons. Nice shoes are important, yet hard to find. A lot of underwear here is “free size” and free size is a lie. As for tampons, they don’t have them here.
EH: What are the keys to success for a woman living in Thailand?
KP: Try not to hold onto relationships back home so much. This can detract from enjoying and embracing experiences in Thailand. Try to loosen your grip so that you can see what you can achieve on your own, you may just surprise yourself.