What to Know about Clothing as an ESL Teacher in Thailand
Thailand‘s culture regards teachers very highly. Parents expect their teachers to be impeccable in character and appearance.The primary types of schools you can teach English in Thailand are:
- Public Schools
- Private Schools
- Language Centers
In public and private schools, the dress code for ESL teachers is “business casual,” while the dress code for language centers is “business formal.”
Women should wear knee-length or longer dress style skirts, a blouse, or sweaters and cardigans. The tops can be short-sleeved but not so short that they reveal too much skin. Sleeveless tops, exposed shoulders, pants, and jeans are not acceptable. Cleavage should be covered. Shoes should be closed-toe but no sneakers, sandals, or extremely high heels.
Men must wear dress pants and long-sleeved shirts. Short-sleeved shirts will rarely be allowed. Shirts can range from collared polo to buttoned dress while ties may be required. Jeans and shorts are not acceptable. Shoes should be dress-style but not sneakers, sandals, or open-toe.
Some schools will expect teachers to wear tops corresponding to a specific color of the day. For example, Monday is yellow, Tuesday is pink, and so on. There are other days where your school may ask you to wear specific colors to pay tribute to Thailand’s royal family member and special religious days.
Every workplace is different, and school administrators may be reluctant to tell you if your clothes are not acceptable. It’s best to dress conservatively during the first few days and pay attention to what other teachers are wearing and adjust accordingly.
Be mindful of images and messages printed on your clothes, especially when it comes to politics, religion, profanity, and sex. You must be respectful of Thai culture and norms.
When considering what to wear, also think about your comfort. You will likely be animated when teaching, so you’ll want to wear clothing that allows you to move around comfortably.
It is essential that whatever clothes you are wearing, they should be crisp and wrinkle-free.
You will also want to have more formal attire for business luncheons or ceremonial functions.
Seasons and Climates
Thailand’s climate is tropical and humid, with three distinct seasons. The hottest season is from March to mid-May. The rainy season, accompanied by occasional monsoons, runs from mid-May to October, with October being the wettest month. The dry and relatively cool season is from November to February, which also brings some monsoons. The coldest climate is in the north and inland areas. With this in mind, you should plan to have light, breathable clothing.
Men’s hair should be nicely styled and cut short.
Women should maintain short hairstyles. If yours is long, you may need to tie it back.
Dyed hair, using other than natural colors, is not likely to be allowed.
Facial hair must be neatly cropped and well-groomed.
Female makeup should be subtle, though remember, the climate is very humid and can affect how your makeup lasts throughout the day. Men should not wear makeup or perfume.
Although tattoos have become more mainstream in Thailand, displaying them is still generally frowned upon at Thai schools. If you have tattoos, they should be covered up when you are at your place of work or attending work functions.
In general, earrings are acceptable in most schools; however, any other piercings or large or excessive jewelry would be considered inappropriate.
It may be hard to find extra-large sized clothing or footwear in the provincial areas of Thailand, so it’s best to carry some with you to avoid having difficulty finding these once you are there.