Working with your significant other in Thailand
Working with your significant is awesome! You always have someone to eat with at lunch and there is always someone to talk to about the craziness of your day as a teacher in Thailand. That being said, teaching with your significant other does present its own set of challenges and unique benefits.
Who We Are
I’m Kyle, and I’m working in Thailand as a teacher with my wife. We moved over to teach soon after getting married and now have worked in Thailand for just under a year. We requested for CIEE to place us together and didn’t have any problem. Most people are placed with at least one other teacher, so it’s not really a problem to get placed with your significant other. Over time, we’ve definitely grown a lot, teaching in another culture will definitely strengthen and solidify your relationship if you choose to communicate and work together. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned over the year.
First off, you likely will only be given the same accommodation as a single traveler. For example, we live in a small studio apartment, usually for one person. Rather than give us a larger one bedroom apartment, they just put us in the same accommodation as any other single teacher. So that’s a bummer because we really wish we had a little more space. We joke that if we ever need alone time, then we sit on opposite sides of the bed facing the wall. That’s about as private as our space gets, which has really limited conflict avoidance haha. If we had known better earlier, we would have asked if we could have gotten a 1 bedroom apartment.
While we sort of got the short end of the stick with the accommodations, we do get some benefits. We asked, and they put us on the same gate duty (when we greet at school one day a week). And our coworkers were willing to move the desks around so we could sit together. Working with each other was super helpful during the transition. Our first experience teaching was overwhelming in Thailand, and it was really encouraging to have someone going through it with you. We also were able to share ideas, what worked and what didn’t, which definitely helped improve our teaching.
Also, just a fair warning, Thai culture prefers people to be married before they live together. So you may face some micro-aggression or judgment if you aren’t married.
The most relevant thing for us is PDA. In America, it isn’t uncommon to see people, hold hands, hug, or kiss. In Thailand, even married couples won’t touch during a picture together. So for us, we’ve had to learn how to express our relationship respectfully. We always want to be sensitive to the culture, but we also don’t want to sacrifice our own relational values. We definitely break some of the cultural norms (i.e. touching during a picture or occasionally giving a brief hug) but try to be discreet and not make a scene. The key is to stay aware of your surroundings and to remember your role as a teacher.
Something we didn’t expect was how much our students would love us being here as a couple. We’ve had students draw pictures of us, one was even a digital portrait. They love watching us. Even when we are discreet, we still engage very differently from most Thai couples they are used to seeing. Some students keep their distance, but most of them love to celebrate our love. It’s so cute and adorable. Especially the little ones delight in the two of us. The little girls regularly come up to me and tell me that “teacher Cait is beautiful.” When I tell them, “Yes, she is very beautiful.” They squeal and run away. There is something so pure and authentic about their response to us as a couple. It’s really, really powerful.
The real joy of working together is how much we get to be together. We regularly have open hours together when we aren’t teaching and get lunch every day together. Also, something you don’t think about, but is really special, is how much you know about each others day. Normally, you have to catch up at the end of the day and hear about what so-so did. Teaching together, you will know so-so because he is your student too. And you will be able to know and share so much of your life with someone who works, knows, and experiences the same things as you.
It’s sometimes unbelievable how much time we get to spend together and how much fun we have. Not too mention, you get to take amazing trips together regularly. That’s just like the amazing cherry on top of the whole thing. Sometimes we even talk about what it will be like to transition back to America. This has been such an amazing time with so much time and space for us to be together. It will be difficult for us to transition to a more normal world of expectation and differing responsibilities.
We love working together in Thailand. It took us a while to adjust to being a couple in the culture, but after a year we’ve found a rhythm. I think we’ve found a balance between being respectful, while still living into our relationship and marriage authentically. It has forced us to be flexible and communicate in our relationship, creating really good and healthy patterns for when we transition back to a life with less space to naturally be together.