Teacher Tim's TEFL International Blog May 28th, 2011

An Apple a Day

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from those considering a career move to Thailand to teach English is whether or not there will be health insurance as part of the employment package.

The answer is short and sweet: “Are you kiddin’?”

As someone who has very rarely ever had health insurance coverage, being a life-long blue collar worker in the good ol’ US of A up until the age of 55, I can’t help but find it strange that so many people who want to make the leap of faith into the unknown by becoming ESL teachers in a brand new country are put off when they find out they won’t be covered if they break an arm or have a bum tooth. What’s the big deal? Admittedly health insurance coverage is a good thing, but saying that, why should not having it prevent you from living your life to the full – unless you’re already a tottering invalid?

I had a jolly good time producing eight children during my fifteen years of marriage – and only the last one was covered by insurance; the other seven I made payment arrangements with the hospital, so much per month, to pay off the little bambinos. Those payments kept me broke, sure, but that meant I stayed home at night after work, instead of going out, and playing with my investments . . . I mean, my kids. Turns out that was the best thing ever to happen to me.

But that’s not really the tack I want to take here.

Thailand is an incredibly cheap place to get sick in. Unless you’re planning a triple-bypass with concurrent Hansen’s Disease, hospital stays are not going to cost much.

I had the misfortune of stepping on a very small, very toxic, scorpion, the very first time I came to Thailand. My foot ballooned up and turned a sickly green until it looked like a watermelon with toes. It was touch and go there for a while as to whether or not the medicos were going to saw off the foot or let it alone, but after a week of debate, during which I fervently suggested that I was rather attached to the dear old thing and didn’t wish to part company with it, they decided to release me to recuperate at home, with my bloated foot intact.

I was charged one-hundred baht per day for my hospital room, which included the meals. The doctor’s visits and medication came to another thousand baht.

Now that was back in the days when plesiosaurs still swam in the klongs. More recently, while teaching English in Nonthaburi, I developed a fiendish toothache that throbbed like the engine of an ocean liner. I took a day off from school to hunt up a dentist. The first one I found had a nicely furnished office and very up-to-date equipment, and the dentist spoke English with an Oxford accent. He had received his training in Britain. He gave my tooth the once-over and then announced he would gas me up and pull it.

Whoa, boy! Back it up! Hold the phone!

That was when I remembered what an English friend of mine had once told me: “The only people who like yanks in our country are the dentists.”

I made up some hodgepodge of an excuse and got out of there pronto. I finally found an American-trained dentist, and he very rapidly cleaned out the cavity, filled it, and gave me a generous prescription for codeine tablets until the pain wore off.

Price: 8-thousand baht, total.

Do the math, Einstein. How much would the same thing cost in your country, even if you had insurance as a co-pay?

So my advice to those anxious to begin a new life teaching English here in Thailand is to stop being a hypochondriac and just do it. If you get sick you can afford to pay the bill. Is that clear enough for ya, boychick?

Of course, it just makes sense to look at your own family to see what kind of health you can expect in the future. My mother and father lived into their 90’s – puffing cigarettes, eating red meat, and draining highballs with gusto. So I’m not that worried about a serious heart attack at age sixty-five. If your own family history shows the mater and pater dropping dead early on, you may not want to remain a teacher in Thailand past middle-age.

Retirees with recurring health issues are not suitable candidates for teaching positions in Thailand. I can’t put it any more bluntly than that.

Now if you still insist on getting health insurance, and other benefits, from your teaching job, then I’d suggest you look a little further north for your English teaching position. By that I mean that there are opportunities in China right now to get a good English teaching gig with a full benefit package.

For more information on such a bonanza, go to: http://www.tefllife.com/special-disney-project

Or you can just take two aspirin and call me in the morning . . .