Updated 9 months ago

The ethnic diversity, breathatking scenery, and a multitude of festivals and attractions in Chiang Mai attract more and more foreigners every year. Blessed with pristine mountains, waterfalls and rivers, Chiang Mai is a nature lover's paradise and offers numerous activities — from trekking and rafting, to cooking and massage courses.

Chiang Mai offers the best of both worlds. Ancient pagodas and temples can be found next to boutique hotels and cafes, and this dichotomy is best appreciated in the old city, which is still encircled by a moat and most of the original wall that once protected it.

Chiang Mai offers a slower pace of life than Bangkok, while still offering many modern amenities. The cost of living is also cheaper than in Bangkok or other major tourist areas, such as Phuket. Its old-world charm is very alluring, and days can be whiled away strolling around the city and drinking fresh fruit juices from the many cafes. Located in the north of Thailand, the weather is slightly cooler than in the south and it's only a one-hour flight or overnight train from Bangkok, which makes travel in the country very easy.

As an expatriate, there are employment opportunities in Chiang Mai, although you can expect them to pay less than in Bangkok. A good command of English is important, as is a basic understanding of Thai so you can communicate with your employer and Thai citizens.

Types of jobs available in Chiang Mai

There is work to be found in Chiang Mai if you arrive with the right attitude, smart attire and a lot of patience. There is even a substantial NGO community in Chiang Mai so it's possible to get into this sector if you have the knowledge and experience. Thais tend to focus on appearance, so it's important to dress conservatively when you meet prospective employers.

If you have a degree and a teaching qualification, a teaching job is probably the easiest type of job to find in Chiang Mai, as English speakers, especially North Americans are in demand. Chiang Mai boasts 24 private schools, 25 government schools, five universities, six vocational colleges, seven international schools and 24 language schools. Some of the best known establishments are Dara Academy, Prince Royals, Montfort, Chiang Mai University and Varee.

However, there is a lot of competition so it's important to have a very good command of English and, preferably, some teaching experience. It's a good idea to allow at least a fortnight for job hunting. If you take a TEFL course in Chiang Mai, some of the better courses actually place people in nearby schools very quickly. Average teaching wages are considerably lower than in Bangkok and salaries tend to range between THB20,000 and THB30,000 a month, as full-time contracts are harder to come by. To increase your income, you can juggle a few part-time positions, build up a network of private students, or teach conversational english online as well.

If you're looking for a higher salary, then it's best to apply to an international school, as these schools can offer salaries of around US$2,000-$3,000 per month. However, they will usually require an actual teaching degree. They also tend to recruit qualified teachers through overseas agencies, so if you're looking to go down this route, then it's arguably easier to secure a job from your home country.

Tourism remains the principal economic activity in Chiang Mai, but some jobs, such as that of a tourist guide, are exclusively reserved to Thai citizens. However, you can still be hired to manage a hotel or restaurant, and the export market is also a good way to earn an income.

The information technology sector is developing in Chiang Mai and this often requires foreign expertise. Chiang Mai has numerous software houses that complete projects that are outsourced from foreign companies, and there are various cybercafes that cater to start-ups. There are a lot of animators in Chiang Mai who are doing contract work for Japanese and American cartoons and adverts, and there is also an emerging industry that focuses on creating mobile phone apps. You will be considered especially valuable if you have skills that are hard to find locally.

In recent years, Chiang Mai has also become a paradise for digital nomads, entrepreneurs and bloggers, thanks to its fast WiFi/4G connection, co-working spaces, low-cost of living and networking opportunities. Freelance online writing is also a great way to supplement your income if the day job that you find doesn't pay as much as you'd like.

Finding a job

Many foreigners who have lived in Chiang Mai have found that the best way to find a job is through networking. Although it is possible to find a teaching position before your arrival in Chiang Mai, many believe that building your name and showing your face is the key to landing a good job. Many teaching posts aren't actually advertised anywhere so it's also worth preparing a strong CV (of relevant experience) and introducing yourself at as many schools in Chiang Mai as possible. In order to secure a work permit if you manage to gain a permanent position, you will need to show proof of a degree (or equivalent).

In the field of IT, BarCamp Chiang Mai and TEDx are considered to be good forums for networking with the local IT industry. And it's worth popping into the various co-working spaces around the city to meet like-minded people that may have some advice.

It's also worth looking on job websites and through the job sections in local newspapers. Identify a few companies for which you would like to work, then send out your CV with a motivation letter.

 Useful links:

Chiang Mai City Life Classifieds
Teaching Thailand
Jobs in Chiang Mai
Giga Job
Thailand's TEFL site

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