Bangkok, or as it is known in Thai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (0r simply Krung Thep for short), is a complex city. Known for its nightlife as well as its Buddhist temples, Bangkok is home to a diverse cultural landscape that has a lot to offer anyone. From its foundation in the 15th century or earlier as a small village on the mouth of the river, Bangkok has grown to be the economic and cultural center of Thailand. Bangkok, sometimes called the "Venice of the East" due to its many canals, produces the majority of Thailand's wealth. In addition, the city has become known around the world for its artistic and cultural achievements; the Siam Niramit theatre has put on several internationally acclaimed productions. Bangkok is full of professional opportunities in a variety of fields as well as plenty of museums, parks, and festivals to explore.
- Main Industries: Retail, manufacturing, Tourism, Real Estate, Transport and Communications, Financial Intermediation
- Popular Destinations: Siam Square, Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, the National Museum, Lumphini Park, Khao San Road
- Cost of Living: ~$900/month
- Visa: A visa and work permit are required. See the Royal Thai Embassy for more information.
Bangkok has all the resources of a major city available for potential interns. This means that internships exist in a wide variety of fields from engineering to the arts. Environmental internships are available in Bangkok, but may be more difficult to find than others since many of them take place in more rural areas outside the city.
- Teaching: Since English is frequently a required language in Thai schools, native speakers are in demand. A teaching internship often entails assisting with conversation lessons; it is not necessary for you to speak Thai. In fact, you may find that helping your students learn English will end up teaching you lessons about Thai language and culture you wouldn't otherwise have learned. Whatever the age of your class, teaching in Thailand will give you the chance to interact with and motivate people every day. If you are a native English speaker, you also offer your students a chance to improve their conversational and pronunciation skills that they would not get elsewhere. There is little more rewarding than assisting someone to learn to express themselves in a new language. A teaching internship in Bangkok can make your stay in Thailand even more fulfilling than it otherwise would have been.
- Tourism/Hospitality: Bangkok is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, with almost 16 million people expected to visit the city over the course of this year (2013). The city's beautiful temples and museums, as well as its urban parks and vibrant art scene draw people from around the world to the city. As an intern in the tourism or hospitality sector, you will learn everything there is to love about Bangkok and share it with some of the city's many visitors. You work to ensure that people who don't have the opportunity to stay in Bangkok for long can still make the most of their shorter stays. From welcoming tourists to Bangkok to seeing them off again, you have the chance to make their time in Thailand something truly special.
- Business: Bangkok is the commercial center of Thailand and an economic hub in Southeast Asia. The city has a truly international market and hosts not only Thailand's major banks but also many multi-national corporations. A business internship in Bangkok can serve as an introduction to a fast-paced and modernized business environment that is also deeply rooted in Thai cultures and traditions. International experience is becoming increasingly important in the business world, and an internship in Bangkok can provide a substantial boost for those looking to enter the field. In addition, Bangkok is known for its affordable and high-quality tailoring, so you can enter the business world in style.
A small sidestreet in Bangkok
When and Where to Look for an Internship:
Internships are available year-round. It is the weather rather than the internship opportunities that tend to influence when people decide to go to Bangkok. The cool season, November-March, is the most popular time for interns to go, as the other times of the year are either incredibly hot, incredibly rainy, or both.
When looking for an internship in Thailand, one of the most important things to think about is the amount of support you will need when first arriving in the country. If you do not speak or read Thai and are not extremely adventurous, it may be a good idea to go through a program and at least make certain that someone from your internship will meet you at the airport.
Cost of Living in Bangkok
The cost of living in Bangkok is more expensive than the rest of Thailand. Nonetheless, with 1 US dollar being the equivalent of about 30 Baht, life in Bangkok can be very affordable. Here are some common costs to help you budget your cost of living in Bangkok
- 1 Bedroom apartment in the city center: $636.13
- Monthly transit pass: $29.89
- Milk, 1 liter: $1.56
- Apples, 1 kg: $2.23
Work Culture in Bangkok:
- Etiquette: One of the most frequently mentioned elements of Thai etiquette is the wai a Thai greeting that involves raising the hands with palms together and bowing the head to touch the upraised fingertips. However, the wai is full of many intricacies depending on the exact social relationship between the people exchanging it. Therefore, as a foreigner, a handshake may be the more cautious and respectful greeting. You will likely receive instruction from your internship or colleagues about what greeting would be most appreciated. On top of this, Thai people tend to avoid outright rejection in workplace dealings and prefer to let people down gently, providing a way to back out without embarrassment. In general, adopting a respectful and professional attitude, and respecting office hierarchies, will be appreciated. Kwintessential has a more complete guide to Thai customs.
- Language: The official language of Thailand is Central Thai, and it is spoken by the majority of people in Thailand. The second largest language spoken is Lao. English is commonly taught in school but many Thai people, particularly those who are not in the cities or who do not work often with tourists or foreigners, are not fluent. Furthermore, Thai has its own system of writing, an abugida, where each consonant can also invoke a vowel sound, that reads left to right. Because of this, if you do not read or speak Thai, it is a good idea to write down important information, such as the address of your destination, in Thai to ease your navigation of Bangkok.
- Networking: The economic and cultural capital of Thailand, Bangkok is host to many conferences and trade shows. People from a variety of fields travel to Bangkok to conduct research and business meetings. Attending these events in your field can be a great way to make connections as well as pick up new skills. However, most networking should be done through introductions. Start by building a good relationship with the people at your internship before branching out to make more connections.
Wat Arun, one of the most famous temples in Bangkok
Work and Labor Laws in Bangkok
A work permit is required for all work in Thailand, including volunteer and unpaid positions. The appropriate visa is likely the non-Immigrant Visa B.
Why Intern in Bangkok?
Bangkok is one of the most popular places in the world for people to come and visit. An internship there provides the opportunity to get to know the city better than people who stay for a shorter time. You can take the time to appreciate the ways that Thai history and culture have shaped the city throughout the years. In addition, you have the opportunity to work for internationally recognized companies and organizations, gaining experience that is that much more valuable once you return. You have the chance to really step outside your comfort zone and learn the Thai language. Bangkok is a great city for interns, as full of exciting events as it is professional opportunities.
Photo Credits: Skyline, Sidestreet, Wat Arun