Teaching English in Vietnam
Vietnam is fascinating. No doubt about it. I was recently in Vietnam in October, and while I was there the thought crossed my mind a few times that this really would be an interesting place to teach English for a year or two. Vietnam has a certain charm about it that is hard to explain (although I will try in this blog entry). It's busy, but chill. It's a little bit run down, but beautiful. The people are so happy, although many of them have so little. The culture is definitely unique and the country has such a rich (and tragic) history. The landscape and cityscape is incredible and sometimes a bit overwhelming. And the food....the food is so good in Vietnam and worth travelling or teaching there by itself.
In this blog entry I want to write about teaching English in Vietnam. Although, I did not teach there, I have met many people who have and I've been doing a bit of research to help out with this entry. Below is so info you need to know before choosing to teach in Vietnam and what its like when you're there.
Before You Go:
If you Google "Teaching English in Vietnam" you'll quickly see that there is no shortage of teaching opportunities available to prospective teachers.The majority of the jobs available are in large cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I haven't been to Ho Chi Minh before however I was just in Hanoi and really enjoyed it (especially the Old Quarter). From what I hear Ho Chi Minh is definitely more Western and lively, whereas Hanoi is more laid-back and traditional.
To teach in Vietnam you can find your teaching position before visiting the country or go and look for a job when you get there. Both options have benefits and risks. You'll also typically you need to have graduated from a four year university program, and a TESL or TEFL certificate helps as well. Although it is possible to teach in Vietnam without these documents, you'll have a lot more issues getting a work permit with out them. Work permits are usually arranged by your future employer. More info about getting a work permit for Vietnam can be found here: https://www.studycelta.com/blog/how-to-get-a-work-permit-to-teach-english-in-vietnam
Most teaching positions in Vietnam will be at public schools or private language schools and institutions. For both options, I've heard good things about going through a company called ILA Vietnam for employment. If you are a certified and experienced teacher, there are also positions available at private international schools as well. Generally school pay between $1000 - $2000 a month and you're expected to work anywhere from 30 - 40 hours a week (including approx. 10 hours of prep time). While this is certainly not as much money as you can make in other countries, you need to consider the cost of living is much lower in Vietnam than other popular TEFL locations. With this salary you can easily afford the necessities (accommodations, food, transportation, etc) and have plenty of money left over for entertainment or savings. Also important to note, there are plenty of opportunities to do some private tutoring on the side, if you're looking for some extra work.
While You Are There:
Life in Vietnam is...in a word....a bit chaotic. At first, cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh can be a bit overwhelming. It's crowded, busy and loud...and if you give it enough time, you'll love it.
Getting around - As you'll quickly see, everyone in Vietnam seems to drive motorbikes and scooters. This really is the best way to get around the crowded streets, but its also not for the faint of heart, as people do not follow traffic laws in Vietnam. Buses are cheap and easy to get around on as well, and taxis aren't that expensive either.
Currency: Vietnamese Dong. ($1 US = 21ish Vietnamese Dong)
Weather - The weather in Vietnam is very tropical, although the north and south often have different weather. In the north its hot and rainy from April to September, while its dry and relatively cool the rest of the year. In the south, it's hot all year round and it rains a lot from June - September.
Making Friends - Although Vietnam has so many tourists visiting all year round, there are many foreigners teaching in Vietnam as well. Meeting like minded people shouldn't be an issue. The Vietnamese are also very eager to help and get to know foreigners. If you really want to learn about Vietnam, I strongly suggest you get to know the locals.
Food - The food in Vietnam is very delicious and inexpensive. Restaurants are everywhere and street food is sold on every corner. I'm a bit wary about the street food myself, as it's often left out in the hot sun for long periods, but I've talked to people who live there and have been eating everything, and haven't had any stomach problems at all. Coffee and the cafe lifestyle are amazing in Vietnam. One of the beautiful aspects adopted from the French (side note: there's a lot of bad history with the French in Vietnam). I also recommend that you head to the coast whenever possible and eat the seafood. I had some of the best and freshest seafood in my life when I was there. One more note, the water is not drinkable in Vietnam, so buy properly sealed drinking water.
Safety: Vietnam is not without it's risks for foreigners, but overall quite safe. As you see very quickly, crossing the street can be very dangerous as traffic laws are frequently ignored...my advice keep moving! Crime in Vietnam is usually limited to some pretty petty stuff. Watch out for theft and scams (taxis, visas.work permits, charities, etc) though.
Travel: Like other Southeast Asian countries, living in Vietnam offers you the chance to travel regularly inside the country and to other countries to see some pretty amazing stuff. Vietnam itself has so much to see and do that you could spend years just exploring just that country. Thailand is also a must see when living in Southeast Asia.
Internet: Internet is easy to set-up at home, and can be found everywhere in the cities (cafes, stores, restaurants, etc). In rural areas the internet is a little more dicey; Another reason you may want to live and teach in a city.
Pollution: Unfortunately the pollution in Vietnam kinda sucks. I found the air was OK, but the level of trash laying around isn't cool and recycling is non-existent. To be honest my trip to Halong Bay was kind of disappointing based solely on the amount of garbage that is disposed of in the ocean. Not to place all the blame of the Vietnamese for this though. Tourist are infamous polluters in Vietnam as well.
Overall, as I said at the beginning of this post, Vietnam is a pretty amazing place, and I think it would be cool to teach there. I'd love to hear in the comment section below from some people who have taught there. Any advice and suggestions would be much appreciated.