When we left home to teach in Vietnam we didn’t know what to expect. I’m pretty sure 90% of the people we told thought we were crazy. And maybe they’re right.
Everything about this place is CRAZY. But bloody hell, it is good.
Here are 10 reasons why two idiotic Brits chose to leave their comfortable lives behind to teach in Vietnam.
Vietnam is right in the middle of South East Asia, which makes for a central spot to jet off and explore. Flights are very affordable, making it an excellent place for anyone with the travel bug to settle.
From Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, you can fly to Thailand, Cambodia, China, Singapore, Laos and Myanmar for as little as $50!
As teachers in Vietnam you can often find yourselves with a few days spare every now and again. The perfect opportunity to hop on a flight and be in another incredible country in just a few hours!
#2 The Country
Vietnam has it all. Mountains, jungles, rivers, cities, beaches…
You name it. Vietnam has it.
In the North, you are surrounded by incredible countryside. Locations like Sapa, Mai Chau and Ninh Binh offer some of the most impressive scenery in the country. With an impressive rail system you are connected to almost any main destination in the North.
Ba Vi National Park is just 1.5 hours outside of Hanoi. It is extremely popular with Hanoi’s locals who want to escape the busy city and breathe some fresh air. The park has some great hiking opportunities and incredible scenery.
The capital city of Hanoi (our current home) is surprisingly calm. It has everything you could possible want from a city and is a great place to visit or live.
The North also experiences 4 seasons. One of the main reasons we were drawn to living in Hanoi.
Central Vietnam has one of the most picturesque coastlines in the world and cities that are a must see. Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An are some of the main locations.
Again, all are easily accessible by plane, train, or for the more adventurous, by motorbike.
Hue and Da Nang are connected by one of the most breath taking costal roads in the world. Hai Van Pass can be completed in a day and is a must when visiting Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh, Da Lat, Nha Trang and the Meekon Delta are just a few of the most visited locations in the South.
Ho Chi Minh has warm temperatures all year round, making it a desirable place to live and work. The expat community is thriving and is one of the most popular locations for visitors from all over the world.
The country really has something for everyone.
#3 Living Costs
In the UK we payed an obscene amount on rent, bills and going out way too much. One of the main reasons we decided to make the big move into the unknown.
In Vietnam it is possible to live on as little as $500 a month! This does depend on your budget and lifestyle, but it’s possible.
You can eat out for less than a dollar in some places. Generally street food ranges from $1-3 dollars a meal. And it’s honestly some of the best food we have ever eaten.
There are some amazing western restaurants in Vietnam. You can expect to pay $4-8 for a meal.
To rent a room in a shared house you will pay as little as $100, up to around $300 per month (for a swanky pad). Or if you prefer your own space you can find a studio apartment for around $250 to $400, depending on location.
One to two bedroom apartments range from $400 to $700. Which is also very affordable if you’re sharing the rent.
Grab is a great way to get around. It is generally very affordable to get anywhere in a city. The app is temperamental at times, so you can’t always rely on it.
However do avoid travelling during rush hour. A 20-minute journey can soon become a 50-minute one, and this is reflected in the price.
If you’re planning on being in Vietnam for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to learn to ride a motorcycle. It’s Vietnam’s number one mode of transport and it will save you loads in the long run.
You can rent a motorbike for around $20 to $50 a month. The cost of a full tank is around $2.
Riding a bike in Vietnam is an extremely daunting thought. Anyone who has been to Vietnam will tell you so. The roads are nothing short of insane.
However, be brave and get a bike. It will change your experience here entirely.
Drive sensibly and stick with the locals. Their driving techniques will save your ass.
#4 Salary for English Teachers
I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was one of the main reasons we chose Vietnam over anywhere else in Asia.
English teachers here are widely respected. If you tell a local you are here to teach English, you will immediately receive a massive grin and sometimes get offered a job tutoring a family member. (This was happening as we were still studying our for our TESOL courses too!)
With Vietnam’s economy ever growing, English centers are popping up all over the country. Centres are on every corner in most cities making finding work pretty easy. Pay is often dependant on skill and experience. But the starting wage is still high.
There is a need for an English speaking generation and it is evident in the countries explosion of language centers.
Full-time English Teachers in a language center can expect to receive an hourly rate of $16-25 an hour. Meaning a monthly salary of around $900-1200.
And here’s the best bit. Full time hours for an English teacher in a language center is around 25 hours a week!
Language Centre’s often expect you to create your own lesson plans using their material. So bear this in mind when you sign a 25-hour teaching contract.
Positions in public schools are also available to English teachers. The hours can vary dependent on your role, however pay is similar.
The workload can be higher due to access to less resources and support from other foreign teachers. You may be the only foreign teacher in the school.
Dependant on your role and the school, your teaching hours can vary greatly. So make sure to establish this before you sign a contract.
Don’t let this put you off though. If you’re wanting to reach out and support the children whose parents cannot afford to send them to a private language centre, this is a great option!
#5 The Locals
Walking down the street in Vietnam for the first time can feel very strange. You find yourself surrounded by unusual shops, strange smells and a million motorbikes. It’s unnerving to say the least.
The thing I found most unnerving initially was the number of eyes on me.
You will be stared at; you will find people taking pictures of you (not so slyly) and you will be asked to jump into selfies.
But it’s ok! You have to remember you’re new to this country and YES you do look different. It’s best to embrace it and consider yourself a celeb (I’m good at this, Eddie just looks hilariously awkward).
- If you catch glaring eyes, smile and nod. 99% of the time you’ll get a smile and a nod back.
- If someone tries to talk to you, stop and give them the time of day. They just want to practice their English!
- A smile and a laugh goes a long way. They will laugh with you.
- Remember to say thank you. Cảm ơn (cam un)!
- And if you think they’re being blunt, that’s just how they are.
If you look tired, they will tell you. If you’ve put on weight, you will be told. When you look like shit, you will know about it!
The Vietnamese are some of the friendliest people we’ve met.
#6 Your Students
Any teacher will tell you how rewarding teaching can be. But teachers back home do not get the credit they deserve.
They work their butts off for an ok salary. They mark work at the weekend and in the evening. And they are in school every day!! All to help often ungrateful students and parents.
In Vietnam, it’s a little different. Teacher is often respected (75% of the time anyway).
In a private language center, parents pay a large amount to have their kids in your class. They are investing in their children’s futures in order to broaden their opportunities and often to help improve their family business.
It is an amazing thing to see and be part of!
The kids are relatively well behaved. Aside for the odd difficult student, your kids will often adore you.
You are the fun teacher! The one who plays games with them, who sings with them and gets to know them.
I do not doubt we made the right decision in choosing Vietnam to study our TESOL and start our teaching careers. The experience has been nothing short of amazing.
In 8 weeks we were able to:
- Travel across Vietnam for two weeks (Hanoi to Hoi An)
- Study a 4 week TESOL course with XploreAsia and become fully qualified ESL teachers
- Secure well paid positions with Vietnam’s largest Independent Language Centres (APAX)
- Find an amazing two bed apartment on the outskirts of Hanoi for $600
- Carry out a visa run to the Philippines for one week
I’d do it all again and again and again.
Read our review of XploreAsia to find out what was involved in our course and the amazing people we met along the way.