Never teach English in Vietnam like this

By Alice Teacake

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Should you teach English in Vietnam?  As I said for Korea and Thailand, the answer is yes(!) but first check out my overall guide to teaching English abroad to fund your travels.  There are lots of tips and advice in there which will really help you. Vietnam is awesome for teaching but I personally did everything wrong when I worked here and I learnt the hard way.  Read on to avoid the same mistakes

Teach English in Vietnam

What’s special about Vietnam?

The history! The Vietnam War! Need I say more?

The motorbike journeys – ride for your life on those school holidays!

The buzzing feeling you get walking down the city streets: colours, sounds, smells, smiles

Pho: the best noodle soup known to man

The freshly brewed street beer…and it’s cheap!

Why should I teach in Vietnam?

Excellent for newbie teachers looking to gain experience

The abundance of ESL jobs available

Option to choose a year contract or work part-time in different schools: lots of flexibility!

Did I mention the pho and freshly brewed beer?

What do I need to teach English in Vietnam?

A University degree (ideally!) and at least 100 hours in a TEFL Qualification.

Get your TEFL certificate

Get 35% off your TEFL course here with code TEA35

No degree? No problem!

If you do not have a degree, it can be much harder than it used to be to teach English in Vietnam. The rules now are generally that you need to have a TEFL certification and 3 years’ teaching experience.

Find out what you must do if you have no degree

No TEFL and little experience? Do an internship!

If you want to get a TEFL certificate and teaching experience at the same time, why not excel in your English teaching and take part in an internship?

Doing an internship (some with a full paid salary) will give you everything you need to get your dream job straight away!

Click to learn more about doing an internship here

You’ll need a moped too

Teachers moped around to get to their classes, particularly if they’re teaching part time in different schools. Riding a moped is easy (if you’re calm and aware) and if there was ever a time to throw yourself in at the deep end and  learn to ride a moped, Vietnam will keep you very busy indeed!

How much money will I earn?

Wages are very good in Vietnam at the moment! Expect around $20 an hour minimum and more with good qualifications and experience

Tutoring privately can earn you a lot more money too

Who should I work for?

There are the big players like ILA and VUS but with any big company like this, there are reviews of them being poorly organised, not treating you very well and teachers being stressed out with lots of observations.  On the other hand, these companies offer the CELTA course every 5 weeks, 9-12 month contracts and they could be a very good first foot in the door.  Nonetheless, Teacake recommends talking to teachers already in Vietnam through friends and the net.  Research will get you far!

Where should I look for work?

The most popular website I found and the one I have used personally is TNH Vietnam. So many jobs and very reliable, apart from the job I found on there (see below)! As always, being in a country and actually looking for and talking to locals yourself is going to get you a much better job then applying hundreds of miles away.  Knock on doors, land a job through word of mouth.  That’s the best.

Where did I go wrong?

There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to publish this, because I feel like an idiot. You’ll probably read this and be like, ‘Teacake! You blonde bimbo!’  You live, you learn. That’s all I can say about this one because I really lost out here.  When you’re travelling, you always like to think that you know what you’re doing and are getting things right but even after 5 years of travelling, I still make mistakes.  There was that one time that I fell for the baby milk scam in Cambodia for example.  I was a sucker for that.  You can find out about that here.

When I was looking for work in Vietnam, I settled upon a job in Uong Bi, a small town between Hanoi and Halong Bay.  That was my first big mistake.

Choose where you teach carefully

Every place has its character and you may not suit it! I tried to convince myself that I was happy there but sleeping, eating and living where I was working was a nightmare to me.  No personal space, your boss always being there and not one other foreigner in town.  It’s just not teacake’s style.  I found the job online and it said not to worry about a working visa.  Fine, I thought, as I wanted to work quickly and start making money but this under the table business can get tricky.

Teaching on a working visa is more legit than teaching on a tourist visa

Many teachers do it across the world, working just on their tourist visa but it can be stressful at times, you might be found out and kicked out of the country and there’s little stability.  If you’re hoping to work in a country for a while, try and get a work visa.  You won’t have to keep leaving the country to renew, unsure if you’ll be let back in and you won’t have to worry about the police coming round uninvited to see if you’re working there illegally. My boss just kept handing over money to them to keep me there.  Not very comfortable at all and it was costing me to keep extending my visa.

Know what your working hours are and demand pay for overtime

Stick to your guns at all times. What was originally agreed for my schedule changed throughout the weeks.  Suddenly I was teaching an adult in the evening, a very rich business man, which my employer was very eager to please.  My boss assured me I would be paid overtime, so I agreed.  I kept teaching but then I got sick…

Know what entitlements you have

What are your holidays, do you have health insurance? Unbelievably, the contraceptive implant in my arm broke whilst I was in Vietnam. I had to go to Hanoi to try and get it taken out and working in the situation I’d put myself in, I wasn’t going to get paid for any of those days off. After a lot of digging in my arm, doctors couldn’t find it and take it out. With 3 years worth of hormones breaking out in my body, I made the tough decision to go back home to England to sort it out. At this point, my wages for my teaching job were already 2 weeks later…

Make sure you get paid

If payment is late, that’s raising a serious red flag. I told my boss I had to go.  This wasn’t really unexpected.  I had told him I had wanted to work for just 2 months from the start.  He said he didn’t have the money to pay me now but instead gave me one of his debit cards.  He told me to take it with me, that he would put the money on it and I could take out my wages in England.  ‘No problem’ I thought. I trusted him. Big mistake.

Of course, the money never came. I never got paid a penny. There was one more teacher who had started working at the school a couple of weeks before I left. We kept in touch. He eventually left too and yep, he never got paid either. I believe in seeing the best in people but sometimes, people are just poo.

Moral of the story?

Work legally. Research schools. Try and talk to current and past employees there. Get a contract. Read it carefully. Stick to your guns and if you sense any fishy business, carefully consider how long you want to stay there until enough is enough. Lesson well and truly learnt.

Comment Below

Have you taught English in Vietnam? What are your recommendations?

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About Alice Teacake

I'm a feminist British kickass solo female traveller who believes in women facing their fears, pushing their boundaries and reaching their full potential through solo adventure travel! I have been featured in Nat Geo Traveller UK, Lonely Planet, the Daily Mail and Buzzfeed and spoken about solo female travel safety on BBC One, whilst working with a bunch of awesome brands. Follow me for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!

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Never teach English in Vietnam like this

  • Boo!!! It’s good to know all these mistakes. We met a bunch of English teachers from South Africa in da nang. They seemed happy and had their own kick ass flat right downtown. Looks like da nang is a good place for teaching English then!

  • Hi Alice

    Great Blog , good insight into Do’s & Don’ts on your experience in Vietnam.

    I have NO experience in teaching , I’m willing to do a Teaching Certificate course in Queensland this year, what would you recommend.??

    I’m still working FT CSR administration roles, I’m over 60 years old, considering retiring in Vietnam & Bali maybe in year . I’m willing to do further training to upskill my knowledge base so I can support my living costs , also get to know the locals. I feel I have a great deal of working experience to share with people overseas.

    Look forward to hearing from you

    Warm Regards

    1. Hi Christine. I definitely recommend doing a teaching course! A TEFL is an excellent start but if you want to go the whole hog for a month, there is the option of a CELTA too. Personally, as you have no experience teaching, I’d start with the TEFL first as it is a) cheaper and b) easier. Then, once you really know that you love teaching, go for the CELTA to fine tune your skills! I totally agree that you have a lot to share and teaching English to live and work abroad is going to be an amazing experience for you :D Good luck Christine and feel free to ask more questions if you need to!

  • Thank you for the article. I am considering using Ninja Teacher tefl program to teach in Vietnam but it is kinda pricey and I don’t want to be scammed by them. Especially since I will be going to the country to do the program and I have to do a deposit of I think $420. If you know anything about them that would be really helpful.

    1. Hey Renee,

      Alex here from Ninja Teacher! We have over 30 people per month coming through our Vietnam program currently and we take our job guarantee very seriously. We’d hate to see anyone land up in job that doesn’t pay the teacher so we work really hard to connect you with great schools after you’ve completed the training!

      Hope you have a great experience in Vietnam whether you choose to come through us or not. :)

  • I am travelling to South East Asia the 5th of March and i would like to stay and work over
    there teaching English.I am a non native speaker and i do not have a tefl certificate.However
    i think my English is good enough to teach english to start with.And ofcourse iam willing to
    get this required certificate along the way,but when i arrive in SEA i want to start somewhere.
    Could somebody give me some tips.I would like to hear that.
    I am Johan 53 years old and i am Dutch.

    Kind Regards JP

    1. Hi Johan. I do recommend getting a TEFL certificate. Even if your English is great, even native speakers can not be the best teachers if they don’t know HOW to teach. There are so many techniques and skills you can learn by studying ESL, that will make your job easier and your students’ learning sky rocket! Regardless, there are plenty of opportunities to teach English in Southeast Asia and I know that if you go there, you’ll easily be able to find an opportunity. Once you land, ask around and you’ll be connected within no time.