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.
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?
- A University degree and at least 100 hours in a TEFL Qualification
- A bike: 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 not an idiot) and if there was ever a ‘learn to ride a moped crash course 101’, Vietnam is it
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 Teacake 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.
1) 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.
2) Teaching on a working visa is understandably 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.
3) 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…
4) Make sure it is clear what cover you have: what are your holidays, do you have health insurance? Unbelievably, the contraceptive implant in my arm broke. 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 late…
5) 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, you guessed it, 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.
Have you taught English in Vietnam? What are your recommendations?