While ‘Marketing 101’ tells us that we should paint a picture of Vietnam as expat paradise, we feel it’s important for you to know that living in Vietnam can come with great difficulties as well as great joys. Your wellbeing is our number one concern, so here’s our guide to the pros and cons of expat life in ‘Nam.
Let’s start with some good news – money. Salaries for ESL teachers in the east Asia vary significantly. Teaching salaries tend to be lower in other SE Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. The highest salaries are to be found in Japan and South Korea, but high living costs mean that unless you’re a master budgeter, there won’t be much left over at the end of your hardworking week. Vietnam is unique in its combination of high paying salaries with incredibly low living costs. Teachers who move to Vietnam are able to work less hours, and if they choose to, save more money than any other country in Asia. In fact, Vietnam is widely considered to be one of the best countries in the world outside of the Gulf States, for earning money by teaching English as a second language.
If you fancy visiting some of these other countries, there are very affordable flights available from both Hanoi and Saigon. AirAsia and Jetstar provide cheap local and international flights to nearly everywhere your heart might desire. So, if you fancy going diving in the Philippines, partying in Thailand, or mountain-climbing in China, Vietnam has you covered.
Talk to any expat in Vietnam and you will soon discover that money and cheap airfare are far from their primary motivations. The culture of Vietnam is unparalleled. A single day’s exploration allows you to dine in French cafes in Hanoi, drive your motorbike through ancient temples and abandoned military relics, then finish it off with an ice cold bia hoi over emerald green rice paddies at sunset. And remember, ‘in Vietnam, no one drinks alone’. There is a vast and varied expat community, and no shortage of local Vietnamese people with an indomitable desire to connect with foreign visitors. City life in Vietnam is nothing less than an electric melting pot of different cultures and every day provides a new surprise.
What about the bad news? Sadly, most countries in Asia have scams, rip-offs and tourist traps ready to take advantage of the undiscerning traveller. Fear not! TFV has compiled articles on the best way to avoid these scams to ensure your hard-earned teaching salaries are kept for your own leisure.
These rip-offs unfortunately also apply to many teaching centres and schools who are keen get as much as they can for as little as they can from naïve teachers. This can lead to poor working conditions, underpayment, unpaid work, and many broken promises. Does a job offer you free accommodation? This is often a warning sign – think carefully before accepting it. Luckily, TFV has you covered for this as well. We pride ourselves on working with schools with good reputations and we’ll teach you how to avoid the dodgy ones. Of course, we can’t offer a 100% guarantee, and don’t go into Vietnamese schools expecting the same treatment as your home country. Vietnamese people run things their own way, and it is up to you as a foreigner and guest to adapt to this. If you believe you are being mistreated, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We will do our best to resolve the situation and ensure your stay in the country runs as smoothly as it can.
In addition, traffic and pollution levels are severe in the Hanoi and Saigon. We recommend using a decent face mask when riding your motorbike. Luckily, the Vietnamese countryside is the perfect getaway. Rich, luscious forest and sea air is only ever a short-ride away.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Vietnam can be a little ‘much’ for some. Life in Vietnamese cities is fast paced, especially before you’ve found your hidden hideaways and escapes. It is undeniably an intense country at times, and it’s not for the fainthearted. You must be flexible and willing to adapt. We can help you find language exchanges and Vietnamese lessons that will help you to adjust more quickly. Even with this in mind, it’s not unusual to feel out of your depth when living in a country as eclectic as Vietnam. But know that Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam is always here to look after you and ensure that through it all there is always an experienced, caring person to calm your fears.
Written by Alex Sinclair Lack for Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam