Hanoi is the Marmite of Asia. That’s a sentence that I never expected to find myself typing. But it’s true; for those of you unfamiliar with the yeast-based British condiment, it’s a product that is either loved or hated by everyone. Hanoi is just as divisive; for some it’s a crowded, crazy, stressful city, and for others it’s a crowded, crazy, wonderful city. For this writer and teacher, it’s unquestioningly the latter. Hanoi is culturally and historically rich, it is filled with hidden gems, welcoming people, and endless adventure. Most teachers who manage to endure their daunting welcome, live to describe it as a teacher’s paradise. Here’s why.
Teaching ESL in Hanoi is eclectic, unpredictable, and brilliantly diverse. You could be teaching at a preschool in the morning, teaching undergrads in the afternoon, and tutoring heart surgeons in the evening. There are classes that suit everyone’s preferences, from large, beginner classes in state schools to advanced private classes; ESL teachers in Hanoi are bound to find a niche that suits them.
As in Saigon, English teachers in Hanoi tend to fit into one of two categories. They either create their own schedule of classes based around their lifestyle and pedagogical preferences, or they find a more permanent, stable position in one Hanoi’s many state schools or private English centres. There are advantages to both: the former provides autonomy, control, diversity, and flexibility; the latter provides stability, support, and simplicity.
If you’re looking to build your teaching experience in more specific areas, that can certainly be done. From BE (Business English) to ESP (English for Specific Purposes), there is something for everyone.
Salaries fluctuate in Hanoi, as they do everywhere in Vietnam. However, perhaps because not everyone is cut out for Hanoi life, salaries tend to be higher here than anywhere else in the country. The average English teacher in Hanoi expects between $20-25 per hour (higher rates for the busy summer months). We recommend not accepting salaries lower than this, with the exception that if you are offered a large block of classes together, then the time saved on transport may be worth losing a couple of dollars per hour.
Do not go into a class in Hanoi expecting to have all the modern facilities of a western classroom. While establishments do sometimes offer modern teaching technology, this is far from the norm. I taught my first class barefoot, in someone’s living room, and by candlelight due to an all-night power-cut. If that excites you rather than horrifies you, then you might be the right sort of teacher for Hanoi.
Despite being Vietnam’s capital city, it is considerably less developed than Saigon. There are less high-rise buildings, and visitors often speak of Hanoi’s big-village-vibe. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do. From museums, architecture, and quiet lakeside cafes, to a vibrant nightlife and even the occasional music festival, there truly is something for everyone in Hanoi.
If you’re looking for an endless summer, then Saigon may be a better choice. Unlike in the south of Vietnam, the north does experience a cold period. Winter can get a little chilly so bring warm clothes; you can expect some real wind-chill when you ride to work on your motorbike. Nonetheless, most of the year Hanoi is glorious! And when the sun does come out after winter, it makes it all the more enjoyable. All of a sudden, the city comes alive. Everywhere you go there will be people basking in the sunshine, sitting outside cafes and bars, and generally making the most of life.
While you may be able to find employment anyway, English teachers looking to find teaching jobs in Hanoi should be experienced and qualified. They should have a degree and CELTA certificate (or equivalent). If you do not have this qualification, send us a message and we can help you get one. It should be stated that in Hanoi, as in other places in Vietnam, there are also some other, less “traditional” preferences for teachers. Sadly, Vietnamese employers are prejudiced towards native-English speakers, younger teachers, and shamefully, Caucasian teachers. Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam has been at the forefront of efforts to try to combat these unfair prejudices, but the reality is that if you do not meet these seemingly arbitrary criteria, finding employment will probably be harder for you.
There are various methods of finding employment. Lots of job offers happen via word-of-mouth once a teacher gains a reputation as reliable, fun, and effective. To get your foot in the door, the best solution is to network. There are employment Facebook groups (some of which were set up by Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam) to help connect employers and teachers, as well as a few job database websites that can prove successful. We might be a little bias, but to give yourself a considerable head-start, we suggest getting in touch with us here at TFV, so that you can take advantage of our established, vetted network.
Written by Alex Sinclair Lack for Teacher’s Friend – Vietnam