So much can happen all before class even starts in the megalopolis of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Within a few minutes I’m jerked awake as my motorbike taxi gently crashes into another motorbike. The two shake their heads at each other and we continue traveling through the swarming rush hour traffic, weaving in and out with no traffic rules in the city of 10 million. I’m learning fast what it’s going to be like teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Our maps are failing us, and we can’t find the public school my language center has sent me to today. The street numbers and names confuse the local motorbike driver and me, where the buildings don’t seem to follow a certain number order. We’re pulling over asking anyone and everyone if they can point us in the right direction of the school. At the same time, I’m on the phone with my teaching manger asking her for directions and frantically looking at the clock. We find the school just in the nick of time, which was hidden in a labyrinth of secret alleys and not marked correctly on the map.
What was a tidy, professional outfit – dressed head to toe in my finest teaching clothes, is now drenched in sweat from the beating hot sun. I quickly jump off the bike, thank my driver, dart to the nearest sugarcane juice stall to refuel and run to class.
When I step onto school grounds, everything changes. I’ve never been at this school before but there are young children surrounding me from all directions squealing “Teacher! Teacher”. A couple of young girls run up to me holding hands, “Hello Teacher, how are youuu?”
“I’m fine thank you and you?”
Excited, they reply, “I’m fine!” and skip away.
The little ones did it again, I’m at peace and I forget everything that has just happened. I’m overcome with a feeling that I need to teach these eager children the best that I can.
Why Teach English in Ho Chi Minh City?
The exciting megalopolis of Ho Chi Minh City has this eccentric modern but traditional charm that can entice any newcomer. In many ways, the city truly is the diamond of the East. New skyscrapers sprout from the ground next to beautiful yellow French colonial buildings. The Vietnamese people are friendly and happy and this is something they pride themselves in (being the friendly Southerners). It is a common sight to see the locals lounging around the many cafes and eateries (oftentimes in a hammock), catching up and laughing with their friends. There is something for everyone in Ho Chi Minh City but at the same time, it is not a place for everyone. With economic growth and industrialization comes air pollution, construction and the tireless hum of motorbikes throughout the night.
Some Things to Know about Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Jobs are plentiful
- Wages are relatively high ranging from $15 (without a certificate) to $20 (with a certificate)
- Living costs are low – Even the most lavish spender should be able to save at least $700 a month
- Public schools and kindergartens are willing to take English teachers whose mother language isn’t English
- You don’t need a TEFL or CELTA certificate (although it does make finding a job easier)
- 40 hour work weeks are uncommon for teachers (expect 20 hours)
Finding a Job Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
This can be done in many ways and more or less, the same as you would when looking for a job back home.
- Apply online at an accredited language center before you enter the country
- Send your CV via email to various language centers
- Visit public and private schools looking for the Principal or the Hiring Manager (This doesn’t work too well. They are often confused as why you are there and ask you who sent you)
- Use Facebook groups, expat websites, and even craigslist (yes, it works! I tried it! Craiglist is a great place to find private tutoring/teaching gigs)
- Network with other expats in the city who can introduce you to their centers.
Having tried many of these options, I can vouch that all are viable and it is up to you to decide what you are more comfortable with. Some people may find it terribly daunting to arrive to a new country without work lined up, but it is nothing to be afraid of in Vietnam because the demand for English teachers is high and there is no shortage of work.
Language Schools in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Job Search Engines
- Vietnam Teaching Jobs [http://vietnamteachingjobs.com/]
- Expat Arrivals [http://expatarrivals.com/vietnam]
- Go Overseas [http://www.gooverseas.com/teach-in- vietnam]
Where to Live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam?
Ho Chi Minh City is split into many different suburbs called districts. To give you an idea, District 1 is the city center and an apartment here will be the most costly at $350-$500 per month for a private room. In the other districts you can expect $200-$300 for expats. These are the main districts that you should look to for housing:
District 1 – This is the touristy, central business district which means it’s more expensive but right in the heart of it. An average private room will cost the highest in this district around $350 – $500 per month. Many expats like to live here.
District 2 – A new quiet suburb that is just developing on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. This district is becoming a popular option because of the cheap rent and quiet atmosphere
District 3 – This district is within walking distance to the center and can be a convenient option for easy access to the city’s attractions. Very popular with expats and locals alike.
District 4 – This is a suburb with many sky rise apartments on the edge of the river, providing expats with a great views and a local experience of HCMC. Rent is very fair in these luxury apartments and you should be able to bargain a deal. (My district! I think District 4 is a great compromise!)
District 5 – District 5 is the China Town of Ho Chi Minh City and is very close to the city center. Not for me.
District 7 – If you teach in District 7, you should find an apartment here but otherwise this district can feel isolating from the rest of HCMC because of the heavy traffic.
Ben Tanh District – A very popular district with the local Vietnamese and it is very close to the city center.
- Expatvietnem [http://www.expat.com/en/housing/asia/vietnam/]
Get used to Facebook Groups. They are an awesome resource for just about everything! I found my apartment on here!
- Bicycle – While motorbikes are popular, those who want to lower their carbon footprint should consider a bike.
- Motorbike – The most common mode of transport for locals and expats alike. A motorbike should cost you around $200 – $300 USD
- Grabbike – My preferred mode of transport. This is a new application that has really taken off in many cities of South East Asia, especially in HCMC! In any part of the city, I could use this app to find a fair priced ride in minutes. Many locals are able to earn a living from this app and enjoy this new job market!
- Public Bus – Depending on your district and the location of your school, there may be a public bus. This will take some investigating and trial and error.
Have you taught English overseas or in South East Asia? What was it like? Anything like this? Share in the comments below!