Moving to Vietnam is an exciting, life-changing, and for many, daunting endeavor. If moving to one of the larger cities, teachers from Western countries will be encountered with an onslaught of sights, sounds, and smells that are guaranteed be thrilling and maybe a little intimidating. This article will provide you with some quick tips so you can hit the ground running. You’ll be enjoying life and slurping phở bò with the locals in no time.
1. Get some wheels
This is probably the most essential thing for expats moving to Vietnam. In your first month or two, Grab Bike will be your best friend. Although Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are building metro systems, it’s a mystery as to when they’ll be finished. Taxis are expensive, and buses are slow and crowded. Grab Bike will whisk you from one end of the city to another for around 7-8 dollars. Download the Grab Bike app, enter your destination, and a driver will be there within 5 minutes. It’s an amazing service and will be a life-saver until you get comfortable enough to drive.
2. Eat like a Local
You’ll be spoiled for food options in Vietnam’s larger cities. From Italian to sushi, macrobiotic to gourmet burgers, Vietnam’s got it all. The only issue is, as a new teacher coming to Vietnam with maybe 2-3000 dollars saved, that tasty Western food comes with inflated Western prices. Luckily for you, Vietnamese food is delicious, healthy, and cheap. When you’ve plopped down 3 months rent and security deposit for your apartment and you’re waiting 6-8 weeks for your first paycheck, $1.50 a bowl of Bún bò Huế is going to be a lot friendlier to your budget than a 40 dollar sushi dinner. Don’t be scared of street food. Find a busy place with a lot of locals and enjoy. Of course, when ordering it helps to know a bit of the language which brings me to my next tip.
3. Talk the Talk
You won’t need to be able to discuss the finer points of classic literature or even verb tenses, but learning numbers and basic requests will be a huge benefit for newcomers. Many language exchange events exist in cafes and pubs across cities in Vietnam. These events will be full of friendly young people who are grateful to chat with you in English and be absolutely thrilled to teach any Vietnamese you’d like to learn. Best of all, it’s a great way to make friends with locals. You’ll soon be joining them for parties and leading cheers of “một,hai,ba, vô!” in no time.
4. Find your Flat
Finding an apartment can be tricky and there are a variety of options. If you want to live in a shared house, it is usually going to be the cheapest route. Typically you’ll have a bedroom and private bathroom, with shared kitchen and living areas. This can be a great way to save money and make new friends. The cost of a shared apartment should be around 200-350 dollars. Second option is getting your own apartment. This is terrific for those who want to have their own space, but will cost you a bit more-350 to 1000 and up depending on your living standards. If you have a roommate, a third option is to find really nice 2 BR apartments for $500-800 that often include a gym and pool. Split in half, these are pretty reasonable for a teacher’s salary and nicer than what you’ll find when living alone. All these options will typically include furniture, wifi, cleaning service, and sometimes laundry and drinking water.
5. Get a Job!
Finding a teaching job in Vietnam is as easy as finding a bánh mì or a fake pair of Nikes. Finding a good one however will take a bit of research and knowledge. The most common teaching jobs are found in language centers. The big chains (ILA, Apollo, VUS) will offer clean, air-conditioned classrooms, usually with an interactive smart TV and all the supplies you could want. You’ll typically work 18-22 hours a week, with super busy weekends. These are great for teachers just starting out, as you’ll have lots of support from management. Next come public schools. You’ll be teaching very large classes and expected to come prepared with your own materials. Support will be minimal if there’s any at all. On the plus side, pay is generally a bit higher and you won’t be working nights and weekends. They’re a great option for more experienced teachers. Third, for those with a teaching certificate from their home country, international schools offer the best of both worlds. Ample resources, lots of support, and opportunity for professional development. Pay will be significantly higher than training centers, but you’ll be expected to be at school 40 hours a week, whereas you can leave after class at training centers.
So whether your plane has just touched down or you’re a seasoned vet, I hope these easy life hacks will help you to live your best life in Vietnam. Now pull up a tiny stool and pass the chili sauce!