Why I Chose to Teach Abroad in Vietnam

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

Everybody's preference is different so there is no particular way to say that one destination is better to teach English than another. It's all subjective. But I'm just here to tell you about why I chose to teach abroad in Vietnam!


My Story

So for me personally, these were the things I was considering when moving abroad to teach English:

  • I have student loans, so I needed a decent salary.

  • I knew I wanted to go backpacking somewhere (idk where yet!) after my year of teaching, so that means I needed a country/city with a low cost of living.

  • Even though I was focused on saving money, I didn't want to miss out on the fun within my new city and country. So I knew I wanted a country I could easily explore on weekends.

  • I was also wanting a strong expat community so it would be an easier transition to living abroad.

My first teaching abroad job was in China, where I had a very high salary and very low living costs. My second teaching abroad job was in Prague, where I had a very low salary and very high living costs. So obviously I wanted to try and find something as close to China life as I could in regards to money, without going back to China.


The main difference I was looking for was that expat community and western influences, especially in the food. In Chongqing, the people I worked with were AMAZING. But other than that, the expat community wasn't massive. And the food was really hard for me, especially after an entire year. I didn't really like much of the Chinese food, and there also weren't very many western food options- especially ones that were decently priced.


Now, throw in the added factor of the coronavirus- which country can I actually get into right now and start teaching? This pretty much narrowed it down to South Korea and Vietnam for me. I originally chose South Korea because the money is better and it's a more modern lifestyle, but long story short, they couldn't guarantee when I'd be able to move there and start teaching. They also weren't placing me in the city that I wanted to be in: Busan.


Once I was hired by a company in HCMC, Vietnam they gave me a firm starting date and the salary was pretty good- especially compared to the cost of living. Vietnam is one of the countries that I visited before and fell in love with it. I also have a huge Vietnam bucket list so it's perfect to live in such a beautiful country with so many sights to see when we aren't allowed to travel internationally.



Wrap Up of Why I Chose Vietnam

  • Decent salary

  • Low cost of living

  • So many places in Vietnam I want to visit

  • Was able to get into the country ASAP, even with the pandemic

  • Ho Chi Minh is very modern and has lots of western food and amenities

  • Large expat community in Ho Chi Minh


Pros of Teaching in Vietnam:

  • High wages for Southeast Asia, with a low cost of living

  • Very relaxed lifestyle

  • Vietnamese people are very generous and kind (& most can speak English in the city!)

  • Many landscapes in the country: mountains, countrysides, and beaches

  • Very close to other countries in Southeast Asia, so international travel is easier (whenever that may be!)

Cons of Teaching in Vietnam:

  • Public transportation is very outdated and unreliable, most people use a motorbike

  • Vietnamese is a very difficult language to learn and speak

  • You can find jobs in advance, but it's more common to get a job once you're already in Vietnam (especially now with the pandemic, not all companies can sponsor you to get you into the country)

  • Most companies will not offer free flights from your home country to Vietnam


Locations in Vietnam

Most people go with either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh because they are the 2 biggest and most modern cities. This allows expats to have western amenities and food options, making it feel more like home. I've talked to several of my friends who have lived in both cities and this is their comparison to help you make your choice:


Ho Chi Minh

Pros:

  • The most modern overall

  • The most western amenities and food options

  • The most modern and nice accommodations with services

Cons:

  • There's not as much to do in the South, so your weekend trips will be limited

  • More expensive than Hanoi


Hanoi

Pros:

  • Cheaper than HCMC

  • Still very modern for Vietnam

  • Surrounded by so many amazing places for weekend trips (Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, Ha Giang, etc.)

Cons:

  • Not as modern/nice accommodations with services

  • Not as many western amenities and food options (still a lot, just not as many as HCMC)

If you don't want to be in a bustling, modern city here are some other great options: Da Nang, Da Lat, Nha Trang. Da Lat is filled with green mountains, tea and flowers fields, and a refreshing, cool climate. Nha Trang is a beautiful beach city with turquoise waters and golden sands. And Da Nang has the best of both worlds: great beaches and beautiful mountains. Just know that choosing a smaller city will limit your access to western amenities and foods (in comparison to Hanoi and HCMC).


How to Choose the Best Location for You

I knew right from the start I was going to choose between Hanoi and HCMC because I wanted a modern life, and because that's where most of the jobs were at the time I was looking. I had been to Hanoi before, but had never been to HCMC or the south. After doing a lot of research and just reading a lot about how much more modern HCMC is compared to Hanoi and the abundance of western amenities and food, I had to go with HCMC. I wanted my daily life to be as comfortable as possible. Here are some things to consider when choosing a location in Vietnam to teach:


Cost of living: this includes rent, utilities, public transportation, food, groceries, and accessibility to/from the airport or train station

Amenities: western restaurants available, western food in grocery stores, places to shop, fun things to do on your days off, reliability of public transportation (And in HCMC this includes amenities for you apartment: cleaning/laundry services, pool, gym, motorbike parking, etc.)

Travel Opportunities: cost of traveling from your home airport/train station to your desired destinations throughout Vietnam/Asia (usually you move abroad to travel, so make sure your city's airport is big enough to get cheap domestic & international flights- whenever we can do that again!)


My Advice

If you're looking to live in a city with lots of western amenities, I'd look into both Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. If you prefer modern and western amenities over nearby places to travel, go with HCMC. If you prefer vice versa, go with Hanoi. If you just want to completely get out of the city and just be surrounded by nature all of the time I'd go with Da Lat or Da Nang. Just know you will need to be more open to doing some things like the locals (apartments, food, etc.)


Overall, I say look at the finances and do what makes sense. I'm pretty sure you can live an extremely lavish lifestyle anywhere in Vietnam, but just do your research and where you can make the most money and what kind of lifestyle you're looking for!


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