10 Lessons We Should All Learn From The Vietnamese

1. An Emphasis On Learning A Second Language

I am eternally embarrassed of us Brits waltzing around the world using our mother tongue, expecting everyone to bow to us. I am as guilty of this, with barely passable French and absolutely no retention ability of a second language (one day though!)
It amazed me how vigilant Vietnamese parents are at ensuring their children excel at learning a second language. In fact, in remote parts of Vietnam local dialects are still found, so children learn Vietnamese as their second language!
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Two of my favorite students – aged 2!

2. Strong Family Values & Ties

While I’m not sure if I’d want to live under the same roof as my grandparents and parents, there’s something really lovely about being so connected to your extended family. When I was working as a private tutor in people’s homes I really got to see what family life is like in Vietnam: the responsibilities of each family member, where they sleep, what they cook… the list goes on. But family doesn’t just stop when you leave a home, there is such a strong sense of community in little neighborhoods which I guess is kind of what Britain and American used to be like back in the 1950’s. Everyone knows everyone, everyone helps everyone, it’s safe for kids to play out on the street, you buy your food from the ladies selling on your street, there’s no need to travel far for anything and people just seem content. There’s definitely something to be learnt from that.
Children of Vietnam

3. Willingness to say hello or to greet strangers (especially foreigners)

I’m working in London, and not once as anyone I’ve passed said ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ to me. I know that in Vietnam Westerns are somewhat of a novelty, but I loved how bold children were shouting ‘hello!’ from the back of their parent’s motorbike. The same goes for adults. It’s something I really miss.

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4. That life is much easier when there’s less emphasis on health and safety

Everyone comments on how chaotic Hanoi seems: the traffic, the beeping, the motorbikes swarming around pedestrians… But returning to a society where health and safety has gone bonkers (where your aunt who cooks for the homeless is accused of contamination for tasting her food with the spoon shes stirring it with)  it was refreshing to be in a place where there was less red tape and things were a little more lax. I mean don’t get me wrong, there are preventable fatalities and accidents all the time, but you never feel like you’re in a dangerous place.

5. You don’t need to drink alcohol to have a good time

In the Old Quarter at night you’ll see predominantly white faces guzzling the 5p Bia Hoi on yellow plastic chairs (like me, see below). Walk a few streets away and you’ll see the coffee shops full of Vietnamese teens drinking their bubble tea/coffee, taking selfies and catching up. While you do see Vietnamese people drinking, it’s no where near to the same extent us Brits binge.
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Us pesky white faces drinking cheap beer

6.  Buying you food from a market is the way forward

The journey from field to plate is far less in Vietnam. Turn down a side alley and the street will be teaming with market sellers, offering their fresh produce (sometimes a little too fresh, with fish in buckets half hacked up). Supermarkets are slowly being introduced to Vietnam as it slowly becomes more westernized, but having the option to shop from road-side sellers was always a plus.

 7. Bum Guns

Enough said.

8.  Respect for the elderly

I wouldn’t say our culture is disrespectful towards the elderly, but there is great pride in the elders in Vietnam. Perhaps because they lived through, or maybe even fought in the American war, or because there are visibly stronger family ties, but the elders definitely get looked after well. The pronoun structure in Vietnam reflects this – instead of I/He/She/We/They, the Vietnamese use a pronoun structure to reflects gender and age. Essentially as you get older your pronoun changes – but always ensure you’re not under estimating someone’s age as this denies them of the status they deserve!

9. The sentiment of giving spontaneous gifts

The Vietnamese are so forthright in offering gifts. Regardless of the occasion, you’ll always find a bunch of lychees thrust in your hand, or something like a little bracelet, a handmade card, flowers, the list goes on. It’s something us westerns only think to give to those closest to us, but it the sentiment really does touch.

 

10. Napping: without a care in the world where

God damn capitalism forcing us to work all day with no time to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. How my mood would be better if I could have a kip like the Vietnamese do!

 

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The Travelling Tapir’s Annual Roundup 2016

2016 was full of adventures, hurdles and progression: a year I’ll remember for forcing me to make crucial life decisions, some of which were for the best and some out of necessity. Despite blessing me with some beautiful memories, it’s been a year I’ve been looking forward to finishing, putting behind me, and learning from. Here’s my roundup…

2016 began in Vietnam: raising a glass of Bia Hoi to a new year that, for once, I had no intentions or plans for.

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My sweet ride around Hanoi

It was a transitional time for me: adapting to a city I thought I knew well, but my memories felt somewhat distorted upon my return. It was probably because  when I left Hanoi it was was suffocatingly hot and freezing cold when I returned. I’d made a few changes the second time round, like swapping my moped for a bicycle, moving in with the awesome Rebecca and was trying to play catch up on all that I’d missed out on in the four months I’d spent back home.

What eased me back into expat-life in ‘Nam was my rusty old bicycle. Cycling around the chaos was unbelievably invigorating: I would look forward to whipping around West Lake every day on my way to work, and got to know Hanoi on much more of an intimate level. Even now, 8 months after leaving Hanoi, if I need to take my mind to somewhere tranquil it’s to the moments spent alone cruising around that smoggy lake that I found my place of calm.

 

In February the Vietnamese celebrate Tet holiday (their equivalent of Christmas), which was the perfect opportunity to take two week’s leave to travel around Myanmar: a trip which stands as the most magical and memorable adventure of my life to date. Everything from the fusion cuisine, adorable children, surreal landscapes to the mind-boggling script mesmerized me, the pinnacle being sunrise over Old Baganwhich ought to be on every traveler’s bucket list.

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Sunrise over Old Bagan

Sadly, personal circumstances as well as a readiness to move on from teaching meant that it was time to say goodbye to Hanoi back in May. The decision wasn’t an easy one to come to, as I had had high hopes for Hanoi and a lot of love for the city. But in reality the progression I want to make throughout my twenties would only been stunted by years of TEFL teaching, which I’d realized wasn’t really for me (I mean don’t get me wrong I love running riot with adorable Vietnamese babies, but there’s only so much you can teach during “Worm Week” without wanting to jump). Naturally I had to squeeze in a month of travelling around Vietnam before I left to explore the long list of islands, hill-top towns and both urban and traditional cities I’d been dying to see.

After the novelty of cheese, family, friends, convenience, safe transport and being reunited with my wardrobe wore off (which took all of 1 week) I began to question whether returning home was for the best. England’s pretty rubbish (and extortionate!) at the best of times, but the Brexit referendum really was the nail in the coffin for any sense of pride for Britain. But a little bit of soul searching confirmed that being in the UK near to my family and sinking my teeth into a  career was what I was really craving – something to help me feel I was actually progressing in life rather than coasting. Some dusting off of those corporate skills I’d buried helped me land a job at Hills Balfour, one of London’s most reputable destination marketing & PR agencies.

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Joining as an Account Executive working on the Mauritius account, I began a new chapter as a city girl: commuting on the world’s most abysmal train line, looking forward to my monthly pay cheque and restraining my travel bug in a straight jacket…

A quick holiday to Portugal back in September was just enough to sooth my itchy feet, and was a week filled of mischievous holiday hedonism.

Don’t get me wrong, working at HB was and still is the right path for me – I love the team I work with, and am passionate enough about the industry to wake up early every morning and contend with a railway who strike more often than not – anyone who knows me best knowns getting me out of bed for anything is impressive! And after all, who wouldn’t love a all-expenses paid for trip to one of the world’s most idyllic destinations?!

Spending a week in Mauritius was the ultimate work perk, and introduced me to a new side of travel: luxury. The dangerous thing is, once you’ve had a taste of the high-life it’s difficult to get excited about bed bugs and dorm rooms again. I’m sure I’ll manage!

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In terms of the blog I’m dumbfounded that I have nearly 4,000 subscribers, with 150 receiving email notifications when I post, and an increasing social media presence. Please don’t forget to Like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more of my travelling scribbles, giggles and quibbles!

Overall, 2016 has been a mixed bag: it was as liberating as it was limiting, as freeing as it was confining. The greatest lesson I’ve learnt (and am still adapting to) is to trust my inner-teacher who is infinitely wise and knows best what’s right for me. So often I regard the opinions of others with much higher regard than trusting my own intuition – it’s time to have a little more faith in my own path as so far it’s taken me to some pretty amazing places.

Let’s just say I’m pleased it’s over so I can start 2017 feeling fresh, armed with the lessons I’ve learnt and excited by the adventures to store…

Happy New Year!

Love,

The Tapir x

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You know you’ve lived in Vietnam too long when…

Let’s face it we all get a bit “Hanoi-ed” or “Saigon-ed”sometimes, but here are some tell-tale signs you’ve been kicking around in Vietnam too long…

  1. You’ve forgotten that shouting “Oi!” to get someone’s attention is rude everywhere else in the world
  2. You complain about the pollution, but still drive without a face mask
  3. You have a new found love for karaoke
  4. Your whole wardrobe is now full of designer/branded clothes which you’d never be able to afford back home
  5. You’re now a pro with a pair of chopsticks
  6. You’re disappointed when you don’t receive a free glass of water/tea with your meal
  7. You’ve adopted the screwed-up-frown-whilst-shaking-your-hand disappointed face when you’re unimpressed by something
  8. You’ve forgotten what it’s like to receive post
  9. Your meal’s not complete without MSG
  10. You involuntarily know all the lyrics to songs from Frozen
  11. You think that drink driving means driving slowly
  12. About half of your belongings are still recovering from ‘mouldy March’
  13. Seeing stars seems like a distant memory
  14. You’ve seen the same movie played on the TV movie channels about three times but will still watch them
  15. Your wash bag rattles with all the cheap prescription medicines you’ve bought over the counter
  16. You’re forgotten the days when water was cheaper than beer
  17. You might need to check into rehab for your coffee addiction
  18. You now prefer to give the correct change, or feel guilty if you have to pay with a large note
  19. Travellers irritate the hell out of you (especially those wearing elephant pants)
  20. The threat of arsnic poisoning is worth the amount of time you spend boiling water
  21. You’re a pro at staring competitions (with either locals or other foreigners)
  22. You’re one of the elite if you have an oven in your home
  23. You can’t imagine life without a Facebook group like ‘Hanoi Massive’ to guide you in life

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A Guide To Finding Teaching Work In Vietnam

One of the major pulls to Vietnam (as opposed to other Asian countries such as Japan and China) is that there’s an abundance of on-the-side, private classes which English teachers can fill up or top up their schedule with.

Searching for these positions couldn’t be easier as social media does all the work for you. In Hanoi, the two major Facebook groups teachers can join to search for employment are Hanoi English Teaching Jobs and Hanoi Massive Jobs. While new vacancies are posted every 10 minutes, quite a few of these positions turn out to be a waste of your time. Here are a few tips of finding the gold amongst the dirt, and tips on what sort of questions you should ask before committing to an interview…

Take this advert for example:

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This seems pretty ideal at first glance. Plenty of teaching hours condensed into four working days as well as a few perks. However, the key word which should set off a mini alarm bell is “free transport”. In the neighbouring cities or countryside to Hanoi there is a high demand for English teachers. While the free transport is a definite pro, you could find yourself commuting up to 2 hours each way if you choose to live in Hanoi (which let’s face it, you probably will). Suddenly not quite such a sweet deal.

Now this one:

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Working from home sounds like a great deal, and for many it is preferable to not have to deal with the craziness that is the classroom. However online teaching positions pay significantly lower wages ($10 per hour), which is conveniently left out of the advert. That’s not to say this should be disregarded as Topica are a reputable company, but by not including the salary in the advert you may be wasting your time enquiring.

So how can you tell if  a job advert is worth pursuing? Essentially look for anything with clear objectives, and interest from other teachers is a great sign. As soon as you find a great add you can sell yourself as a happy and positive person – competition between teachers can be a good thing! Here’s an example where a clear advert has attracted the attention of 7 people (and lots of comments which I left out for confidentiality):

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Now you’ve found a role you’re interested in, here are some tips of things you should expect as an employee, or things you should know in general:

  • A “competitive salary” ranges from $18-$25 per hour, less than this needs to have something seriously good about it. This estimate can rise in the summer to anywhere up to $35 per hour. But these positions are hard to come across.
  • Negotiate how often you get paid. Don’t settle for being paid monthly if it’s an inconvenience for you.
  • Establish which course book they are following – this is often an indication of how well established/organised the school is
  • Find out what classroom materials you will have access to: magnets, sticky balls, FLASHCARDS, a laptop (with internet) are all really important if not essential
  • If you’re working whilst on a tourist visa, try and avoid signing contracts unless you feel it’s appropriate. Ultimately they don’t protect you, and are not legally binding. So agree your T’s and C’s verbally.
  • Work out how long it will take you to drive to the school. If you’re working for 1 hour at $22, but it takes you 30 minutes to get there and back, you’re essentially “working” for 2 hours. This means that you’re earning $11 per hour in essence. Try and find work in the same parts of town, or ask for classes to be grouped together to make the commute worth your time.
  • You should have a teaching assistant (TA) present for young classes. Any students under 10, or below pre-intermediate level require this.
  • If the start date is a month away – then expect it to potentially fall through! Many verbal agreements are based on the hope that a teacher will be needed, with no guarantee that they actually will. Don’t turn down other opportunities until you feel it’s set in stone!

Alternatively, if you’re thinking of posting an advert about yourself here’s what you should include:

  • HOW GOD DAMN ENTHUSIASTIC YOU ARE (enthusiasm, humour, friendliness are what they’re after so make it really clear that you tick these boxes!)
  • Where you are from
  • Whether you’re a native speaker or not
  • Your qualifications: TEFL/TESOL/CELTA and University Degree
  • Your teaching experience
  • Your preferred contact method
  • A photo of you, preferably teaching or with a class of students
  • Other interesting facts about you (hobbies that the school might be interested in utilising, whether you can speak the local language, etc.)

 

If you’re still weighing up whether you should be a private tutor or work in a language centre check out my other post ‘Teaching in Vietnam: The pro’s and con’s of different teaching establishments‘. Please feel free to share your job hunting experiences in Vietnam in the comments box below!

 

The Travelling Tapir’s Annual Roundup

At 23:55 on December 31st 2014 I drunkenly decided that 2015 was going to be The Year of Alice.  Well, what a year it’s been. 2015 has been both a journey and a challenge, so much so that really I feel like life has only just begun…

Back in January, my boyfriend and I decided to stick to fingers up to life in England and by April we were jetting off Hanoi, Vietnam, where we began teaching English. It’s safe to say, we’ve loved it. Whilst it was a gamble, it was one we knew would pay off (or if it had all gone to pot we’d have travelled around Vietnam and gone back to the drawing board). Instantly we knew we had made the right life-choice as for the first time work was exciting, for the first time the pay was rewarding, and for the first time the weather was consistently glorious (albeit a bit toasty at times!) We enjoyed some excursions around Vietnam and to other parts of South East Asia but for the first time, life had come up trumps.

The dream was suddenly put on ice in August when I was involved in a motorbike accident which left me with a broken leg. The injury was sufficient enough to need to return to England for medical treatment which at the time was pretty heart-breaking. It was devastating leaving behind the independence that I’d strived so much for, made worse by the prospect of sitting still and being nursed for four months. However being home presented me with some new opportunities and time to work on myself and become familiar with my new family nest in Guernsey.

On Monday I fly back to Hanoi to be reunited with my home, boyfriend and my house bunny, and for the rest of the year I’m going to enjoy every second of familiarising myself with Vietnam, and two functioning legs. I’m feeling positive and optimistic about 2016 and have some exciting ventures on the horizon to look forward to. In the meantime, thank you for tuning in to her about my travels – it’s been my most successful year with the blog so there’s plenty more to come. Thanks for all the love and have a very boozey merry Christmas!

Alice (The Tapir) x

The Complete Guide to Moving to Vietnam

You would think that moving from comfortable, affluent and familiar England to developing, distant and unfamiliar Vietnam would be riddled with complications and calamities. Well, you’d be wrong. As I keep on reiterating in my posts, moving East was astoundingly simple and smooth, and therefore something I believe you should consider doing…

But where to begin? The prospect of moving abroad can seem equally daunting as much as it is exciting, so I’ve pooled my knowledge and experiences into a mini-series to detail the process from what to prepare back home, to where to begin when you land. Have a read and let me know what you think!

Moving to Vietnam: Preparing for a new life abroad

Moving to Vietnam: The official packing checklist

Moving to Vietnam: Touching down in Hanoi and starting afresh

Your new back garden

Moving to Vietnam: Touching down in Hanoi and starting afresh 

This is the third and final post in my Moving to Vietnam mini-series. So far you’ve read about preparing and finalising things at home and the ultimate packing guide, so by this point you’re ready to sit on that plane and wave goodbye.  But I wouldn’t want to leave it there and leave the rest as a mystery, as there has been quite a steep learning curve since I touched down in Hanoi.  So this guide is about what happens next…

Finding a place to live
… Is probably going to be one of the first things on your mind. We stayed in a small hotel in Hoan Kiem (the Old Quarter) for about two weeks whilst we were house hunting (please note that you are able to negotiate the price of a room if you’re staying in a hotel/hostel for a while).
There are quite a lot of properties to choose from in the city, but we found out quickly that often housing descriptions are misleading. For instance, the house might be nowhere near the street the landlord claims it’s on, the apartment might not look nothing like the picture posted, or there will be something just fundamentally wrong with them. We had a funny experience when we went to see a lovely new property, where everything about it seemed great (brand new furniture, great location, good price, etc.), but in the corridor between the living room/kitchen and the bedroom is the bathroom, but the wall was made of glass – not so great if you have guests, or a dodgy tummy…
Something important to establish is the quality of the air conditioning. It gets hot here, and I mean hot, in the summer so make sure if you’re forking out for air con that it actually works. Another thing to be wary of is the price of electricity: Some landlords can be a bit naughty with their prices, which is why I highly recommend our landlord Thanh with Hanoi Housing who is very honest and professional.
There are a few reputable and reliable sources for finding a house/flat in Hanoi. These are:
www.facebook.com/HanoiMassive (Hanoi Massive is where you will find most house shares, if that’s what you’re after)
Rent is paid in US Dollars or Vietnamese Dong, and often 3 months in advance. You will probably be expected to pay rent in cash if you don’t have a Vietnamese bank account, which is quite common.
For my guide on which district to live in in Hanoi, read this post: thetravellingtapir.wordpress.com/livinginHanoi
Getting a moped
Even though taxis are cheap (compared to western prices) you quickly realise that the cheapest way to get around is by moped. You’ll also find immediately after arriving that cars are a rarity on the roads (beside taxis) as everyone from little old ladies to teenage boys ride mopeds which means whether you like it or not, you’ll probably find yourself driving a bike before too long. They are by far the most convenient and affordable way to travel around the city (not to mention a ticket to the rest of Vietnam!) and are very easy to get your hands on.
Something to bear in mind when purchasing a moped is your insurance. Some policies will not cover you full stop if you involved in a bike accident, whereas others will only cover you if you are “legally allowed to drive the bike”.  After hours of research we discovered that legally you are able to drive a moped with a 50CC engine (which is small in case you’re bike illiterate like myself) without requiring a Vietnamese driving licence. While no one will stop you buying a bike with a different engine, technically you’re not covered (so basically lie if you get in an accident). Popular bikes like the Honda Win and Honda Dream have 100 CC + engines, but you can buy 50 CC bikes that are down on paper as 50 CC but are actually 100 CC.
I would highly recommend renting a bike from one of the traveller-friendly rentals on Ngo Huyen street in the Old Quarter. I rented mine from Phung’s Motorbike Rental who were great and understanding when I returned it with a small scrape.
If you are looking to buy a bike out right there are several places to do this. There is a motorbike street (true to Vietnamese form) where a lot of locals go to buy – this can be cheap and there’s a large selection. You can also buy from other travellers who are desperate to get a good deal before they get back on their flights, who will most likely be selling down Ngo Huyen street (but the bikes are mostly Honda Wins). Alternatively there is good ol’ Hanoi Massive where a lot of ex-pats sell theirs – while competition is steep, this is where I would recommend shopping. Be careful to test drive the bike and make sure it is in genuinely good condition before handing over any cash.
Social Hangouts/ Making friends
If you drive around Tay Ho mid day, you’d think you’re one of the only westerners to venture out to Vietnam. But believe it or not there is a huge community of English teachers who chill in the day, teach in the evening and drink in the night. Hanoi can be a little bit cliquey, but everyone is really friendly and willing to get to know new people. Popular hang out spots are Rasta Bar, ‘the Bia Hoi place’ (no one actually knows its name!) at the top of To Ngoc Van street and Madoke bar on Xuan Dieu.
There are always plenty of things going on, which are often advertised on the Hanoi Grapevine and the Hanoi Massive.
Buying Groceries
Food shopping in Vietnam is one of my favourite things to do. The food is so fresh and ripe, sold in markets, by street vendors and in super markets. The fresh food is beyond cheap (bags of herbs only 15p, Butternut Squashes only 20p and fruit is next to nothing!) but exported goods (so most of your western comforts) will cost you a fair bit to get your hands on, but are obtainable. If you want to shop cheap, you’re best off in the markets, although some basic Vietnamese will get you far. Super markets like Big C, Sapo Mart and Metro are on the outskirts of the city and stock pretty much everything you need.
Vietnamese Lessons
Being able to speak some basic Vietnamese goes a long way. The locals don’t expect you to speak their language, as a lot of the time  they see it as an opportunity to practise speaking English. But I felt guilty going to Vietnam to teach English and not learning any at all. Vietnamese lessons are most of the time free, so have a look on Hanoi Massive (link above) for people offering their time. I befriended one of my teaching assistants who wanted to practise her English for her University course, so we exchanged some English lessons for Vietnamese lessons over a coffee once a week.
That’s it folks! By now you should be totally integrated (or at least well on your way 🙂 )! Please feel free to get in touch if you’re thinking of making the move, or if you’ve made the move and have things to add!

Moving to Vietnam: Preparing for a new life abroad

This post details the first steps in how to prepare for moving to Vietnam. If you’re reading this you’ve probably either decided to take the plunge and move to Vietnam (great choice by the way), or perhaps you’re teasing your inner travel bug. If you’re still on the fence, my previous post ought to convince you: Why Vietnam, Why Not! 

To some, moving abroad seems like a roll of a dice: where you feel you usually roll a 2 but other “luckier” individuals roll 6’s. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Making the transition between West and East doesn’t come down to luck, it’s about ceasing the opportunity and going for it.  If it helps, I’ve been genuinely amazed at how simple and seamless the transition was, and how little time it took to tie up loose ends, cut the cord and take the plunge. Besides your personal business, here is what you will need to prepare to move to Vietnam so that your gamble pays off:

Flights:

Booking your flights is probably the easiest part of the preparation. Flight prices directly to Vietnam are pricey, so you’re most likely going to need to stop over in Bangkok or China. When we moved to Vietnam in April (2015) we managed to get an amazing one-way deal with Norwegian Air from London to Bangkok for £165 and then a £40 single to Hanoi. It’s really important to cross reference the flight prices with different comparison websites to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible. I always use both Kayak and Skyskanner to find flights, as one website will usually undercut the other.

Insurance:

Insurance is not something to forget about. I learnt this the hard way when I broke my leg in a moped accident which cost me the best part of £1,300 in medical bills and an emergency flight back to the UK. Make sure you are covered with one-way insurance rather than backpacker insurance:  while it is more expensive of the two, you’re more likely to be paid out if you find yourself in a spot of bother. A reputable and fairly priced insurance company to take out a one-way policy with is Insure And Go.

Visas:

Understanding the visa process was probably the trickiest part the preparation, but once we’d worked out the system it was actually very simple. In short, you have two options. If you find work before you come to Vietnam they will sponsor your work permit which means you need a Business Visa, alternatively you can arrive on a Tourist Visa and find work once you are there.  Tourist visas have a 3 month expiry life which means you will need to do a visa run to a neighbouring country and then fly back to Vietnam collecting your next 3 months visa. Work permits last for two years and means you don’t have to do visa runs, but only well established companies will require a work permit. It is possible to work off the books as long as you’re smart about it (but be reassured by the fact most people teaching English in Vietnam are doing it this way). I highly recommend getting a VOA (visa on arrival) which is both cheaper and more time efficient – read this post on the low down on VOA’s: thetravellingtapir.com/visa-on-arrivalIf you find work in Vietnam which requires a work permit you can opt to get one then, so I would recommend getting a Tourist Visa to begin with and taking it from there.

Teaching Documents (if applicable):

Like many others, if you are planning on teaching English in Vietnam there are some documents you need to bring with you in order to get a job. These are: your passport, an original copy of your TEFL certificate, your original University Degree Certificate (if you have one), and a Basic Disclosure document (a.k.a. police check, costing £25). Every job you apply to will require these so it’s important to take both paper copies and also have scanned copies.

Jobs:

Finding work before you leave is really down to the type of person you are or the type of work you’re seeking. I can’t speak for other industries, but with teaching you can play it safe and get a job with a reputable school before you leave your home country which will give you the security of guaranteed work. The alternative is to find work once you are out in Vietnam which really couldn’t be easier, and I actually think it is more lucrative option. Some of the more reputable English Centres (such as Apollo or Language Link) pay significantly less per hour, because you know they are safe bet. If you put a small advert up about yourself on Facebook groups such as Hanoi English Teaching Jobs, you can bet that you will have job offers thrown at you within 5 minutes of publishing the post (seriously, it’s that easy!)

Money:

The currency in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. The exchange rate is a little tricky to get your head around in the beginning as you instantly become a millionaire, but US Dollars are accepted in some major establishments. I wouldn’t take your life savings out to Vietnam with you as a lot of jobs pay cash in hand. The difficult thing to work out is the banking system. If you are a westerner trying to bank in Vietnam you will need to have proof of your earnings. If you are working for a reputable school or business (i.e. one that pays through the books) you can be paid into a bank account. If you are working in cash-in-hand jobs (which most English Teachers are), you’ll essentially need to stash your cash. It sounds unsafe, but almost everything in Vietnam is paid for in cash as opposed to card (rent, food, transport, etc.) so you can burn through your earnings. When I left to go to Vietnam I took the equivalent of £400 with me for start up costs while I was there which was more than enough as living costs are especially low (that’s right, I only needed to save £400 on top of flights and other costs to move to Vietnam. Not as much as you were expecting eh!)

I think it is important to note that Hanoi is a really safe and welcoming place, so if you are a solo traveller (especially a solo female traveller) you are in safe hands. There are large expat communities full of young, friendly teachers who socialise in the same sort of areas, it really is as if there is a pre-made friendship group waiting for you so don’t imagine you’ll be by yourself, unless you want to be!

Ready to take the plunge? If so (or at least if you’re contemplating it), I highly recommend joining the Hanoi Massive Facebook group. The group is a large community of locals and expats who can answer any  burning questions you may have, from visa processes to where to find your favourite home comfort once you’re out there. Please feel free to leave your comments for me to answer or message me questions directly!

English teachers located around the world give their insight into TEFL

This month I was asked to contribute my experiences as a EFL teacher abroad to the ICAL TEFL blog. It was an honour to be included in an article alongside fellow (and more successful!) teachers and digital nomads.

For anyone looking for reasons why teaching abroad is a fulfilling, enriching and lucrative experience then this article sure tells you why!
Click the link to have a read: www.icaltefl.com/insight-into-tefl