Vietnam isn’t just a country—it’s a totally different world. Where else in Asia can you see sandwiches as street food, a mingling of ancient oriental designs and French architecture, and more motorbikes than you can count in a lifetime?
It’s not all quaint village life, either. Modern shopping malls and skyscrapers give way to developed cityscapes and urban vibes (the perfect fit for TEFL teachers who want a taste of both).
From the karst mountains dotting Halong Bay and the terraced rice paddies of Sapa, then due south to the colorful paper lanterns of Hanoi and the sweet honey of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam is a land of cultural and geographic schisms. Its strong Communist roots continually evolve from revolutionary enthusiasm being offset by economic growth.
Where better to launch your TEFL career than this powerhouse Southeast Asian destination—Việt Nam.
EVERYDAY LIFE IN VIETNAM FOR TEFL TEACHERS
Your week-long orientation sets you up for success while teaching in Vietnam—not only do you go over the everyday must-knows for life as a foreigner here, you also do intensive lesson planning and community building, right from day one. There are activities in the morning and afternoon. For example, your first full day will likely include introduction games with personal icebreakers with the other Vietnam TEFL interns and then a dazzling city tour in the afternoon.
“You’ll get introduced to the “Red Team,” a team of five-ish hired locals ready to help along the way. They will be your source of information, tour guides, and most of all, your friends!” describes Becky.
Preparing for school
Two days of your orientation are dedicated to lesson planning. “Special guest (experienced) teachers are flown in (eg from abroad) to help you get the best experience! The days are split into different learning methods—first, you are the students (we had the Vietnamese teachers come in and teach Vietnamese in the TEFL way so we know how it feels on the other side), then there are group discussions of different games and activity ideas. Lastly, you’re the teacher!”
Not only will you practice amongst peers and coaches, but you’ll also visit a local school to see TEFL teachers in action and have demo classes.
“You’ll have no fear standing up for your first day of school with your teaching assistant as you will feel fully prepared!”
Accommodations are in tall, Vietnamese-style complexes that offer common rooms, a private bedroom, and a bathroom shared between two or three TEFL teachers. It ends up being a really fun part of the whole experience; the housing encourages interaction and camaraderie but gives you the space to chill out and binge watch Netflix when needed.
There’s an office near the accommodations where you will have access to computers to work on lesson plans, but bringing your own laptop / tablet is a great way so you can do lesson plans at home (or, again, to just Netflix!).
The cost of living
Get ready to live like a well-fed king! Your home country currency likely transfers in favor to the dong. Due to inflation, high counts of dong currency (20,000+ dong) are the norm—don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re starring in a rap video every time you visit the ATM and take out hundreds of thousands in local currency!
A Hanoi beer (domestic beer) is 25,000 dong, which is about US$1.20 / €1 / 90p. Phở—your new go-to breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner—will cost you less than two bucks a bowl. It’ll fill you up too! Plan to pay for water, though, which will run you about 50 cents per bottle (or, play it smart and come prepared with a personal steripen!).
Fire up that Facebook account—a VPN is no longer needed (like China). You’re allowed to surf websites like Facebook, Youtube, Google, and other apps without the use of one.
Avoid fighting or being too rowdy. If you get in a taxi that charges you double at night and you haven’t haggled before you got in, do not argue—you’ve already lost.
Teachers are seen as high class citizens and the Vietnamese are very thankful for you to be there; act accordingly with respect, sensitivity, and humility.
THINGS TO DO IN HANOI WHEN YOU’RE NOT MOLDING FUTURE MINDS
Live the night life
You’ll love Beer Street and Train street—these are the places to be at night. What makes this party-poppin’ area unique? At 8pm, on the dot, an old-style train passes. “It’s really cool to see!” shares Becky.
Be sure to chill out at a bia, a street-side pop up bar with cheap beer and street food. It’s the locals’ way and an absolute must at least once!
The Temple of Literature
A beautiful testament to the nation’s commitment to education, the Temple of Literature is a must-see for anyone teaching in Vietnam. “It was all about the history of literature; you can see the Chinese influence here. Students come here to wish for luck for their exams and pray,” according to Becky.
This is a great site to learn more about Buddhism and its presence in Vietnamese culture. You will see ample examples of yin and yang—earth and sky—as contrasts in the temple architecture. Don’t forget to touch the crane for good luck!
Ho Chi Minh Gardens
“Ho Chi Minh was a liberator and their favorite leader—you’ll hear a lot about him!” The gardens are the perfect backdrop for a history tour provided by one of the locals. Here, you can learn about Vietnam’s vast history, including its many decades of colonization. Best to ask your questions about past monarchies and rules here (it’s a safe space!).
WHAT TEACHING IN HANOI WILL BE LIKE
Getting to school
“Taxis or private transport is arranged and paid for every day!! No bus, no walking, no worries,” reveals Becky. Premier TEFL makes it easy for you to focus on the things that matter during your TEFL internship in Vietnam: top notch lessons, connections with students, and meaningful interactions.
Your class stays put—you will move
Instead of having one class to teach English to, you’ll actually have a few. Instead of moving the children around after the bell, the students will instead stay put in the same classroom while teachers move around (smart, huh!).
You might teach at multiple schools in Hanoi, and if this is the case, your transportation costs to/from different institutions will be covered too.
Your students understand the value that English as a skill can bring to their future paths. Take this responsibility seriously; come prepared to class and ready to put the hard-won lessons from your own TEFL course into action. And treat your students like the gems that they are!
When asked about her favorite part of teaching in Vietnam, Becky shared: “The people! It has a peaceful and friendly atmosphere all the time!” Enjoy every second.