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How to find work teaching English in Hanoi, Vietnam

I took the time to write this post, over 3,000 words so far… as I want it to be an exclusive guide to learn what it takes to find a job in Vietnam more specifically, in Hanoi. If you have questions or suggestions for additional sections please comment at the bottom of the post or send me an email on my contact page.

I hope that if you are reading this because you are looking for a teaching job, I hope that you find it a helpful resource. Enjoy!

As I write this post, I have been teaching English in Vietnam since the end of May, 2015. My journey to Vietnam began after I had been teaching at Dara Academy in Chiang Mai Thailand. I wrote a post titled, A Reflection On My Experience Teaching English In Thailand if you are interested in learning more about that experience.

My contract at Dara Academy ended at the end of March, 2015. After one year behind me, I wanted to continue to teach English but I was interested in living somewhere else.

Mmm… Where should I go? Vietnam sounds good. Often, when bouncing the idea off of other people, I would questions like these: Have you been there before? Nope. Can you speak the language? Nope. Do you like Vietnamese food? Not sure. Do you have any contacts? Nope.

Pretty good start, huh? First, I wanted to travel through the country and get a feel for where I would want to live. Fortunately, my girlfriend felt the same way, so we bought a one-way ticket to Ho Chi Minh City and traveled north, ending in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Our journey was about 4 weeks in all, we started in Ho Chi Minh City followed by; Mui Ne, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Danang, Hue, Phong Nha, Ninh Binh and ended in Hanoi.

Where To Start Teaching English In Vietnam?

So, why did I choose Hanoi, Vietnam? Although, there are other areas that I would prefer to live, you often have to go where the work is. If you are looking to teach English then you need to live in a place where people want to learn English. No students = no work.

For example, while traveling, I visited a beach town called, Mui Ne. It is a popular tourist destination with a beautiful beach, great seafood and a lot to do. I wrote a blog post on the town titled, 6 Things To Do In Mui Ne.

The problem is that there were no English schools around when I visited. If you arrive somewhere and there are no English Centers then that is a pretty clear indication that there is little or no local demand to learn English. It is also a good idea to keep moving and expanding your search.

Can you find work in smaller areas or cities in Vietnam?

Yes! Is the work bountiful? Maybe. If it is, the current teachers working in that town will keep it a secret. I did not want to have a difficult time finding work, so I decided to start with Hanoi. Hanoi is huge! There is roughly 8 million people. A lot of people equals more potential students that want to learn English and potentially more work.

Why Not Teach In Ho Chi Minh City?

Vietnamese Cocount Seller

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is definitely a viable option to teach English. Prior to arriving to Vietnam, based on articles that I had read about the climate, weather, culture and other geographical differences between northern and southern Vietnam. The north was simply more appealing then the south. Especially, the cooler northern climate.

If you are looking at Ho Chi Minh City for teaching opportunities then I would defer to this website that was very helpful to me called, 2nomads1narrative. This is a young couple that has documented their experience teaching in different countries and offers valuable insight to anyone looking to teach English abroad. They spent over one year teaching in Ho Chi Minh City.

I Know Where I Want To Teach. Now What?

Awesome! You have made a great first step. Now that you know where you would like to teach, it is time to look for work! When I first arrived to Hanoi, I found a hotel in the Old Quarter district to stay at called, Old Quarter Cyclo Hotel. It was a great place as it is a family owned hotel and the owner was very hospitably and friendly.

I used it as a base until I got my feet underneath me. The hotel was basic but offered sufficient amenities. It was centrally located and I had my own room, bathroom, and internet. Total cost: $14 USD/night.

I talked to locals about reputable schools in the local area and did a ton of research for different schools. I rented a motorbike for a day and I did a huge tour of the city, driving into many different areas and trying to gauge what areas that I might like to live/work in.

If you do not feel comfortable renting a motorbike then you can walk, ride the local bus or rent a taxi.

Get A Local Phone Number!

You need to be able to contact schools and schools need to be able to contact you! I would start by getting a local phone number. When employers see that you have a local number then they know that you are living in the area and are a serious applicant. This can potentially be an advantage compared to other candidates.

I would ask locals what type of phone services they use and you should compare phone companies and their rates. Personally, I have Mobifone and they have been o.k. It is very easy to get a number and to get everything configured.

Simply buy a sim card, add credit to your number and you will be able to make and accept calls. Your phone will have to be unlocked. There are also plans to add 3G which can be nice to have so that you can access Google Maps when you are lost in the big city.

Do I Need A Motorbike?

The motorbike is the most popular form of transportation in Southeast Asia. It is the most popular form of transportation because it is relatively inexpensive, cheap to fix, and very fuel efficient. It is also very dangerous.

Personally, I have one but I was able to practice driving one in Thailand which has reasonable traffic. It would take some time to adjust to the unique traffic rules or lack of rules that affect Vietnam if I were to start driving here when I first arrived to Southeast Asia.

motor-bike

Alternatively, you can also take the local bus system or taxis but a motorbike is inexpensive and the easiest form of transportation. Drive at your own discretion. All traffic laws are suggestions. I have personally witnessed several motorbike accidents since I have been here. Fortunately, I have been able to avoid any accidents and I hope to keep it that way.

When I was in the market to buy a motorbike, I scoured many bike shops and picked up an old automatic Yamaha nouveau for $230 USD. I spend roughly $3USD/week on gas. I have had to replace the battery, some flat tires but nothing prohibitively expensive.

Researching Hanoi English Schools

In Hanoi, there are many English Schools and it can often be overwhelming to know who to contact first. If I had to research schools all over again, this is where I would start. First, there are several Facebook groups that you can join which can offer invaluable information. The first is Hanoi Massive. This page has over 40,000 members and is growing fast!

Hanoi Massive Facebook Group

It is a great resource for jobs, housing, local knowledge, etc. If you are looking for job specific Facebook pages then check out:

Websites

There are many websites to sift through and it can get overwhelming. Before you start searching for specific schools, check out The New Hanoian Classifieds section. There is a specific ESL teaching section.

The New Hanoian

When I first arrived, I started by compiling a list of schools to contact. If I were you, I would keep track of all the schools contact information on a spreadsheet. This way you can manage, who you have contacted, whether you have heard back, and who you need to follow-up with.

I encourage you to contact many schools and get interviews with as many as you can. By utilizing this method, you can hopefully be in a better position to choose a school because you want to work there rather than being forced to work for a school because of a lack of options.

Hanoi ESL School List

Google Maps Search

Another way to locate schools and screen them by their location is to search using google maps. The secret is to search in Vietnamese rather than search in English. If you do that then you will get the following search result. Now, you can see where schools are geographically and you can have an easier time narrowing what schools to apply to.

How Should I Apply?

After compiling a list of schools that you are interested in, then go to the schools website and try to find relevant email addresses to contact the school. Even if the school is not advertising that they have vacancies, still apply. Some schools do not actively advertise on their own website that they are looking for teachers.

It is also possible that they are looking but have not updated their website to reflect that they are looking to hire. Now, even if you considering a school that is not your favorite, apply! Remember, this is an opportunity for you to interview the school, just as much as they are interviewing you.

When I send an email it looks something like this:

Dear {Name},

My name is {Your name} and I am interested in any open English teacher positions that you may have available at {School Name}. Please see attached for my credentials and accompanying material.

I have attached the following:

  • Resume
  • Cover Letter
  • Copy Of Diploma (*If Applicable)
  • Copy Of TEFL Certificate (*Or relevant teaching cert)
  • Copy Of Passport (*To Verify Your Nationality)

Please confirm receipt of my application and let me know if you have any further questions or comments. I can easily be reached via email [Email address] or you can call me at [phone number].

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

[Name]

It is important to attach relevant application documents so that you are taken seriously. If you attach your passport, be sure to modify it so that important information is NOT VISIBLE. You can easily modify images using the following free online software, Canva.

Passport

  After you send your email, it is time to play the waiting game. Keep in mind that most schools receive many applications all the time and so you need to take the time to make yours stand out.

Generally, you will hear back if a school is interested in meeting you. Be sure to check your email frequently so that you can respond accordingly.

Once you hear back from a school they will want to set-up and interview and have you present a demo class (unpaid). Be sure to communicate quickly and start lining up interviews!

Interview Process

Congratulations! Now, that you have an interview, you need to close the deal (Get Offered A Job). Here are some tips to make sure everything goes as smooth as possible.

Arrive Early

It can be really difficult to know how long it will take to get to a school, so make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time. Additionally, traffic in Hanoi or (anywhere in Vietnam) can be crazy at times so play it safe and leave early.

Dress To Impress

It is important to look professional and demonstrate that you are serious about teaching. Schools want to hire teachers that will look professional and represent the school positively and professionally.

Bring Your Personality

Generally, schools want a chance to get to know you and who you are. An interview is a great chance to be enthusiastic and positive. These are great attributes to have when teaching. Schools will want to see how you can bring your personality into the classroom and make learning fun!

Demo Class

Some schools will want to see you in action teaching which is also known as a demo class. This is generally an unpaid class and is part of the interview process. Some schools will pay you for the demo class but that is rare in my experience.

Although, this may sound like you are being taken advantage of by teaching without being compensated but it is a way for the school to make sure you have the skills that you claim to have. Make sure to prep for the class and have a solid lesson plan ready to go.

Asking Questions

An interview is an opportunity for your potential employer to interview you just as much as it is an opportunity for you to interview them! Remember, teaching is a business and your employment is going to be contingent on how many classes the school has for you. So you should consider asking the following questions:

  • How long has your school been in operation?
  • How many foreign teachers are on your staff?
  • Do you have prepared curriculum or books for your classes?
  • How many hours per week am I guaranteed to work?
  • Do the amount of classes during the year fluctuate?
  • Are there any holidays during the year?
  • What is your policy on taking time off?
  • What is your pay structure?
  • What currency do you pay employees? (VND or USD)
  • What is the starting pay rate?

 Negotiating Your Pay

Different schools will have different approaches to your salary. Here are some possible payment terms that they will offer you. Either you will be offered a set monthly salary and will be contracted to work (x) amount of hours per week or you will be paid on an hourly or per class basis.

Next is to determine whether  you will be paid in either VND or USD. This is an important distinction to clarify before you start working. I have had a school that paid me a set rate in VND per class and I have another school that pays me in VND but it is based on the current exchange rate to the dollar.

For example, lets say that I am paid $23/hour and I work 1 hour in a pay period (for explanation simplicity) then I would be paid 23 X (today’s market exchange rate). Today, (November 17, 2015) the exchange is 22,430 VND to $1 USD. Therefore, I would get 515,890 VND for that hour (23 X 22,430).

This is advantageous for me because whenever the VND goes up, also known as inflation, then I get paid more. Below is a graph that shows the relationship of $ 1 USD to the Vietnamese Dong (VND) over the past year.

As you can see one year ago from today (November 14, 2014) the Dong was 21,307 per $1 USD and today (November 17, 2015)  it is 22,430 VND. Therefore it has increased .0527% over the past year which is a relatively large jump.

Using the same example from above, I would have been paid 490,061 VND (23 X 21,307 )per hour a year ago whereas now, I am paid 515,890 (23 X 22,430) per hour strictly due to inflation. That is an extra 25,829 VND per hour worked. If you work 60 hours per month (15 hours per week), that is an additional 1,549,740 VND per month ($69.09 USD) for the same amount of work compared to 1 year ago.

VND to USD graph

Obviously, it is in the schools interest to pay you as little as possible and you want to be paid as much as possible. So, you need to come to a mutual agreement on what works for both parties. This is where having multiple schools offering you a job is advantageous. Then, you can compare your options and work for the school that gives you the best offer.

Visa

If you are not a Vietnamese national, then you have to have a visa before you can enter the country. In general, visa’s are controlled and issued by a countries immigration department. There are different types of visas that you can apply for depending on the country and purpose of your visit when going to another country.

Visas are really important and you must research the visa rules because they are different for practically every country and visiting nationality. Depending on the type of visa that you want in a certain country, the level of complexity can vary.

In most countries, the easiest visa to acquire is a travel visa. But, a travel visa is strict in how it can be used and allows you only to travel in said country. The amount of time is also limited. For example, if you wanted a travel visa in Vietnam, then the max amount of time that you can get one is 3 months.

If you are working in Vietnam, then you need to get a business visa. You can either apply for a new business visa every three months or you can apply for a work permit and then apply for a work visa for a longer duration. Usually, the length of your contract. Be sure to ask your prospective employer if they can help you with this process as it can be complex and cumbersome.

Work Contract

Assuming that you get hired by a school then they may offer you a contract. This is a written agreement between you and the school. Keep in mind that it does not carry as much weight in Vietnam as it might in the U.S. Be sure to read it carefully and if it is in vietnamese, insist on it being translated before you sign it!

A work contract is the first step in obtaining other pertinent documents to make your time in Vietnam more comfortable which include a work permit and work visa. These are two different things. A work contract is also required if you want to open a Vietnamese based bank account.

Conclusion

Finding work in Vietnam as an ESL teacher has been exciting and rewarding. I would encourage anyone to come abroad and try it out if they want the luxury to travel and live in a foreign country.

If you have any further questions about any part of the process or have suggestions for further sections of this post, please comment below or contact me on my contact page.

Good luck!

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