My First Month of Teaching in Vietnam

So, a few people have asked me recently, what it’s like to teach in Vietnam. Now, I’m certainly not an expert, in fact I’m pretty new here, but I thought it might be nice to share what I’ve experienced in my first month. At the very least, I can prepare any potential teachers for what will come in the beginning!


1. You will probably get tonnes of job offers.
Everyone said this to me when I first came and I didn’t believe them, but they were right. Vietnam’s tourism industry is picking up at high speed (unsurprisingly, it’s great here – come visit!) and they need lots more English speakers.

2. However, there are requirements.
When people say ‘it’s easy to get a job’, they’re not giving you quite the right information. It’s easy if you’re a native English speaker and you have a degree. For some reason, teaching certificates and experience doesn’t seem to be as much of a priority.

3. Not all of the jobs are good.
In fact, some are plain shady. I’m no expert on how to recognise which are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ yet, my only advice is to research the company online and go with your gut!

4. You’re going to have to do an impromptu demo class.
Basically, you will have to be observed teaching a class, or you will have to pretend to teach a class (and look very silly in the process).

5. You will probably be asked to sing.
If you’re teaching young ones, then you may be asked to get lyrical! One of my friend was asked to sing to the whole school on her first day (not to scare you or anything). So, brush up on your nursery rhymes, Taylor Swift songs probably won’t go down that well.

6. Interviews are different here.
Your interviewer will probably straight up ask you who you’ve interviewed with and then proceed to bad-mouth them so that you don’t take the other offer. I thought this was a one off but it’s happened in almost every interview I’ve been in!

7. Every expat you meet will be a teacher.
Okay, not everyone, but the majority of expats you meet will be teachers. This does means there are plenty of people to get advice and tips from!

8. Kids can be a tough crowd.
If they’re not in the mood, they’re not in the mood. You just have to carry on regardless, power through! There will be bad days and good days.

9. Make sure you have a teaching assistant!
If you’re offered a job with young children who are beginners in English, you need someone who can translate. Believe it or not, there are only so many actions you can do to explain things and most of them go straight over little kids’ heads.

10. Things are very last minute.
Get spontaneous! People like to send lesson plans, addresses and information with 1 hour to go…

11. You’ll have to drive to lots of different places.
Unless you’re lucky enough to get one branch, full-time, then you’ll be going to more than one school. ‘Full-time’ often means 15 hours a week, so if you want more than that, you’ll have to take on a couple of places.

12. They’re really into flash cards here.
Love em! Just so many flash cards…

13. Vietnamese people will often know grammar better than you will.
Obviously if you’re a native English speaker, then you will be able to use the language better. But, don’t be surprised if you get schooled by Vietnamese teachers all the time, they know the grammar rules way better than we do!

14. You get to play a lot of games.
Get ready to take a trip down Memory Lane, you’re going to play lots of ‘What time is it Mr. wolf?’ and ‘duck, duck, goose’.

15. You will spend time trawling the web for videos.
There is one teacher at my school who plays the best games and videos. I actually come into the classroom early so I can catch a glimpse. So, far I have seen a class dance routine and a video on the ‘magic E’… Which is about grammar, not drugs.

16. The bum prod.
Almost all my friends who have been teaching here for a year or so, have been prodded in the bum by a little kid. Apparently this is a thing that happens a lot… I’m dreading when my time comes.

17. Teachers are well respected here.
So, don’t go bad-mouthing your own job!

18. Your colleagues will be impressed if you can drive (well).
According to some of my local friends, seeing a foreigner drive a motorbike well is like seeing a dog walk on their hind legs. That’s how to impress your new friends ;)

19. People will want to practise their English with you.
When you work in an English learning centre or school, people are crazy about English (obviously). So, people will want to practise with you lots. This is actually great because you make new friends quickly, take advantage of it!

20. There will be tears.
Sorry, even if you’re the nicest teacher in the world, the kids will cry!!

21. Working visas are hard to obtain.
They are generally only offered if you work for a school, rather than an English centre. They’re hard to come by and even when you’re offered one, there’s a lot of work involved! Medical checks, police checks residency cards, etc.

22. Kids are different here.
Obviously! Different background, culture, lifestyle… They’re going to be different from the kids in your home country. As a result, that means that discipline and teaching styles are different here as well. My ‘strict British teacher’ routine went straight over the kids’ heads. Expect to have to adjust your thinking!

23. Online games are a god-send.
Search TEFL games, English games or teaching games. Now, welcome to games heaven!

24. Kids have cray names!
A lot of the kids pick ‘English names’ but this usually means an English word rather than a standard name. I have students called; Spiderman, Tinkerbelle, Superman, Peter Pan, Ben 10, Lion, etc.

25. Teachers are more affectionate here.
A lot of the teacher’s I work with will hug and kiss the kids. I personally feel really uncomfortable about that kind of affection (classic Brit). If you are the same, don’t be surprised to find your colleagues and students find this weird.

26. You will be filmed or photographed at one time or another.
I have been photographed on every kid’s birthday, had my voice recorded for a practise speaking test, been filmed conducting real speaking tests and there is CCTV in all my classrooms, so that parents can watch the classes from downstairs. I hope you’re not camera shy!

27. Your sweat will be distracting.
Vietnamese people don’t seem to sweat very much. You’ll find that if you sweat at all, which most foreigners do in a different kind of heat, people will be very interested in it. Or, just completely distracted… In fact, some of my friends have been told to ‘stop sweating’ but their employers.

28. Talking is good.
From what I gather, one of the biggest problems for teaching in Asia is giving the kids the confidence to speak. Kids can be quite shy so if they’re speaking English, let them! (Unless they’re swearing and bad-mouthing you obviously… It does happen).

29. Dress smart.
A shirt or smart clothes goes down really well here. I get the impression that dressing well in Vietnam is very important.

30. Counting down from 5 is a big deal.
This will freak the kids out so much. If you need everyone to sit down and be quiet, count down!

31. Kids are crazy about stickers!
I imagine this is world-wide, but it’s good to keep in mind anyway.

Please use the comment section to share your own experiences, tips and facts! I’d love to know if there are teachers who’ve had the same experiences.

17 thoughts on “My First Month of Teaching in Vietnam

  1. Good write up. I can relate to a lot of it. I just completed my first month here as well and was lucky to find a part time gig at a center near where I live and now I have a second one in Times City for weekends, a bit of a schlepp for me but nothing that a willing xeom cannot handle. Good luck to you!

    1. I’m a non teaching expat who lives near a bunch of international schools, so people don’t even bother asking.

  2. Was a great post! I’m currently about to start my first teaching job in HCM. I’m nervous but obviously really excited too.

    1. Glad you liked it! I’m sure you’ll love it, the kids are great fun (if not completely crazy sometimes) but the more you get to know your classes, the more you’ll enjoy it!

  3. Very helpful and timely Isabelle! I will be in hcmc in a few weeks. Can you recommend a reputable TEFL /CELTA course that wont break the bank? Thanks.

    1. Hi Maricel! Exciting news that your moving to HCMC, I’m sure you’ll love it :)
      I went with The TEFL Academy in London which was £150 for 120hrs at the time. It was a good course and I’ve had no problem getting a job at a language centre with that qualification.
      However, if you want to work at a school (better hours, working visa, etc) then you have to get it notarised/confirmed which costs about £110 (this is what my boyfriend had to do, at least). I’m not sure if that’s the same for all qualifications or not, worth checking it out!

      1. You’re right, I just checked and some schools require notarisation of certificate.. It gets more complicated since I plan to take the online course. No guarantee that I can have it confirmed.. tsk tsk!

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