5 Things You Experience Teaching in Vietnam

Written by Gisela Nunes

Often before my big journey to Vietnam, there were several stereotypes of what I thought it would be like. And well, stereotypes are more often than not, usually true. The breath-taking landscapes or the pollution. The delicious local food or the traffic. Every place has its positive and negative qualities. But what people most often don’t mention is the feeling you experience when you get there.

I travelled alone to teach in Ho Chi Minh City. Yet, I felt like I had a different family each time I visited a new local place. The people here are whole-hearted, genuine. The thing that astounded me the most is that for people that have such little money, they seem to not value it. Instead they value the non-monetary aspects of life such as generosity, family and friends.

Whilst living here, I started going on evening runs along the canals with an old landlord of mine and his friends. After every run he would buy each of us an energy drink. Having the knowledge of what foreign teachers earn, he countlessly turned down my offers to pay. His justification was always “me, you, best friend, no pay”. Coming from the West this was a bizarre realisation, where even the wealthiest of people absolutely praise money.

His justification was always “Me. You. Best friend. No pay.”

The Lifestyle

Living a comfortable lifestyle in the West versus in the East also becomes a very contradictory situation. The salary in HCMC takes your luxurious needs far, and in the smaller towns, even further. It’s actually cheaper to eat locally in comparison to cooking. Now if you are like me and you are terrible at cooking, this is a big plus! Sushi here is also a lot cheaper than in the West. So guess who is going home looking like a Salmon Maki.

You can afford to do things here that you would never be able to afford to do back home whilst working about 24 hours a week. The saving potential is great here. It’s coupled with living a good life, and with this combination you can understand why people stay here for years.

Free Time

With all the extra time on your hands, there are options of getting day jobs in public schools or EAL positions in International Schools. This is the one time in your life that you can focus on your personal passions and drives. It’s the best way to have a balanced and rounded life. Many people learn languages, write, focus on fitness goals, read or run online businesses.

The Students

The students here in Vietnam are eager learners. They are curious and, just like their parents, are so giving. They will give you food when they have it and love when you need it. Starting out as a teacher without experience is challenging. With so many young students, student management quickly starts becoming your top priority.

I remember my first teaching feedback session. There was a child at the back of the class standing on a chair. Pretty much climbing on the wall (not even sure how that’s possible with a classroom wall). This whole scenario went on for about 2 minutes, and I had no idea. This is what teaching is in the beginning. It’s a whirlwind of everything happening simultaneously, and it’s a performance. But like anything in life, things take time. Before you know it they will genuinely believe that you have eyes at the back of your head.

My life has never felt fuller whilst being here. If you enjoy teaching and get satisfaction from helping children grow, it becomes a very rewarding job.

Travel

When you are not teaching or working on your greatest passions in life, you are travelling, either around Vietnam or the rest of Asia. It’s truly unbelievable to have the privilege to see the world a number of times throughout the year. Travelling around Asia personally has never been easier or safer or more exciting.

I’ve just come back from the Philippines where I swam with Whale sharks and sea turtles. It honestly feels like a dream. I have met so many special people from all around the world that I am still in contact with. We are the nomadic generation, and you only truly realise that when you start bumping into Expats that you know in different countries. The Expat community in HCMC is enormous. At times I often forget I’m halfway across the world in Vietnam!

The Human Connection

Whether you are working or on holiday, there is always one thing that humans cannot live without – human connection. In every stranger here you will find comfort, friendliness and love – the richest gifts in life one could receive. The Vietnamese change your perception of the world, life and how it’s meant to be lived. They teach you that even if you have nothing, you have every reason to smile because you have something.

Leaving Vietnam, I could not be more grateful, it’s given me things that no amount of money could bequeath me with. Growth, experience and perspective. These three gifts make you leave here as a changed person with a new zest for the next chapter of your life.

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