When living abroad it’s always important to stay focused on what matters to you. For some this means changing lives, for others it means seeing the world and exploring new cultures. There’s no right or wrong, there’s only what you hope to get out of your life as an expat. In Vietnam, teachers planning to travel can find a nice middle ground between work and leisure relatively easily.
Most young teachers arriving in Vietnam don’t come loaded with cash. Luckily the current teaching climate in the country is great, demand for native speakers is sky high, and wages in turn are some of the best in all of Asia. Whether you find a position in a public school, at a language center, or as a private tutor, starting wages should hover around $20 an hour.
That may not sound like a lot, but in Vietnam it’s an exorbitant amount. Most teachers get between 20 to 30 teaching hours a week, so it’s not too difficult to bring in $2,000 a month. In Saigon, a room in a house shouldn’t be more than 300 dollars a month. Skip downtown and find a house or apartment in one of the vibrant surrounding districts; don’t move to a western neighborhood like Thao Dien unless you’ve got cash to spare.
Any new teacher should put in as many hours as possible. If you can teach everyday, then teach everyday. At a language center this means full weekends and evening weekday classes. Public school teachers operating on a more traditional schedule could pick up tutoring hours on the weekends.
The reason for packing your schedule early on is not just financial. Taking on as many classes as possible and picking up all substitutions that are asked of you will create a better relationship with your employers and make travel time easier to take off in the future.
Most language centers allow teachers to take up to three months off a year. Some teachers choose to take this consecutively, others like to spread their breaks out throughout the year. No two centers are alike, even within the same company, and some may offer more time while others give less. It’s important to note that at language centers classes usually run for 13 week sessions, so it’s advisable not to take more than one break in that time.
Public schools have summer break which is traditionally from the middle of June through the middle of August. However, many teachers opt to stick around during that time as summer school tends to be quite lucrative for foreign teachers. Luckily, if you’ve found a public school role, it’s usually not difficult to take additional time during the year as well.
If you’ve found a high paying job at an international school, then you’ll have summer break as well. However, it may be more difficult to take any additional time off during the school year.
Keep in mind that in Vietnam most rules are not hard and fast; that’s where establishing strong relationships with your managers really comes into play. Work hard, be friendly, and take on classes early on and then when you want or need to travel, requesting that time, whether officially allowed or not, will be much easier.
After putting a bit of money away, many teachers opt to cut back on hours in favor of more time off or a second job. If you go this route, it’s important to do what you can to hold onto your weekend hours. Two days of hard work a week can pay off immensely and it’s not impossible to get 18, 19, or 20 teaching hours at most language centers. With five days off consecutively traveling almost anywhere in Southeast Asia is on the table every Monday.