Vietnamese students and their English teacher

Interviews with English Teachers in Vietnam

After writing about my experiences teaching in Hanoi, I often get questions from readers about how to teach English in Vietnam. So, to help you guys decide whether you could live and work in Vietnam, I’m publishing a short series of interviews with teachers who’ve lived, or currently live, in Hanoi. In this first edition I talk to Emma and Loes about everything from teaching highs and lows to pay rates, living costs, visas and teaching English if you’re from a non-English speaking country.

How to Teach English in Vietnam E-Book

2018 and 2019 teaching opportunities in Hanoi – the language centre we used to work for in Hanoi is now recruiting teachers for 2018 and 2019. If you’re a native English speaker with a degree and TEFL qualification, contact us now and we can put you in touch with the director for an interview.

If you’re heading to Vietnam then you’ll probably need an invitation letter for your Visa On Arrival, we recommend Vietnam Visa as they provide a professional, efficient and transparent service.

English Teachers in Vietnam talk about their Experiences

Emma & Friends on a road trip to the Perfume Pagoda in Vietnam

Emma (front) on a road trip with friends to the Perfume Pagoda

How long have you been teaching in Vietnam?

My name is Emma, I’m from the UK and I’m 27 years old.  I’ve been teaching in Vietnam since September 2015.

Why did you choose to move to Hanoi, Vietnam, to teach?

I knew I wanted to move to South-East Asia and Vietnam seemed like the best-paid option, which was a big factor for me as I knew I’d have to support my boyfriend for at least the first few months while he looked for a job as he isn’t an English teacher.

Did you have any teaching qualifications before arriving?

I had a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and four years’ experience teaching in Spain.

Who do you work for and how did you find a job in Vietnam?

I work for Language Link in Hanoi and I found the job offer on

Who do you teach, and where?

I am teaching on Language Link’s schools link programme, so I teach ESL (English as a second language) to grades one and two in public schools.

A Vietnamese School Class in Hanoi

How many hours a week do you teach?

I have 17 teaching hours per week. I work daytime Monday-Friday normally between 8:30-4:30 with a long lunch.

How much do you earn each month from teaching in Vietnam?

After tax, I earn US$1,635 a month. I also do four hours of extra private classes in the evenings which earns me an extra $76 a week.

How have you dealt with visas and work permits?

Language Link organise all of it for us so it’s been pretty easy. I have a work permit and visa valid until Sept 2016, I just had to prepare all of my documents (my degree and CELTA certificate plus a police check) before coming to Vietnam.

What have your teaching experiences been like?

I had some huge culture shocks at the beginning as in Spain,  I was used to small classes of four to eight kids with very high English levels. In Vietnam,  I now teach 16-22 kids in a class, so it’s noisy and feels a lot less personal, but it’s been a worthwhile experience and I’ve loved seeing kids in their Vietnamese schools and learning about how they’re organised.

How do you get around in Hanoi?

By motorbike…is there any other way? I never thought I would ride a bike but you really can’t get by here without one unless you’re living next to your school, but even then you need one for the gym or socialising. A semi-automatic bike costs me $39 a month to rent.

What area do you live in; how much does your apartment cost?

My boyfriend and I live in Ba Dinh and we have a beautiful one bedroom apartment for 11million VND (Vietnamese Dong) which is around $500.

A Language Link classroom in Hanoi, Vietnam

Emma’s Language Link classroom

What are your typical monthly living costs like and have you saved any money while living in Hanoi? 

Hanoi is a cheap place to live! I pay $500 in rent for my partner and I. We eat out for every meal and not just Vietnamese food, we eat at nicer/western places around three times a week (I don’t even own kitchen utensils so never cook at home). I’ve been able to save around $218 a month so far and now my boyfriend has found a job I expect to save a fair bit more.

What are the best and worst things about teaching in Vietnam?

The awesome social life and being able to save money. We can do everything we want to here, beers and dinners every night with friends, trips away, visits to the cinema and still save money. We have made great friends and meet with them nearly every night. The worst parts are the noise in the schools, the pollution and the motorbikes.

What advice would you give people who are thinking about moving to Vietnam to teach English?

Definitely do it, but be prepared for chaos. At least in Hanoi, everything is crazy; in the public schools you can’t hear yourself think. Get a qualification and some experience before you come and you’ll get a great job with all your visas taken care of. If you’ve got no experience you’ll still find work easily but you’ll have to do visa runs every three months.

A Language Link Classroom and Blackboard in Hanoi, Vietnam

Emma’s Christmas board

Hanoi is definitely not an easy place to live and it isn’t for everyone but most ESL contracts are just nine to 12 months long, so I definitely think it’s a good idea to come and try it. Lots of people fall in love with the city and stay for longer but I’m not one of them, so after thoroughly enjoying my year in Hanoi I’ll be moving on, but this has been an incredible experience and I’ve made lifelong friends here!

Loes’ Experiences of Teaching English in Vietnam

My name is Loes, I’m  26 and I’m from the Netherlands. I taught English for two and a half years in public schools in Hanoi and continued teaching some private classes for a year after that.

Why did you choose to move to Hanoi, Vietnam, to teach?

I went on a holiday to Vietnam at the end of 2011. Back in the Netherlands, I finished my education and started looking for a job but pretty much every company told me I had no experience or they wanted someone with a master’s degree, which I couldn’t afford. So, I decided to do something else: teach English in a foreign country. I was thinking either Peru, Tibet or Vietnam and two weeks after I started searching I found a job in Hanoi, the next week I was on the plane.

Did you have any teaching qualifications before arriving?

I got a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. I also had some experience of teaching young kids as I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher for a while, so I studied that for a year before realising that cutting, gluing and prepping cutting and gluing wasn’t really for me.

Vietnamese students and their English teacher in Hanoi

Loes with her students in Hanoi

Who did you work for and how did you find a job in Vietnam?

I just randomly searched on the internet for language centres in Vietnam. Some really wanted you to be a native speaker, which I’m not, but I sent out my resume anyway together with a little recording of my voice to show them my pronunciation was  good. Then Washington Language Center replied, they needed teachers urgently so I had an online interview and a week later I was there.

Who did you teach, and where?

I taught both public and private classes. I don’t like working on the weekends or evenings, so public schools were the best option for me, although I found private classes a lot easier to teach. Eventually I ended up doing both. I had to cover a lot of classes for colleagues, which resulted in me teaching all kinds of age groups but I was best with the small kids, aged between three and seven. I really enjoyed teaching  the older groups as well, but because I was so good with the small students I was mainly given classes with them – no complaining here!

How many hours a week did you teach?

I worked around 30 hours a week, not including lesson planning, which is a lot. Often the hours were spread over the day; two and a half hours in the morning, two in the afternoon, one and a half in the evening and sometimes on the weekend. It was hard work.

How much money did you earn each month from teaching in Vietnam?

Around $2,500 dollars I think. I started on $21 per hour for public classes and private classes paid me $35 an hour; these rates are quite high in Vietnam, especially for non-native English speakers.

How did you deal with visas and work permits?

The centre wasn’t really able to give me a work permit due to rules with the Dutch Embassy, so it was quite stressful but I managed. I was lucky that the work rules weren’t that strict when I arrived in 2012 and because I flew back to the Netherlands so often I could just get a new working visa upon arrival. Nowadays it can be a bit more tricky to extend your visa, but I’ve heard visa runs aren’t all too bad! Watch a video of Loes and her class singing below – so cute!

What were your teaching experiences like?

I loved teaching, but it could be super frustrating! I never got out of bed feeling sorry for myself that I had to go to work, but I often came home feeling sorry for myself because something had happened. Sometimes you’d get to school at eight in the morning and the classes were cancelled but nobody had bothered to tell you. Or maybe the computer had broken down during a private class but the personel would just say you’re not using the equipment properly. That bothered me. You always need a back-up plan for when things don’t work and you need to count to 10 so many times to calm down.

I loved teaching though and I loved the kids. Some students still stick with me.  Although I’m back in the Netherlands again, every now and then I think about that little boy in grade two who was always doing so well in English, even though I was told by his teachers that he was bad at school. Or the two kids in grade three who kept swapping our names around, she was Loes, I was Duc and he was Mai; so they called me teacher Duc and I addressed them as Mai and Loes! Also, you could play awesome games with the older kids in grade five.

How did you get around in Hanoi?

I partly cycled and partly drove a motorbike. It took me two full weeks to adjust to driving a motorbike; I started in the evening at eleven pm, when there was no traffic, and went out everyday a little earlier until I was driving around comfortably at five pm.  I don’t understand how tourists do it so quickly!

What area did you live in; how much did your apartment cost?

The first year I lived in a shared apartment, which cost around $250 a month. After that I lived with my boyfriend Mick, we payed $600 for an apartment; the first year we payed $50 per person for gas and electricity but the other years we paid $30 for two people. The electricity bills can vary a lot.


What were your typical monthly living costs like and did you save any money while living in Hanoi?

Me and my boyfriend spent around $100 per person, per week. We did save some money, even though I was volunteering for an NGO during my last year in Hanoi. Unfortunately, I also had to go back to the Netherlands several times due to family circumstances, so this ate into my savings, but I’m very happy I could afford to fly home. If I hadn’t flown back so many times though I would be a rich woman! Or I would have ended up buying a lot of stuff in Vietnam I didn’t really need.

What were the best and worst things about teaching in Vietnam?

The best thing is that life is so easy in Hanoi and you meet so many nice people; I met Andrew and Amy, I met my fiance. I met so many new friends. The stress the centre put me through was the worst part I think, but taking the rest of my life in Hanoi into consideration that was definitely worth it. I also missed my family a lot. Even though I saw them every half a year; good thing there’s Skype! Also, saying goodbye to people who’ve become good friends in Hanoi sucks.

What advice would you give people who are thinking about moving to Vietnam to teach English?

Just go, it isn’t going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it!  Loes took some amazing street photographs when she lived in Vietnam, I’d highly recommend checking out her Vendors from Above series here.  


Interviews with English teachers in Vietnam

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Want to teach in Vietnam?

Would you love to teach in Vietnam but feel too overwhelmed to take the leap? Then we’d recommend contacting Teacher’s Friend Vietnam. This small, independent company is run by real teachers who have actually lived and worked in the country. Georgie and her team will help you find jobs with reputable schools that will provide you with a work permit, excellent resources, ongoing training and a great salary. They’ll also help you find an apartment, get a visa, find a motorbike, meet other like-minded people and offer support throughout your time in Vietnam.

Teacher’s Friend offers packages for teaching in Hanoi, HCMC and smaller cities and the countryside. If you’re interested and are a native English speaker with a Bachelor’s degree, clean police check and a practical TEFL certification of at least 120 hours (or are willing to obtain one), contact Teacher’s Friend to get started. Georgie is kindly offering our readers a 10% discount on packages, just use the code TFV01 when you contact them.

Stay tuned for my second set of interviews with teachers in Vietnam. You can also check out more of my posts about teaching English in Vietnam here:

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 10:01h, 30 January Reply

    Great post, I have forwarded it to my nephew, who is currently teaching English as a foreign language in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sounds like Hanoi has a lot to offer with a great social life and very cheap cost of living.

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:17h, 30 January Reply

      Thanks Gilda, teaching in Brazil sounds amazing! Hanoi is a great destination for teaching too, the lifestyle is great and you can earn a lot in a short space of time.

  • Louisa Klimentos
    Posted at 22:06h, 02 February Reply

    This is a really good post and is great information for those people who would like to teach in another non English speaking country.all the best love lou

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:45h, 03 February Reply

      Thanks Louisa, I hope people find it useful.

  • Izzy
    Posted at 13:25h, 06 February Reply

    Amy, its amazing what you’re doing right now wrangling up the interviews from ESL teachers! These interviews are a great resource for teachers trying to do their research, especially for those who are jumping in head first. I know speaking for myself that as I search for a job here in HCMC at this very moment in time, its such a great relief to read these personal accounts and have so many questions answered. Thanks a mill for doing this 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 13:34h, 06 February Reply

      Hi Izzy, I’m glad you found this helpful. When we were planning to move to Vietnam I was so nervous and had so many questions, so I hope these interviews help other aspiring English teachers. Good luck in HCMC, I’m sure with your experience you’ll have no problem finding work 🙂

  • Cindy Hoffman
    Posted at 16:13h, 25 February Reply

    Interesting interview there Amy. It’s really good to know how the outside world is like and really nice to see that Hanoi is one of those amazing places to work as a language teacher. Thanks for the share, will be sharing this with a cousin of mine who dreams of moving to Asia (Philipines) to teach.


    • Amy
      Posted at 22:44h, 25 February Reply

      Thanks Cindy, glad you found it useful. Teaching in Hanoi was an amazing experience.

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