Teach in Asia: Becoming Part of the Local Community

Teach in Asia: Becoming Part of the Local Community

Teach in Asia and immerse yourself in the community!

Moving to a new continent can be a tricky transition. Despite different languages and cultures, kindness knows no barriers and we’re excited to share our TESOL students’ stories of their first interactions with locals.

Coming to teach in Asia can be daunting. Lots of people worry whether they will fit into their communities despite language and cultural barriers. In this blog post, our TESOL students in Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam share their stories of heartwarming interactions in their communities.

1. Sam in Thailand: “Food unites people here”

Openness is not something we’re used to from strangers in America. However, humility and openness seem to be defining characteristics of many people in Thailand. Whether they are a street-food vendor or an employee at the local 7-11, a Buddhist Monk or a songthaew driver, I feel as though I’m constantly greeted with a smile from the person across from me, as if I am meeting eyes with a friend. And so went my first interaction with Daang. As I approached his humble restaurant, he hastily produced a menu for me and motioned to a table with a view of the street. Entirely unsure of the type of food offered at this eatery, I hesitated before taking a seat on the small stool he had chosen for me. I decided to put aside any predispositions and simply find something on the menu that I might like.

To make things more difficult, the entire menu at Daang’s restaurant was in Thai. Rather than choose to leave or simply ask for ‘pad thai?’ with hands raised akimbo in the position of a clueless tourist, I stumbled my way through a conversation that led to Daang preparing me whatever he selected. As I watched Daang shuffle seamlessly back and forth across the kitchen, I was immediately impressed by the skill and efficiency of every maneuver. Daang clearly gave each ingredient respect and care. Daang’s cooking represented poetry in motion.

Sam Daniels came to teach in Asia just after the new year and started a culinary adventure!

Not only did he genuinely care about the experience I had in his restaurant, he also seemed proud that I would choose to eat there. Afterwards, we shook hands with the agreement that I would be back the following day for dinner. As I walked home, belly full and a smile on my face, I was reminded of an Anthony Bourdain quote from his first book Kitchen Confidential, which reads: “Good food is very often, even most often, very simple.” Nothing could be more apt in describing this and the subsequent meals I would enjoy at Daang’s restaurant.

The next evening, the scene before me was different from the day before. Whereas I enjoyed a simple dish of noodles and pork then, this evening consisted of several large fish roasted over an open flame, and a table full of Daang’s relatives and friends. Daang introduced me around the table several times; it only validated what we’d learned during our Thai culture lessons during orientation week: food unites people here. If this experience has confirmed anything, it is my belief in the value of winging it. Letting these happy accidents occur is what so many over-organised tourist trips to other countries miss — I’m very grateful to have met Daang and enjoy his food as well as his company.

2. Cam B in South Korea: “The friendliness was contagious”

During my second week of my TESOL course in Korea, I met a man named JunHyuk, AKA Simon, at a gym. Back in New Zealand, I was a competitive power-lifter and I am very focused on maintaining my fitness whilst I teach in Asia. Typically in New Zealand, people don’t interact much while training. However, while I was bench pressing, Simon came up to me and asked me to give him advice and help to train him to get stronger.

Cameron came from New Zealand to teach in Asia and found a local gym buddy in Incheon, South Korea.

At first, I was hesitant so I politely told him when I would be back and assumed he wouldn’t follow up. To my surprise, the next day he was in the gym waiting and immediately came up to greet me with a friendly smile and was ready to begin training. I ran him through a beginner power-lifting routine and helped him practice the correct form whilst also helping him take notes to help him become stronger. He was so thankful and willing to learn; the friendliness was contagious and I was happy all day knowing that I will be able to integrate into and enjoy the culture while I’m in South Korea. After we had finished he asked if we could meet again the next Saturday and bring a couple of friends with him.

Although I didn’t feel comfortable training his friends, I have continued to meet up with Simon, helping him improve and work towards his strength goals.

Simon has also begun to help me understand Korean language and customs much better through frequent interactions. Recently, we went out as a small group for a meal and had a very fun time in a different setting and talking about life. When I do find myself back in Incheon or Seoul, I would like to make time to see Simon again. What I have enjoyed most about meeting and getting to know Simon is that I have been able to help a local achieve something rather than simply being part of a language exchange. I have loved learning about the culture through someone who has lived in it their entire life. I now understand that the best way to learn about Korean culture is through meeting new people and learning first hand. I’m looking forward to meeting more locals and learning from them whilst I teach in Asia.

3. Cameron H in Vietnam: “The quest for power”

I decided to go to a café with my laptop to hole myself away until my lesson planning was done. My laptop is ailing and decrepit and it always needs to be plugged in in order to work. I had heard tell of a local café that had plug sockets, free Wi-Fi and reasonably priced coffee. I went early in the morning and nested in the corner beside one of the few functioning sockets. Slowly but surely, I plodded through my assignments, under frequent glances of some amused locals at my makeshift study camp. I assumed they felt some pity as I was there for many hours sat alone forcing myself to wade through cheesy children’s music to find the right song for a lesson plan.

Suddenly the power cut out – and my laptop switched off. My stomach dropped. I prayed to the technology overlords that my work had been saved. Other people may have taken this as a sign I should move, see some sunlight, and take a break… I felt more motivation than ever to stay until my work was done. I packed up my bags, stood up from my chair, and began to seek a new socket. The quest for power had begun.

Many countries in Asia have a big coffee culture and you're sure to find lots of places to relax whilst preparing for your classes.

I scanned the entire café trying to find a new socket. There were some sockets on the floor, but they were too loose to function. There were some multi-use sockets being shared by others, but there was not enough room for my comically large travel adaptor. I stretched above other peoples’ tables to try and use a couple of spare ones, but the lead was too short to reach the nearest free table. The entire time I was getting in everyone’s way, carrying a bag, books and an open laptop around, and moving chairs to see if there were more sockets on the floor. It’s safe to say the locals’ glances had turned into some outright stares, some giggling and some straight-up laughter.

Eventually, I deemed my mission a failure. I sat at an empty table and began to gather my things to leave. At this moment, a pair of Vietnamese men came over and plucked my laptop out of my hands. For a second I thought I may be the victim of the most brazen robbery in history. They spoke very little English so we combined languages with a lot of mime.

The pair split off, one heading in search for any sockets that I may have missed. In the meantime, his friend inquired about what I was doing by pointing at my books. I was able to respond in Vietnamese that I am a teacher, and his face lit up. I then said that I had moved from the UK to teach in Asia and proceeded to use up the few Vietnamese sentences I knew before I ran dry and we resorted back to mime. At this point, his friend returned and gave me a shrug as if to say he had done what he could.

The guy I had been speaking to then went over to where a group of people were sharing a multi-use socket and started asking other locals if anyone had enough charge to let me take one of their places.

Teach in Asia and explore the ecclectic city of Hanoi!

My British sensibilities caused me to be consumed with embarrassment at being the centre of attention and putting out a stranger at the same time. Yet this caused a ripple of conversation where other locals started chatting both to the two men and to me. Not only did someone give up a socket for me, but I was then sat at a table where I had inadvertently caused strangers to talk like old friends. There was a local woman who spoke English and we were able to have more of a chat about Vietnam. I inquired about where she was from – Ho Chi Minh City – and asked about her life. In the end, fate had forced me to take a break away from my work. My quest for power was successful due to the abounding friendliness and helpfulness of the locals. Now my work is finished, I just need to improve my Vietnamese – and get a better computer!

Teach in Asia with XploreAsia!

Do you want to start your own adventure and teach in Asia? We have in-country TESOL courses in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Myanmar. We also offer teacher placement in China and are excited to soon be opening a TESOL and placement package in Costa Rica, Central America!

Catch up with our global family of teachers through Instagram and Facebook and share your stories of cultural immersion in the comments!

What I Discovered Teaching in Vietnam

What I Discovered Teaching in Vietnam

What to Expect when You're Expecting... to Move Overseas

"I cannot recommend this experience enough, if you want to push yourself in every way possible all while making amazing memories and even better friends then teaching abroad is the thing for you!"

Teaching abroad can be a big challenge, especially to those who have never taught before. However, it can also offer more chances to grow than any other career and you may find yourself learning just as much as your students. In this blog, Eugenie shares her story of how she overcame her challenges teaching abroad after completing her TESOL course in Vietnam.

Looking back, my decision to move overseas to teach in Vietnam made no sense whatsoever. My lack of natural ability in English in school caused me to dislike English class. I thought about teaching before, but never teaching English as a second language. However, signing up to my work abroad programme all seemed so easy and I thought I had nothing to lose. My original enrollment date gave me three months to get my life in order before I made the leap of faith and disappeared into the chaos that is South East Asia. However the forces that be were at work, and I had to delay my trip by few months which turned out to be the first (of many) blessings in disguise along this journey.

With her TESOL certificate in hand, Eugenie, along with her friends in her TESOL group, was ready to begin teaching in Vietnam!

Getting off the plane, I was quickly swept up into the hustle and bustle that was Ho Chi Minh City. I hadn’t traveled much before this so I had no idea what to expect, but was pretty overwhelmed  Starting the TESOL course did not help calm my nerves; with no teaching experience under my belt, to compare me to a fish riding a bicycle wouldn’t be out of line.

The second week of my TESOL course in Vietnam gave me my first experience of what it is like to teach in Vietnam. Me and my fellow student teachers got the chance to go to a language centre and teach several classes as part of our teaching practicum.

It was a disaster

I had no control of the class, it was 38 degrees, and I had no idea what I was doing. The only thing I had left was “baby shark”. By the third time it was playing I couldn’t stop the tears; I stood in the corner and cried. On the bus ride home I barely said a word. My first time in an actual classroom and it was a train wreck. I had signed up for a year, was two weeks in and felt like I already failed. A lot went through my mind for the next two weeks of the TESOL course, but I made a conscious decision to stick it out.

You need to remember you are working with kids, they get tired and moody (just like you) they have bad days too and believe me, the bad days are bad, but the good days.., they are incredible!

Eugenie, TESOL in Vietnam graduate

Looking back, the best decision I could have ever made was to teach in Vietnam.

The main thing that I learnt on my course was how truly resilient I could be. Which is a skill I never really knew I had until I travelled halfway across the world.

The teaching assistants can be a great source of support in the classroom and are a great perk of teaching in Vietnam.

While the first teaching practicum was a struggle, once I started teaching it gradually got a lot easier.. The first month was a little shaky- remembering names, running a lesson from start to finish, ensuring you are covering all the material, all while keeping sixteen children engaged. It’s important to remember you are not doing this alone; you have your teaching assistants (TA’s) in the room who are an absolute godsend! They are the single best thing to have in your classroom and I owe them all so much!

I would be lying if I said it was all sunshine and rainbows. You need to remember you are working with kids, they get tired and moody (just like you) they have bad days too and believe me, the bad days are bad, but the good days? They are incredible!

Before I started, in my interview they asked me which age group I would prefer to teach in Vietnam. I instantly answered teens. I was thinking, they are older, more developed, you can have a joke with them and they would be more interested to learn. I looked at teaching young kids as glorified babysitting.

How quickly my mind changed.

It turns out teaching young kids is easily the most rewarding age group. Not only are you teaching them a new language (when they are still learning their first language, mind you), you are also teaching them to develop as a little human.

Teaching in Vietnam can involve teaching many different age groups. Eugenie found she loved teaching jumpstarts much more than she'd anticipated.

I’ve seen my students gain confidence, learning to read and speak in English. When you walk into a young learners class, you become a celebrity. They scream your name, run to hug you and always want to be next to you. Teenagers don’t even look up from their phones when you walk in.

 My proudest moment to date is when my TA reported back to me that one of my young students, who I have taught for seven months now, is a completely different student in my class compared with his other classes. At home he hardly talks, is quiet and often keeps to himself, yet when he walks into my classroom, he is talkative, helpful, friendly and always tries again, even if he gets it wrong the first time. Knowing I have that effect on a student is incredibly humbling.

Teaching is easily the hardest, most tiring, and most  rewarding and the most humbling thing I have ever done. I cannot recommend this experience enough. If you want to push yourself in every way possible all while making amazing memories and even better friends then teaching abroad is the thing for you!

If you want to challenge yourself and change your life, why not check out our internationally accredited TESOL programs? Offered in six different countries, we can help you kickstart your new adventures living and teaching abroad. For more of a glimpse into what our featured writer Eugenie is up to whilst teaching in Vietnam, check out her blog and her Instagram!

January 2020 Tet Teacher Meetup! | TESOL in Vietnam

January 2020 Tet Teacher Meetup! | TESOL in Vietnam

Experience Tet in Vietnam!

Our TESOL graduates recently met up to celebrate Vietnam's biggest holiday together!

Lucy, and XploreAsia teacher in Vietnam, writes about her experiences at a meetup with fellow TESOL in Vietnam alumni.

Some people worry about missing holidays back home when they come to live and teach abroad. Holidays can be wonderful occasional to spend with family but, as our TESOL in Vietnam graduate Teacher Lucy describes, you often find your own international family to share these special times with. Last January, XploreAsia’s Lan invited our teachers in Vietnam to share in the Tet festivities in her family home. Read on to find out how they celebrated and check out our website if you want to be a part of our international network!

A few days before the Tet holiday officially began in Vietnam, our TESOL instructor hosted us for a traditional and delicious Tet meal in her family home outside of Hanoi. We all started teaching with XploreAsia and have been lucky enough to continue spending time together and gaining new experiences since graduating from our TESOL course. I have been living in the North of Vietnam for two months and have really valued my time here. The lead up to the New Year celebrations has been incredibly exciting, with lots of fireworks to be seen around the city and amazing food to be eaten.

Earning a TESOL in Vietnam means that you can experience the culture from day one AND do it with a group of people who are also learning to teach, just like you!
During the festivities, many Vietnamese people choose to spend time with their families and the streets can be a little quiet. Our teachers didn't miss out on this holiday through the connections they made with XploreAsia.

The guests at Lan’s house all joined in the food preparations; cooking, cleaning and, of course, eating this mouth-watering dinner. We had abundant amounts of food, including some great vegetarian dishes for people like me who don’t eat meat in their diet. The feast included spring rolls, fried chicken, fried and boiled tofu, steamed vegetables and rice as well as some tasty soy sauce and chili dip for extra flavour.

What is the Tet Holiday?

Tet holiday is important to the Vietnamese people and it’s the biggest holiday in Vietnam. The celebration marks the beginning of the New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year since the calendar system here is different to the Western calendar. During Tet, schools and businesses close down and many people spend the holiday together with family and close friends. This Tet holiday was special for me since it was the first time I experienced a Tet celebration; I always celebrate the New Year on the 31 st December but this was the first time I had observed the Lunar New Year. Spending the start of this annual holiday with friends made me feel welcome to celebrate this significant event, and made me feel a part of the festivities and celebrations which have been happening in Vietnam.

A Chance to Meet Fellow Teachers!

Another reason to enjoy this occasion was the opportunity to meet new people and visit somewhere new. I have been teaching in Hanoi for two months since earning my TESOL in Vietnam, but there are many other expat teachers who have been here a lot longer. Going out for the day and enjoying a meal together gave us the opportunity to speak with some more experienced teachers living in Vietnam and enabled us to find out more about what they have learned so far. Each member of the teaching community in Vietnam seems to genuinely value and relish their time here; many are hoping to stay far into the future. Some have plans of moving elsewhere but everyone agrees on how rewarding the experience has been so far.

During Tet, XploreAsia teachers enjoyed cooking and eating lots of traditional Vietnamese dishes.

Personally, I am enjoying my time here more and more the longer I stay. I have continued to speak with and learn from interesting people from all over the world, as well as discovering new experiences I had never heard of or planned on experiencing.

Our teachers who earned their TESOL in Vietnam are now enjoying being immersed in the culture.

Our Wonderful Hosts!

Spring rolls, chicken, and plenty of vegetarian options!

Meeting Lan’s family was also very humbling. Their warmth and generosity made the experience similar to Christmas and New Year with my own family, and their kindness is a reflection of the kindness shown by the local people all over Vietnam. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Hanoi to spend some time in a more peaceful setting, surrounded by nature, reminded me of where I grew up and again made the experience more rewarding as I was able to reflect on past celebrations with my own family and friends. Despite the quiet and solitude of the more rural area, there was plenty to keep us busy and plenty of us to make sure we had a good time socialising with old and new friends.

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Once the food was cooked and prepared, we toasted the meal with some rice wine (although some of us abstained since we were teaching later that day). We ate until the food had gone and we could eat no more. For desert we ate some traditional Vietnamese treats and fruit, as well as enjoying some home brewed tea. The experience gave us insight into Vietnamese culture and traditions, as well as giving us the opportunity to relax and socialise in a comfortable setting of someone who we know. We were sad to leave behind Lan’s family and her adorable dog Simba but the experience was unforgettable and one we were very thankful to be a part of. I am already looking forward to Tet celebrations next Lunar year – Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Gain Your TESOL in Vietnam and Start an Amazing Adventure!

If you want to start a new adventure abroad and get immersed in Vietnamese culture, check out our TESOL course in Vietnam! Our course provides teachers with the chance to gain teaching experience before graduation meaning that when you step into the classroom for real, you will be ready to deliver engaging and life-changing lessons to your students. And our support doesn’t end there- as you found out, we host regular meetups for our teachers and are also only a click or phone call away, no matter how long ago you graduated! Contact us to find out more, and check out our Instagram and Facebook pages to see what our other teachers are up to!

Our TESOL in Vietnam students also got a chance to take a Vietnamese cooking lesson previously during their orientation week.
Many people find that the chance to dedvelop lifelong friendships is a valuable element of the in-country TESOL course.

Tips for Teachers Working Abroad for the First Time

Tips for Teachers Working Abroad for the First Time

Do's and Don'ts for New ESL Teachers

Nervous about starting your first job as an ESL teacher? Read some top tips from our TESOL instructor.

Hello! My name is CJ Lewis, a TESOL Instructor with XploreAsia. As we welcome a new group of TESOL students to Hua Hin, I thought I would highlight some Do’s and Don’ts for new teachers heading abroad for the first time. Here are my top tips for teachers new to the field of ESL.

First, the Do's!

Here are some tips for teachers looking to make their new lives abroad much easier.
  1. DO arrive to school early. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Yes, that’s every day. It really shows the school staff that you take your job seriously and they will respect you for that.

2. DO dress for success. You know what they say, clothes make the man/woman. It will give you confidence, show the students that you are a professional teacher, and show the staff that you are ready to go. It’s a win-win for everyone.

3. DO bring a small gift for the principal of your school. It builds rapport, shows appreciation and its just fun to do.

Do you have any other tips for teachers? Let us know in the comments!
CJ's advice this month includes to dress for success.

I have given baseballs, fruit, energy drinks, even a Lebron James jersey (for a principal who REALLY liked Basketball) and it really made the year a smooth one from an administrative standpoint. Plus, some became friends for life.

One of CJ's tips for teachers is to try to learn the native language so you can bond with locals.
Explore the markets to find bargains and make new friends.

4. DO explore the day/night markets. You never know who you will meet, what you will buy, what you will eat, what music will play. Always a fun experience each and every time you go. No matter which country.

5. DO have an understanding of the native language. When out and about, if you try your best to speak their language, the locals will appreciate it. You don’t have to be fluent, but the if you know some vocab it will help locals to get to know you better. There’s a ton of apps out there to help you learn a new language in a fun way. Don’t be shy, give it a try!

Next, the Don'ts!

Here are some things to avoid if you want to make a good start teaching abroad.

1. DON’T be late. Ever. I mean it. Of course, things can happen. Everything is different and new in the country you have been placed. Buses are late, scooters run out of gas, routes get forgotten. Plan for it, make it a goal to always get to work on time and avoid distractions.

2. DON’T just stand in front of the class and give instructions. I like to tell students that the front of the room is “lava” and if they stay in one place for too long they will burn their feet. Move around! Get the students to talk, ask questions. Just don’t stay put. Be active

Do you have any more top tips for teachers? Share some advice in the comments!
Top tips for teachers: staying active can particularly help to keep the engagement of young learners.

3. DON’T speak too fast. This is one of the most important tips for teachers who are not used to teaching ESL. When we’re around our peers, friends, and family, we tend to speak pretty fast. They are native English speakers and they understand what we are saying. That is not the case when you are teaching ESL. You must pace yourself, enunciate, and take your time to convey understanding. It will take patience, practice and experience.

Another of CJ's tips for teachers is not to neglect your social life. Try to grasp every opportunity whilst teaching hing abroad.
You'll always have your XA family to lean on. Don't be afraid to contact us for advice.

4. DON’T say no to a wrong answer or an invite, DON’T say I cant to an opportunity. Be a Yes man! Get out there and see what opportunities your town can offer when given the chance! I never thought I would be into scuba diving and now I go almost every weekend, because of an invite.

5. DON’T become discouraged when things aren’t working. Lean on your new friends, vent to your family back home (Skype!), chat with your favorite street market vendor, and of course, the XploreAsia team are always here to help! Drop us a line if you ever need a helping hand.

To learn more about our programs, head over to our website. To see updates from teachers we’ve already helped find amazing new adventures, follow our Instagram and Facebook pages.

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam

English Teacher Living in Vietnam

Ellie graduated from XploreAsia‘s accredited TESOL course in August 2018. Learn more about her experience as an English teacher at an English Writing Center outside of Hanoi, Vietnam!

Over the last few months I have lived and worked in Hanoi as an English Teacher for a Private Language Centre. My day to day routine is very much dependent on the hours and responsibilities that come with my position at the centre. My schedule can switch and change depending on team meetings, training and teacher cover. Generally, however, it does stay the same. In just a few months I have managed to build a routine that allows me to pursue hobbies, travel and explore the vibrant city of Hanoi and beyond. As I work for a Private Language Centre, I’m required to teach 25 hours over the evenings and the weekends, with two days off during the week. Initially, I thought I might find this schedule hard to regulate. And as someone who’s been used to having weekends and evenings for quite some time, this schedule felt somewhat strange. However, I have grown to love it! I have found time that I never thought I would have.

Average Weekday Working Schedule

07:00 – Wake up, go to the gym (normally)

My alarm goes off. Slowly I’ll drag myself out of bed and to the gym. My local gym is just around the corner costs around $12 a month. Or (300,000 VND). At this point I appreciate the luxury of being able to snooze for another 30 minutes if needed. After my tiring 9-5 routine back home, time is for once on my side in the morning.

09:00 – Head back home

We arrive home and prepare a delicious and colourful plate of fruit for breakfast. Brew a coffee and watch the news. Once I’ve had a chilled breakfast I’ll get myself ready for the day. I’ll start thinking about any errands that need to be run and which of Hanoi’s many incredible coffee shops we’ll be heading to.

English Teacher Living In Vietnam
10:30 – Set out to our coffee shop of choice.

One of the most appealing things about Hanoi is its endless amounts of cafés and lunch spots. It would take you a very long time to discover Hanoi’s entire extensive coffee scene.

Once we’ve found our spot, we will spend a couple of hours enjoying one of Vietnam’s many delicious coffees. My favorite being the coconut coffee and Eddie’s a traditional egg coffee. Here we will work on various different things. Generally I will write about our experiences in Vietnam, travel plans and teaching for our blog.  

Eddie uses this time to write for a second income. As an experienced content writer he is able to earn money by writing for others online and for his own websites. We try to be productive as we can!

Most of our friends also use this time to pursue various different hobbies and side jobs. Some English teachers choose to tutor in the mornings, others learn to play guitar and a couple even rock climb. It’s precious time most of us are not used to having, and something that is greatly appreciated by most teachers here.

12:30 – Lunch time

Decide what we fancy for lunch. Again, the choices are endless.

Eating out in Vietnam can be as cheap as $1 for a delicious meal. It is arguably cheaper than buying and cooking in. Depending on how we are feeling, we could go for a western brunch or a street side Pho.

Western food is much more expensive, but cheaper than home. It’s generally a treat we allow ourselves once a week.

14:00 – Naptime

With full bellies from lunch, we head home to get an hour of chill time before we set off for work.

During this time we usually take the opportunity to have a nap like the locals or to watch some TV.

15:00 – Commute time

Set off on our 30km commute to work. Don’t worry, a 30km commute isn’t the norm for most teachers in Hanoi.

Eddie and I were placed in a center 30km outside of Hanoi. We made the decision to continue living in Hanoi and to commute by bike to work. It usually takes us about 40 minutes depending on the traffic.

Most teachers can expect up to a 30 minute commute, sometimes even longer if traffic is bad. Generally a job in a private language center will require you to travel during rush hour, which means commute times can vary greatly.

16:00  – Arrive at our English Language Centre

Lessons in our center don’t start until 17:30 during the week, which allows us plenty of time to review lesson plans and prepare for the evenings two lessons. Each lesson at our center consists of two blocks of 45 minutes, with a 5 minute break in between. Every English teacher is different. Some teachers like to carry out all of their planning and printing on one day, others prefer to arrive early to prepare before their lessons. I personally prefer arriving an hour before class begins each day to prepare lessons. This is mainly because it keeps things fresh in my mind and I don’t end up with brain fog in class.

17:00 – ‘They’ arrive

The evening starts to get into full swing.

I start to hear feet pattering in the corridors and the squeals of excited children ringing in the air.

At this stage I find it very difficult to actually get anything done. The kids seem to know few boundaries and I find them running in and out of my classroom as they please. As I teach the younger ages, it is very hard to ignore them.

I quite enjoy this period of madness. As I teach the younger ages I use this time to try and tire them out as much as possible before they have to stay relatively calm during my class.

English Teacher Living in Vietnam
English Teacher Living in Vietnam
17:30 – First class

We do our best to calm our students and line them up for class before teaching begins.

At this stage every day is different. Some days classes are a dream, others are a nightmare. It all really depends on how prepared you are for lesson, what sort of mood your students are in and what sort of mood you’re in.

“Teacher fit” is a term I have heard used to describe a certain fitness level that can only be obtained through teaching. At first I didn’t really understand what it meant, but after gaining experience as an English teacher, now I certainly do.

Teaching has you running around, dancing, singing, jumping up and down, shouting words and generally pacing. It is a term that is particularly appropriate for kindergarten teachers.

Two classes in a row can really take it out of you.

20:45 – Home time!

The bell rings for the end of the day’s final lesson.  We say goodbyes to our students and send them on their way home. Once all of our admin is completed, we aren’t far behind them. It’s time for us to reflect on the evening’s lessons and think about what we might do differently in the future. As teachers I believe we learn something new from each and every lesson. I always leave the classroom feeling as though I have gained something.

21:45 – Arrive home

We throw together a simple meal, such as a stir-fry or omelet and appreciate some well deserved peace and quiet. Depending on how we are feeling, we may stop in at one of the street food stands for dinner.

During this time we will wind down with a book or some TV. It’s often quite hard to shut off after being so active for the last few hours, so allowing ourselves this time is necessary.

Weekend Workday Schedule

As I mentioned before, if you are an English teacher in a Language Centre it’s likely you’ll be working long hours over the weekend. For us we teach 3 lessons on Saturday mornings and 3 lessons on Sunday afternoon/evening.

It can be a challenge sometimes getting in for 8am on a Saturday morning, but I quite like it. I don’t know whether it’s the time or whether the kids haven’t been at school all day, but I find they are somewhat more chilled.

Around those hours we stick to a similar routine, with a few beers with friends thrown in on a Saturday evening.

Days Off

Days off in the city are my favourite. Simply hopping on a bike with no plan and no particular place to go is a great feeling. Hanoi is full of interesting things to do and some wonderful things to see. If we’re feeling more adventurous, we might even hop on our bike and head to Ba Vi National Park or Tam Coc. Both a straightforward 2 hour drive from Hanoi.

In the evenings we will normally meet up with our pals from work and go to an open mic night or to a karaoke bar. We definitely work hard, but the reward is so worth it. 

English Teacher Living in Vietnam
You can follow Ellie and Eddie’s journey over at www.idiotsteachabroad.com!

Ever considered becoming an English teacher in Vietnam? With XploreAsia, you could be living and working in this diverse country, gaining a deeper insight into the culture, interacting with local people and making a real difference in the community through teaching English. For more information on this program, visit Teach in Vietnam!   

The Top 5 Reasons to Teach in Vietnam

The Top 5 Reasons to Teach in Vietnam

The Top 5 Reasons to Teach in Vietnam

Wake up at 6:00 a.m., frantically rush out the door, seize a cup of liquid fuel, articulate commuter grumbles, hypnotically complete mundane tasks, remain idle in standstill traffic, nuke 2 day old pizza, sink into a fluffy oasis, and then repeat. Sound familiar? Is this what you thought “adulthood” would be? The idea or notion that  “this is what adulthood is” falters when one teaches in Vietnam. When an individual teaches in Vietnam, he or she departs from solely “existing” and truly embraces the full meaning of “living.” There are 5 main reasons why a person should teach in Vietnam: passionate community, stunning scenery, delicious food, unquestionable safety, and an expat faction.

Passion for Education


A boy peeks around a fence. Teach in Vietnam

When one accepts the calling to teach in Vietnam, the passion for education is palpable.

When one accepts the calling to teach in Vietnam, the passion for education is palpable. Both the community and students view the English language as an important skill one needs to acquire for professional advancement. This mindset demonstrated by students and the community permit an educator to flourish when teaching in Vietnam. He or she can solely focus on providing the best instruction possible without the added weight of needing to “prove one’s worth.” This unspoken cultural acceptance acts as a major alleviation for first time instructors. When I taught in America, the language teachers, faced the stigma of “unimportance.” The value of learning a second language is not truly embedded. My coworkers constantly needed to “prove” their subject’s worth to students, parents, and society in general. This added task on top of teaching is an undesirable element. Luckily, teaching in Vietnam eliminates potentially unforeseen under value; therefore, the vigor witnessed in other subjects floods your classroom as well.

Stunning Scenery

After educating adorable Vietnamese children, one can savor the picturesque scenery expanding throughout Vietnam. Beautiful emerald green bays, lively cities, and tranquil country sides quench an individual’s various needs. The abundance of diverse landscapes allows one to choose what “vibe” he or she is feeling for the weekend; monotonous living is not one of them. XploreAsia graduate and current teacher in Vietnam, Hilary Tamara, stated, “every place you visit in Vietnam is very different and the range of landscapes are so diverse.” The gorgeous and various regions within Vietnam, as divulged by Ms. Tamara, permits one to experience the peaceful ripples of Ha Long Bay to the bustling adventures within Ho Chi Minh City. Instead of daydreaming about “a change of scenery,” teaching in Vietnam allows one to explore an array of captivating terrain.

Two men look off over the mountains. Teach in Vietnam

 Instead of daydreaming about “a change of scenery,” teaching in Vietnam allows one to explore an array of captivating terrain.

Delicious Food

Vietnamese food. Teach in Vietnam

Herbs, noodles, and eggs; oh my! Vietnamese food truly causes one to order “with their eyes.”

As one explores the geographical wonders of Vietnam, he or she will uncover another mouthwatering “wonder” titled Vietnamese food.  Herbs, noodles, and eggs; oh my! Vietnamese food truly causes one to order “with their eyes.” Veggies and meats speckle the streets. Each unique dish emits an aroma of gluttonous delectability. The renowned grub within Vietnam attracts people from across the globe. Blogs and “guidelines” have sprouted all over the internet as a side effect. These sites also expose another appetising proponent of the glorious cuisine: affordability.  Dishes range from around USD 1.50 to USD 2.30. The scrumptious cookery combined with the cost effective price tags manifest into a deadly, but pleasurable, concoction. Teaching in Vietnam allows an individual to devour the edible gems of bloggery wonder whenever he or she desires.


Enticing food is not the only welcoming component of teaching in Vietnam; the atmosphere generated also lends itself to a safe environment.  Traveling solo or with a friend to a vastly different country can be slightly daunting. Language barriers, cultural taboos, and functionality in general evoke uneasiness. When a person teaches English in Vietnam, a welcoming environment greets him or her upon arrival. Apprehension about safety or manipulation dissipate. One should remain mindful about surroundings and belongings as a general rule of thumb, but an individual can easily maneuver around Vietnam without fear or restriction. This sense of security applies to solo women travelers/educators as well. In regards to transportation, Uber and bicycles are great and safe ways to meander through the cities. When one teaches in Vietnam, the security supplied allows an individual to explore, thrive, and cherish all the amazing qualities the country has to offer. Upon the safe embarkment of adventure, he or she may discover the last element of why a person should teach in Vietnam: the faction of expats.

Vietnamese children run from the camera. Teach in Vietnam

When a person teaches English in Vietnam, a welcoming environment greets him or her upon arrival. 

Expat Community

A group of friends pose for a picture in Vietnam. Teach in Vietnam

Ultimately, when deciding to teach abroad, leaving friends and family “behind” can be an unfavorable aspect. The community gained from teaching in Vietnam can alleviate this initial negative by creating bonds with like-minded individuals from around the globe. 

Teaching in Vietnam supplies another important necessity when abroad: friendship. There is a large expat community within this Asian country so one does not feel alone in a foreign land. Many expats can be found within the city or through social media pages. For example, a page titled “Vietnam is Awesome,” located on Facebook, allows foreigners and locals to expose important information about the country: beautiful sites, hangouts, events, and more. Before even reaching Vietnam, an individual can join the page and link up with current teachers, travelers, locals, etc. This helpful resource permits an educator to plant his or her roots early on. The pre-establishment described above is essential and comforting when he or she transitions to a new abode. Ultimately, when deciding to teach abroad, leaving friends and family “behind” can be an unfavorable aspect. The community gained from teaching in Vietnam can alleviate this initial negative by creating bonds with like-minded individuals from around the globe. Family and friends back home are only a video chat away. One does not abandon ties from home, but instead increases connections with people near and far. The lifelong friendships obtained through the current expat AND local community supersedes hesitation.

Overall, there are an excessive amount of reasons why a person should teach in Vietnam. The value of English, Instagram worthy landscape, drool-inducing food, the reinforcement of security, and the ever growing community are just 5 highlights of why a person should cash out ritualistic monotony for invigorating adventure. So what are you waiting for? Submit that final resignation letter to predictable complacency and accept the new offering of “living.” Your new life in Vietnam is only one decision away. We will see you soon!

Written by Chelsea Cullen. Check out the rest of her adventures here: http://educatedexplorer.blogspot.com 

Thinking about teaching in Vietnam? Which reason appeals to you the most?

Share your comments below!

Living in Vietnam: Small Town Experience

Living in Vietnam: Small Town Experience

Jace moved to Vietnam in May,  from Australia. Teaching in the southern province of Binh Duong, Jace located about an hour away from Saigon,  Jace teaches a wide variety of ages at his private language center. On a recent trip to Vietnam, we met up with Jace to hear firsthand about his amazing life in Vietnam. Check out the interview below to learn more about what it’s like to teach and live in a smaller city in Vietnam.

To find out how you can begin your life in Vietnam click here

 Life in Vietnam

Jace's Life in Vietnam

What was the sequence of events that led you to come and teach English in Vietnam?

I was looking to come and teach as an adventure and to go somewhere different from Australia; working with kids has always been an interest of mine as well.

Why did you choose Vietnam?

I liked the look and feel of Vietnam, and that it had all modern amenities. You have to brush up on Vietnamese, but it’s still quite rewarding living in Vietnam with all of the shops, cuisines and people.

Where did you live in Vietnam?

I lived in Binh Duong which is about 25 kilometers from the center of Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam. That makes for a 50 minute ride in a cab or motorbike ride given the traffic. It is north along Saigon River, which flows right past Binh Duong. It is considered a satellite town of Saigon. It’s close enough to Saigon that you can travel there and back in a day if you need to for work.  A lot of people and facilities are still based in Saigon, but we have a lot of new hospitals and facilities here too.

What were your impressions of Vietnam?

The people are very friendly and eager to practice their English with you. I have had many experiences with people being very friendly and wanting to take me out to dinner.  Saigon itself has pretty much met every expectation:  crazy traffic, hectic, but that’s what makes it really fun.  There are many interesting things to see for particularly the markets and food. Binh Duong has a little bit of the provincial flavor I was looking for. You do have to make little effort to get out into the countryside, but there are plenty of places to see.

In terms of where you stay and friends you can make how has that been?

It’s been great living in Vietnam, especially in the expat communities, but more so I love the local communities.  That’s where you get the real Vietnamese flavor hanging out with the locals. A lot of the staff- the managers, receptionist, teaching assistants are all Vietnamese. They are all young, energetic, and love to show you around. The Vietnamese locals are proud of their culture, so that’s been one of the highlights of living here. Binh Duong is a flourishing and developing city, where I live are great new apartments. There are also great food including, international food, Japanese, American BBQ and Indian. It’s quite comfortable and not a major culture shock here like I was expecting. We even have Australian beef so I can’t ask for more.

How often do you get to go into the city?

I have the opportunity to train in the city at least once a month with my school. Otherwise, I go there at least every two weeks to have dinner, meet friends, take photos, and to be a tourists and see the sights.

How did you find your accommodation and what is it like?

When I first came here my school set me up for a week.  I found my accommodation just by speaking with people at my center, and they showed me around.  My apartment is a fully furnished studio with a bedroom, kitchen, and a balcony. I can see Saigon on a clear day. There are 3 convenience stores on the bottom of the building and a massage parlor. My building has a gym and there are local pools that are quite good.

What do you do when you are not working?

That depends, sometimes I visit Saigon as it is quite close, and cinemas here are also quite good.  It’s quite easy to make friends with the TAs here so often we are eating out for lunch, dinner and after class. What else do I do here? Be a little bit of a tourists visit pagodas, temples, walk along the river, drink caphe su da of course (Vietnamese coffee) and lots of pho.

What type of food do you eat in Vietnam?

I really love a dish with Chinese pork and noodles.  That is my absolute favorite, so I go any chance I get. I also eat the staples which are pho, beef noodles or, beef stew, or bahn mi the baguette style sandwiches you find on every corner.

Life in Vietnam: Food

What are some day trips from Binh Dong?

The Cu Chi Tunnels are 20kms away, I really enjoy just driving along the countryside seeing nature, and walking along the river. Saigon is really the main destination. Dalat, Da Nang, and even the Mekong delta are quite easy day trips.

Life in Vietnam: Cu Chi Tunnels
Life in Vietnam: Trap

Have you experienced culture shock in your town?

My first culture shock came when I was in Saigon during my first week of training.  It was the pace of the city and how people are sort of attracted to you as a westerner. It is still quite common for me to walk in and order a coffee and everyone turns around and looks at you.  Unfortunately everyone thinks I am American but I won’t hold that against them (Jace is from Australia). It is quite pleasant for everyone to be interested in you and want to practice their English, everyone is quite friendly.

Do you save money living in your town?

It’s very financially comfortable living in Vietnam; things are definitely a bit cheaper than in Saigon. You can certainly save a lot of money especially being a foreign English teacher.  You are paid quite well for the job that you do. There is also the opportunity to do over time and take on extra classes to earn extra money. It is quite easy to save whether that is for travel or other personal reasons.

Teaching In Vietnam: A Small Town Experience

Teaching In Vietnam: A Small Town Experience

Jace moved to Vietnam in May,  from Australia. Teaching in the southern province of Binh Duong, Jace located about an hour away from Saigon,  Jace teaches a wide variety of ages at his private language center. On a recent trip to Vietnam, we met up with Jace to hear firsthand about his amazing experience teaching English in Vietnam. Check out the interview below to learn more about what it’s like to teach and live in a smaller city in Vietnam.

To find out how you can begin to teach English in Vietnam click here

Do you think there is a need and demand for people to teach English in Vietnam?

There is definitely a demand for teaching English in Vietnam, as people recognize it is the global language. I am quite surprised actually how many people want to learn English and at all different levels. It is also quite good in Binh Duong, because a lot of parents come from Saigon and have an expectation of quality English. They can tell when a language center is teaching substandard English so there is a need for westerners to come teach in Vietnam.

Teaching English in Vietnam

Tell us a bit about your school?

My school is the newest branch and also the smallest. We still need new teachers to grow the center. Class sizes range from 6 – 15 students. I also have a teaching assistant or two in each class. There is a lot of room to get to know the students. Parents are here before and after every class. Getting to talk with them is very rewarding.

Teach English in Vietnam School

Why do parents send their children to your school?

They come here because they see it as a place where their students can be global citizens and have that sort of formal higher end language training. We work hard to deliver that to the students. The kids are fun, energetic crazy, really sweet and genuine. When you give them the attention it is extremely rewarding. One of the best things that has happened only in three months is seeing my students pass exams, have fun, and use a bit more English.

Teaching and living in Vietnam

Do you have same kids for long period of time?

At the moment classes are 108 hour semesters, 36 hour chunks. Teachers teach 2 classes a week for entire time.  You have the potential to stay with your students for years if they stay with you.

One of my favorite classes is the teens class because you can have very natural human interactions with them; ask them about their lives and their culture. That’s one of the best things about being from a foreign country. Showing interest and asking the students what their lives are like, because I can learn lots from them too.

Teach in Vietnam Program

Why is it important for people to go to new countries and learn about new cultures and immerse themselves?

For me personally the sense of adventure, although it sounds a bit trite is a real one.  I think people do have a keen interest in what’s going on in the world, and the only way you can do it is to live in another country and work there. It has a completely different feel then just backpacking. To be grounded somewhere and sort of set down some roots for a period of time is really important. You learn so much about yourself. Also, escaping your usual confines and seeing things with new eyes is really important on a personal level as well. I think For me South East Asia, as it is quite close to Australia, was a key interest of mine sort of just being in the region too.

Teach English in Vietnam - Students

What would you tell someone who will soon be teaching English in Vietnam?

First I would say keep an open mind and be open to the culture. If you are open, warm and friendly you will be rewarded likewise. That has been one of the most rewarding things here, to actually be a part of the community and feel like a bit of a local. Really driving around on a motorbike and eating pho.


Thank you to Jace for taking the time to meet with us and answer our questions. We had a wonderful time getting to explore your town and see your school.  Everyone we met were extremely kind, wanted to get to know us, as well as helped us try to find our way around town.  It also makes us happy to see our XploreAsia teachers doing great and really embracing their time teaching English in Vietnam.

Teach in Vietnam: Our First Orientation Week!

Teach in Vietnam: Our First Orientation Week!

Teach in Vietnam: Cultural Immersion

This month XploreAsia hosted its first ever TESOL course in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Our participants were able to partake in a fun-filled orientation week with cultural, historic, and tasty(!) excursions followed by an internationally accredited 120 hour in-class TESOL. 

The opportunity to teach in Vietnam is a great experience; Vietnamese people have such a strong friendly spirit, and are excited to better their English. The country itself is such a unique place full of historic sites, distinctive culture, and amazing food.

Lisa Dershowitz gives her insights from our very first cultural orientation week in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Vietnam.  In a week of incredible experiences, find out what we got up to!

Teaching in Vietnam

Vietnam has so much to enjoy, and it’s not just the food!

War Museum: Here we were able to learn about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese. The museum is a great opportunity for people to visit, and can be quite emotional. As an American, this museum definitely had a huge impact on me. However, even after our long history with Vietnam, I have found the Vietnamese people to be very welcoming to me, even after they learn where I am from. Learning about the history here in Vietnam and seeing it from a different perspective is a very important part of living in Vietnam; by understanding the history we can better understand the people and its culture.

Vietnam War Museum - Tank
Vietnam War Museum - Plane

Night Market Food Tour: Our first teach in Vietnam group went out to learn more about Vietnamese food, and to eat where the locals eat. We all traveled to one of the local markets where we were able to walk around and sample foods like fresh dumplings and dried chicken. The dumplings were quite the hit, and I am pretty sure we bought out the entire market. Afterwards, we all sat down at a few food stands where we could have dinner and fresh smoothies, including an avocado smoothie!  We ended the night sampling some sweet treats that consisted of a variety of sticky rice dishes. This was a great experience as it opened everyone up to new foods that they could eat here in Vietnam.

Night Market: Vietnamese Food

Martial Arts: We all got to test our Kung Fu skills at Nam Huỳnh Đạ, a training gym in Ho Chi Minh City. The head master there was able to give us a background in the art’s history and how it came to be. He was also able to show us around the beautiful temple that the classes are held in. This class encouraged everyone to really push themselves to try a new sport that people have practiced for years in Vietnam. I don’t think myself or anyone else has ever sweated so much.

Teach in Vietnam: Kung Fu

Language classes: Throughout the week we were able to take part in Vietnamese language lessons from our very own program coordinator, Jenny. The language can be a bit difficult as it has many tones. Jenny did a wonderful job at making it fun, interactive, and the language seem easy. Learning the language a little will make immersing yourself in a new culture far easier, while you won’t need much Vietnamese to teach in Vietnam, embracing the other aspects of life here will be made much easier. Even if it is only the very basics!

Teach in Vietnam: Language Lessons

Cooking Class: One of my favorite parts of the orientation week was our market tour and cooking class. We all traveled to a different district and visited one of the local day markets.  There we walked around picking out the freshest ingredients to cook with later in the week. We were able to try different tropical fruits like longans and mangosteens. In addition, we stopped for some delicious Vietnamese coffee and smoothies. After our tour of the market we headed off just outside of the city to Jenny’s grandmother’s house. Here we were able to relax and get a taste for the countryside here in Vietnam. Jenny’s grandmother was so sweet and happy to have us stop by her house. She had one of her sons fetch and cut open fresh coconuts from the large tree at the house. In addition, she insisted cutting up tons of fruit for us, and teaching us how to properly eat everything! Finally, on our way out she wished us all well and good luck in our futures. 

Next, we traveled to Jenny’s parent’s house where several members of her family were awaiting us. From the second we enteredwe were greeted with so many smiles, and the smells of fresh Vietnamese pancakes being cooked in the kitchen. Here, some of the women taught us how to roll fresh spring rolls.  Afterwards, we all took turns making our own scrumptious spring rolls. It was just a wonderful afternoon eating some of the freshest, tastiest Vietnamese food, relaxing, and talking with everyone.

Teach in Vietnam: Cooking Lesson
Teach in Vietnam: Vietnamese Cooking

Cu Chi Tunnels:

One of the last excursions we did during orientation week was visiting the famous Cu Chi Tunnels. Here we were able to explore and learn even more about the Vietnam War. We were able to experience some of the small tunnels that soldiers lived in and fought from. If you wanted you could even walk or basically crawl through the tunnels under ground. Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels was an incredible and eye opening trip for me and the rest of the group about what life was like during the war.

Teach in Vietnam

Friday Night Dinner:

We ended the week with a large group dinner. We all gathered together on the rooftop of a local restaurant and were able to just relax and secure all of the strong friendships that everyone had made during the week. There was so much delicious food for us to try and several local beer options. A local teacher also came and joined us for dinner. It was great for all of us to hear what it is like to teach in Vietnam.

Teach in Vietnam: Group Dinner
Teach in Vietnam: Dinner

Overall, orientation week was packed with so many great activities and excursions. It let everyone get a taste for Vietnam; quite literally with all of the food we tried, and also get more insight on its culture and history. The perfect introduction to the Teach in Vietnam program!

To find out more about XploreAsia’s Teach in Vietnam program, click here

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