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.
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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 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.
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.