Yeah, right. That you gotta be native or, at least, speak good English; that you need experience and passion when working with kids (bla, bla)… That’s what they say, but is this what they REALLY look for, when hiring to teach English in Vietnam? In this post, I tell you EVERYTHING that you wouldn’t know otherwise, if you haven’t lived in the country.
Before starting, I must warn you: I’m very critical of Vietnamese English teaching companies. Why? Well, maybe you came to this post after reading my whole nightmare within Elink Vietnam. If not, I summarize it: the company, where I was legally working, stopped paying my complete salary for approximately 4 months (they paid partially every time and kept me waiting for the rest, with lies).
I couldn’t stand it any more, so I quit, and then they threatened me: «You will be blacklisted from Vietnam if you don’t continue working ‘happily’ in these conditions». Therefore, I had to fight for both my last salary and the documents I had lent them to do the working permit (because they intended to steal them).
So yep. As you can see, I’m quite an expert in bad experiences in Vietnam… And despite all the threats, I’m not scared of companies behaving like gangs (if you are one of them, I insist: I AM NOT AFRAID OF YOU!!!). I feel I have the task to warn foreigners about these situations: I don’t want you to go there with dreams, after leaving your country, and then crushing into reality. Everybody must know how things work there, if you expect to teach English in Vietnam.
Besides, it is more common than what you imagine!!!! After talking to people about what I was suffering, more and more cases appeared. Some colleagues felt so powerless… but now you know that there are some solutions, as I tell you in the other posts, referenced before. Now, let’s head directly into the real requirements to teach English in Vietnam.
*WARNING!!! Everything I say here is based on what I saw, teaching English for 8 months in Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s my own opinion and what other teachers working in Ho Chi Minh City told me. The country is big, anyway, and I understand if this is not your case.
The real requirements to teach English in Vietnam
This is what a lot of Vietnamese employers expect, if you want to teach English in Vietnam:
Be white or, at least, not black or Asian-looking
They usually put the excuse of hiring only native speakers.. but would they hire African Americans? NO. Would they hire Asian-looking Americans? NO. Would they hire black South Africans (that are native speakers)? Again, the answer is NO!!!! These teachers, even with the proper documents and certifications, would probably struggle to find a teaching job in Vietnam, despite the fact that there are tons of offers.
I was shocked when sometimes I had to look for a cover teacher because I couldn’t attend a class, and Elink, the mafia where I used to teach English in Vietnam, didn’t really ask for teaching skills. They just put me NO BLACKS in a written Whatsapp message. Clear and loud.
Anyway, this is not a scandal for Vietnamese. It’s «normal life». When you inquire about the outrageous racism in the South East Asian country, they deny it. «It’s not racism. It’s just that kids get scared with a black person», I heard a couple of times. And the racism against Asian-looking teachers… Well, parents would think that the teacher is not a foreigner (and they pay way more for classes with foreigners).
If, luckily, an African American or Asian-looking-American gets a job with a Vietnamese company, they could also get paid less than a white, blue-eyed native speaker. Or even less than a white, blue-eyed non-native speaker.
Native or non native English speaker? I do have an opinion, of course. There are some native speakers that don’t know how to teach, and only go to Vietnam to get drunk and high, given the lack of regulation in the country (they even cancel the classes one hour before because they are wasted…. or they just don’t show up).
Aaaaand there are non native speakers with strong accents that, even if they teach in a great way, they really need to work on it. Sooooo… I guess it depends on the person!!!
Be good-looking and well-dressed to teach English in Vietnam
When I asked some friends why I found a job without struggling too much if I am brown skinned and non native, they told me without taboos: you are good looking. Everything reduced to that. So your level of English doesn’t really matter nor your TEFL certification… ¿Good attitude towards children? It doesn’t matter anyway. As long as you are white or at least, good looking (that’s why they can»forgive» your brownness) , way to go!
This is very frustrating because you feel like a puppet. You are just a super model, hired to smile in the schools. Your pretty face counts to convince the parents to keep paying the high wages for their children. Oh, and are you a woman? Then better to wear make up and high heels, even if you have to jump and run with the kids for the ESL Games.
If you are a man, way better: you almost have a direct path to be accepted, if you are in an essay period. Yeah, because the opinions of the Vietnamese teacher assistants (that are women, most of them) count a lot in the final decision. The bosses will ask them for their feedback and if you are a «charming» white, blue-eyed man, and probably single, you have a foot inside the company.
There are some good companies though, where you can teach English in Vietnam without all these stereotypes. I’d suggest to look for a foreign -and not Vietnamese- enterprise. If you are a non native speaker and you have no TEFL certification, I’d obviously advice you to get one, but beware: you can’t legalize whatever course in Vietnam, so please, read this post before buying the cheapest one.
Be a clown
I do understand that you need games when teaching small kids to keep their attention, as it fades really quickly. What I don’t get is that sometimes Vietnamese suggest games that don’t have anything to do with English. Example, the game of «The cat and the mouse», where they just need to run one after the other (and the Vietnamese teacher assistant translates the two words into Vietnamese).
Oh, but as long as they have fun with the teacher (even if they are not learning anything), parents would be very happy and in consequence, they would continue paying.
This is why some native speakers prefer working with adults. «I don’t really wanna be a clown. I prefer to focus on teaching English», I heard once. A white, blue-eyed clown, I added.
And these are the requests that I discovered behind the official job offers to teach English in Vietnam. Sorry if I am extremely rude by saying this, or if you feel offended in any way, but I wanted to be as honest as possible. Of course, if you dissent, you can also put your point of view in the comments, so that people can read other opinions.