Teaching English in Vietnam seems a funny job, especially if you love kids, but it can turn into a nightmare if you commit with a dodgy company -without being aware of its practices-, as was my case within Elink Vietnam, an English teaching company.
The story started in September, when I signed a contract with Elink. Everything was fine until December, when November´s payment never came on the payday established in the contract of the English teaching company, which was the 15th of the next month, as latest.
When I asked, two days later, Elink told me I would receive an e-mail regarding the lateness. In this e-mail they said I would get my payment the 26th December due to their partners´, who were paying late -always according to them-.
I was pissed off: Why should I care about these situations? Does the English teaching company care if I arrive late to a class for any reason? The answer is “No”!
The English teaching company also promised a 10% increase of the minimum wage because of this incident and assured it would only happen that month. Of course, it was a lie to keep the employees quiet.
I waited until the 26th but the payment didn´t arrived. After
begging insisting on my payment, the 29th December, the English teaching company gave me less than the half of my salary of November.
At least, it was something, I thought. With this amount I could manage the expenses for New Year´s Eve and some bills. Nevertheless, Elink didn´t say a word on my complete payment.
The Elink soap opera goes on
3rd January and still nothing. 7th January and the rest of November´s payment still pending. 11th January: Finally, the English teaching company paid another amount, which they assured was the rest of November.
I trusted them and kept on working as always. What a surprise when, six days later, I decided to confirm the calculations: I had 271 USD pending!
Besides, it was the 17th -two days after January´s new payday- and any explanation about the second month they were paying late.
Finally, two days after that (19th January), I received, again, a partial payment without any valid explanation: “It´s the rest of December´s payment and a part of January”.
I never got any answer from the English teaching company: Why do you pay late once again? Why partially? When will I receive my complete payment? Where are the interest rates established in the contract if you pay late? Or the 10% rise you promised in December? When is February´s payment going to be, as you are not respecting the payday since December?
“I´m not an accountant, not in charge of the money”, was always the response.
Time to take other measures
22nd January and no words on my complete payment. So I decided to stop working until I was fully paid. That same day, Elink finally announced they would give me the rest of December next Thursday, which meant the 25th January. 10 days later than what the contract ordered.
The rest of the salary arrived that date, but with all the delays and unfulfilled promises, trust was broken.
To complete the uncertainty, in February, during the payday established in the contract, Vietnamese people were going to celebrate TET holidays (Chinese New Year), which for me meant that my salary for the following month the money wouldn´t arrive on time either.
This is why I asked for a specific date. The English teaching company said before the 12th February. Therefore, I decided to wait.
Some of my friends asked me: Why all that patience with such an untrustworthy company? Well, I loved my students. Each day among the 1st, 2nd and 6th graders was full of fun. I enjoyed making them laugh while teaching, so I really wanted to trust what they said. I desperately wanted to trust.
A new Elink trick in February
I continued working for this English teaching company that hires foreigners to work in Public Schools in Hanoi, and that has other classes at their headquarters.
I tried to ignore everything, but it was useless. I felt always stressed because of the uncertainty of not having the complete payment on time. This situation didn´t let me organize my expenses, as I couldn´t commit with any debts without knowing if I would be able to pay on time.
Finally, the payment happened the 10th January BUT… don´t cry victory too soon.
Déjà vu: the amount was not complete.
The English teaching company deductions
Elink informed me that same day that they had paid just one part because they had to deduct the cost of the Working Permit (a document to legally work in the country, which was in process before) and other fees for visas, etc.
As the office that assisted them for that was closed for holidays, they couldn´t know the exact amount.
As a result, the “logical” reaction for the English teaching company was to withold, one more time, a part of my salary.
Full of rage with myself for trusting them, I wanted to make a thousand questions. The main one was: I´ve waited three months to get this situation solved, and you can´t even wait one month to deduct all these alleged fees?????
The rest, according to the English teaching company, would be calculated “after the 1st March” because according to a “Vietnamese custom”, they wouldn´t pay any money in the New Year.
And they completed the Whatsapp conversation by sending an official e-mail: “In Vietnamese custom, we always avoid saying unlucky information or having any problems with jobs or life in New Year Days”.
Meaning? Please respect the Vietnamese tradition and don´t complain even if, for the third time, you don´t receive your full payment on time.
It is also a Vietnamese tradition to pay debts before the New Year not to have more in the next one. But of course, in this case, the custom was not convenient for the English teaching company.
Enough is enough
As I was in Laos for holidays, resting from the unnecessary headaches Elink was causing to me, I decided to wait and see what happened in March.
View this post on Instagram
Ah! La libertad, la #montaña, la playa, el sol, volver a respirar! La #naturaleza de vez en cuando nos tira las orejas para que ignoremos las pequeñeces del día a día, frente a la grandeza del planeta😍. . La foto es en Vang Vieng, #Laos . 🇬🇧 #Nature reminds us to ignore the little things from the routine, face to its immensity. The pic is in Vang Vieng, #Lao 😍 . #amazingnature #natureloverb#outdoors #best #createexplore #earthgallery #earthofficial #destinationearth #earthcapture #earthpix #earthpics #dametraveler #viajosola #girlswhotravel #womenwhotravel #viajeras #mochileras #ColombianosTravel
So I came back and kept on teaching. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th March… Silence. 5th March, I announced that I stopped working, again, until having any sort of explanation.
It was exhausting to react this way each time but, unfortunately, Elink ´s accountant never answered e-mails, which was the only way to contact him/her. The reason? Nobody wanted to give me his/her phone number or arrange an appointment to talk about these issues.
The strategy didn´t press my payment but made me receive threats from the English teaching company, which of course, was the straw that broke the camel´s back:
“I´ve wasted so many times to make the Working Permit for you and we have all the right to make all decisions with you during your stay in Vietnam” (the mistakes where corrected).
When I asked to repeat what the representative of the English teaching company was trying to say, she stated:
“I don´t say we have the right to pay you late. Your money is your money but if you have any mistake in working, we have the right to report it to the Immigration Department”.
Work without complaining or be kicked out of Vietnam: Elink
After this conversation, I complained with the foreign person in charge of coordinating the teachers. He excused the Elink Vietnamese representative, denying that she wanted to threaten me (when he could perfectly read the screenshots), and he gave me two days off “to think” if I wanted to continue with them.
Of course, no word on the rest of my payment, which was the main reason of the disagreement.
View this post on Instagram
Al mal tiempo buena cara!!! Pese a toda la tragedia porque me paguen mi salario y me dejen renunciar en #paz en #Vietnam. Pese a los malos tratos, abusos y amenazas, hay que tener la sonrisa siempre como prioridad. . La solución llegará por sí sola 😊 . 🇬🇧 Smiling despite the bad weather!!! Despite all the tragedy because the company where I worked as English #teacher in #Hanoi doesn't want to pay me my salary and let me quit in #peace. . Despite the mistreatment and threats, smiling must be the priority. . The rest will come along😊 . #dametraveler #solotraveler #vietnamese #temple #saturday #goodvibes #instamood #red #me #traveler #instaviajeros #instagramers #smile #work #caligraphy #small #viajes #viajosola #independent #strong
I had nothing to think about: threatened, without my full salary, and without any further explanation.
Therefore, I informed the foreign person that I decided not to continue. “Thank you for everything whilst you were here”, he replied. Muteness about my final payment.
The whole week I waited for an answer that never came, so without any more patience I went to the English teaching company at the end of the week. They told me I would receive an e-mail with all the details to cancel my contract.
The end of this soap opera wouldn´t be smoothly, coming, of course, from Elink Vietnam.
Elink ´s e-mail
They accused me of not complying the contract for quitting before its end, when they didn´t even respect the paydays or the interest rates for paying late, as established in the document -that, ironically, Elink was now quoting-.
Besides, they charged me all the fees for the corresponding documentation in a higher exchange rate than the one used to pay me (22.760 VND / dollar, face to 22.600 VND / USD), and the bitter cherry of the cake: they argued that I wanted to cancel the contract unilaterally when, days before, the foreign person texted me that they understood my reasons to quit:
“If you are happy to continue, everything will resume on Wednesday, if not then them and I understand and you can part company with Elink”, he stated.
Apparently, Elink´s representatives had changed their minds in order to punish me for leaving the company with very valid reasons.
Therefore, they gave me two options: continue working “happily” or accept the abuses stated before.
Aaaaand… of course I didn´t accept any of the options. I answered with my position, but still with the uncertainty of not knowing if I would be kicked out of the country, based on the frequent lies of this English teaching company.
How did I finally get paid? Did the soap opera finish at that moment? I will tell you in the next post, for sure. As I said before, nothing could be done smoothly with that creepy company (I still can´t believe how they can work in the education area).
Have you lived any similar situation? Please comment!!! Don´t let others suffer the same!!!