Pros Of Being An Expat In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Almost 7 months ago I made Hồ Chí Minh my home and it has been spoiling me ever since. Not every day is a bed of roses, but Việt Nam has enriched me with so many new experiences and growing opportunities that I will forever be grateful for.

Over the last few years, Hồ Chí Minh’s expat community has grown immensely, and continues to do so. Here are a few reasons why I, as well as many other expats, have chosen Hồ Chí Minh as a second home:

Lifestyle

One of the main things that bring aspiring English teachers to Việt Nam is the low working hours for good pay. A typical work week for English teachers is around 20 – 25 hours, giving plenty of free time. The pay is also high compared to the low cost of living, which allows for a comfortable lifestyle, frequent travel, and a little money left over for savings.

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Travel

With Hồ Chí Minh containing one of Việt Nam’s main airports, it is cheap and easy to travel within Việt Nam and Southeast Asia. There are many beautiful places in Việt Nam to travel to that are just a quick bus or plane ride away. International travel is also fairly cheaper here than it was in the US. It’s easy enough to book a last minute plane ticket to Malaysia without breaking the bank. Of course, this all depends on the type of traveler you are. If you’re wanting to stay in a nice resort it’s going to be pricey, but if you’re down with hostels then it can be very cheap. After moving to Southeast Asia and seeing the beauty it has to offer, my bucket list of destinations has expanded drastically (RIP to my bank account).

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Cheap Beauty Treatments

Back in the US I was hardly ever able to have a spa day, as it’s ridiculously overpriced (along with basically everything else in the States). Luckily, ‘Nam has blessed me with all things cheap – massages, facials, nails, the works. Don’t get me wrong, there are many expensive places here too, but why would I go to those when I can get a killer gel mani / pedi for 350,000 VND? Ladies, are you ready to move here yet?

There’s Always Something To Do

Hồ Chí Minh is a big city packed with millions of people, which means it’s always filled with things to do. There are night markets, DIY classes, and various shows. My favorite Friday night outing has been going to the past 2 Sofar Sounds shows. Seriously, amazing. I have a love / hate relationship with Bui Vien, but it’s definitely a must-see as it’s filled with various bars, clubs, and restaurants! If none of those do it for you, there are always the tourist hot spots like The Café Apartment, Post Office, or War Remnants Museum.

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Before my second Sofar Sounds show. They discourage having phones out during performances, so it’s a nice way to disconnect and relax.

The Unreal Coffee Scene

Việt Nam is the perfect place for coffee lovers, as it’s one of the world’s largest coffee exporters. Whether it’s the famous cà phê sữa đá, drip coffee, avocado coffee, egg coffee, coconut coffee – you name it, Việt Nam has it all. There are at least 5 coffee shops on every street and most of them are so cute and offer a unique experience.

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Shelter Coffee & Tea – one of my new favorite coffee shop finds. Avocado coffee (left) and cà phê sữa đá (right)

Food

Don’t worry, Hồ Chí Minh has most western food to satisfy your cravings (if you find Ranch though, please hmu), but the real deal is how delicious and underrated Vietnamese food is. There’s nothing like sitting on a small stool on the side of a road eating a plate of cơm tấm. If you can tell me where I can find better bún thịt nướng or bánh mì, that’s the day I will leave Việt Nam. On top of how amazing the food is, I can eat most meals for less than $1 or $2 USD. There’s no beating it, really.

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Bánh tráng nướng (Vietnamese Pizza)

If you have any questions on my life as an expat in Hồ Chí Minh, please feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

The Benefits Of An In-Person TEFL Course

*Disclaimer: I have only taught English and taken the TEFL certification course in Vietnam, so this may or may not apply to those wishing to teach English in other countries.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make when deciding to teach English abroad, was whether I should take the online or in-person TEFL certification course. Now that I have finished the course and started teaching, I cannot recommend taking the in-person class enough. Not everyone’s situation is the same, but if you have the means to do so, it is well worth it. Here are some of the benefits of taking an in-person course in Vietnam:

Personally, I learn better in a classroom environment

This isn’t everyone, but it is me. I couldn’t tell you a lick of knowledge I retained from my online classes when attending university. I would skim through the information I needed to finish my assigned tasks and ignored the rest. I was even blessed with the amazing invention of Quizlet that helped me study even less for those classes than I already was (if you’re a university student in the United States, you know). Granted, maybe it would have been different if my online classes were even somewhat relevant to my area of study, but I have a strong sense it wouldn’t have made a difference. I am a visual, collaborative, and kinesthetic learner, which makes in-person classes far more beneficial for myself. I strongly recommend taking into consideration what type of learner you are before making the decision to take an in-person or online course. Having an instructor that I could meet face-to-face with when I was stressed or confused about the material made a world of difference. I also loved having classmates to learn from and bounce ideas off of. If you learn better individually, then maybe the online course would be a better fit for you – or maybe the in-person course would push you outside of your comfort zone, grow you, and help build up your confidence in teaching like it did for myself.

The people you meet

It’s scary enough moving to a new country, but even scarier to do it by yourself. Taking the TEFL course in Vietnam provided me with 37 other students who were in the same boat as myself. They welcomed me with open arms and there I made some of my best friends in Vietnam. A lot of the people I met through the course were similar minded as myself: wanting to grow, travel, meet new people, and learn about a different culture. They all come from different places and backgrounds, which was a breath of fresh air and I’ve learned so much from them. People aren’t lying when they say the TEFL course is intense. I have never been busier than I was those four weeks. Luckily, I was surrounded by people who constantly encouraged and refreshed me when I needed it the most. These are still people that I can count on to this day.

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These are some of my classmates from the course.

Getting familiar with a new place and culture

I found a lot of comfort in the fact that when I hopped off my plane in a foreign country there would be someone waiting to pick me up at the airport and take me to housing that was already provided for me. For the first month I didn’t have to worry about what area I’d want to live in, who my roommates would be, or how to even find a place to live in the first place. Instead, I got to spend that time meeting new people, exploring Saigon, and learning more about the Vietnamese culture. My friends from the course turned into my future roommates and after living in Ho Chi Minh for a few weeks, we then had a better idea of the type of area and amenities we desired in a home in Vietnam. There was no rush in finding a place to live or a job, which made the process a breeze for the most part.

I probably would have never stepped foot in Gò Vấp District if it wasn’t for the course

Okay, Gò Vấp isn’t for everyone. If you’re backpacking through Southeast Asia,
it probably isn’t on your list of stops. It’s kind of dirty, crowded, and not the most beautiful sight in Ho Chi Minh. It’s a more local Vietnamese area, which means being one of the few foreigners there, you get stared and pointed at more than one would like. ‘Hello’ is the extent most of the locals’ English there goes, which makes Google Translate and charades your best friend. Taking everything into mind, there still is always a special place in my heart for Gò Vấp District. I got to experience a more genuine Vietnamese way of life than I would have if I had lived in District 1 or 2 right off the bat. But really, let’s talk about the food – it is out of this world good! I have yet to find cheaper and better tasting food than I had in Gò Vấp. All of my favorite spots knew my order by the end of my stay and I spent less than $2-3 USD a day on meals. My daily sinh tố dâu (strawberry smoothie) cost 20,000 VND (~ $0.86 USD) and bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) was a merely 7,000 VND (~ $0.30 USD). Gò Vấp has so much charm and is unique from any other place I’ve been to in Ho Chi Minh, I couldn’t recommend a visit there enough.

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The view of my neighborhood in Gò Vấp District.

It makes the job search process SO much easier

To start off, the TEFL course at AVSE requires their students to complete 8 hours of classroom observations and 12 hours of teaching practices. This helps when employers ask about your experience in teaching English as a second language, as well as getting a better understanding of the education system here in Vietnam (which is very different from that of the States). Many of the companies my classmates and I taught at while taking the course offered us jobs on the spot and AVSE helps you throughout the entire job search process. This is really just a huge shoutout to Jane at AVSE, because she works day in and out to ensure that all of the students find jobs when they graduate from the program. I really would not have found my amazing job without her help and I am eternally grateful. It made the entire process a lot less stressful than it would have been otherwise.

Those are just a few points as to why I would recommend taking the in-person course in Vietnam, but there are many more. Again, this may not be the best option for everyone, but if you are able to, go for it! If you have any questions about life in Vietnam, teaching English, or getting TEFL certified feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales