English Teaching Jobs at ILA


How to Adjust and Live Happily as a Teacher in Vietnam

Has Vietnam caught your eye because it is a diverse country steeped in culture and tradition but also one that’s rapidly developing? Has this knowledge pushed you to the brink of deciding whether to become a Vietnam expat? If so, here’s a guide to help you decide whether this move is right for you. It also provides practical information for those who’ve decided to take the plunge and become a Vietnam expat. This will help them get the most out of their stay, culturally, emotionally, and intellectually. Jonathan Norftill, ILA, Human Resources shares his advice on this transition.

Making the Choice

The first step in being happy about your choice is to make a conscious decision about whether Vietnam is the best country for you in which to teach.

Positive Factors

Those who love hot, balmy weather will enjoy Vietnam’s tropical climate, which is warm, but also often rainy. In your home country you may be accustomed to four seasons but in many parts of Vietnam there are typically two hot seasons. The southern areas have a narrow temperature range of 28–29°C in summer and from 26–27°C in winter. Ho Chi Minh city residents often joke that there are two seasons for Vietnam expats to experience, “hot” and “ very hot”. Conversely, in the north, average temperatures range from 22 — 27.5°C in summer to 15–20°C in winter, a part of the country which also shows seasonal variation. Bear these climatic factors in mind when deciding whether or where to live as a Vietnamese expat.

Travel is certainly a draw card for those contemplating living in Vietnam. Within Vietnam, expats have a wide range of trips to enjoy including tropical islands, sunny beaches and warm seas, magical ancient towns, and terraced rice paddy fields.

Vietnam is also well situated in South East Asia so Vietnam expats can vacation in a number of other neighboring countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Singapore, to name a few.

Negative Factors

Vietnam, like any other country, also has some factors which may be perceived negatively by expats. This could be especially true for citizens from affluent nations with wealthy municipalities that have sufficient financial means to spend on waste management. These expats may find certain suburbs and public areas a little grimy and the air pollution a concern. They may also be surprised by the poverty as Vietnam is still a developing nation.

Getting Ready

You’ve decided the benefits to living in Vietnam outweigh the negatives. What’s more, you’ve been offered a job at ILA. It’s time to start getting ready. Here is advice for those preparing to become a Vietnam expat.


Few people enjoy administration. Many find it daunting, if not downright scary to contemplate the paperwork required to live abroad. This is especially true for those who haven’t worked abroad before. A benefit to working for ILA, a leading brand when it comes to education, is that they have dedicated employees specializing in helping soon-to-be Vietnamese expats understand document requirements. They will supply you with lists of requirements to enter and work in Vietnam. It’s always best to prepare your documents prior to entering Vietnam (legalization and affidavits, etc).


You’ll need some money to start this new venture and when you land in Vietnam, for example, accommodation, a deposit for rental, transport, and food. It’s best to have some cash for entertainment as you integrate into the Vietnamese community of expats. A sensible estimation is 2000-4000 USD so you won’t have financial stress while transitioning.


Many Vietnamese expat teachers buy or hire scooters to commute for work and social purposes. To get a Vietnamese motorbike driving license, applicants must hold a valid Vietnamese residence permit or a work permit, a business visa with at least three month’s validity, and a sponsor company. You need to have notarized copies of your passport and visa (take 1-2 working days once you are in Vietnam).
If you consider getting a scooter license a cumbersome process when you first land as a Vietnam expat, you could obtain one in your home country. To do so, check your home country’s policies and regulations. Also find out more about an International Driving Permit, a legal requirement to drive in many foreign countries, which is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your benefit and safety.
Remember: If you drive a scooter without a license you could lose your medical insurance cover, a nasty situation which can easily be avoided.


This is a critical consideration, particularly important for those who take medication regularly as some medication is not available in Vietnam. The good thing is that ILA provides you with a list of preferred medical practitioners, hospitals, and clinics so you’ll be able to find English speaking staff at these facilities.
Bring sufficient prescription medication with you to last a few months so you don’t panic while settling into Vietnamese expat life. Then, you can explore suitable sources, alternatives, and solutions.

Added Support

Working for ILA ensures much support when you first arrive as a Vietnam expat. You’ll be collected from the airport, provided with up to six night’s accommodation while you attend the Young Learners course. You’ll also be able to ask Human Resources practical questions to help you settle down as a Vietnam expat.

Building Cultural Awareness

As a westerner, you’ve probably grown up in a totally different culture. While Vietnamese people are kind and not easily offended, they’re your hosts and it’s best to be culturally aware so you’re not faced with embarrassing situations. Watch YouTube channels on Vietnamese culture to gain knowledge on this topic. Read this guide for Vietnamese expats carefully so you recognise the “no go zones”.

Try to avoid:

  • Being disrespectful of Vietnamese worship customs. Worshiping altars are sacred and should not be touched without permission. If you get to witness worship rituals, don’t interrupt or ridicule participants. Feel free to have proper discussion about those customs afterwards to gain a better understanding of these spiritual practices.
  • Showing affection by trying to kiss or touch Vietnamese friends or acquaintances, as theirs is generally a less openly physically affectionate culture. Vietnamese culture is generally more conservative and reserved.
  • Taking pictures of the police, the military, or their operations.
  • Addressing war topics disrespectfully. Be open to differences in opinions. War in Vietnam may no longer be a popular topic of discussion in this rapidly developing country, but it’s always wise to approach this issue carefully and sensitively.
  • Discussing the war years as these were painful times for the Vietnamese.
  • Criticizing the country and its people harshly as some Vietnamese people may be very patriotic and expatriate criticism is seen as arrogant.
  • Losing your temper in public. (The Vietnamese take a lot of pride in respecting their public self-image as well as their family’s image. If you are in Vietnamese company, and you don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, you should refrain from being aggressive as it is considered disrespectful.

There are also a wealth of dos; positive customs and social mores that promote affirming interaction for all involved.

You should try:

  • Using both hands when handing over money or gifts.
  • Praising the food you’ve been given.
  • Being aware that if you are invited to someone’s home, you may sit on the floor, and elders will be served first. You’ll probably never forget this warm and loving occasion, and opportunity to taste the fine food of Vietnam.
  • Giving polite greetings, it’s important on a communal and spiritual level. When speaking to strangers or elders, say: “Xin Chao”, “Chao anh” (older males), or “Chao chi” (older females). “Chao em” is appropriate for people younger than yourself.
  • Being highly respectful in your dress. This is particularly true when visiting sacred sites, such as temples and pagodas. Women should cover their shoulders, arms and knees and men should dress with deference.
  • The Vietnamese are used to seeing tourists dress in ways they wouldn’t dress in public as they’re generally more conservative. Thus, it’s advisable for Vietnam expats to dress respectfully and more similarly to local people. This is considered respectful, and you could consequently receive better service.

Apart from the examples already mentioned, there are many other chances for Vietnamese expatriates, especially teachers, to “fall in love” with Vietnamese culture and society.

There is an abundance of opportunities in Vietnam. That’s why local people work long and hard to improve themselves through education believing that it will pay off in the long run. Always try to speak positively about your duties, as work commitment and diligence are traits which are admired. It’s especially important for teachers to manage their profiles positively. You’re already placed on a pedestal for your knowledge and ability to help students unlock their potential to take advantage of economic possibilities.

Handling Your Emotions

What if you start missing the comforts of your home country? Many people living far away from home can experience moments of homesickness. If you’re working for ILA, you’re lucky because you’ll have a support group to help you out including:

  • Teachers you meet on Young Learner training.
  • Your Teaching and Learning Manager (TLM), Senior Teachers, fellow colleagues, and administration staff.
  • Expat groups, for example, Fexpates (a Facebook Group) providing excellent support for women. This includes meet-ups so you can join Vietnam’s community of expats, as well as gain valued advice, and support.

Even with the best planning in the world, it’s important to remain flexible as a Vietnam expat. Remain committed, positive, and patient as you make friends, and establish networks and daily routines.

The great thing about teaching at ILA is that it provides teachers with a flexible schedule, so you can plan your time advantageously. Vietnam offers a wealth of opportunities for you to grow yourself at an affordable cost. Clubs and special interest groups exist for you to take-up or indulge your hobbies, including sports, outdoor activities, arts, and crafts. Use this opportunity to develop new skills, for example, widen your technical knowledge and learn to make videos of your wonderful experiences. You could also build your career by attending in-house training programmes or enroll in globally recognised academic programs.

Vietnam also provides a wealth of opportunities for public spirited people who would like to assist with charities and other community building events. It’s a great way for expatriates in Vietnam to establish deeply meaningful ties with other expatriates, and like-minded local people.

If you’re a qualified, passionate English teacher on the brink of making the decision as to whether you’d like to live as an expat in Vietnam, contact ILA to find out more. There are over 50 centers around the country. So, whether you love living in the mountains, beaches, the city or wide open spaces, there’s likely to be a perfect opportunity for you.