Saturday, 18 October 2014

TEFL in Vietnam: The Pre-Thoughts


First things first: This is the 50th blog post of nectarinetravels! Do have a celebratory drink/biscuit/stuffing sandwich in honour of it. :)

Second things second: In one week I will be moving to Vietnam.This next section of my travel blog will therefore handily be about Asia-travels. :D

To be me in a few weeks 
Graduating from university + not wanting to “grow up”/”start life” + wanting to TRAVEL when I can = I did a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign language) course (20h classroom course in Reading (love you Reading!) + 120h online), finished it mid-September, and secured a job in Vietnam a few weeks back. It's incredibly surreal and I am purposefully keeping busy and not thinking TOO much about it since it is quite scary. But SO EXCITING.
I had two skype interviews, the first one was the one I finally chose – a very efficient-seeming thorough language school with an impressive benefits package meaning I don't need to whittle away brain cells trying to understand things like visa applications or health insurance. AND they seem to be well-known and reputable enough for it to be unlikely for them to be ripping me off too much. It's in a little town called Bien Hoa about 30km outside Ho Chi Minh City, 'Saigon'.
HCMC traffic 
So, why Vietnam you ask?

Good question.

  • Because it's in South-East Asia. My current craving to see the world definitely includes visiting a completely new corner of the world. (Not that hard to find, my world-travelling is limited to Europe and that one trip to NZ) I've visited the Western world, now it's time for... the Eastern world?
  • It's not Thailand. Not saying I have anything against Thailand, it was actually my number 1 country of interest for a while, till I started getting bored of it. Thailand is such a cliché in Finland (where I am atm), if you're Finnish and you speak nothing but Finnish and you're a drunk and a tourist and want a Thai wife, you go to Thailand. Such a stereotype. So it's purely my desire to sound less like a clichéy Finn who cannot think of any other interesting countries apart from Thailand. I am exaggerating of course. Can't wait to visit Thailand too whilst over there.
    Who cannot love Thailand? 
  • It's a suitably popular yet not too popular a TEFL-country. It's the same when it comes to tourism. There is an increasing amount of travel articles online and in my mummy's ladies' magazines about the exotic country of Vietnam, often overlooked whilst planning travels, but gaining more and more popularity. Same with its popularity as a country to do TEFL in.
  • Its currency is the 'dong'. And you count them by millions.

  • It used to be a French colony. As most should sadly know. I'm not officially using the French I studied for my degree in my teaching, but since Vietnam used to be a French colony, there is still a number of people who speak it as their second language. Well, more than some other South-East Asian countries.

What to expect? Well, I think I will be teaching kids, so under 11-year-olds. Which is quite fun since I realised again last week how much I LOVE kids. (Though, I have worked enough with kids knowing that that love can disappear as quickly as it comes...) The school are providing me with induction & training & everything so not too nervous about the teaching itself. Yet. 

I also expect to conquer my irrational fear of creepy-crawlies. (Or not.) “Large tropical insects may be numerous,” promised one description for a job in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily I have no problems with exciting flying giant beetles and ESPECIALLY not humongous spiders... tarantulas are basically like gerbils with a few extra legs, right, right, right? Wait, not gerbils. GUINEA PIGS. Or maybe even baby pigs. How big are baby pigs? Coz when I made the mistake of googling “largest spider in Vietnam” it came up with a fascinating description of the “world's largest spider” being discovered there with the leg span of a plate. Ah. <3

(Just to make sure, note sarcasm.) (***SHUDDDDEERRRRRR***)

(Since I don't wish to deter my friend James I will not post a photo of said spider. Unless I meet one live. Then it's a must.)

I was a bit apprehensive about the location, Bien Hoa. I tried googling it numerous times and the main news article that came up was about some deadly toxins being found in the military airbase there or something like that. If you google image it all you can find is picture of the military airbase there. Well, planes are cool...
Some of the few Bien Hoa images on google
Now I know a bit more from being in touch with some of the teachers there. I expect it to be small, and.... well, I honestly don't know. It's not necessarily small, just nothing compared to the neighbouring Ho Chi Minh. But I knew from the start that I'd rather at least start off somewhere which is not the largest metropolis in this vastly-populated country, where apparently crossing the road is an exciting near-death experience every day. And Bien Hoa has often been described as 'authentic'. And that is exactly what I want. I am here to get to know a new culture. (And if I do decide I don't like it, my highly efficient language school provides a relocation allowance to transfer to another location after six months.)
At least they have colourful lorries!
And a new language, hopefully. I have been watching Vietnam-learning videos on the beloved youtube. Did you know that in Vietnamese 'thank you' is said 'come on'? Well, okay, if you say “come on” to a Vietnamese when they hand you a portion of pho they will probably find you highly amusing, but at least I remember the gist of how you say it when I think of it like that! Oh and numbers: 'two' is 'hi!' (as opposed to 'hello!' and the intonation is really high too), 'three' is 'baa' like the sheep, and 'five' is a very highly-intonated 'nam' like when you have that FIRST BITE OF CHOCOLATE-BAILEYS-MASCARPONE CHEESE-CAKE MY FRIENDS MADE ME AS A GOODBYE-GESTURE OM NOM NOM NOM NOM........

Heavenly. Thank you H & H-le  <3 <3
ANYWAYS, the Vietnamese language will not be TOO small a challenge... luckily, according to some website, there are only five different levels of intonation in the south (where I'm going), the north has six. :P
I also expect to feel slightly more grown up. At the school at least. The dress code is very strict. Vietnamese students consider their teachers as the “complete source of all knowledge” according to someone somewhere online. Complete sources of all knowledge are not allowed to wear skirts shorter than knee-length, and the shirts must not reveal midriff, cleavage or shoulders and it must be 'smart'. Ok, who can classify smart for me?
Ho Chi Minh City
Vaccinationwise, I've had my first Japanese B Ency-jab, my first Hepatitis A&B jab, my sailor disease jab tablets consumed, malaria tablets in my half-packed suitcase. Next jabs will be done in Ho Chi Minh City. That will be interesting. 

I don't know properly know anyone in Ho Chi Minh, but luckily I have a few random contacts - a friend of a friend, a few contacts from my newly-discovered website, as well as, randomly, a girl from Ho Chi Minh who happened to be working at this AMAZING frozen yogurt café in Helsinki. (They do waffle and bagel brunches and is very highly recommended. <3) (Anyone else have any contacts in Vietnam? Lemme know :) 

Some cheeky advertising... Runeberginkatu 54 A <3


I'm still waiting for this to sink in. Loyal long-term fans will remember my ecstaticness on my Dubai-Brisbane flight. MY FIRST TIME OUTSIDE OF EUROPE. However, this time, in a way, I don't want to think about it too much because it will scare me. I am so excited, first time properly in the vast, crazily-populated continent of ASIA, but at the same time, it's new for me, brand-new language, culture and job, and I'll be leaving my family and friends for a whole year... (though, it's not THAT bad, have got quite a few promises of visitors already :) YOU ARE ALL MORE THAN WELCOME TO COME VISIT ME MY MUNCHKINS <3 

I fly on the 25th of this month. A twelve-hour direct flight. Arriving at 7am on the 26th. Given my (non)abilities of sleeping on planes, it will be intriguing to see how much of that first very long day I will get through awake...

As always, comments/opinions/thoughts/tips/feedback/criticism/completely pointless remarks are MORE THAN WELCOME. :) 

Tam biêt!

PS. As some further reading, some recent news on South-East Asia...

PPS. Whilst googling images for this post, I accidentally strayed onto a dodgy Vietnamese-foods blog... And made the following decision: I am learning what 'dog' is in Vietnamese before I arrive. Just to know what to say 'no' to......... Suddenly large spiders don't seem that bad after all.

PPPS. On third thoughts, I'm going vegetarian.
Or sugarian 


  1. Thank you for all the information and impressions and being open about how you feel about this exciting and daunting next step in your life. <3 You'll master the five tones of Vietnamese quickly, I am sure! And will look very smart. :) All the best, dear daughter! xxx

    1. I should go buy some smart clothes... <3 xxx

  2. Let me tell you a little story.
    I did most of my high school in what society calls a “third world country”, Honduras. I attended an upper class school where teachers were hired in the US and brought to our school in pretty much your same conditions.

    At the beginning of the school year we (student body) would be full of expectations as to what type of Americans would arrive.
    Some of them were not so young and experienced, but some were, as I look back now, young professionals starting off their careers. They brought some weird ones sometimes too, all nice though.

    All along we portrayed them as mature adults; really serious people. Little did I know I would later view them as I see you; just a happy-go-lucky girl.
    One of my junior high school English teachers at the time actually fits your profile.
    Funny thing is if I had known they were as easygoing as you seem to be, I would have been much more open with them.

    Reading this made me catch a glimpse of how fortunate I was to be one of the few kids in Honduras to have the privilege of having role models with your characteristics…
    Good luck Emma, all the best and greetings from Mallorca!

    1. This is very interesting! Yep it's funny how differently you are portrayed when you're having a teaching job, a bit overwhelming! But on the other hand, the good thing is that the kids will indeed (hopefully) respect you. :D

  3. Hope to visit you there <3
    Kivaa että jatkat sun kivaa blogia!