Teaching English in Vietnam
Do you want to know what it’s like to teach in Vietnam? Are you considering teaching English abroad? Read on to find out more from one of our EFL teachers about living in Vietnam!
By: Meredith Clarke, Teacher at WSE Vietnam
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam late on a Thursday night. The airport attendant led me through the ever-shifting crowd awaiting its myriad loved ones to a green taxicab. I leaned into the front seat to show the driver the piece of paper with my hostel’s address written on it. With a nod, we were off – this was the start of my time living in Vietnam as a EFL teacher.
My eyes were wide out the window despite the sleepless 36-hour journey I had just finished. The outside world skated by like a strange dream, other people’s faces and shoulders and elbows and knees closer to me than they ever had been while I was in a moving vehicle. My taxi honked and swerved smoothly through the darting motorbikes blowing their own horns more often than not. I looked out the back and noticed our tires were straddling the dotted line spilling behind us. We reached my hostel safe and sound after making several (what I perceived to be) illegal u-turns and blowing no fewer than two stoplights.
Driving was the single biggest fear I had coming to teach English as a Foreign Language in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, and has since turned to one of my greatest joys. I had never ridden a motorbike before the start of my travels in Asia, but after a few weeks working in Vietnam, I was on the road.
Behind the handlebars, the chaos I perceived in the taxi my first night started to make sense. There is a natural flow to the movement of the traffic, which is largely undirected by stop signs or traffic lights. (And even when it is, the decision to abide by them is entirely yours.) Bikers travel in packs when they make left turns to help and protect each other. People, for the most part, only break the rules when there will be no consequences. (I cannot tell you how excited I get every time I don’t have to stop at a red light when there is zero traffic.)
And the experience of being on a bike in the middle of a busy Saigon road can be a delight, despite appearances. You can hear people humming to themselves, watch couples cling to each other as they whiz down the road to their next happy destination, see motorists give their bicyclist counterparts a push with a foot on their back peg. People ask for directions through face masks and tell each other when their kickstand is down or if their cargo straps are sagging in the back. It’s a group effort, driving.
Before you commit to your own bike though, it’s best to sit on the back of a Grab (Vietnam’s Uber) Bike and get the feel for the traffic. Get yourself a lesson, a rental, and practice until you feel ready to buy. Do some research before you buy a bike, as there are plenty of options to consider, and you want something you can ride for a long time.
Then, hit the road!