Leaving Thailand for Vietnam at 60

by Jim
(Bangkok, Thailand)

First, I found your insight and concrete information on "Teaching English in Vietnam" absolutely great.

I've been teaching ESL in Thailand for four years now and am tired of barely making ends meet and dipping into my US funds too often.

I just turned 60, which I found out is the mandatory retirement age for government schools at all levels here. I don't act or look anything close to 60 (I'm told) and had planned to work until I'm 70. (Don't they know 70 is the new 60?!) I'm still finding business English and in-house corporate work, which I actually prefer, because the students are motivated adults or must act as if (the boss is watching).

However, the work load is up and down -- mainly down now. Is there a lot of business and corporate work in Saigon? I would think so. From what you write, 60 is not the kiss of death there.

Oh, one thing though: I just followed your link to SaigonESl.com. It is a website "under construction -- coming soon" and none of its links have anything on them. A pop-up says it just a "place-holder domain page" with no actual website attached. There are no teacher forums or reviews or anything I could find.

Other than that, thanks so much for your fantastic information. I was planning on sticking it out in Thailand until the first of the year, but thanks to your warning, I'm not going in January.

Oh, one other thing: Do you have similar insight on teaching in Kuala Lumper or know where to find any? I'm told I'd love that city, so its my other consideration.

BTW: I have a teaching degree from the US and now experience teaching ESL to Asians, of course.

Thanks, thanks, and thanks again.



Reply from Travel-Budget-Asia.com

Thank You for the compliments and the bad link to SaigonESL. Someone took over the WebSite as the previous owner gave up. I would not mind making a Black-List of schools myself since SaigonESL.com went under.

I don't blame them for going under, though. There is so little money in the TEFL business for small websites that most give up.

The only way they could make money was if people clicked the ads on their site or if someone bought one of the better Online TEFL courses - free trial. if they bothered to search out the very best.

I'll never understand why a webmaster would offer anything but the best TEFL Courses on the website. You can pick any TEFL provider in the world and offer their product.

Some websites promote Junk to increase their profit margin. They go for the quick money instead and they get some good money for a short while but can't stay in Business long. Mother Google always catches them.

My Advice - You Asked for It

Don't Leave Thailand For Vietnam.

There are many Corporate Jobs in Saigon. There are not nearly as many options in Ho Chi Minh City as there are in Bangkok, though.

I think the whole idea of you turning 60 has you spooked. Are you sure that your hours are greatly decreasing? And are you sure it is because of your age alone?

I say this because I once did the same as you are thinking of doing. After 4 years in Bangkok I thought I needed a change so I went to Saigon and was immediately impressed.

I was now earning triple the money I had been in Bangkok. I liked it for the first 7 months and then I had to go back to Thailand.

Once Thailand is in your blood, nothing can replace it. My best advice is that you find a way to adapt but remain in Thailand. You are getting older and it will get harder to find work.

That sucks but try and adapt if you can.

They should react to you with a more open mind in Vietnam than in Thailand (To Age, Anyways). Yet, you will never find in Vietnam that illusive part of Thailand that gets in your blood.

I have always considered my decision to move to Saigon as a mistake. You are giving up more than you'll know, at least until you get here and have worked for a while.

Don't burn any bridges in Thailand before coming to Vietnam. I would say 80% who come from Bangkok return within a year. Even if they can earn 3X the salary.

You asked for my advice. I will not do anything but answer your questions from here. We all have an opinion and we're all wrong some of the time.

Finding Corporate Work in Saigon

When I worked in Bangkok I found it easy to find corporate work. The best way I ever got corporate work in Saigon was when one of the Corporations contacted the Private School where I worked.

I did a lot of corporate work in Saigon but it was always through the school where I worked. They referred me and I showed up at the corporate office to teach.

The School took a middleman cut and paid me very little. A few months ago I would have recommended you apply at a good Private School in Vietnam and make it clear to them that you specialize in corporate work.

Then cross your fingers and hope they like you. Corporate work always goes to the teacher they think will best represent them and who they like the most.

Then I discovered the Industrial Parks in Ho Chi Minh City. They are by far the best way to locate and contact companies looking for English teachers.

I went over the heads that were taking a cut and went straight to the Corporations myself.

My advice is to go to one of these corporate industrial parks around Saigon. Bring a stack of resumes and walk from Corporation to Corporation. Most large corporations in Saigon are all migrating into these types of Industrial Parks.

Dong Nam Industrial Park

Address: Binh My – Hoa Phu Commune, Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (84-8) 38479273 - (84-8) 38479375
Fax: (84-8) 38479272

You could also have a look at the Saigon High Tech Park. It is one of the Premier Industrial Parks in all of Vietnam with the highest tenant rates and the richest clients.

It calls itself the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park.

Most of the companies in the latter 2 industrial Parks are Korean, Taiwanese or Hong Kong based companies. I have been there. It is a great place to wander with a tie on and a resume.

What About Kuala Lumper?

Now we are going in the opposite direction as far as money goes.

I admit that I was just a full time teacher at an Erican school Branch but I stayed in Kuala Lumper for nearly a year and could not find great money.

The problem is quite simple. It is $10USD for a beer in many of the nightclubs and yet a teacher makes on average of about $1,000USD a month. In the end the rent got me. Rents on a small room are triple the cost of Thailand and yet the money you earn is even less.

Simple math. But Kuala Lumper sucked mostly because people are all covered up and you are never going to create relationships with the people around you unless you convert to Islam.

Their Muslim teaching tells them that we (Non-Muslims) are not to be included in any part of a Muslim's life. So you end up with a really isolated feeling, especially at work where you are the only Non-Muslim.

That's just the strict ones. I went there with a friend of 4 years. He is still there now, after 6 years. He has converted to the Muslim Faith and Married a Muslim woman.

He is from Indiana, USA. I guess some people fall in love with the place.

Good Luck, Jim


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