moving to work in Vietnam

I'm going to take another stab at getting advice from people about this. I realize I'm going over well-trod ground with this topic.

I'm considering a move to Vietnam at some point. I like the country but have only been there over the last few years as a tourist. I'm probably not going to move right away. But I'm thinking. I'm wondering how "older" folks feel about their work there and about my prospects and what kinds of jobs I can hope to attain. I'm nearly 50. Not old but older!

Actually, what I'd be giving up to go over there is quite considerable. I make great money and have extensive vacations teaching an easy schedule in Japan. But I don't love Japan and can't really see spending the rest of my days here. One question I had, that I didn't get a reply to in another post, is abut my credentials. I have an M.A. in international studies and a dozen years teaching experience in Japanese universities. I'm augmenting this with an online TEFL for Vietnamese requirement.

So the question is what can I hope for in terms of salary and choices of jobs in Vietnam? How about you long-term people who have built a working life there? Satisfied?

I'd like to keep the complaining to a minimum here. I mean, try to keep the negative comments concise.

I've lived in Japan for years and am familiar with feeling negative about an unchangeable system. The advantage of Japan is money and ease.

What are the advantages to Vietnam?

life is short. my answers will be rather broad in context.

each country will have their advantages and disadvantages. money isn't everything right? /rhetoric. just a figure of speech.  there are probably a lot more things you have to put up with in Vietnam compared to Japan or any other developed society. though strangely enough there are also many who whinging and bicker about the state of Vietnam yet choose to live in it. it goes to show the advantages out-weights the disadvantages.

teaching makes good money in Vietnam also. cost of living is low, therefore I'm guessing it's probably proportionate to Japan. I can't tell you what the students are like here, though I do see tired teachers walking around all the time. I don't think people in Vietnam like much change either, unless it makes them more money, they aren't really interested.

just jump. heres a TED to help you make up your mind.

@cossmo thanks for the input. The money might be similar proportionally  speaking but, what you have to do for it is likely much different. Plus, once you step out of each respective country, your Japanese savings is likely to get you much further. Japan has what some call "golden handcuffs." And, it's an extremely easy place to live: like butter. Like walking through a dream. You can get home from work before you even wake up! Although, the people are "remote," you'll never know what anybody really feels about anything. The money part is true in an interesting way. It probably motivates significant change in VN and one sees it in the students. That motivation has long been absent in Japan. It may be decades until it returns, if ever. I also sense that academic credentials and experience are worthless in Vietnam and the managers are CELTA-obsessed? Universities are less or un-developed. Vietnam looks like it could be a real slog just getting home in one piece.

Let's put it this way. Vietnam and many other Asian countries that you choose to expatriate to must have something great to offer. Something that you can't find in your homeland. So why not just take a leap of faith and embrace the country for what it has to offer. At least the government and its people are willing to accept you for the time being. The worst case scenario you can always repatriate to wherever it is that you came from. Most Vietnamese don't have this option. Consider yourself lucky that you are wanted in this country. Imagine if you were the Syrians trying to seek refuge in Europe or the U.S. The door is pretty much kept ajar or closed and the wall is getting higher.


I do feel lucky, even while being the complainer that I am. There is one thing about which I disagree: If I leave the Japanese system, it's possible the hole from which I escape will close up behind me. I know people that left easy street and couldn't get back onto it. I don't know about VN. The primary/secondary schools I contacted don't seem to value my M.A. and decades of experience even with an online TEFL. They want that CELTA and then I can use my hard-earned M.A. for wrapping paper? It doesn't sit well. I worked too hard for it. I like Vietnam though. I like the spirit. I think I have something to offer in my humble way. I'll keep looking around this year. I'm still a bit unclear about options in Vietnam and long-term prospects.

"Imagine if you were the Syrians trying to seek refuge in Europe or the U.S." Yes. I am lucky indeed. My ancestors also suffered towards my gain. It's definitely a lucky thing to have choices. I'm not sure I'm really understanding the jobs picture in Vietnam. Several times I was there I tried to talk to expats about their lives and jobs but I never felt I got the full picture. Language centers and kindergartens? That's the market? 1200$ a month is too little at my age. Maybe I should buy a noodle factory. Or a durian field.

I'm sure you will find work at some place soon. It is a big city and new centers are popping up on a monthly basis. Just rake in as much $$ while you can. When you're tired of dealing with their nonsense then just open up your own tutoring center. At this point I don't see the longevity of this profession. Who knows what these people will come up with in the future. By the way, $1200 a month is pretty good for Vietnamese standard. I think you should lower your standard a bit when living in this country.

NoFluxGiven :

I'm sure you will find work at some place soon. It is a big city and new centers are popping up on a monthly basis. Just rake in as much $$ while you can. When you're tired of dealing with their nonsense then just open up your own tutoring center. At this point I don't see the longevity of this profession. Who knows what these people will come up with in the future. By the way, $1200 a month is pretty good for Vietnamese standard. I think you should lower your standard a bit when living in this country.

Thanks NoFluxGiven! This is the kind of thing that is very hard to figure out without having lived in VN. If you asked me what's a good salary in Japan, I would have to say it depends on a lot of things. If you're 25 with  B.A. and a language school job, then 275,000 yen a month isn't terrible. However, with more age and experience and expectations, lower middle class will still be only around 300,000 yen. If you teach in a good high school with some responsibilities, you might expect to make upwards of 350,000 yen and more, as you get older. If you have kids, it's still not easy, but OK if you have a partner making the same. University teachers or people with advanced degrees (and advanced debt, if you're American) and a family, might make between 400 and 600,000 yen. More than that is getting to be high middle class or even rich. Yen isn't that far from dollar. My dad was a construction worker in the states and, in the 70s and 80s, made 50-60 grand as a construction worker with a house and kids to support.
I cannot tell in VN what makes sense for what kind of worker. My expectations are flexible but I approach the idea of VN with skepticism. I like VN. I like the people. It seems a bit like the world west, as it were, in that maybe one can try a lot of things there. There is still new ground to be broken. I was impressed by the students haunting the backpacker area park over there. They are trying to do something and advance themselves and I respect that. Japanese uni students, in the main, have no time, inclination or incentive to do very much (there are exceptional situations, like some club activities). Very little is expected of them in terms of independent study or responsibility; very much in terms of obligations.
Vietnam seems like a fun place to make a business, if one has an idea and some cash.
As a teacher, the jobs I see in VN so far don't look good. I'm not sure if there is any encouragement for academic or critical skills. In Japan, they'll pay you to teach that stuff even if the system makes it impossible for students to pick them up. But I'm still interested in what's going on in VN. For 20-somethings, VN looks really fun. More fun than oldie Japan. Get a CELTA and jump in. But, I'm older and already get compensated for the time and effort I put into my advanced degree and work experience. I may do something anyway in VN. I may jump in anyway. But I'm still looking to understand the situation better.

Don't think. Just do it. You always have a chance of jumping in and jumping out as you like. No regrets just fun. Don't worry about any more as this country will give you more than you expect as long as you have an open attitude and I believe you do as you have Asia living experience

@an0932121399 Thanks! At my age, I have to consider a few things before making a move. However, I like Vietnam very much. HCS especially. Though, I still haven't travelled to so many places around VN. But HCMC is very friendly.

There is a huge great expat community those can give you a hand as they might adapt Vietnamese culture. Welcome to Vietnam

Hey vanross

I would like to give my insight as I plan to move to Vietnam one day. I could understand why you would want to make sure your making the right decision at your age. You probably have savings, pension and maybe even a property in japan that you would have to consider selling. Would this be your first major move decision? Are you japanese? American? The decision is tough for me as well, and I contemplated it for over 5 years and even till this day, my resolve hasn't changed. I'm a canadian vietnamese (viet kieu), which just means I'm the second generation who was born outside vietnam but somehow get draw into my mother homeland. I'm 30 years old with a mortgage, good job, pension, family, etc. If it wasn't for my wife, I would have left everything already and moved. I also contemplated thailand as a destination as well. Reason I'm leaning towards vietnam is it's easier for us. We have the 5 year visa excemption which makes it easier to renew in-country, the food is better since we grew up on vietnamese food, and the country still has the old time vibe with modern day luxuries when needed. I've travelled extensively throughout vietnam, all on a motorbike with my wife on the back and 2 backpacks and let me tell you, it will change your life. Consider that you visited and thinking about moving here, you probably already have some reason that's drawing you in. I've been to japan, Tokyo a few times and as much as I like their culture, food, and people, it's different. Expensive, very modern, and very much in order. Vietnam is the opposite, it's not expensive to live a "good life", things haven't developed at fast and everything's a chaos. But that's why I love it, everyday is a challenge, everyday is a new. It's like going exploring like Christopher Columbus. In the western world, if one person gets in a car accident because they were on the phone, it automatically means no one else should be on the phone while driving. So they make laws that control another aspect of your life. Everyday is like being locked in a prison cell, not for you to harm others, but to protect you from life. I'm not too sure if that applies much in japan though. Find what's important to you before you decided to move. Is it the easy going, simple life style your looking for at your age? Or security? Despite my age, most of my friends and ones I get a long with well are usually older Caucasian gents in the 50-60 because we have the large similarities in life. A nice peaceful lifestyle is ideal. A pint of beer at night by the beach, cup of joes in the morning, and watching locals hustle and bustle by you. As for your education, it sounds like you have a good teaching background and would be able to get most jobs at any university with decent pay. If I were your age, I probably wouldn't settle for any less than $2k usd/month salary. Remember lifestyle is cheaper and "better" so you don't need that $100k/year salary here. Than again, at your age, I wouldn't want to be teaching full time, and try to relax more. If your lucky, you might get a job that has a/c but than your stuck wearing professional clothes in the dusty traffic burning up in the heat. The language barrier will be there unless you learn the language. It is easy to get by though with just english. At a university, it's probably expected you work a little harder and care more about the students progress than at a language centre. Language centres will however be more flexible and easy to start. One recommendation I would make is to consider starting a business, higher some locals and sit back and watch. That way your not tied to one locations if you need to travel and your business is taken care of.

That's all I got for now, if you have any more question or details that interest you that I can actually answer, feel free to give me a shout or PM.

@Souett Thanks. I may PM you with a question or two. I appreciate the thoughtful post.


You have a very precise and clear explanation about everything important that one needs to know before moving to one country. With what you said, I can actually see Vietnam in a bigger picture. It is wonderful. My plan is already set and moving to Vietnam to work is my second and last plan. If Plan A doesn't work, for sure, I'm meant for Vietnam. Thanks! Your post was good-read. :)

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