As the tourist dollars roll in, the English teachers line up!
Since Vietnam opened her doors to foreign visitors in 1992 after over fifteen years of isolationism, rapid change is afoot. A new market has opened and business has seeped into every available niche. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are there on the billboards and cafes, Nestle have their fingers in many pies, KFC has opened several restaurants, and the list goes on.
It is not only the commercial sector that is expanding. Vietnam has now been added to the tourist trail, with travellers as likely to visit Hoi An in the Central Highlands of Vietnam as they are to trek up to Chiang Mai in Thailand. The government is welcoming foreign tourist dollars as a means to allow the economy to expand, thus providing employment for people from all sectors of society.
Yet even with the influx of foreign influence, Vietnam still retains its own traditions and its own unique character. Some would argue that the coffee shop culture seen throughout the country is a colonial leftover, but one taste of the vanilla-edged local coffee will convince you that this is truly Vietnamese. Where else in the world are there so many motor-scooters (not bikes, due to the 125cc limit on engine size) coming from all directions, sometimes with four passengers, sometimes transporting thirty live chickens or even plate glass?
The expansion of both tourism and business has consequently led to the arrival of the English Language industry. The demand for native speakers is high, exacerbated by the years of closure. Many students have studied English at high school and are skilled in the process of grammar translation, yet stumble when confronted with a simple 'How're you doing?' With over 30 schools in Ho Chi Minh City, work is relatively easy to find in the South, ranging from teaching children right up to ESP for doctors, nurses and government officials. With the high number of foreign companies located in Ho Chi Minh City, the corporate market is also huge. There is also the opportunity for academic work with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology having established the first foreign language University in Ho Chi Minh City, with plans to expand to Hanoi in the coming months. In the much smaller capital many more schools are starting to appear as demand for English grows, although this has yet to spread to the provinces. With relatively high wages for EFL work ($10 - 20 an hour, in comparison to the common $800 a month wages in Thailand) and a low cost of living, Vietnam is a very attractive prospect for anyone interested in teaching in SE Asia.