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Pros and cons of being a Vietnamese foreigner in the ESL/EFL world in Vietnam

It is well known that in Vietnam everybody prefers to study English with a foreigner who is Caucasian, not Asian. After so many years of teaching English in Vietnam I am still amazed of the discrimination in hiring English teachers based on their race. I already wrote an article on this matter and today, based on a request from one of my YouTube viewers I want to talk about the pros and cons of being Vietnamese foreigner in the ESL world in Vietnam.

Here is his request:

“I watched a couple of your videos and saw that it is slightly more difficult for a person if they do not look like a White Foreigner to get an ESL Position. I’ve also been reading around how it might be even more difficult for a Vietnamese Foreigner to get hired. Can you make a video talking about the pros and cons of being a Vietnamese Foreigner and wanting to go back to Vietnam to teach English through your own experience?”

My experience on this matter is limited since I am not Vietnamese Foreigner but I encountered a few situations that put me in a position to have a genuine opinion related to this topic.

I do have an acquaintance who is American citizen but looks Vietnamese since his parents are Vietnamese. He has lived in the USA all his life and everything about him is American, but not his face.

I asked the schools I work for if they would hire an American and they all said “YES” but when they heard that he looks Vietnamese then the answer was “the parents will never accept their children to study English with someone who is not white skin”. Any further discussion is useless since everybody thinks the same.

However, everything changed when he had a job interview with a foreigner. This interviewer didn’t care about the race. He clearly stated that as long as you have the right skills you will be hired. So, finally, my friend got a teaching job at a very good school with a very good salary.

This was just a short story to get an idea about how things work here if you are not “white skin”.

Now, let’s get back to pros and cons of being a Vietnamese Foreigner who wants to come back to Vietnam to teach English.

I will start with the cons since I personally see just one and that is the fact that a Vietnamese Foreigner doesn’t look foreigner. He looks Vietnamese and English language is not “Vietnamese”, it is “foreigner”. Vietnamese looking teacher teaching foreign language is just something that doesn’t match. Every single language school in Vietnam wants to have as many “white skin” teachers going around to be seen because they “match” with English language so the school looks good in parents’ eyes. So, this is the only cons I can think of.

When it comes to pros I think there are several things that can give to a Vietnamese foreigner a great advantage over a Caucasian teacher.

First of all you look Vietnamese so you can blend in better. You can make friends easily and if you can speak Vietnamese, as my friend can, then it would be very easy to make friends with other Vietnamese teachers of English. This gives you a great advantage since finding a job is at least 50% having relations, particularly local teachers who can introduce you to other schools.

Another big advantage is “understanding Vietnamese culture”. You have lived all your life in a Vietnamese family, people have been speaking Vietnamese around you, and for sure you have Vietnamese relatives. This is a great advantage since you don’t start anything from “zero”.

The third advantage is visa conditions. Starting with January 1st, 2015, Vietnamese visa for foreigners is more expensive, much more expensive than it used to be. However, Vietnamese foreigners have an advantage here since the visa conditions and its cost are more relaxed. I don’t know more details but there is plenty of information online regarding this matter. Also, a working visa can be easily obtained which allows you to find a “real job”.

All the advantages I mentioned here are advantages only if you speak Vietnamese. Hope this article clarifies many things for all those who are Vietnamese foreigners.


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