Arriving in Vietnam Can Be Hard: Meet the Woman Helping to Make it a Bit Easier for our Teachers
It’s not a huge secret that traveling and moving abroad is HARD. You’re looking for apartments, making new friends, and adjusting to a new job, all while navigating culture shock, homesickness, and a language barrier.
That’s why it’s so important to have awesome in-country coordinators to help you get through that challenging transition time so you can focus on enjoying your new host country. We want to highlight just one of our many amazing in-country team members that help our travelers feel settled during their life abroad.
Jenny is our in-country coordinator for the Teach English in Vietnam program. A Ho Chi Minh City native, she’s an awesome resource for our new teachers as they search for housing, learn to navigate and make the most of this sprawling city, and adjust to life in Vietnamese culture. We reached out to her to get some insider info on life in HCMC and on this program!
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with our teaching partner, Xplore Asia?
My nickname is Jenny, and my real name is Nguyễn Thị Hồng Phượng, which means a “red phoenix.” I am from Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. I started learning English when I was 12, and I studied the language mostly from my favorite teacher in an extra class. My English friend who knows Michael and XploreAsia told me that the company was recruiting an in-country coordinator. I found it interesting, so I applied and got the job.
What’s your favorite thing about working with new English teachers?
They always point out the differences between Vietnam and where they come from. It is very helpful for me to assist them and help them adapt to their new environment.
Why do you think it’s important to have someone in the country to welcome native English teachers in Vietnam?
In my opinion, it is essential to have a local to welcome and work with native English teachers, as new teachers can meet some cultural differences and personal difficulties. In those cases, there should be a person who knows the situations well to support or assist the teachers.
What’s your process when a new teacher arrives in Ho Chi Minh City?
First, I will have a welcome lunch/dinner with new English teachers on the first or second day of their arrival. During that meeting, I will give them a brief introduction about Vietnam, XploreAsia and some additional information which they should know in advance. Then, we have three Vietnamese language lessons, a visit to the War Remnants Museum, and sometimes I go to find an accommodation for them. I will arrange the dates depending on their time of availability.
Can you tell us a little about life in Ho Chi Minh City? Favorite places? Biggest challenges?
Ho Chi Minh city is a busy, energetic, yet friendly city where people always give others a hand. I used to love going to the cinema to watch movies; however, as I grow up and want to know more about the meaning of life, I sometimes wander on the streets around district 1, 3, …, take some pictures of street vendors selling cheap but delicious food or old places built since French domination (the beauty of Saigon which is at risk of being diluted).
Regarding biggest challenges, there are pickpockets and scammers who cause problems to other people; food poison is also a concerning issue.
Do you think foreigners have an easy or difficult time adjusting to life here? Why?
From my point of view, it depends a lot on the teachers. Although there are differences in some way, Vietnam is an easy place for anyone to live and experience because people here are friendly. This country is cross-cultural, which means you can see various types of food and people around your area. It can make you feel like home really soon. Additionally, Vietnam offers numerous opportunities for those who love traveling. We have fascinating mountains, beautiful beaches, breath-taking caves, and so on.
What advice would you give to people considering moving to Vietnam to teach?
I would say to people coming to Vietnam to teach English to buy yourself a good helmet, prepare comfortable clothes due to the hot weather, but still bring some formal ones for teaching; finally, enjoy every moment because it can be a little tough, but it will be an amazing experience as well.
What are your favorite places to visit in Vietnam?
I cannot tell which places I love the best, for each destination has its own beauty. Anyway, I will list some sites which really amazed me:
- Trang An-Ninh Binh
- Bai Dinh pagoda
- Hoi An
- Da Nang
- Phu Yen
- Nha Trang islands
- Da Lat
- Mekong Delta
Anything else you’d like people to know about you, the program, or Vietnam?
About me, I can speak a little French, so I will be happy if someone wants to communicate with me in French. I am a food lover, so I hope I will be able to recommend you good food places when you visit Vietnam. I am also open to exchanging knowledge and ideas about any topic because I strongly believe that each person has a different perspective. When we share our thoughts to others, it can end up with wonderful things.
To people coming to Vietnam, always mind the traffic as it might be different from where you live, scooters are more than cars and sometimes people drive carelessly; be careful with your belongings as well.