Greetings from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam! It’s hot, it’ humid, it’s the rainy season, and it’s busy! It’s been a big change from the lifestyle I had in Sydney, but I’ve adjusted quickly! My time spent living in Thailand prepared me for the chaos of motorbike-congested streets and the heat of tropical climates. After my time in Australia, I knew I was ready to get right back into teaching, and I did! I allowed myself one week to relax and get adjusted to my new surroundings, and by week two I had secured a job and an apartment! And now, I have a second job, a gym membership, and a few cool friends who make my time here more enjoyable. So let me break down these months so far!
I had three friends already living in Ho Chi Minh city before I moved here, so I was able to ask them about their lives here, what schools to apply to, and where to look for housing. I appreciate the little support system I had, and I had met these friends at different points of my traveling life, so it was fun to see these people all in one place! One I’d met in Thailand, one in Korea, and another I’d never actually met in person until now since we just talked online about teaching in Korea and Vietnam. Knowing people living in Vietnam definitely influenced my decision to come here. It was comforting to actually go somewhere where I wouldn’t start my social circle up completely from scratch.
My job: I was fortunate to secure a job quickly with a reputable school. It was the first and only place I applied to. I sent in my application using their online portal, I emailed the hiring manager, and then I visited the main campus to show my immediate interest in securing a job. Now, I work for VUS – Vietnam USA Society English Center, which has 17 campuses all around Ho Chi Minh city (aka Saigon). My campus is just a 10 minute drive from my apartment in District 3. I’m currently on a probation period, allowing me time to get my work permit arranged with their help. I’ve been very happy with the support I receive, the resources available to me, and the overall structure of the classes.
I work on an hourly basis, and it’s mostly evenings and weekends. During my first week I only worked 9 hours, but some weeks I’ve worked 27. The hours fluctuate depending on your availability, students enrolled, when classes end and begin, reviews, and seniority. Knowing that I had my weekday mornings free, I decided to find a day job. I posted on a local expats groups for teachers living in Saigon and had several people contact me, but I only took on one additional job teaching a summer class of young learners Monday through Friday for a few hours before my evening classes. Overall, I’m working every day, my schedule isn’t always consistent, and there are days where I have large gaps in between classes. This type of schedule may not be for everyone, but for now I don’t mind it. I have plenty of free time and I can change my availability as needed. The work-life balance here is quite the opposite of that in a Korean English academy for example, but both have their pros and cons. For now, I’m very happy with the amount I’m working, how much I’m earning, and how much time I have to just enjoy my own life.
My apartment: I have lived in 2 apartments. I found my first apartment on Craigslist, but it was also listed on another expats Facebook group for housing. I paid roughly $315 USD per month for a private bedroom and private bathroom in a shared house. It included wifi, TV and cable, weekly maid service, changing of my bed sheets every two weeks, and drinking water. I had a private balcony, mini-fridge in my room, and everything was in move-in condition. I was very happy with it, and the location as well! I paid extra for my electricity and laundry. The housing here is unique since most homes are built with several floors. Mine for example had four. The layout makes the living situation feel more private.
Last month, I decided to move into a new place to save some money. At my current apartment, rent is $265 USD per month. I gave up the private, en-suite bathroom, balcony, and TV, but I gained a larger room, cheaper rent, a large kitchen I can cook in, and laundry service is included, which saves me a good chunk of money and time per month! Funny enough, it’s only a 6 minute walk from my old apartment, so I still get to live in the area I like!
My gym: My friend introduced me to his gym, which is only a short distance from where I live. I pay roughly $24 USD per month for a membership. I’m on a pay as you go situation, so if I signed up for six months or longer it could be cheaper! I’m pretty satisfied with it. There are several machines in great condition, three floors, free weights, cardio area, one of those boxing things you can hit, a lounge area playing HBO with massage chairs, showers, and a protein smoothie bar! I always treat myself to a banana vanilla protein smoothie after a workout for just under $2! There are definitely fancier gyms. For the price of an average gym membership in Sydney or San Francisco, you could be getting some high class gym life out here. One of my friends goes to a gym with a gorgeous pool, sauna, fitness classes, and a whole floor dedicated to Muy Thai boxing and martial arts, but pays about $90 USD per month! Fancy living, but for now I’ll settle with the basics!
So what do I do with my free time? Turns out HCMC has a lot to offer! From what I’ve seen so far, there are loads of bars, many offering daily happy hours or drink promotions, craft beer, and the rooftop bars offer beautiful views of the city! There are art sketch nights, Latin dance classes, hip hop and b-boy dance battles, indoor climbing, shopping malls, boutique clothing stores, outdoor markets, acting and improv workshops, swimming pools, dodgeball meetups, ultimate Frisbee, pub quiz nights, and hundreds of cafes to spend your time in! And of course, there are travel opportunities within Vietnam and nearby! In Vietnam I’m hoping to visit Sapa, Hoi An, Mui Ne, and some beach towns! And being in such close proximity to other Asian countries, I’m hoping I can plan a short trip to Japan, Cambodia, Myanmar, and South Korea!
At the moment, I see myself staying here for long enough to pay off my credit card debt, and then save up for the next destination. I’m beginning to yearn for a more stable life. One where I can date and have the potential for it to actually go somewhere. A life where I go back to school to get a Master’s degree and pursue something I’m more passionate about. A life where I can begin to build memories with my friends and family from home while exploring more of the states! The idea is really growing on me, but I won’t be ready for that life until I get to live in a Spanish speaking country. Currently I’m juggling between moving to Colombia, Mexico, Spain, or Ecuador next! Each has it’s own appeal for me, but ultimately I need to make a choice that won’t drain me financially while possibly opening up new opportunities. I get scared thinking that I’ll regret not taking the plunge sooner! Until then, I’ll be enjoying my last year or so in Asia. It’s been great to me, and there’s still so much to experience here. Next week for example, I’ll be getting ready for my 8-day trip to Thailand! I’ve been there twice before, but I really enjoy what Thailand has to offer, so if I love it, I definitely go back to it! Will post photos soon 😉