Working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Monthly Earnings 49 million VND (around 67,000 baht)
Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
I make 40 million VND from the regular job at a school. Then I make an extra 9 million VND from a language centre, where I teach English conversation to adults three evenings a week.
Q2. How much money can you save each month?
I'll switch to Thai Baht from now on. I can comfortably save around 27,000. I could save more but I still like to have a decent quality of life.
Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?
I pay 6,500 baht for a small studio in a nice quiet but very suburban area about an hours moto ride from District 1. One thing that's disappointing in Vietnam is the standard of accommodation. Apartments here are mostly 'communisty-style', boxy rooms with bad paint jobs, weird decoration and bars on the windows.
Modern condos with pools, gyms etc that are common in Thailand are pretty rare here and cost more than they would in Thailand. That said, I still enjoy where I live.
Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
I rent my bike for 1,000 baht a month and spend maybe another 1,000 baht on petrol, depending on how often I travel into the city.
Wi-fi is included in my rent. Electricity and water is maybe 800-1,000 baht a month
Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping
I'm not a fan of Vietnamese food so tend to eat more international stuff which costs more. On the whole, the food scene here isn't as good as Thailand. While I like Pho and there are a few decent street food places, I can't eat it every day.
Maybe 4,000 baht a month on food.
Nightlife and drinking
I don't spend too much on nightlife. Mostly I just go to the local Western pub with other teachers once a week for some beers and food, or I'll chill at a 15 cent a beer street-bar with one of my friends who lives near me. Sometimes I do go to District 1 but I'm not a big party animal.
A common complaint about Vietnam from a lot of experienced Thailand heads is that it's boring. While I wouldn't say it's boring, I can understand where they're coming from. Nightlife, even in Saigon, is much more provincial than Thailand and Bui Vien just can't match Bangkok's entertainment zones. Dating is also more difficult than it is in Thailand as it's a more conservative culture.
Hanoi is even worse as they are required to close all bars before midnight and the police regularly patrol to enforce it.
I definitely recommend Vietnam for more serious teachers rather than partying backpackers on a jolly.
I get mine from school so nothing spent in this category.
Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?
I have a very good quality of life. In the TEFLsphere x-y axis scale of salary/quality of life, I'd probably rate Vietnam, especially near Saigon, as one of the worlds best places. It definitely punches above its weight.
It's cheaper than Thailand and I can earn far more than I can there. The people seem better too as they are more worldly-wise than the Thais and not so nationalistic.
The visa red tape is a lot easier to deal with than in Thailand. Most companies will sponsor you for a two-year temporary residence card which you can enter/exit the country as many times as you like. There is no need to apply for a re-entry visa and there are no 90-day checks in. Agencies can also sponsor this for you.
Vietnam is a real up and comer in the emerging world so unlike military-dictatorship, going-backwards Thailand, there really is potential for growth in Vietnam in the future.
It's definitely worth a look at for any ajarns who are jaded with the low salaries, visa hassle and anti-farang sentiment in Thailand but who still want live the laid-back, tropical Southeast Asian lifestyle and want to earn some real dollar but don't fancy the lifestyle 'wastelands' of the Middle East or the freezing winters of Korea.
Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?
Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?
Even on a part-time language centre salary of around 18 million VND (around 25,000 baht), you can live a pretty reasonable lifestyle and I think much better than you would in Thailand.
This also gives you a lot of free time to explore the country around you. In Hanoi or Saigon proper, you'll probably need more than this to enjoy the same lifestyle but there are also a lot of job opportunities. Many teachers just work one job and enjoy their free time or supplement their income with an extra part time gig online or at a language centre.
Full timers will typically earn around double this (50K+ baht) and this affords you a very good quality of life and saving potential. It really is up to you and what you prefer.
Phil's analysis and comment
Thanks JD, it's always good to hear from a teacher in Vietnam who also has Thailand experience. When a foreign teacher has had enough of Thailand but wants to stay in SE Asia, then Vietnam is often high on the list of escape routes.
You certainly paint a positive picture of life in Vietnam and some of those numbers are impressive. Obviously the lack of quality accommodation is a downside but that seems far outweighed by the positives.