Job Hunting in Hanoi

The two questions I get asked after I tell people I’m moving to Vietnam is: Do you have a job yet? What about a house lined up?

The answer to both prior to arrival was no. Unlike Korea, where you must have a job in order to get your visa (as the latter is tied to the former) and your employer arranges your housing, for Vietnam I was coming in with nothing but a hotel room booked for a week.

Now, from what I understand it is possible to line up both a job and an apartment before coming into the country. But I’ve also heard that it isn’t a great idea unless you’ve been here before, or possibly if you have friends here that can help sort you out.

Why is it not a great idea? Well, jobs and apartments seem very easy to get here. So why would you sign up for something without knowing what you were getting yourself into?

I’ll talk more about my apartment hunt in a separate post. For now, I’ll focus on how I’ve been job hunting.

For months leading up to leaving, I’ve been lurking on various Facebook groups trying to see how often jobs were posted and the kinds of offers being made. There are a good dozen groups that are just for job hunting in Hanoi. One often leads to the other, and all of them have thousands of members. Just try searching groups for “Hanoi”, “jobs”, “teaching”, or some combination and you will find a handful of them. Once you join one, you will often find the others as people post in multiple places. I haven’t found any one better than the other, although there are a few where it is rarer that people post.

There are also websites that you can check out – Craigslist Vietnam, The New Hanoian, and VietnamWorks, just to name a few. I did get an offer before I ever got to Vietnam via VietnamWorks, but overall I haven’t found as much on these sites as I see on the Facebook groups.

On the Facebook groups you will see schools/academies, individuals, and agencies all posting. Keep an eye on the posts and you’ll get a feel for who’s who and what’s what. I’ve been told to avoid agencies, but they can be hard to spot sometimes.

The other kind of posting you will see on these groups are teachers posting their availability and basically asking for work. I actually keep an eye out for these, not just to scope out the competition, but also to see if there are any good offers in the comments! I’ve gotten at least one interview this way.

In my first week, I’ve been contacted half a dozen times and I’ve already done three interviews with a fourth and fifth in the works. I’ve already verbally agreed to take one group on as a class, and I’m holding off on an academy’s offer until I finish with the interviews I have in the pipe. The other interview was with an agency. The job wasn’t right for me (even she said the salary was way too low for me) so I declined. I’m fairly confident that had I been less picky about where and with who I was applying, I could have been working already this week. There are definitely cover classes I could have picked up.

So if you are thinking of teaching in Hanoi, there is definitely a need for teachers here (especially qualified teachers!) and work is plentiful. I would recommend signing up for the various Hanoi Facebook groups before you even leave and start getting your finger on the pulse of the job scene here.

In another post I’l talk about my interviews, demos, and the offers that have come through. There have been three so far, and they’ve all been very different, so I’ll probably dedicate a post to each one.

Waking Up in Hanoi

On my first full day in Hanoi, I got up fairly early and grabbed breakfast before I headed out for a massage. This is something I had been looking forward to for a long time. In the last decade I’ve probably had two massages, as I’ve not had the cash for real ones and my husband doesn’t like to give them (should be a divorceable offense, good thing he’s awesome in other ways).

Breakfast was at the hotel on the main floor. It includes eggs, toast, coffee (or tea) and fresh fruit. It isn’t a spectacular breakfast, but it is free and fills the spot. I’ve been pleased with it each morning. Belly full, it was time to head out into the heat (oh the heat!) to a massage place I had read about online. Unfortunately, I had awoken too early and the place wasn’t open yet. Not sure what to do with myself, I headed on to grab some “egg coffee“, a specialty in Vietnam.

I went to Cafe Giảng to give this a try. It is supposed to be one of the older cafes and still run by the same family. I was ushered upstairs to a small table and ordered my coffee. It came quickly and looked much better than it sounded.

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I gave it a stir and gave it a sip. I know it sounds strange, but it was honestly delicious. To me, someone who usually drinks their coffee black, this isn’t something to drink every morning. But I would definitely get another cup of it. And at just 25,000d (about $1.10usd), it was a reasonably priced treat.

From Cafe Giảng I headed back towards Van Xuan on Ly Quoc Su in the Old Quarter. I did some research and I wanted cheap but awesome. Which is what I got. My hour long full-body massage was only $9. It was definitely not fancy; there is no spa music and I was in a room with other beds and other people getting their massages, too. But the girl doing the massaging did a great job and I was happy with it. I think next time I would go for just a foot massage instead, as it looks like it would be just a thorough with more focus on the feet, which is always so heavenly.

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After the massage I went back to the hotel for a shower. To say the least, I have showered a tonne this week because I am the sweatiest person on the planet. I certainly hope I acclimatise to the heat and humidity here before it really kicks off next month.

I was met at the hotel by Zach, a friend of a friend from Korea. An American teacher having lived in Hanoi for nearly a decade, my Korean friend thought he would be a good person to be in touch with. She was right; Zach was awesome.

We went for lunch at Xôi Yến, which is apparently well-known for its sticky rice. It was a very tasty dish.

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Xôi Yến was extremely busy, so once we finished eating we went across the street to Cộng Càphê for coffee, which I have since found out is a chain in Hanoi. It is very cool inside, but I only nabbed one quick picture before we sat down with our coffees and started chatting about everything I could think to ask questions for, from sorting garbage to which district to look for housing in.

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Zach put up with me for over two hours and was an amazing source of information. I was very reassured after speaking with him about getting on in Hanoi. I was feeling guilty for taking up all of his day, however, so I said my good-byes. He offered to give me a ride back to the hotel, but I was happy enough to walk as I am still trying to get a map of Hanoi etched in my head.

I walked about the Old Quarter for a bit, looking for a pharmacy. I had woken up with a severe headache (no doubt brought on by travel, dehydration, and lack of sleep) and wanted some tablets. Pharmacies here are everywhere though, once you know what to look for. There’s not standard symbol so it took me awhile to recognise them. I bought my tablets (which happily I haven’t even needed since) and walked on.

I decided that I would get a manicure and pedicure. My nails were a mess as I hadn’t dealt with them all the time I had been travelling. I was hopeful for upcoming interviews, and I didn’t want to be a mess for them (what a great excuse!) so I did some quick looking online to find a decent place to get them done.

In one of my numurous Hanoi Facebook groups, someone had recommended Van Nguyen Hair Salon, so I headed there. When I saw the prices, I decided to get a hair cut (also desperately need) as well.

For a pedicure, manicure, sweet-ass head massaging shampoo of awesomeness, and a haircut I spent less than $18. With a tip. I’m enjoying this city!

Back to the hotel and grabbed another shower. Then out again to meet my friend Juu and her family, who just happened to be travelling through Vietnam and had arrived the day after I did. They invited me out to dinner, and had chosen Avalon BBQ Garden. It was delicious and the night views of the lake were amazing.


It was a great first full day in Vietnam. So much good food and good company.

Vietnam Visa on Arrival

One thing that is important to know about Vietnam is that most people will need a visa of some sort to enter the country. That’s right: Just to enter. I’ve heard that if you don’t have yourself sorted before you even check in to your flight, they won’t let you on the plane. Now, this all depends on what nationality you are, so make sure you look up the rules for where you are from. This was the process for me as a Canadian in Korea. Your process may be different. I’m obviously not a lawyer or an expert on immigration, this is just what the process was like for me.

To begin with, my purpose of going to Vietnam is to settle in for a few years and work. However, I don’t have a job yet, so I couldn’t get a work permit. That will, hopefully, be the subject of another post when I am gainfully employed. In the meantime, I need a visa.

After loads of searching around, it looked like what would work best for my situation was a three month tourist “visa on arrival” (VOA). This would let me (as far as I know!) enter Vietnam and give me time to find work. I went with a single entry option, I don’t plan on travelling out of the country in the first three months anyway.

My research took me to a VOA site that other people had previous success with. I filled out my information and paid for the VOA (total $34USD) with my UK Visa card. I immediately received an email from them saying that my payment was successful and a few hours later a message saying my application was in process. By the next day, I had my letter.

The letter you receive is two pages and your name could be on a list with others. This is, apparently, normal. You want to print this as well as the Vietnamese visa application. You’ll need these documents, along with two passport photos (the company’s email said one, but the application form said two, so I brought two and never got one back, so who really knows) and the stamping fee (it was $25USD for my visa) for when you arrive and head to immigration.

I had to show my letter to the booking counter at Incheon before she would check me in. She didn’t look at the application, just the letter.

At the airport in Hanoi, I had to go to the immigration counters. There are two, side by side. The one on the right is the one you will need first. Give that guy your letter, application, and passport. Don’t give him the money. Then wait. I was there 40 minutes when my name was called. I went to the counter on the left, handed that guy my cash, and was handed my passport with the visa in it. No questions asked, none to be answered. It was a very easy process overall.

Visa’d passport in hand, I walked over to the immigration counters. The officer did look at my passport a long time, looked like he was going to say something, but in the end, handed it back without a word. I was with him all of two minutes and nothing was said.

Welcome to Vietnam!

Good-bye Korea; Hello Hanoi

It was a long trip from Korea to Vietnam. The flight itself was only 5 hours, but because I couldn’t get a bus early enough to get to the airport, my trip took much longer.

On the evening before my flight, I took the bus from Cheongju (where I had lived) to Incheon airport. It was a good thing I went early, as the traffic was super congested and it took ages.

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Once we arrived, I took the opportunity to weigh my suitcase even before I headed to the hotel. I had thought ahead enough to buy extra weight allowance – up to 30kg – on it, but I was still worried, so I hit those scales ASAP so I could redistribute if necessary once in the hotel. At 27.6kg, I had reason to be a little worried! There was definitely room for nothing else in there. After weighing my bag, I bought it some pajamas. It is a plain black bag, and I wanted to make it more recognizable on the luggage-go-round. The jammies definitely did that.

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Suitcase Space Jams

It was finally time to take me and my beast of a bag to the hotel. I stayed in the Darakhyu capsule hotel by Walkerhill in the airport. As in – legits IN the airport. It was only $60 a night because it was tiny. Tiny but nicely done and definitely comfortable. And 100% worth it.


What was amazing about staying at this hotel is that I was able to wake up at 7:30am for a 8:10am check-in. I’ve never appreciated having a hotel so much in my life! If you have an early check in (Note: 8am isn’t *that* early, but it is when you live more than 2 hours from the airport, like I was) I would really recommend staying at this place. It made my travel day a LOT less exhausting.

Check in and security were super fast and easy at Incheon. But before I headed to my gate (132 – the very last gate), I decided to see how much of my “funny money” I could exchange.

I have always hung onto my extra currency when I traveled, as a kind of souvenir. But as I’ve been reducing my belongings over the last year, I decided it was high time to switch that money to a currency I could use. When all was said and done, that three-inch stack of multiple currencies gave me about $75usd, which I was grateful to get for this part of my adventure.

Money in hand, I headed all the way to the other end of the airport to find my gate, which turned out to be the last possible gate. It’s in the basement. As I awaited my seriously “no frills” flight with VietJet Air, I kept trying to get a hold of my sleeping husband to say goodbye and to download a couple of films on Netflix before I boarded. Neither of those things worked out for me.


Seeing the back of that chair with no screen made me wish I had known that Netflix takes 20 million hours to download something. I would have started the night before. I had been spoiled on my flights to and from Canada, but for how wonderfully cheap the flight was, I should have known I couldn’t be expecting much.

The flight was absolutely uneventful. Not even food happened for me, because I refused to buy anything as soon as I realised they weren’t even going to toss some peanuts and water my way. The flight was five hours. I could wait.

The flight was good – we got to Noi Bai (the airport nearest Hanoi) earlier than expected and it was a smooth flight. I got off the plane and did the immigration thing.

::SIDE NOTE::

Some of the posts are going to be like this – nonsense ramblings about what each day was like so I can look back and remember how life overall was when I first got here. However, there will be other posts that I’m hoping may be helpful for others looking for information on coming to Vietnam, such as details about what to expect at immigration.

::END SIDE NOTE::

Once I had my visa (which took about 40 minutes) and bounced through immigration, I was able to pick up my pajama’d suitcase no problem and breezed through the nothing-to-declare line at border control. So far, so good. There was some sort of excitement going on when I came into the arrival hall, apparently some celebrity was walking out at the same time I was.

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Who could it be?

Once the crowd cleared, I looked around for some rando holding a sign with my name on it. Yikes. I knew this couldn’t all be this easy. Even though I had booked a ride with my hotel (I have read multiple times that if you are going to get ripped off in a taxi, from the airport is where it was going to happen), there was definitely no one there at A2 arrivals waiting for me. So I walked down to the other end of the thankfully tiny airport to see if my man was at A1. No such luck. Dang it!

With my spotty wifi connection, I was finally able to ring the hotel via Skype. They gave the driver a call and I had to call them back. When I did, I was asked to wait 10 minutes, as my driver had had a fight with the police and was running late. Of course.

I picked up a sim card for my phone in anticipation of further bungling, but the driver was there in the requested 10 minutes and we were on our way. He was a good driver and, other than his constant nose picking and then (gag) nail biting OF THE SAME HAND, it was a perfectly pleasant journey.

Traffic in Hanoi was mental, as expected, but there was no incident on the way to the hotel. I was looking around trying to see if I would recognise anything, but either the city has massively changed or my memory has faded more than I realised in the past decade. Probably both.

My hotel is lovely. It isn’t fancy, but for under $20usd a night, I don’t expect fancy. The people who run the hotel are a family and they are very kind.

 

After I had checked in and showered, it was time to finally eat. The hotel recommended I go to Pho 10, and they weren’t wrong. It was a delicious (and, at $3, cheap) first meal in Vietnam.

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Belly full, it was time to walk back to the hotel. On the way, I saw St. Joseph’s Cathedral, which was finally a familiar sight. My memory wasn’t completely shot and Hanoi wasn’t completely changed.

So there you go. My first day back in Vietnam, and the first day of Hanoi as home.

Next Stop: Vietnam

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post in an airport. I think the first time was also the last time, when I was collecting my thoughts in the Vancouver International Airport when I first flew to Korea in 2005.

My situation back then was a lot different than it is now, but a lot of the feelings where the same. Then, I had never flown outside of North America and had never lived anywhere except in BC. I was also just freshly on my own from a long-term relationship and had thoughts that I would be back when my one-year contract was finished with new insight into what I really wanted to be doing and such with my life.

This time, I’ve traveled to nearly 30 different countries, have lived in 3 different countries on 3 different continents, and I’m a married woman moving ahead without my husband and cats, who will follow as soon as they can. And I definitely have no delusions about figuring out what I am doing with my life. I doubt I will ever figure that one out.

But there is a lot the same. I suppose it doesn’t matter which cliff you are standing on the edge of, the tightness in your chest and the butterflies in your stomach are still the same. I had some safety in place then (a job and housing on arrival, pre-arranged) and I have some safety now (mostly in the form of experience and my husband’s support). I had fears then and I have fears now. Everything changes, yet everything stays the same.

Overall, I’m excited and terrified. I don’t think I have all that much to be truly worried (pretty sure I’m going to survive) but at the same time, this is another huge risk. I’m just very hopeful that because the last jump worked so well, this one has a lot of potential for greatness, too.

Finding more questions than answers

What I’m learning most in trying to prepare myself for this move from Korea to Vietnam is that everyone on the internet is an idiot. Including me, adding this drivel to an already information-laden cauldron of steaming mixed messages.

Side note: Took an embarrassingly large number of attempts to spell “cauldron” correctly. With Google’s help.

There is so many places to look for advice, but there are some really key pieces missing. For example, I have NO IDEA what an actual day teaching in Vietnam looks like. I hear stories (like 50 kids in an un-airconditioned room all screaming for your attention for an hour), but that can’t be the same experience for everyone or NO ONE would ever stay there. Or at least, any sane person. You can do “cover classes” (rock into a school last minute to fill in for a teacher that has the day off), but I don’t know what that experience is like either.

And does everyone work every day? Is finding a job (or jobs, as it seems to go in Vietnam) with two consecutive days off just a myth? Then what about the people I hear about that only work three days out of the seven? HOW DID THEY DO THAT?

Worse than the missing information is the conflicting messages. Hooooo-boy, howdy. From visas to expectations, there is a lot of differing opinions out there. From whether or not you should even go (from “job market is saturated – don’t bother”, through to “it’s a job-seekers paradise”), to where to go in Vietnam (not just Saigon vs. Hanoi, but toss in all the wee places in between), and anything else you can imagine.

Everyone’s experience is different, even when it is the same. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I sort through all the websites, posts, and whatever else I get my mitts on to try and figure out what I’m doing here.

I’m going to try my best to keep the blog all diary-style for the first bit that I’m in Vietnam. It may be useful as a) my memory isn’t what it used to be, and looking back could be awesome, b) my husband won’t be with me so I’ll have a full account of what I’m going through so he’s forewarned before he arrives, and c) maybe there are others out there that are curious what it feels like to take this journey from the plane landing to the point at which you sort of relax into it and think “okay, this is my life now”.

 

Korean Immigration Update

I only just realised that I didn’t update on the extension of my ARC card with the complication of the new passport.

Turns out the only complications where due to the information I got from immigration.

Now, I’m not saying the hotline lady was wrong, but I didn’t need all the stuff that she thought I needed, and I needed stuff that she didn’t tell me that I needed. Apparently, if a Korean calls, the requirements are different. I dunno why.

In the end, Mr. Money and I went to immigration together. I had to bring my passports (old and new), my ARC card (Side Note: I know technically that “ARC card” is “Alien Registration Card Card”, along the lines of an “ATM Machine” being an “Automated Teller Machine Machine”, but I don’t care. Everyone says “ARC card”, because just saying “ARC” as in “Bring your ARC” sounds hella weird.), and proof that I had my flights out of Korea booked.

That’s right. I needed to bring proof that I was leaving the country, something that the hotline lady failed to tell me.

However, those three things where all I needed to bring. There was a form filled out (Mr. Money did that for me) and then he like… invented? some sort of certificate (as in ‘hand-written’) that I signed (it was in Korean and he doesn’t speak English, so I signed that blind).

That was it. Didn’t cost me any money and the entire time in the immigration office was about 12 minutes. And now my ARC card is sorted until the end of May. Awesome.

One other thing to note: The officer at the immigration office didn’t seem to care one iota that my passport had been updated or whatever. So being beyond the “14 days” that you have to let immigration know that you’ve gotten a new passport isn’t nearly as bad a situation as hotline lady made it sound.