Expats Leaving Vietnam

Saigon Nov 26, 2014

Teacher's Day VietnamNote: This post was originally typed back in August, 2013, but never published.  Today I decided to edit it since I have been out of Vietnam to work for over a year now.  Hence, the context of this post reflects 2013 and early 2014 in Vietnam. 

Last week was Teacher’s Day in Vietnam.  A very important date in Vietnam and many Asian countries.  Teachers of all types relish this day, it is a good time for students to show their gratitude to all teachers.  Yet for many Expat teachers, it also seems to a time for many to leave.

Back in August, 2013, there were discussion going around the Expat social media realm about the departure of many Expats.   Many Expats, including many Viet Kieu, planned to leave or have left Vietnam  back in 2013 for many reasons.  I left in November, 2013, when I got a better contract offer at an international school in Almaty, Kazakhstan, then I did in Vietnam.

Even Expats who arrived for new teaching positions, particularly in some international and English schools, have decided they wanted to leave Vietnam.  Within my particular network of friends, this trend that started in late 2010, early 2011.  By the summer of 2014, I figured that nearly 90% of the Expats that I have met during my 9 and a half years in Vietnam will have left the country. In fact, many of my Expat friends did leave for other countries.  Many were those who really loved living in Vietnam.  These included teachers and Expats who could speak Vietnamese comfortably.

Teachers are frustrated that their schools are not honoring their contracts.  This may seem normal if you have lived in Vietnam a long time but what is different this year (2013) is that many schools are firing contract teachers especially international schools.  A large number of international schools now only hire backpackers or teachers willing to agree to lower salaries.  Enrollments at all schools are down this year and some schools are looking to cut costs by reducing the number of teachers by the new year.  Many schools did cut Expat teachers in 2014. 

Hence, certified international school and English teachers, who are more expensive then non-certified backpacker teachers, were the first to go. Quality has never been a high priority with most schools here (it costs roughly $7000-8000 USD per month to support a certified international school teacher including ALL benefits while non-certified teachers cost less then $4000 USD per month, if even that).  Expat managers, such as Principals and Heads of Schools, suffered having their contracts cancelled within months of starting their positions.  I know some Expats who even lost their housing allowances while many were not even offered one.

This seems to go across other sectors as well.  I know American lawyers planning to leave Vietnam in a year or two.  Other managers have since left Vietnam for more stable positions overseas.  Yes, I have left as well and after hearing what some of my friends are going through, I really have no desire to work in Vietnam for the next 5-8 years, unless I start a new company there again.

We all love to live in Vietnam, I wish I could return permanently but right now the job market is better overseas.  I am curious to see on my next visit the number of my Expat friends that plan to leave in 2015.


Kevin Miller

RPCV Kazakhstan and former US Marine. Tech, social media & marketing guy for Baba's Kitchen.

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