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LGBTQ&A: Teaching English in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam with Alan Polasky
Written by: Alan Polasky
Last Updated: April 22, 2021
Name: Alan Polasky
What is your citizenship?
Where are you from?
How old are you?
What is your education level and background?
Have you traveled abroad in the past?
Taught English abroad previously
If you have traveled abroad in the past, where have you been?
Please tell us about yourself.
Love to travel, been going on crazy adventures my whole life. Don’t think I’ll ever stop. I was in Vietnam with a Vietnamese friend a few years back, on vacation, and all of her friends and family kept telling me how easy it would be to get a job in Vietnam teaching English. How the pay was excellent. So I returned to the states and took ITA’s online course, got certified, and headed back to HCMC. Sure enough, I found a job right away and had a blast! Ended up staying a lot longer than I originally planned. About three years! Can’t wait to return, see all my friends again. I miss all the kids too :(
What sparked your interest in teaching English abroad?
A chance to help pay for my adventures, but also a chance to make a difference. To help people learn.
CHOOSING WHERE TO TEACH ENGLISH ABROAD
Which country did you decide to teach English in?
Please include the city where you decided to teach English.
Ho Chi Minh City
What did your friends and family think about you moving and teaching abroad? Were they supportive, apprehensive, excited, concerned, etc.?
I’ve a lot of teachers in my family. Grandma, aunts and uncles, who are also travelers. So everyone was super excited about my trip. They were also really helpful when it came time to actually get in the classrooms and work.
What were some of your concerns before teaching abroad?
I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a work visa in Vietnam, but I was pretty sure I could still work. Still, I was a tiny bit nervous when I set out. My back up plan was to head to Cambodia where I knew I could get a work visa. The problem was the pay. Much less money in Cambodia.
What resources did you find helpful when deciding where to go?
My advisor at ITA was super helpful.
THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY IN VIETNAM
Please give your thoughts on dating abroad.
I recommend it for sure. No better way to get to know a place, get the “inside story”.
Was there anything about being a member of the LGBTQ+ community abroad that was unexpected?
Not really. Vietnam is a pretty conservative country, so I imagine it’s different in the villages, in the countryside, but in a city like Saigon everything was super chill.
Did being a member of the LGBTQ+ community have an impact on where you decided to teach English? If yes, how so?
Did you come out while living abroad? If so, how did your host country and experience influence that decision?
Tell us about finding your community abroad
Mostly I’d make friends at the clubs and bars, but the best place was at work. My fellow teachers (the Vietnamese) were great. And they speak English!
What were some of your most memorable experiences teaching English abroad?
The really great feeling was watching kids grow up. Three years is kinda long for the little ones. They change so much in that short of time. Also I made a lot of friends teaching adult classes.
Did you have any difficult conversations abroad? If so, would you mind sharing?
Not really difficult, but I had to argue my side a few times. Everyone was respectful though.
Did you find that locals had any stereotypes? Or did you have any stereotypes about locals?
Nothing out of the ordinary. Normal stereotypes. Same as anywhere.
Were there any cultural boundaries you found to be different than your home country? If so, please explain.
Hmmm. I guess. It seems like they weren’t as physical with each other. Like, not as much hugging?
What are your thoughts on safety in your host country abroad, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
Like anybody, be careful. Especially in a poorer country. They might be good folks, but they have families to feed and desperate people sometimes do desperate things.
Have you had any weird and/or funny questions from locals?
Sadly, I was often asked about guns. What kind of gun do I own? None! Omg. A lot of people really have this vision of America being all “Wild West”. Lots of folks afraid to come to the States. Makes me worried for our future diaspora.
Do you have any advice for people planning to move to this country/move abroad?
In HCMC you’ll need a motor-bike to get around. It’s best to first take Xe Ohm everywhere and watch how they drive. Pay close attention to everything the driver does, then after a week or two, get on a bike. Also, don’t get a driver license. It’s a lot cheaper to just pay the occasional bribe than to pay for the license. Plus, even with the license you may well have to shell out some money anyway.
Do you have anything else you'd like to share? If so, please feel free to write that here.
Teaching abroad is an excellent way to see a country. And make some money! The schools are great for meeting people, including many who speak English.
In his mid-40s, Alan fell in love with Vietnam while traveling there and decided to earn his TEFL certification so that he could move back and teach English.
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