Teaching English In Vietnam : Warning! If You’re NOT white, forget about it…

With the salary range between $18-$35 per hour, who isn’t attracted to such lucrative money offered especially when one going to have plenty of time for themselves before or after working hours to hang out and party with friends like normal travelers? But sadly, the door as an English Teacher is not open to everyone in these 5 countries – Vietnam, China, South Korea, Thailand & Japan – unless you are white. Yes, you read me right, UNLESS YOU ARE WHITE. If you are an Asian like me or any other coloured people, well, the chances to secure a job as an English teacher like our fellow (white) travelers are almost zero no matter how good your English is. You (non-white) might get this so-called “dream job for travelers”, depends on your luck but the payment most likely to be way lower than those whites or what they (the locals) call as a “native speakers”. You’ll probably get $10-$18 per hour.
If you look for English teaching opportunity in Vietnam or the other 4 countries via internet – Google, craigslist, Facebook, etc.; you’ll notice how common these advertisers stated in their advertisement that one of the requirements is you must be a “native speaker”. Asians or any coloured people who were born in Australia, Canada, United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and holding respective country’s passport… hold your excitement! Don’t get too excited because for them, “native speakers” are persons with white skin, blue/grey/hazel/green eyes, brunette/red/blonde hair. That’s native speakers in their perspective.  Well, sometimes you don’t have to be from those “native speakers” country. As long as you have all the physical traits that fit into their requirements, doesn’t matter if you are from France, Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Uruguay, Brazil, Spain or any other part of the world and your English accent is neither American nor British accents, still OK. Some of the ESL centers will still hire you.
Some of us (Asians and other coloured people) have way much better qualifications (i.e. Bachelor degrees, Masters, CELTA, etc.) compared to the whites but because of us not being white, we don’t get the same opportunity given to the them. Some of the white English teachers that I met here in Hanoi, they only have high school certificate/diploma qualifications and some online-exam (for teaching English) certificate.  Where is the justice here? Well, I am not blaming the whites, I am not racist. I blame the ESL centers, the schools and their managements, and the parents of the students that so insists native speakers must be a white guy/lady with blue/grey/hazel/green eyes, brunette/red/blonde hairs.
I was kicked and blocked from Facebook group called “Hanoi Massive” for bringing up this issue which up to today I didn’t understand WHY? The reason why I brought up this issue was because I really resent this kind of practice which most of us know is a NO-NO almost everywhere in this world. This is for me – RACISM. Some of the people that responded to my post in that group even asked me “the Vietnamese are idealist. Do you want to learn Mandarin from a dark Indian guy?” I guess he must be a person who probably managed to get 30 hours per week teaching job and unable to see this racism because he never had to face it. For me, if that person is highly capable, able to interact and make the class interesting for me (or any other students) to learn Mandarin, WHY NOT? And to be honest, I learnt my Mandarin from a Malay teacher when I was a kid, just for a year. She is brown, not what you call “yellow” like typical Chinese. She got big round black eyes, not small Oriental eyes like typical Chinese. And my Mandarin, I would say is fairly well although I am now pretty old. Well, not old but well, in my 30’s. So that guy’s argument is INVALID.
I also used to work in one of the ESL centers in Hanoi for a good 2 months until one day the manager of the center told me that they have to terminate my service. I asked him why? Because my students like me and they did well in the class so I couldn’t see any problem there. He said “because the parents of your pupils found out that you are not white.” Baffled. Gobsmacked. Speechless. It also remind me back in 2012 when I went for an interview in Chiang Mai. Spent (or should I use the word WASTED) 20 minutes of my life for an interview, being praised for being such a good, energetic, likeable, highly capable person, bla bla bla yadda yadda (all the positive traits) and finally told me despite having all that traits in me, the school was unable to hire me because I am not white. Well, that was exactly what the principal of that school told me – BECAUSE I AM NOT WHITE. It was like a big slap on my face. Super slap.
One funny part, one of the schools that I went for an interview here in Hanoi told me that they would like to hire me if I’d bleach my hair to brunette, wear a coloured contact lenses and get a rhinoplasty (cosmetic surgery to fix my button nose). I was like “whatttttttt?” Oh my. Thanks but NO THANKS!
Seriously ESL Centres in Vietnam (and China/Japan/South Korea/Thailand)… Why are you guys so racist?  I hope these racist ESL centres realize that teaching capabilities is not about any particular race as there’s no such thing as this race is supreme or better than the other race or from one to another. Or else, Mr. Barrack Obama wouldn’t be President of United States of America and all of us know that he is African-American, Ms. Penny Wong (she is from Malaysian-Chinese background) wouldn’t be a Senator for South Australia, Mr. Philipp Rosler (he is from Vietnamese background) wouldn’t be a Cabinet Minister in Germany and many more examples. If the Western world is able to open their door, the higher positions and lots of other opportunities to people from different background, I hope these five countries will do the same.
Bitter? Yes I am.
(me with my kids from one out of  my 4 classes, back in July 2014 @ HaDong, HaNoi)
P/S: Well, my English probably is not perfect (because I grew up learning 3 languages – English, Malay & Mandarin) but personally I think I am not bad at all and I do not need a perfect grammar or any bombastic words to teach kindergarten or primary school levels. Plus, to be honest, I saw so many whites that made simple mistakes too like you’re/your, than/then, doesn’t/don’t, etc. LOL!

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