Fat Foreign Uncle Talks About Vietnam. DTLC

If you’re thinking of coming to Vietnam to work, but you’re the ‘Politically Correct’ type or ‘Sensitive’ type, then don’t bother coming. The Vietnamese call a spade a spade and that’s one of the reasons I love them. There is NO politically correct culture here, if you’re fat, they’ll call you fat. If you’re ugly, they’ll call you ugly. You better get used to it, deal with it!! Vietnam isn’t full of sensitive types who need safe spaces and constant reassuring that they are worthy people.

They call me ‘Ong Tay Beo’ which roughly translates to ‘Fat Foreign Uncle’ and I love it. Wherever I go I hear calls of ‘Beo’ and it’s one of those things I just need to be tolerant of. I’m not here to change the Vietnamese culture, I’m here to integrate and learn about it, take it on board and live it.

Frequently I hear foreigners in the bars, around town, at home bbq’s and other places always talking rubbish about the Vietnamese and how the Vietnamese don’t know how to do anything correctly. They constantly complain that Vietnamese should do things the same as the western countries. This really pisses me off. If you want to come to Vietnam and live in their country then you better learn to follow their laws and respect their way of life and culture.

Vietnamese are among the most well-rounded people I have met in Asia and when I hear these arrogant foreigners talking about how western culture is superior then it really gets me angry. There are plenty of foreigners here who are positive about the life here, the people, the culture and the lifestyle, and they’re the kind of people I like to hang out with.

You were fired- Deal with it.

After 8 years of working in the ESL industry, I have pretty much come across every type of teacher and human being, but I’m yet to hear one teacher who was, in their mind, fairly dismissed from their job position.

Schools or employers usually don’t fire people for no reason, that’s my experience. People who get fired in the ESL industry are like people who have car accidents ‘It wasn’t my fault’ they say. How can this be?

Some teachers like to think that they are Gods and can do as they please. Come to class late, arrive at school late, come to work still drunk, don’t bother to iron their clothes and the list goes on.

When will teachers in this industry realise that this is a job, they have to service paying customers and if they don’t they’re out? Do you think that’s unfair?

Mya Bar in Van Cao street – Review (updated March 2018)

Update 12th March 2018: There has been a lot of bad feedback about the owner’s business practices recently. I have been friendly with many of the staff over the last year and the following is a list of complaints from them:

  • The owner refuses to pay the staff overtime.
  • The staff do not receive the tips, kept by the owner.
  • Staff undergo a 3-day probationary period, which is unpaid.
  • They constantly receive fines from the owner.
  • Staff are not allowed a break to eat or drink.
  • Staff are paid a measly 15,000 VND/hour, well below the average.
  • They are regularly required to assist the owner with NO pay.

We approached the owner as concerned customers and he told us it was none of our business and if we don’t like it we can leave.

During the Lunar New Year holiday the owner added a 20% surcharge, however, customers weren’t advised and only discovered the 20% after receiving the bill.

This bar has certainly lost its mojo in the last 6 months and the owner’s true colours are shining through. I, for one, will not be returning.

Previous review:

I’ve been frequenting Mya bar now for about 6 months so I thought I’d give it a review.

As much as I like Mya Bar it comes with a long list of negatives. This review is based on my experiences after 6 months and is no way biased because of my friendship with the owner.

One of the most annoying things about this bar, as a long time patron, is the over-priced drinks and food. Beers and spirits here are more expensive than any other bar I’ve visited in Hai Phong. The food is quite average and again, well over-priced, 165,000 for a small pizza is western prices. Another issue here is they forever run-out of products. Beer, fruit and food are the main ones that are sometimes never in stock.

The big plus here is the staff, they are all very friendly and some speak English and they honestly do make the place. If it wasn’t for the staff of Mya I would never go there.

The owner is also a friend of mine and he is a nice guy, but he seriously needs to look at prices and start treating people fairly.

Street beer, 284 Lach Tray

I am going to take a moment to talk about my favourite street-side watering hole. While an empty pavement during the day; come 9pm every night you will see the rise of night drinking spots. Lach Tray is host to many food and ‘bia hoi’ areas which are all near identical, with low to the ground tables, small chairs you’d consider half side at home and a portable ‘kitchen’ area. 284 is somehow different. Where most of these areas will be half full at most, this particular spot will be rammed with capacity close to full. It is also the place you will run into the most expats, almost every night of the week.

Bia hoi, if you haven’t read my previous blogs, is a cheap beer that works out at about 19p per glass. This is the drink of the people in Vietnam and the adopted drink of expats looking for a cheap and entertaining night.

One particular night recently was different to all others, and probably the funniest night I have had there to date. It all started when the group of 8 had polished off roughly 10, two litre jugs and had stacked them up to create a tower. The tower was pushed onto someone, leading to a backlash of complimentary peanuts for the table being launched in the opposite direction with the aim of landing in the opposing persons drink. Looking back, this really started the rowdiness that was to follow.

To the amusement of the staff working there, a beer was then poured over one of our group (by someone who shall remain nameless) while he was visiting the portable bathroom (a bucket behind a metal vanity curtain). After no one took responsibility for the act, this then resulted in the victim throwing beer in a semi-circular motion hitting everyone in the group.

After this, beer was flying in all directions and dares of doing a long arm pint down (pouring beer vertically from the height of a outstretched arm) followed. If a peanut landed in your drink, finish it. If a cucumber hit your face, applause and laughter. One member even came back from the toilet to, unbeknown to him, a beer covered seat. This continued for a couple hours while people laughed and told funny anecdotes about those present and not. This behaviour attracted the attention of locals and the owners who were buying the groups shots of rice wine (or as it’s called happy water- don’t ask me what’s in it but it tastes like petrol), and getting involved in the beer/peanut throwing. We drank the night away with colleagues and newly made friends, finishing with a bill of 60,000 Dong each. Approx £2.

Eventually, beer sodden and out of laughs, the group retired back to our accommodation where people went their ways. The night was over but the memories of one of many great nights will be ours to keep.

Angus MacKay

Go to games for primary, secondary and high schools

Like most things in life, teaching comes with a lot of trial and error. A lot of good ideas and intentions of a lesson can crumble in an instant and also a lot of instinctive, on the spot ideas and peer suggestions that will become bread and butter for future lessons to come. With the first week or so being very nerve racking and overwhelming, don’t worry you will get over this phase and find your feet as well as your teacher voice.

I have taught the vast majority of all grades from grades 1-5 in primary school, grade 6 in high school and grades 10-11 in high school. Each grade comes with their challenges and joys, I’m just going to convey in a few short paragraphs what has worked best for me in different stages of a class for the 3 types of schools in Vietnam.

Starting with the youngest at primary school, I tried a game that I heard from one of my friends who is a teacher in Hanoi. Primary school is very repetitive in that you present the flashcards, maybe play some kind of game to instill the vocabulary, work on their grammar and speech and get them through their pages in the workbook. This game was a savior to me for my lower grade classes, I call it the ‘Zombie Game’. After initially presenting the vocabulary on flashcards for the lesson, I write the word on the board and stick the flashcard below it and ensure the students can repeat the word. I then take away the flashcards so that only the words remain. I then distribute the flashcards to willing students who will one by one stick the flashcard in its right place on the board when I call out each word one by one. This improves their grasp on how the word is spelt by choosing the correct word. Once they have stuck the flashcard on the board I then proceed to chase them back to their seat as a zombie. They absolutely love it and I get a kick out of scaring them and having more fun with my students. The look in their face is priceless, the look in the other students faces even more so as they watch there peers scramble nervously back to their seats. You can then progress this by telling the students to say the word out loud before placing the flashcard on the board. I would say this works from grade 1 to grade 4, the older students I don’t feel would appreciate as much and probably think they are too old for it.

Moving swiftly on to secondary school. I found that with large class sizes that games on the board involving the whole class proved difficult at times and chaotic with noise levels and the sheer number of students flocking to the board. So I quickly discovered that quiz-based warmers proved very effective early on. I would split the class into teams, usually between 6-8 teams dependent on overall class size. And I would give them a topic, such as countries, cities, celebrities or a last letter type game where you would start with one word and using the last letter of that word, form the next word. For example: Tree, Ear, Rest, Tomorrow, Wonder, Rabbit… etc. Sometimes dependent on the topic of the lesson I would base the quiz towards that to get the English geared toward the lesson. Nonetheless I found the students to really enjoy competing against each other and working with each other to better the other teams. I would use a timer set to usually 5 minutes and then countdown from ten watching them scramble to write down their last answers. The team with the most words jotted down won. And as I collated and marked the teams answers I would distribute the worksheet or page number in the workbook and set them the first task to ensure no time was wasted. I would then announce each teams score and the winners got some candy for their efforts. This style of warmer proved very effective and a good way of getting their brains geared to English before the lesson properly commenced.

Lastly we have the oldest students in high school. Sometimes they could be difficult and unwilling to participate, but I found the best way to get answers out of them was to play varied types of throwing games. The first one is the target game, you draw three circles inside each other and write 200 in the first, 100 in the second and 50 in the outer last circle. I also used to draw two smaller circles outside of the main circles and write 300 in both of them. So say you are trying to elicit the answers from some worksheet questions or getting the students speaking some constructed English this game works great. You get the quiet students and the class clowns alike all battling with their hands in the air to get picked and it can turn a dull lesson into an electric one. You split the class into two teams, naming teams also creates some humorous responses’. Then if a student gives you an answer they come and collect a ball that I produced from a very complex blend of paper and duct tape, I also introduced a card element, by which I fan out the cards face down and depending on the card they pick is indicative of the amount of steps they take from the board. With an Ace being one step, King Queen and Jack being 11 steps and a joker meaning you go to the back of the room. Wherever the ball lands is equivalent of how many points the other team receive, try and alternate the selection of students to make it fair. Similar but slightly different is the basket game by which instead of throwing a ball at the board they throw a soft toy/ball into a washing basket I bring to class. The cards can also be implemented again in this game and a made basket equates to one point for the team. These games have been a fantastic way to motivate the students to learn and get through their worksheets quickly.

So there you have it, three different games/activities used in three different stages of a lesson in three types of Vietnamese schooling. Use them wisely.


Written by: Ryan Williams

In and around Hai Phong

Hai Phong may not seem all that on first arrival. I mean coming from the vibrant, bustling city of Hanoi that never really sleeps, it might seem that the ‘Phong’ doesn’t really compare. However, after living here for over 4 months now, I can assure you that Hai Phong has a certain gripping charm and still has secrets and surprises that were still uncovering week on week.

Hai Phong is slightly more appealing to me due to the reduced overall size of the city. It’s still a busy city, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as crazy and loud as Hanoi. Tourists are plentiful in the countries capital, however, it’s rare to see a westerner in Hai Phong. With this in mind, I think you get a more local and cultural feel of Vietnam this way. With people stopping you on the street to practice their English, shake your hand or pose for a selfie with you – you really feel like a celebrity sometimes.

There are so many funky coffee shops knocking around, it seems we discover more and more each week, from Memory café which sits on the edge of a lake and has a big swing you can relax on to Universal café which is 18 stories high and allows you to take in the buzz of the city from an elevated distance; there really is a café for everyone. And with that in mind, we have recently discovered a cat café with 15 local fluffy residents for all you feline lovers. We do enjoy our movies too, so there are a fair few movies theatres dotted around which show all of the latest blockbuster films and some of which have bowling alleys below if you don’t want your evening to come to an end.  The food also is second to none with many street food pop-ups a stone throw away from the DTLC campus, these are very cheap, very tasty and very large portions. There are also many authentic Vietnamese restaurants on pretty much every street and a fair few western food joints too if you do need a taste of home from time to time.

On days off we have travelled on our bikes to various locations to explore what Hai Phong’s nearest districts have to offer. Closest to home and a teacher favourite would have to be the rooftop hotel pool atop a ten story high hotel on Lach Tray Street, for 100,000 dong, equivalent to 4 pounds of the queens finest, you can relax on sunbeds and take in sights of the heart of the city and take a cool down if need be by jumping in the pool. Next, we have two popular destinations that are around 30 minutes away each. First, we have Do Son beach, that is a straight drive from the DTLC campus and perfect for a hot summer beach day. The second is Elephant mountain, a 45-minute trek to the top allows a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and rice paddies. A little further and you can find many temples, lakes and waterfalls depending on how much torture you want to put your bottoms under. During holidays, weekends and long weekends off we travel around a lot. Particularly enjoyable destinations include Cat Ba Island, Ninh Binh,  Halong Bay and Mai Chao.

If you’re quite sporty and active like myself then fear not, there are so many gyms you can join for varying prices too, dependent on what you’re looking for. Football is very popular over here and pitches are cheap and easy to rent out if you fancy a kickabout or a cheeky game of one bounce. Personally preferring to play volleyball or basketball I discovered that you could pay 3000 dong, equivalent to 12 pence, you can park your bike at the university sports park and the students are more than happy to let you join in which I have loved doing once or twice a week.

So here is a brief of summary of what goes on in Hai Phong and an idea of how you can spend your free time. I have loved my time here and I urge you to try some of the suggestions and get out in the city and explore yourself, you’ll be amazed at what you find!


Written by: Ryan Williams

Angus MacKay’s blog #8

Blog 8 – my first year 1 class!

Year one. 6/7 years old and full of wonder every day. Never have I ever done so many high-5s in a day! I was initially impressed when I walked into the first class (in which I almost got suffocated from students trying to hug/climb on me). Before even starting to teach I had hands up- questions about me from a 6 year old are exactly as you’d expect ‘what’s your name’, ‘how old are you’, ‘where you from.’

The way I will write this is showing everything in two forms, simply put: boring and fun.

Boring: Get flash card out, one by one show the vocabulary you have for the day. Have students repeat the words back to you.

Fun: channel your inner children’s entertainer, remove the flash cards from their packet dramatically, toss the empty packet behind you. Brows through the selection while showing faked enthusiasm for each picture [children on edge of their seat]. Flip the first flash card around for half a second. Give students another 1 second look [hands go up]. Show class the flash card in a semi circle action. Drill. Show the second to only one student while saying ‘oooooooerrrrrr’. Let students stir before showing them. Drill. Show the third upside down and watch them explode while trying to tell you to turn it round. Turn it on it’s side, then the other side, then the right way up. Drill. 4th ask them to guess what it is from the others. Show them. Drill.

Boring: write words on board and continue to drill.

Fun: write words on board above pictures and point dramatically, get quicker and quicker until they can’t keep up and burst out laughing.

Boring: give flash cards out and have students place them under words.

Fun: distribute flash cards and have students race up to the board. First student back in their seat wins a point. Additionally to add entertainment, do this word by word and pretend to chase the student back to their seats, pretending to be a zombie. (Students go wild for this one)

Boring: let individual students identify words from the vocabulary.

Fun: have 2 students stand back to back holding flash cards , say 1,2,3,bang. Students take 3 steps and on ‘bang’ turn and shout the word the opponent is holding. First wins points.

Boring: put vocabulary in a sentence and have students repeat these in order.

Fun: have each team do the activity and give points for first/loudest/most enthusiastic answer.

I am new to teaching students this young, and I am keen to improve myself. First lessons went well and I am looking forward to more of these high energy hilarious lessons.