Guide to Nannies in HCMC
How else are your kids going to learn their Do-Re-Mi in Vietnam?
Last Updated: October 23.2014
- Nannies are affordable for expat families living in HCMC, but it’s not easy to find skilled ones
- The industry is associated with lower class professions in Vietnam, although this is changing
- Categories of local nannies include rural women, students, ex-education sector professionals, and those introduced through friends or agencies.
- Common stereotypes are often applied to potential nannies of different backgrounds
- University-level nannying courses exist, but graduates usually take up work in schools
- Agencies can help you pinpoint applicants with specific skills sets
- Package rates and trial contracts are available
- A list of nanny agencies is provided, as well as links to online nanny job seeking forums
- Filipino nannies are sometimes desired for their fluency in English, although the law prevents them from working under long-term contracts
- Carefully consider your unique needs, and if you’re dealing with an agency, specify them in detail
- Nannies who cook may not produce food to your taste, and they may not enjoy the food you prepare for them
- Keep documents pertaining to your nanny’s identity and background for your protection, and try to establish a positive rapport
One obvious way in which life is different for expat families here is the rather common reliance on nannies. It hasn’t been that way in the West for some time, where having a maid or nanny is strongly associated with a highly affluent lifestyle unavailable to most. One of the advantages of living in a country where the average prices and wages are (for now, at least) lower than they are overseas is that luxuries such as private childcare become affordable, and with the stress of living in an alien land already enough of a pressure on beleaguered parents, having a nanny can turn out to be essential.
The problem is that nannies are not a readily available resource in this city, and there’s a good reason why. While in the past nannies were considered more or less a part of the family and lived at their employer’s home, they’ve never been considered as (nor required to be) professionals. There’s no nannying science in the Vietnamese tradition, and the job has always carried something of a stigma to it, an association with lower-class, unskilled labour. While these social attitudes are far more prevalent in the north, even here becoming a nanny is not something an educated young woman would aspire to be – and as a consequence, there are scant pickings for those looking for someone to mind their child who actually knows what she’s doing.
A decade ago, the only way you could get a nanny was by personal recommendation. Even then, expats had constant concerns about the staff they were letting into their homes, and it wasn’t entirely uncommon for foreigners to be stung by the experience. Some found their highly-recommended nannies to be irresponsible, reckless, heavy-handed, unprofessional, or even thieves; others were good-natured enough but acted according to subjective experience in child rearing using methods that might politely be put as unscientific or unsanitary.
Times are changing, gradually. Not everyone of working age is living with parents who could otherwise take care of their grandchildren; and with an increasing number of educated nuclear families arising in Saigon, an industry in nannying has emerged. Gone are the days when the only Vietnamese nannies you could find were middle-aged women from the countryside who’d wash the baby bottles with a gob of spit on their finger, and as the need for reliable childcare has increased in the metropolitan areas, the nanny agency industry has followed close behind. Evolving social attitudes have seen skilled nannies become increasingly popular amongst Vietnamese families, and with the escalating demand from the expat market and the higher standards of conduct they usually expect, more and more locals are turning towards this line of work.
The Saigon Nanny Smorgasbord
There are generally four types of local nannies now available in this city.
- Professional nannies from nanny agenciesA nanny agency is where you’re most likely to find someone to match your particular needs – whether that’s a livein nanny; seasonal or part-time; young or old. They’re hired by contract and usually have basic child-care training, but you’ll have the responsibilities of a regular Vietnamese employer, so you’ll need to offer certain employment benefits such as an annual 13th month salary. Many foreigners have despaired that nannies hired from agencies tend to quit within the first three months for unknown reasons.
- Retired Nannies / Ex-Kindergarten StaffThese are generally the most reliable and professional options, and they’ll often have five or ten years of experience and training in hygiene and children’s healthcare. As long as they have the required professional background, these “granny nannies” will impress you with their childhandling skills, but they’re difficult to hire unless you have Vietnamese acquaintances who can make an introduction.
- Student NanniesUsually young women with flexible study schedules, student nannies often speak reasonable English, have enough education to understand the standards required, and have a genuine enthusiasm for children. They’re not available as fulltimers, obviously, unless they’re looking for extra work during an extended holiday break – that’ll be a temporary arrangement. Generally these students do have a more rural background, which can occasionally be an issue if they adhere to stubborn traditions you don’t agree with. Student nannies are often asked to also work as tutors for the children they care for, and usually for kids who are over five.Student nannies are best sourced from the SAC (Student Assistance Centre of HCMC) via their Vietnameselanguage website. Otherwise, you could have a Vietnamese speaker help you to contact the Student Support Centre of a nearby school to post a recruitment ad for you on their notice board. With over 38 universities and colleges in this city, you’re fairly likely to have applicants.
- Rural WomenThese nannies are often specifically looking for livein work, and will generally only be located via introductions through friends and acquaintances who trust them. They’re typically clever, hard-working, and willing to do additional housework, but may be unequipped to follow international child care concepts.
Beyond these, male nannies are also available for hire in Vietnam, although at this point, only in Hanoi. Male nannies are more likely to be asked to accompany kids to school or take them out for entertainment purposes.
You may notice that with any local nannies you hire, their personal situation will have a big impact on the way they perform their duties. Local parents often stereotype nannies into broad categories, and will expect certain behaviours as per the following table:
|Middle-aged||College Student||Rural Woman|
Patient & Stable
Lower expected wage
Quick to learn
Lowest expected wage
Frank and honest
Unwilling to do additional tasks
Could quit any time
Study takes priority
|Availability||Full/Part time||Part time only||Mostly live-in|
As with any stereotype, it’s impossible to predict the behaviour of an individual solely based on general indicators – a rural nanny may be the best caregiver you’ve ever found for your children with impeccable manners and hygiene. You should be prepared, however, to be cautious with who you hire to look after your children, and to watch out for common problems.
Whoever told you there are no formal nannying qualifications in this country obviously hasn’t visited the University of Saigon or the HCMC Pedagogy College and enquired about their six month Nannying Theory and Practice courses. Graduates will receive a completion certificate in either Nannying for Elementary and Secondary Schools or Nannying for Kindergarten.
You’ll be lucky to have one of these graduates working for you, though – most people who come out of these courses go on to seek work at schools or kindergartens, which offer stable employment, and where there is high demand. This is very much to the disappointment of nanny agencies whose business it is to match qualified nannies with families – the agencies’ strategy is therefore not to pay too much attention to formal certification when they do their recruiting, but instead to offer short training courses of their own. Be aware that the quality of agency courses cannot match what is offered at the universities in terms of thoroughness, so if you have the opportunity to hire someone with a real tertiary certificate, they’re probably going to have a much better idea of what they’re doing than an agency nanny will.
There are now several nanny agencies working in Ho Chi Minh City, offering staff who are prepared to live in or work by the hour according to your needs. A good nanny agency will provide officially notarised documents to verify transparent and highly- focused candidate profiles, and many of them will provide training courses to ensure their recommended staff have the sufficient grounding in the services you'd expect from them. The extent of that training, of course, varies from company to company, and some operate as introduction services only on a commission basis. No matter how the staff are presented, it’s up to you to thoroughly evaluate your potential staff.
Most agencies can provide English-speaking nannies, although this will be considered an extra skill and the costs will be higher. You’ll also be able to request nannies with additional responsibilities such as cooking, tutoring, or other maid work.
The average cost you can expect to pay for nannying services from an agency depends on the nature of the work you need as follows:
- Hourly (VND20,000-35,000/hr)Most nanny agencies can provide nannies who will work by the hour. Payment is usually made at the end of the month.
- Live-in (VND4,000,000-5,500,000/month)Like regular Vietnamese employers of nannies, the host is usually expected to support the nanny in buying clothing, sharing food, providing a suitable place to rest, and offering bonuses at the end of the month, on special days, and in any special circumstances your nanny may come across.
- Office Hours Care (VND350,000-2,700,000/month)Most Vietnamese parents will not hire a nanny for daycare during office hours only, electing to send their kids to a local kindergarten instead (which is why many Vietnamese children attend daycare from as young as twelve months old). Most private & state-owned kindergartens will accept children from the age of one on – the registration fee is typically about VND2,700,000/month. Parents take responsibility for drop-off and pick-up themselves, although the schools can arrange transportation for you if you require.
- Seasonal (VND3,000,000-6,000,000/month)Again, this kind of service is rarely requested – parents who need to take frequent business trips during a particular season may elect to hire a full-time caregiver for a defined period. Locals in this situation will often place their child in a boarding school, although this is very rare amongst expat families.
Most agencies will offer special packages for nannies/maids (or even butlers) specialised in providing services for foreign families – it may be to your advantage however to discuss ‘package’ rates privately with the nanny. When you do hire, make sure the scope of the work is agreed in advance to avoid future argument about the workload – nannies have quit in the past upon the unpleasant discovery that they’re also expected to do the entire family’s ironing.
Try-before-you-buy is a well-worn concept in Vietnam, and it applies to agency nannies – it’s perfectly acceptable to try a nanny’s service for a week before making your decision, and payment is not usually expected for that week’s work (although if you go on to hire the individual concerned, it probably wouldn’t kill you to cough up a week’s wages). Another advance check you might be able to request is to sit in on an agency’s nanny training course to see how it’s done, and potentially choose your desired employee from amongst the students.
A list of agencies currently operating in Ho Chi Minh City follows:
50/4A, Thich Minh Nguyet, Ward 2, Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
84 8 39974552
|Live-in or hourly (8hr/d, 6d/w) nanny.Host arranges rest area. Max work 10 hrs/day, day off min 1d/month.||Live-in VND 5.5m/month; Hourly VND 5m/month||Guarantee nanny’s clean record, good health, provides training in Binh Duong province. Promaid have been criticised for high service charges, some irresponsible nannies, unwillingness to change nannies for unhappy clients, and one-sided contracts.|
General nannying and maid duties.
Host arranges rest area. Max work 10 hrs/day, day off min 1d/month.
178/11, D1 St., Ward 25, Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
84 8 firstname.lastname@example.org
|General nannying and cooking for baby. Operating all home devices. Cleaning, washing, shopping, cooking.||Probation 2 days. Average price VND40,000 per hour.||Nannies from TKT are trained to cook Western food and know how to use technical equipment.|
Hung Gia Kinh
121/11, Tran Binh Trong, Ward 2, District 5, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
18/17, Ho Van Hue, Ward 9, Phu Nhuan, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
84 8 39225895
|Nannies for children 1 year old and above and foreign families. General nannying, cooking, dishes, ironing, cleaning, etc.||Up to 8hrs/day excl. Sundays. From VND5million per month depending on hours and work required.||Rate does not include working equipment or cleansers, etc. Must sign service contract of 3-6 months. Full staged interview/filter process with notarised documents submitted. Training covers ethics, first aid, basic skills, communication, language, and law.|
36, So 37 St., Binh Thuan, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
|Two packages – one with general introduction only, another with contract signed with company rather than nanny directly.||Training not provided.|
In addition to the companies listed above, many freelance nannies post their resumes online or in local newspapers looking for work. Browse jobseekers online at websites such as New Aupair, nanny-agency.com, and occasionally on Lyra Dacio’s blog Hello Saigon help page.
Foreign Nannies for Foreign Parents
Finding a Vietnamese nanny who can use English as fluently as a native speaker is nothing short of miraculous. Although there’s certainly something to be said for the benefits of having your child pick up some Vietnamese via an immersion experience with a local nanny, for practical purposes in terms of communication, it’s often best to find another foreigner from an English-speaking country. In Vietnam, this usually means finding a maid from the Philippines.
One tiny problem with this is that it’s illegal to contract a foreign housekeeper or nanny in this country for any good length of time – workers in home help and nannying don’t meet the criteria under which foreign staff are allowed to be hired under Vietnamese law (as specified in Article 3 of the Decree on Employment and Administration of Foreigners Working in Vietnam 34-2008-ND-CP). This legislation is intended to protect the local industry.
This doesn’t actually mean that Filipino nannies are working illegally in Ho Chi Minh City – it just means that they’re not eligible to be granted a work permit, which in turn means that they’re not able to take on a contract for periods of three months or more. Those working on temporary three-month contracts (which of course can be renewed periodically) aren’t breaking any laws.
Filipino nannies are staples in expat homes throughout districts 2 and 7, and they form a significant part of the area’s vibrant Filipino community. You’ll see their advertisements to find work on the websites mentioned above, on Jaovat, or on the Vietnamese Wordpress blog Vietmaid. Most expats find that salaries for Filipino nannies are reasonable, and that their skills are generally acceptable and their English fully fluent. The only major snag is that it can be very difficult to verify their references if they’ve not worked in Vietnam before.
Matching Your Needs
Probably the most important thing you need to do when looking for a nanny is to consider your own family’s unique needs and requirements. Do you need a nanny who can also help your child with their schoolwork? Do you want your kids to pick up some Vietnamese, or do you require a nanny with fluent English? Do you need someone who is willing to do housework, or is babyminding sufficient in your case?
If your child is studying at an international school, he or she is likely to have a different schedule than your own, and you may need a nanny with transport to pick them up and drop them off. Student nannies and part-time nannies are often helpful in this regard.
Do be aware that if your needs are simple, you may find a storytelling service adequate for your needs. Storytellers are hired solely to read stories to your children – you can find more information in our article on the topic here.
If you’re hiring through an agency, be sure to specify all the additional tasks you will require. One advantage of doing things this way is that if a nanny fails to measure up, you have someone to complain to and can sometimes request a replacement more suitable to your needs. For example, a maid who is an exceptional cook when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine may not be able to deal with your foreign palate quite so well, and you probably won’t know this until they’ve cooked you a few meals. The same goes in reverse - if you’re hiring a full-time nanny and they’re joining you for meals, they may not share your undying devotion for daily pastas – you have the option of negotiating with an agency in advance if you want your nanny to bring their own food to your home rather than share your meals.
Remember that if a nanny is living in your home, you’ll have to register the fact at your local police station. You’ll need your nanny’s ID card, and some employers of live-in nannies request to keep hold of this for as long as the nanny is in their employ. Do at least keep a copy of your nanny’s ID card as a measure of protection. Also keep the contact info of your nanny’s supervisor if she was hired through an agency, as well as any letters of guarantee or recommendations you received. It helps to know something about your nanny’s background – how many family members she has, about her own children, and her work experience. All of this will give you a deeper insight into someone who is going to be given access to your home and responsibility for your children, and you should take these measures of caution as a healthy part of establishing a good rapport. This is someone who will be a part of your child’s formative years, and you want above all else for her input into your family to be entirely positive. That’s the best you can hope for.