The best things about being an expat in Vietnam – and some useful tips for newbies
Written by Adon Beddoes on February 22, 2018.
It’s been a year since I moved to Vietnam. I came in search of challenge and adventure and I definitely got it – in bucket loads. This is undoubtedly an exciting and dynamic country to live in, and I absolutely love it.
Perhaps you are thinking of a move to Vietnam? Or maybe you have just relocated and are finding your feet? Here are some of the things I like best about living here and some tips and advice for making the most of the experience.
1. The earning potential
Experts are predicting economic growth for Vietnam in 2018 as the country continues to attract foreign investment. That will mean plenty of job opportunities, particularly in construction, finance, banking, tourism and education. If you’re looking, now is a good time.
My top tip: Organising your finances while you are living abroad can be tricky as you juggle financial commitments in two different countries and currencies and need to get to grips with a more complicated tax situation. I highly recommend finding a financial adviser early on to help you navigate these unfamiliar waters. It will save you time and money in the long run.
2. The lower cost of living
Many expats find that they have more disposable income than they did back home, due to better pay, lower living costs or a combination of the two. According to HSBC’s 2016 Expat Explorer Survey Vietnam ranked 10th in the world for disposable income.
My top tip: Of course you will want to see and experience as much of Vietnam as possible, but don’t pass up this fantastic opportunity to get ahead with your retirement saving! Careful budgeting and regular saving will ensure that you if and when you leave Vietnam, you will do so with a healthy nest egg behind you. Again, have a chat with a financial adviser about putting in place a savings plan to make the most of this opportunity to invest.
3. The culture
Endlessly fascinating and wonderfully diverse, Vietnamese culture is all about contrast: the modernity of city life versus the realities of rural Vietnam, traditional and French colonial architecture jostle for space with 21st century office blocks and periods of Chinese and French rule have both left a strong legacy.
My top tip: To gain a good understanding of recent Vietnamese history a visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum are a must.
4. The food
Food is central to Vietnamese culture and the country’s diverse cuisine and unique flavours are just a delight to explore. Pho is Vietnam’s most well known foodie export, having pretty much taken over the world, but there is so much more to discover. Street food is huge here and if you’re adventurous you’ll soon be able to tell your bánh from your bún.
My top tip: For fabulous, authentic food and first-class service in a wonderful atmosphere, I recommend Home Finest Saigon Restaurant.
5. The Vietnamese people
The Vietnamese are renowned for their hospitality and generosity and that has certainly been my experience. I’d also add optimism, enthusiasm, diligence and adaptability to their long list of positive attributes.
My top tip: It’s easy to get sucked into an expat bubble but make the effort to get to know the locals by expanding your social life beyond expat bars and clubs. Try visiting the local coffee shops, where you’ll find that Vietnamese coffee is stronger and much tastier than back home.
6. It’s safe
The UK government describes Vietnam as ‘one of the more politically stable countries in South East Asia’. The crime rate is relatively low and, for most expats, is limited to petty crime which can be avoided by taking some sensible precautions. In addition, because of its favourable geographical position, Vietnam fares better than many Asian countries when it comes to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes.
My top tip: Many people get around on motorbikes but accidents are frequent. Always wear a helmet, keep your wits about you and have fully comprehensive insurance.
7. The weather
Who doesn’t like warm weather year round? Granted, there is the monsoon to deal with but you can always get away if the rain gets too much.
My top tip: Here in Ho Chi Minh City the rainy season runs from May to November but further north in the beautiful ancient town of Hoi An it doesn’t start until around October, making it a fantastic getaway when you just can’t take another weekend of monsoon rain. The city is one of Vietnam’s biggest tourist attractions and a great place to get off the beaten track and explore. Visit between early May and early August to be sure of the best weather – I will be going in July with my parents when they visit Vietnam for the first time.
8. Amazing places to visit within easy reach
Whether you fancy soaking up the rays on sun-drenched, sandy beaches or cooling off by the refreshing lakes and streams in the highlands, Vietnam has somewhere stunningly beautiful for you to enjoy. The country is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the above-mentioned city of Hoi An and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. You’ll also have easy access to neighbouring countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and China. Your only problem will be choosing which of the numerous accessible amazing destinations to explore on your weekends off!
My top tip: My favourite retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life is Ha Long Bay, an easy-on-the-eye combination of thousands of tiny forested islands and towering limestone pillars scattered in the emerald waters of the Gulf of Tonkin in northern Vietnam. It is not difficult to see why it has been a World Heritage Site since 1994. Heaven on earth!
9. Excellent healthcare
Some newly installed expats worry about the quality of healthcare in Vietnam but I can reassure you that the facilities in the country’s major cities are good and many of them also have English-speaking staff, which is reassuring if your Vietnamese is not up to discussing your ailments. I have known occasions when expats have preferred to travel to Bangkok or Singapore for more complicated treatment and bear in mind that decent medical care in rural areas can be harder to find.
My top tip: A comprehensive international health insurance policy is an absolute must for all expats. It will ensure you have access to the best care (including overseas care) without delay if you or your loved ones need it.
If you’re wondering about whether a move to Vietnam would be a good one, I hope you find the above useful in making a decision. If you take the plunge, or have already done so,
and are looking for a financial adviser who can help you get to grips with the financial challenges involved in relocating to Asia then please do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.