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An interview with Caroline – a French expat in Vietnam

Updated 26 May 2015

Caroline Nguyen was born in France and spent most of her childhood years living in that country. For the past decade or so, she has called Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City home and she works for an international relocations company. 

About Caroline

Q: Where are you originally from? 

A: I’m originally from France – I was born there and lived there for 12 years. But I also have Vietnamese and Moroccan roots. 

Caroline is a French expat living in Vietnam

Q: Where are you living now? 

A: I’m currently living in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Q: When did you move here? 

A: 12 years ago.

Q: Did you move here alone or with family? 

A: I moved here with my family because I was too small.

Q: What do you do? 

A: Now I work for a moving company call Saigon Van International Relocations, which helps people to move their household goods from one country or one continent to another. Before that, I worked in hospitality, events and modelling.

Living in Vietnam

Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country? 

A: I would not call Vietnam my host country because it is part of my blood. Vietnam is a very beautiful country with very friendly people. The weather is very good, prices here are cheap, people are very nice and welcoming and the history of the country is unique. Vietnam is still developing and there are still a lot of possibilities to do something here. 

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into Vietnam? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?

A: The biggest adjustment for me was that I was growing up in France and then suddenly the change of country/culture came as a big shock to me. Everything was so different. It is not very easy when you are a teenager.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? 

A: The cost of living here is much cheaper than in France. 

Q: How would you rate the public transport? 

A: You have different kinds of public transport in Vietnam, like xe hom (motorbike taxis), buses and tuk-tuks. Personally I would go for a xe hom. It is easier to travel in HCMC’s roads and faster than a car. 

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in your host city or country? Are there any areas expats should avoid?

A: All the places in Vietnam are great places to go and visit. There is no place to avoid here in Vietnam. Just need to be careful with the bags or wallets. 

Meeting people and making friends

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? 

A: I have a lot of friends from many countries: Australia, England, France, India and Vietnam. There are many groups for expats in HCMC and many networking events that foreigners can participate in to get to know others. 

About working in Vietnam

Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?

A:  I didn’t have any problems with visas, as my mom has double nationality.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Vietnam? 

A: For me to find a job I would ask my contacts, families and friends. Here in Vietnam everything work this way I think, and the more connections you have the better. 

Q: How does the work culture differ from home? 

A: I can’t tell how work in Europe is, since I left there when I was 12. But If I have something to say to new arrivals it's that Asia is the future. 

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home? 

A: My husband was born in Belarus, and he left his country when he was 11 years old. He has been living and studying in Vietnam for 13 years already. 

Q: Did your children settle in easily? 

A: My daughter was born in Vietnam. 

Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions? 

A: The international school level here is pricey but decent. I went to a French international school. 

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?

A: Living in Vietnam will change your vision of life. It is a very unique experience not to be missed. 

~ Interviewed in May 2015

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