Anne is a German expat who moved to Vietnam in 2014. Originally planning to travel around Southeast Asia for a few months, she decided to settle in Ho Chi Minh City when she was offered a job at an international school. Although she finds HCMC chaotic and sometimes misses the quiet of her home town, Anne enjoys the warm climate and opportunities for cheap travel around the region.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Q: When did you move to Ho Chi Minh City?
A: January 2014.
Q: Did you move to Vietnam alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I moved alone.
Q: Why did you move to Ho Chi Minh City; what do you do?
A: I wanted to travel to Southeast Asia for four months and got a job at an international school after my second month. And I’m still here.
Living in Vietnam
Q: What do you enjoy most about Ho Chi Minh City? How would you rate the quality of life compared to Germany?
A: I do like the freedom the most, the feeling that everything is possible, the weather, the easy way to travel. The quality of life in Vietnam compared to Germany is of course different, but you can’t have everything if you set different priorities.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about Germany?
A: Ho Chi Minh City is huge. Sometimes I miss nature and silence. Of course, I miss my family.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Vietnam? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: Yes, for sure when I went back to Europe for holidays. I think you really need to get used to the chaos and the noises around. Your brain has more work to do here.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Vietnam compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Everything is cheaper in Vietnam compared to back home, except for imported food – it’s pretty much the same. But in general, life here is cheaper.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Ho Chi Minh City?
A: The most used vehicle is the motorbike and taxis. The car fees are very high so only some expats have a car but then also with a driver. You have to live in this chaos for a while before you want to put yourself in the traffic. There is a metro in progress. Also, the bus lines are very good and very cheap.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Ho Chi Minh City? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: Ja, I can recommend the international hospitals, and they are growing. There are still price differences but I can recommend the Vinmec in Binh Thanh District which is pretty good. In the last two and a half years, a lot of new hospitals have opened. So expats don't need to worry about this point.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Ho Chi Minh City? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Yeah, there are only a few districts with an international community. The biggest issue is pickpocketing, so you have to be aware of that. Also, beware of burglaries if you live in a house by yourself. I’m living in a house but I've never had this problem in almost three years. If you don’t feel comfortable in a house, you can also rent a serviced apartment with 24-hour security. There are many options. And since I’ve been here, nothing has happened to me.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Ho Chi Minh City? What different options are available for expats?
A: You can have small houses, villas, serviced apartments, lofts, actually everything.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Most expats live in District 1, District 2, District 3, District 4, District 7, Phu Nhuan and Binh Thanh. District 2 and District 7 are very green. Most of the Western expats live there.
Meeting people and making friends in Ho Chi Minh City
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: No, if you are respectful and know that you are a guest, they will welcome you with open arms. Vietnamese are very curious and like to host. But of course you have to respect their culture and traditions. They like to learn a lot about the Western world and the young generation, especially, is very interested in learning English.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Ho Chi Minh City? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It depends on yourself. Don’t be shy, just talk. Everybody was a stranger here once and everybody knows how it feels to be far away from family and friends. There are parties everywhere, bars, restaurants, sports clubs, a lot of communities and Facebook pages – it’s easy to connect.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: I have both local and expat friends from all over the world. You should be open to everything – that's my advice. And the Expat Ho Chi Minh City page on Facebook is a good place to start before you move to Vietnam.
Working in Ho Chi Minh City
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit for Vietnam? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: When you work for a company they will normally do everything for you. There are also a lot of agents who can help with the visa. The expat Facebook group is always good for questions like that.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there?
A: It is always easy to teach English at a language centre, also check out the international schools. Advertising is pretty big, as well as engineering and sales.
Q: How does the work culture in Vietnam differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Vietnam?
A: You have to be patient. The Vietnamese have their own way of doing things and as a Westerner you have to try to forget where are you coming from to understand their way.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Be open, curious, interested, feel free and be grateful for the opportunity to live in an awesome, beautiful country and area.
► Interviewed October 2016