The image of vast rice fields and people with iconic, triangle-shaped hats was all I could think of Vietnam before I had come to Vietnam in 2018 for the first time when I taught Japanese to Vietnamese people as volunteer.
Since then, my image of Vietnam has changed a lot as I started living here.
In this article, I will describe what it is like to live in Vietnam based on my experience.
As you read, please keep in mind that what I write in this article is solely based on my experience and it will be different from others, and I have no intention to indicate my experience is necessarily true to other people.
Family bonds are very strong in Vietnam.
During traditional Vietnamese new year holidays known as Tet holidays, families come back to their hometown to get together and enjoy quality time with family.
When speaking to Vietnamese people, I noticed they often address their cousins as “sister” or “brother” in English which still makes me confused from time to time.
Even though the western influence is getting more noticeable in the bigger cities, the Vietnamese culture still largely remains, which is one of the reasons why many foreigners are attracted to Vietnam.
I find Vietnamese people kind and willing to help generally.
Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnamese people are shyer when communicating with foreigners in my experience.
That’s more true when you go to the countryside.
English communication is more difficult than the countries like the Philippines, India but the basic communication is mostly fine in urban areas such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City.
And, you would find the difference in people’s behavior depending on the places you visit.
Vietnamese foods are relatively easy to get used to and some foreigners are really into the Vietnamese foods.
The examples of famous foods loved by foreigners are Banh Mi (sandwich) and Pho (noodle soup).
In terms of price, if you eat out at local Vietnamese restaurants, it is surprisingly cheap compared to foreign cuisines.
It normally costs only around 1USD for breakfast or lunch if you eat like local people.
What interested me as a beer lover is the local restaurant called Bia Hoi which is translated as “Draft beer”.
These restaurants typically have a large open space with staff serving fresh beer for as cheap as 7,000VND (30 cents/0.3USD) for glass and delectable local Vietnamese foods.
It is one of the Vietnamese-like experiences to eat out at Bia Hoi.
When I lived in other countries, I usually searched for housing and contacted the owner by myself.
In Vietnam, you have the luxury of relying on real estate agencies with no agent fee.
For Japanese, it’ll be reassuring to know there are quite a few real estate agencies which you can communicate in Japanese.
And, while you can certainly live in conventional apartments, there are apartments called serviced apartments.
The serviced apartments usually come with housekeeping and laundry services, 24/7 security guards.
For the person who starts living in Vietnam for the first time, serviced apartments are highly recommended as you’ll have much fewer concerns about the living.
Having lived in Vietnam for over 3 years, I’d say living in major cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City is quite comfortable compared to the country like India where I had lived for 3 years.
It’s mainly because the Vietnam culture is not too hard to adapt even for the person who lives abroad for the first time.
And, if you are Japanese, you have the advantage of easy access to Japanese restaurants for not-too-expensive prices.
Also, there are several Japanese companies which have entered Vietnam market in recent years such as Uniqlo, Muji.
The big downside for me (and many other foreigners) is the chaotic traffic, aggressive driving which might make you feel dangerous.
Having said that, Vietnam would be one of the easiest places to live for foreigners and I could highly recommend Vietnam if you make up your mind to explore and live in Southeast Asia since it would give you so much different experience from your home country despite relative comfort of living.