How to choose the right city as an expat in Vietnam

How to choose the right city as an expat in Vietnam

How to choose the right city as an expat in Vietnam

Vietnam’s popularity as an expat destination is growing year by year, but choosing the right city can be tricky.

Vietnam has made massive strides towards escaping its war-torn third world label and is now Southeast Asia’s most thriving economy, attracting expatriates from all over the developed world. For Westerners, the move is a totally new experience, especially as there are diverse differences between the northern region of the country and its southern equivalent.

One of Vietnam’s favourite cities for expat professionals is South Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, with historic districts, monuments and charm contrasting with its totally modern developments. The comparison between the north and the south might awaken British expat memories of the UK's North/South divide, although in Vietnam’s case it’s the south which claims to be the friendliest and most welcoming to outsiders. In Ho Chi Minh City, mixed communities are the norm, with expats feeling at home far faster than those who’ve chosen to settle in the north. As in the UK, the southern Vietnamese claim northerners are cheats and generally not at all friendly as well as overcharging all tourists, expats and Southerners!

The importance of the English language to Vietnam’s continued development can’t be over-estimated, causing a boom in the market for English teachers and English language schools. Vietnamese businesses understand the necessity of accepting English as the world’s second language and refuse to fall behind due to a lack of professional tuition facilities. New ESL schools are opening all over the region, but there’s a shortage of native English speakers with TEFL qualifications.

For those who can teach and have the right qualifications and experience, Vietnam’s cost of living comes as a pleasant surprise. Modern condos rent out for around $345 and eating out every night puts no strain at all on the average teacher’s salary. Another of Ho Chi Minh City’s plus points is its free wi-fi, available almost everywhere and a real boon to digital nomads as well as tech startups. The city has 24 major districts, and weekend trips out to beachside locations take only two to three hours.

For health-conscious foodies, Vietnamese cuisine is a blessing, relying heavily on low-carbohydrate, controlled-protein ultra-fresh ingredients and delicate flavours, a great change from the heavily-spiced dishes of its near neighbours. Ho Chi Minh’s street food is famous, incredibly cheap and its favourite locations aren’t about to be shut down or moved, as has happened in Bangkok over the past several years. Expats yearning for year-round warm weather will find the southern region’s two seasons, wet and dry, very much to their liking.

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