Lifestyle

Pros and Cons of Living in Vietnam as an Expat

Intro

Up until several years ago, the thought of moving to Vietnam had never crossed my mind.

Vietnam seemed like some place that I had long forgotten and removed from my life.

My only experience with Vietnam was through hearing stories from my parents and relatives or watching some old VHS tapes from back in the 90’s.

The tapes made Vietnam look like some third world country with overcrowding, noise and air pollution, and of course third world living conditions.

Did they even have a proper western style toilet? I thought.

Despite my parent’s continued pleas to visit Vietnam with them and see the country and get familiar with my relatives, I had no desire to leave.

There was no way in hell I was going to give up my western lifestyle over here to move half way around the world to live in that dump, I thought at the time.

I was perfectly content with staying in the west and living out my life here.

However this all changed after my trip to Europe, especially eastern Europe.

Over there, my perception and reality of what eastern Europe was like was completely shattered.

But the biggest takeaway from the trip was the plentiful dating options men had over there, especially with really attractive girls, the cheap cost of living, and how developed things really were there rather than the post-soviet union picture I had imagined in my head.

After that trip, I was addicted to traveling and experiencing new things.

So when my parents offered to buy me a plane ticket with them down to Vietnam, I couldn’t resist.

I was building on the momentum of my previous trip and now was open to the idea of visiting “the motherland”.

I knew no matter what, I was going to be in for an adventure.

If this sounds familiar to you or if your still deciding on whether or not to give living in Vietnam a go, then this article’s for you.

In today’s article, I will go over the pros and cons of living in Vietnam as an expat.

These include the following:

Pros:

  • Cost of living is cheap
  • People are warm and friendly
  • Nice weather
  • Cheap flights around the country and to nearby destinations
  • Dating paradise for a single guy
  • Vietnam is dynamic and always changing
  • Easy access to food and beverages
  • Vietnamese food is amazing

Cons:

  • Noise levels
  • Lack of common courtesy on the roads
  • Unhygienic food preparation
  • Western amenities expensive
  • Petty crime and corruption
  • Overcharging and scams
  • Language barriers
  • Constant power and internet outages

Pros

Cost of Living is Cheap

pros and cons of living in Vietnam: cost of living

Due to rampant poverty and low earning potential, the cost of living in Vietnam is very cheap.

Just to give you an example:

A bedroom in a shared house will run you no more than $200-300 usd a month, unless you want to live in some super fancy high rise building and even then, it will still only cost you around $600-700 usd a month at most.

A 1 bedroom apartment will run you between $400-600 usd a month, whereas a 2-bedroom around 700-800 usd.

Compare this to rent prices in places like new york where a crappy rat infested termite filled bedroom will run you well over 1k usd a month.

Food out on the streets is also extremely cheap.

A plate of fresh off the grill pork chops marinated with fresh herbs and lemongrass, along with some fluffy and delectable steamed egg and a mouth watering fried egg drizzled in some fish sauce will only set you back $1.5-2 usd.

A coffee will run you anywhere between 50 cents to $1 usd.

A cellphone sim along with all of the data, and minutes you could use will cost you no more than $8-10 usd a month.

Your dollar really does goes a long way over here in Vietnam.

Why live in a western country and struggle to get by without much of a social life when you can have a higher standard of living while earning less money?

You’ll live like a king over here if you can make the same amount of money in Vietnam as you do abroad.

People are Warm and Friendly

pros and cons of living in Vietnam: people are friendly

Unlike some countries where people are cold and cliquey, only choosing to hang out with their friends and close ones, rather than being open to welcoming newcomers into their social circle, Vietnam is the opposite.

Often times as a foreigner, you will receive special and preferential treatment from locals.

Now whether or not this privilege is warranted is another story.However, locals will be friendly and warm towards you here.I would speculate that this is due to a combination of the local culture and also the weather. In countries with warmer climates, people tend to be friendlier compared to countries with colder climates.

In Vietnamese culture, collectivism and group harmony is valued highly.

When you live in Vietnam, you get a sense of community from watching all of the locals interact and socialize with each other daily.

When there’s a wedding, its not just two households and their relatives attending, its the whole neighborhood.

A lot of neighbors grew up together and thus form a tight knit community around the area.

Often times, I would hear a hello or good morning from some random stranger or someone would be waving at me.

I compare this to my home over the west, where my neighbors don’t even look at each other and pretend that they aren’t even there. After receiving the cold shoulder for so long, it feels kind of strange to have this kind of warm reception from strangers.

People in my neighborhood in Vietnam have also invited me to try some of their food while they are eating lunch or dinner and are more than willing to help me out if I need directions to a place.

Nice Weather

pros and cons of living in Vietnam: nice weather

If you enjoy nice warm summer weather all year long then you will love Vietnam.

Coming from a country where winters are brutishly cold and harsh, the warm hot weather in Vietnam is definitely welcomed.

Depending on which part of Vietnam that you decide to stay in, you can expect a mix of hot, warm, cool, and maybe somewhat cold weather.

Vietnam for the most part has a sub-tropic climate.

What this means is that you can expect to see a lot of t-shirts, and shorts around the country. This is especially true in southern Vietnam such as in Ho Chi Minh City.

If the hot weather is getting to you, you can easily book a flight to Dalat, a city in central Vietnam, well known for its cool relaxing weather.

Over there, expect day time temperatures to be in the 20’s (celsius) and mid teens in the evenings.

The beach cities in central Vietnam such as Da nang also have lovely weather with high 20’s and low 30’s all throughout the year.

The northern parts of Vietnam has 4 seasons, but their winters are no where near as cold as a western country such as the USA or Canada.

One thing I will mention though is if your planning on staying in the south, know that there is a wet season half of the year here.

This means it will be raining nonstop practically everyday.

Just make sure to bring an umbrella when your going out.

Cheap Flights Around the Country and to Nearby Destinations

vietnam airlines

Vietnam has a wealth of different airlines serving the country and offering its residents plenty of cheap flights around the country and also abroad.

Just to give you an example of how cheap a flight is over here in Vietnam, I recently flew on Vietjet from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang city for only $40 usd roundtrip.

A trip like this could easily cost 3-4 more in a western country like the USA or Canada.

With these cheap flights in hand, you could easily take weekend trips all across Vietnam without breaking the bank.

And the cheap prices don’t stop there, there are numerous flights all around Southeast Asia for rock bottom prices.

I paid something like around $100 usd for a roundtrip ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok several months back.

If you ever get bored of one city here in Vietnam, you can easily hop on a flight to another city, or even a nearby country for dirt cheap.

You don’t have that luxury in some countries like Canada where airline tickets are through the roof due to little to no competition between airline carriers, and the large landmass.

It’s a Dating Paradise for a Single Guy

pros and cons of living in Vietnam: dating paradise for guys

Your probably sick of hearing me talk about this numerous times by now, but I will mention it again.

Over here in Vietnam, it’s a dating paradise for a single guy.

Tonnes of single, slim, and cute Vietnamese girls are everywhere.

Just when you thought that cutie that you saw down at the bubble tea shop stole your heart, another way springs into your life 5 minutes later at the parking lot.

And a lot of these Vietnamese girls are eager to meet and date a nice gentleman like you.

Getting numbers and going on dates is very easy over here.

If you seem like a well presented gentleman, some of your neighbors may even introduce some Vietnamese women to you too!

In fact, you may soon find yourself having difficulty trying to juggle and balance between dating all of these cute Vietnamese girls!

Check out this article on the best place to meet Vietnamese girls here.

Vietnam is Dynamic and Always Changing

Unlike in some western countries that are always stagnant and a total borefest, Vietnam is very dynamic and is always changing.

You will always see new buildings being put up.

There will always be construction noises everywhere.

What you see today will probably be different in one or two years from now.

This means there’s always something exciting and new to discover.

If your the type that embraces change and likes exploring new things then Vietnam is perfect for you.

Easy Access to Food and Beverages

woman selling squid

In the west, sometimes you need to travel for several miles before even seeing anything remotely edible. This basically means your typical fast food joint like Mcdonalds and Burger King.

In Vietnam however, you can just walk outside and boom!

The streets are loaded with food stalls serving a feast, and all at affordable rock bottom prices too.

And if eating out isn’t your cup of tea, then not to worry because delivery is easy peasy.

Just install one of the many food delivery apps like now and grab and soon, voila! Your food’s arrived.

Easy, simple, convenient, and cheap!

What more could you expect?

There’s also a tonne of convenience stores scattered all across the country.

Expect to find a Vinmart, B’s mart, Circle K, 7-Eleven, Family Mart, and a GS25 convenience store pretty much anywhere.

These shops are open pretty much 24/7 so you can stop by late at night and grab a few snacks if your hungry.

Vietnamese Food is Amazing

pros and cons of living in Vietnam: Vietnamese food

If you’ve ever eaten Vietnamese food before well then, you don’t need me to tell you how delicious and awesome it tastes.

And if you didn’t, why haven’t you yet?

Not only does Vietnamese food taste like heaven in your mouth, its also very healthy too.

There’s a tonne of herbs and vegetables used in Vietnamese cuisine that gives a lot of the dishes that hearty aromatic smell.

Combine this with an assortment of proteins, savory sauces, and a large variety of carbs such as rice noodles, egg noodles, rice, broken rice, sticky glutinous rice, and rice paper and you got yourself a real winner.

There’s so much variety and simplicity that goes into each dish, yet is packed full of flavor to work your taste buds overtime.

Here’s a few Vietnamese dishes that you must try:

  • Steaming hot broken rice with grilled lemongrass pork chop, steamed egg, pork skin, and fried egg (Cơm tấm)
  • Beef rice noodle soup (Phở) (try both northern and southern style and see which one you prefer)
  • Vermicelli noodles served with grilled pork, deep fried spring rolls, and fresh herbs.
  • Vietnamese pancakes (Bánh xèo) served with mung beans, beansprouts, fatty cuts of pork, and shrimp

Cons

Noise levels

noise levels

If your a light sleeper then this one will be a huge problem. It definitely was for me when I first arrived here.

At around 6am in the morning, some idiot was blasting their speakers basically waking everybody up at the hotel that I was staying at.

And things didn’t end there, as some geniuses decided to go singing karaoke with their loud speakers outside at 12am at night.

It wasn’t bad enough that I was jetlagged and hardly got any sleep on my flight, but now I had to deal with this noise too.

I hardly got any sleep during my first week here in Vietnam.

Noise levels can be quite excessive if your coming from a western country.

Expect roosters to be crowing at 5 or 6 in the morning or someone deciding to play loud dance music at sunrise.

Expect lots of motorbikes honking their horns all throughout the day and people chit-chatting everywhere.

There seems to be a lack of consideration for other’s well being here when it comes to noise levels.

If your coming to Vietnam for the first time, be prepared for this.

In fact, go out and get yourself some ear plugs if you intend on sleeping at all here!

Here’s a great pair of earplugs that saved my life that I regularly still use here in Vietnam.

3M 1100 Foam Ear Plugs

This is a box with 200 pairs of foam earplugs that should last you a long time while your adjusting to the noise levels here in Vietnam.

Grab yours here from Amazon.

Lack of Common Courtesy on the Roads

people driving on sidewalks

This one goes hand in hand with the last point.

There seems to be a lack of common courtesy here when it comes to driving on the roads.

A lot of drivers here choose not to obey traffic laws.

This means that its quite common to see motorbikes continue speeding off despite the traffic light being red or someone choosing to drive on the sidewalks, honking their horns for pedestrianization to get the hell outta their way because of course its more important for them to get to their destination then potentially running over some innocent bystander.

The mentality of right of way over here goes the bigger your car, the more privilege you have on the roads.

What this means is that trucks > cars > motorbikes > pedestrians.

If your trying to cross the street, take note that motorbike drivers do not yield to pedestrians.

Instead what you will typically see is the driver increasing their speed hoping to cut you off and beat you to the punch.

This puts you at significant risk of getting run over if your not careful and moving too quickly.

In my opinion, its a very backwards and selfish way of thinking.

In fact, I actually brought this point up with a friend of mine a while back, regarding her driving on the sidewalk during rush hour and getting in innocent pedestrians way.

Her response?

Well, if I don’t drive on the sidewalks when theirs a traffic jam, I’m going to be stuck in traffic and get home late.

There was zero consideration for others. It was all a “me first” type of attitude and way of thinking.

Also I have noticed on more than a few occasions when drivers that chose to disobey traffic laws and then almost get into an accident with the person driving in the other direction, they would turn around and give the other driver a rude stare.

Its as if in their minds they believe that they are in the right despite breaking traffic laws.

To further exacerbate this issue, traffic cops don’t do their jobs unless of course there is some sort of kick back or bribes involved.

That’s why you see this sort of behavior extremely rampant in the cities, because traffic cops have failed to do their jobs properly.

Unhygienic Food Preparation

Vietnamese woman selling bread

If you love food, then you better watch out!

I was kept appalled by the food preparation over here in Vietnam.

In fact, I even got food poisoning once on my first trip down to Vietnam.

If your coming to Vietnam be prepared to witness horrors in food handling and preparation.

You will often times see food being left out in the hot and humid sun for hours on end, while flies and mosquitoes are buzzing over it.

But that’s not all.

The food vendor then using their bare sweaty and dirty hands grabs the food items and places it in a dish for you to eat.

God knows what their hands have been touching all day.

And now its bon appetite for you.

Scary stuff, right?

And don’t even get me started on the ice.

Often times, you will see people delivering ice packed into rice bags, with the water seeping right out before your very eyes.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, the water that is used is often times not treated and ripe full of bacteria.

There have been numerous reports of people getting sick and the ice being full of bacteria. This is one of the many problems living in Vietnam that you will encounter.

With this being said however, I have started to notice a trend nowadays of some chain restaurants to start incorporating plastic glows for their employees to use when handling food. A few street food vendors are also using plastic glows, which is a huge sign of relief for me.

The ice used at these chains typically are cleaner than the ones you would see street vendors use as well.

But still, Vietnam has a long way to go towards reaching any sort of safe food handling and prepping levels.

Western Amenities Expensive or Lacking

slum in Vietnam

Make no mistake, you will eventually start missing western amenities if you stay in Vietnam for any extended period of time.

Things that you used to take for granted such as having access to hot water 24/7 and even bathroom curtains will feel like a luxury here.

For some reason or another, at some accommodations, there’s a lack of a bathtub/shower area with curtains to prevent water from getting everywhere.

Instead, its basically just a shower head, right beside the sink and toilet.

What this means is that when you decide to go take a shower, water will inevitable get all over your washroom.

Also, they don’t really use toilet paper here much.

Its basically a free for all using a water hose that you shoot up your butt to disinfect and clean it.

While this is a good way of helping you clean your buttocks, for some people new to using it, it will feel quite uncomfortable and strange.

Also things like western food, electronics, clothes, etc that you would typically find for very reasonable prices in a western country are all overpriced here in Vietnam.

I believe this is due to a combination of import taxes that stores need to pay, coupled with their markup and expenses associated with importing the goods over here.

If you intend on buying any sort of imported goods, just be prepared to add a markup tax to the items or better yet, buy them while abroad.

The living conditions in Vietnam are just not up to par with a western country yet.

Petty Crime and Corruption

Due to high poverty levels and insufficient employment opportunities, petty crime and corruption is quite high over here.

You will see loads of both locals and tourists get their personal belongings stolen from them.

The typical item of choice for thieves are phones, handbags, purses, wallets, motorbikes, and cameras.

In addition to dealing with thieves that run amok in the city, you will also most likely have to deal with traffic police officers looking for a quick payday if you do any sort of driving here.

Often times traffic police officers will try to pull a fast one on you by pulling you over, and making up some outrageous claim about a traffic violation.

They then try to suggest that you can reduce the fine by offering them some coffee or tea money.

This is pretty much a shake down from the get go as they are just looking for bribes.

You can of course fight them on this if you have proof such as video footage or what not, but it does get annoying after a while.

There’s also the airport custom’s corruption issue where they give you a hard time coming into or leaving the country, or they steal your belongings, however things seem to have improved a bit, especially after the minister of transport wanted a widespread clamp down on this issue.

Overcharging and Scams

market in saigon

Overcharging foreigners has long been a past time at a lot of places here, especially in district 1 around the touristy areas in Ho Chi Minh City.

What would have cost a local $1 soon ends up costing you $10 or $20.

This one is to be expected if your always hanging around touristy places, this is why I always advocate that you step outside of your comfort zone and venture into local areas.

I’m not gonna too much into detail about this because I already wrote about this in another article.

If you would like to find out more information regarding the various scams that happen here in Vietnam, click here to read my article about it.

Language Barriers

We all know how important communication is, however what happens when you arrive in a foreign country and you can’t converse with the locals?

This is exactly what’s gonna happen if you arrive here in Vietnam and haven’t quite brushed up on your Vietnamese.

The majority of Vietnamese do not speak a lick of English here.

I repeat, the majority of Vietnamese that you will encounter in Vietnam won’t know a single word of English besides “hi”.

So if your not prepared to put in the hours to learn a bit of Vietnamese then be prepared to face some language barrier issues when your in Vietnam.

This can start waning on you after a while if you need to repetitively expend excess energy to get your points across.

Luckily learning Vietnamese isn’t too bad and you should be able to converse with locals at a basic level at the minimum after several months of study.

To learn more about Vietnamese learning resources available, click here.

Constant Power and Internet Outages

You never realize how much having access to power and internet means in your life until its not available.

This seems to be the case with all of the power and internet outages happening practically every month down here.

It seems the blame for internet outages that happen quite often are the result of sharks insatiable appetite for chowing down on fiber optic cables.

Or could it be something else?

The internet over here in Vietnam resembles a patient with bipolar disorder. One minute the internet is blazing fast, and the next, its been slowed down to a crawl.

The power grid in Vietnam is also in need of some major upgrades to supply power to the ever growing population in Vietnam, yet one wonders whether or not the process of electrical cable management has anything to due with some of the outages.

Electrical cable management in Vietnam

You can expect at least 1 outage every 1-2 months in most districts here, with the outage lasting anywhere between 1-5 hours.

It can get quite annoying, especially when your trying to cool down with the air conditioner or trying to get some work done on the computer, luckily some buildings have backup generators.

Conclusion

Well there you have folks, the pros and cons of living in Vietnam as an expat.

Let’s summarize the advantages and disadvantages of living in Vietnam once more:

Pros:

  • Cost of living is cheap
  • People are warm and friendly
  • Nice weather
  • Cheap flights around the country and to nearby destinations
  • Dating paradise for a single guy
  • Vietnam is dynamic and always changing
  • Easy access to food and beverages
  • Vietnamese food is amazing

Cons:

  • Noise levels
  • Lack of common courtesy on the roads
  • Unhygienic food preparation
  • Western amenities expensive
  • Petty crime and corruption
  • Overcharging and scams
  • Language barriers
  • Constant power and internet outages

Vietnam is a wonderful country full of culture and adventure, however there are some drawbacks to living here.

Now whether or not those drawbacks are minor issues or major ones will entirely depend on what you value more.

If your thinking about coming down to Vietnam and you still need a Visa and invitation approval letter, then I recommend the follow Vietnam Visa service provider Vietnam-Visa.com. They provide fast and reasonably priced Visa services and ordering is quick and easy online.

Let me know in the comments below what other pros and cons you have living here in Vietnam as an expat.

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