Considering job offer in HCMC - How is it like to live there?

I am considering an opportunity to work in HCMC and would like to find out as much as possible about living/working there before making my decision.

I have spent 3days there as part of holiday in Vietnam and thoroughly enjoyed doing all the touristy things (sightseeing, culture, cuisine, nightlife etc) but would like to hear about the every day challenges that expats have faced and how they have over come these.

Any comments will be much appreciated as they help me in making one of the biggest decisions of my life.

Much of the expat experience is the expat's attitude rather than the place you live.

Open minded people willing to stand a bit of hassle in favour of the fun and experience tend to do very nicely.

Hello Gary!

I have been living as an expat here in Ho Chi Minh City for 2 years now.  Your decision really depends on what you are looking for.  What is your current life situation in your home country/where you are now, what changes or betterment you look forward to, are you willing to go out of your comfort zone?

The challenges:

1.  Language.  Most locals still cannot speak English; however, the good thing about Vietnamese is that they are willing to communicate with foreigners despite this language-barrier.  Believe me, despite not having any knowledge of each other's spoken language, somehow you will get your transactions/inquiry done.  They are quite helpful and willing to communicate, either by sign language or with very few English words that they know.  For a non-English speaking nation, they are not snobbish, they are rather very hospitable and receptive to any non-Vietnamese.

2. Transportation.  I do not ride motorbikes, so my only options are cabs and buses.  They still do not have metro trains, which by the way are now under construction.  So, that is one of the things you can expect when you come to Vietnam.  Beware of Vinasun cabs, most drivers have a way of accelerating the meter, even though you will find cab fares here much cheaper than Singapore or New York, it is still not a good experience to be cheated and pay double the price of what the rest of the locals are paying for.  Mai-Linh cabs are your best bet, polite drivers and honest fares; their call center managers though are inutile. 

Another thing, I noticed the cab fares (and in general the cost of living) in Hanoi are a lot cheaper.  When I went there, the flag-rate of mini-cooper cabs starts at 5,000 VND, whereas in Ho Chi Minh, the lowest flag-rate you can get is 10,000 VND.  So I find living in Hanoi more enticing... if you can get a job in Hanoi, all the better.

3. The wealthy image and expectation from expats.  Some locals can be opportunistic like that.  You go to small shops and dealers, even in flea markets like Benh Thanh or Saigon Square, and they will charge you up to 5 times the local market price when you speak in English, or just by your skin color (coming from a French girl I have spoken with).  But not all business dealers are like that, so this place is comparatively much better than Cambodia, where even the stall food price is higher for foreigners than that of the locals.

4. Lack of city ordinances and social etiquette.  To this day and time, they still have not figured out the importance of imposing discipline to their people:

- No " no swerving/counterflow law " -- motorbikes run amok in the streets of HCM.  They squeeze themselves into every available space there is, they do not follow lanes and even drive onto sidewalks.  Crazy.  Wreckless.  So do not be surprised to see wounded motorbike riders on the ground.

- No "seatbelt law"

- No law against urinating on walls.  Despite the presence of public urinals, indigent locals are still primitive on this premise, so if you happen to walk beside long walls, you can smell this lawlessness.

- No "no smoking" law inside establishments.  Culturally, the men here feel more masculine and cool when they puff cigarettes, regardless of how bad or good looking they really are, inconsiderate of their own health and that of others.  Women here do not smoke though, that is just the way it is.

- No "no vendors allowed" in the sidewalks, and so some sidewalks smell like garbage after the vendors dispose their leftovers by the gutters and canals.

The pro's of living in Vietnam:

1. Relatively lower cost of living.  So if you are getting an expat salary, you can save a lot and live comfortably while you are here.

2. The locals are very friendly and helpful to foreigners.  Although this is could be a double-ended sword, as their eyes are all on you.

3. Vietnam is relatively safe.  Of course you do not invite danger by getting into a situation where you lose weariness and control of your safety.

4. Tolerable weather.

5. Once a tourist, always a tourist.  After a stressful day at work, you can always go around the city and appreciate the fact that you are having a free trip to this country on this day, no added air fare just to unwind in a foreign bistro of cafe.  Likewise, on weekends, you can explore the more exotic provinces of Vietnam, for a little less cost on transportation and accommodation.  So these are the perks of being an expat in Vietnam.

Thank you for your feedback Fred

Hi The Expat Shop,
Thank you for providing all this  information on being an expat in HCMC. I still have a lot to consider but it will help to make my decision.
Much appreciated 👍

Thank you again The Expat Shop for the information you have me.
What would be seen as a good income in HCMC in order to live comfortably in good accommodation and also allow for saving at the same time?
Many thanks

looks like expat shop got banned?! I thought she was helpful... anyways, i'm curious about other people's view on the income question too.

My very clean furnished apartment in District 5 was under $300 for studio including utilities. I found it advertised on a Vietnamese website. Food if you eat mostly Vietnamese because that's what 95% of the food is here, I think under $10/day. Of course if you shop the street markets and cook yourself, half that, if you like only foreign food in restos, double it. Add $50 motorbike rental, pharmacy, housewares, no alcohol, then $800 is do-able.
Housing ads on English-language websites is higher, also in expat neighborhoods. Add $200-300 for housing there. Consider hiring a Vietnamese to help you find cheaper, try the classifieds, or, get a girlfriend like I did!

I accepted the offer and will be moving to HCMC at the start 2017.
Thank you for the advice

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