Adjusting to the culture in Ho Chi Minh City
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Updated 5 days ago

Adjusting to the local culture in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam isnt always an easy feat. Even the most seasoned travellers may find themselves taken aback at first. Vietnam within itself is an entirely different atmosphere compared to the rest of Southeast Asia; it is hectic, noisy and often looks a bit lawless. Although Ho Chi Minh City itself feels immensely more modern compared to the rest of the country, it does take a bit of time to find a balance. Here are some of my top tips for adjusting to the local culture in Ho Chi Minh City.

Don’t worry about the traffic

Whether you are driving or simply crossing the road, the number of vehicles in Saigon is astounding. At any given moment, someone on a motorbike can swing around the corner without warning or a bus can trail behind you dangerously close. These instances are completely normal here. Even though it may seem terrifying at first, just know that locals have their own sort of system when it comes to driving, although it might not always feel that way. While crossing the street, walk slowly, but deliberately as to ensure drivers have enough time to move around you. If you have opted to get behind the wheel, just follow what others are doing around you - it is kind of like swimming as a school of fish! Just go with the flow, and it will eventually come naturally.

Learn a bit (or more!) of the language

While Vietnamese might feel like it is an impossible language to learn, it is worth learning the basics at the very least. Watch some YouTube videos or attend a language exchange to educate yourself on subjects such as fruits, vegetables, numbers and directions and get yourself to a local market and begin practising. Vietnamese people will often respond in English as they are trying to practice their own language skills, but that should not deter you from asking in the local language simple questions such as, “how much does this cost?” or “please turn right here” whilst on the back of a motorbike taxi. Be patient, and remember Vietnamese is a tonal language, so your intonation is crucial as it can otherwise cause confusion.

Do things their way

The most important aspect of acclimating into the local culture in Ho Chi Minh City is to keep in mind that you have chosen to live in a foreign country. Expats tend to get annoyed quickly when the culture isn’t in alignment with what they believe to be the “right way,” or when things don’t function the same way they would back in their home country. While this is understandable to some degree, it is paramount to take into consideration that this is a different country with a different culture and that some adaptation is necessary to live a happy and fulfiling life in Ho Chi Minh City.

Expat living is exhilarating and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many, teaching you valuable lessons along the way. Although it might always be perfect, these tips will certainly help you combat any culture shock that might creep in.

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