Four Things I Dislike About Living in Vietnam

Living in Vietnam has changed my entire perspective on life. It’s made me laugh, cry, and nearly pull my hair out at times. But ultimately, it’s helped me appreciate all the wonderful things I have, and what a privilege it was to be able to grow up and be educated in a developed, Western nation. Living somewhere versus visiting is ALWAYS different, no matter which place in the world you decide to go. Living here has made me see some of the brighter (and darker) nuances I would have missed had I just been visiting Vietnam as a tourist. Now that I’ve actually had the experience of teaching in Vietnam’s public schools and integrating myself more in the culture, I’ve realized all the little particulates I missed the last time I came to visit in 2016. My romanticized version of Vietnam shattered right before my eyes, but with this came all new perceptions. So, here are four things I dislike about living in Vietnam..


1) The Way Animals Are Treated Like Objects


From my experiences so far in Vietnam, I’ve found that animals are generally treated poorly and are given little to no respect. Most of the times they’re bullied and abused for other people’s amusement. I’ve seen restaurants that keep kittens in cages, waiting to kill and boil them in a stew. The same goes for dogs, which are just often times waiting around to have their skulls bashed in with a metal rod and roasted whole over a spit for locals to chew on while they drink beer. I’ve also seen dogs traveling in cages on motorbikes in cramped conditions, with their skeletons poking out and pus coming out of their eyes. The locals also trap wild birds in these tiny cramped cages so they can hear them singing when they sit down at a café.


Found these poor guys outside someone’s house – One of them had pus oozing from both its eyes


Soon these little guys might become this..

People in countries all over the world abuse and mistreat animals, and that’s a fact. However, I think people in Vietnam takes animal cruelty to a whole new level, such as with boiling or roasting animals alive. I think something definitely needs to be done about this, but then again the younger generation is waking up to this and signing petitions all the time to stop unnecessary animal torture and slaughter, such as trying to put an end to the Pig Slaughtering Festival,  hosted just a few kilometers outside Hanoi.


Pet smuggling is really common in Thailand, and often they are transported across the border into Vietnam and sold in the markets for their meat


Animal cruelty exists in every corner of the world, not just in Vietnam. However, I feel like there are WAY less laws in Vietnam to protect animals.  Most Westerners have it engrained in their psyche that animals such as cats and dogs are cute and cuddly pets and should never be eaten. However, I must say that we as Westerners also have to see things from the Vietnamese perspective. If you honestly think it’s ok to slaughter and eat a pig, an animal just as intelligent as dog, but it’s not ok to do the same to a dog, then that makes you a hypocrite. In a different vein, if someone is torturing an animal in any way, ANY animal, such as bashing its brains in with a metal rod, or boiling or roasting it alive, then THAT is animal cruelty in any culture, and is considered abuse universally. However, unlike in the West, that law doesn’t really exist in Vietnam, and these practices still continue despite protests. This is a whole debate in itself. The whole point I’m trying to make, is that animals in general are not treated in a humane way, and sometimes not slaughtered in a very humane way either.


2) The Bad Food


I’m sorry to say, but I don’t know what all the hype is about how “delicious” Vietnamese food is. In my experience visiting the South in 2016, I found the food to be a humble mix of Chinese, Thai, and other mixed influences. The food was mostly fried noodles and fried rice, and tom yum soup, and was sweet and spicy and stimulated my taste buds, just like in Thailand. Now, in the North, it’s an entirely different culinary experience. Normally where I’ve worked in Vietnam before as an English teacher, we received three home cooked meals a day. I found the most exciting thing about these meals was the white rice (They do this quite well), and some bland tofu mixed with tomatoes and chives. I almost choked while eating what they usually eat as their version of “greens” which consist of some long, stringy, and yes, HAIRY greens with stalks that make you feel like you could choke when you try and eat them.  Another Vietnamese food people craze about is a dish called “Pho,” which in my eyes is basically a bland, watery soup with some slimy white noodles, with a few slabs of pink, flash boiled, rubbery beef. At first I thought someone poured sewage water in my bowl and sprinkled some herbs on top, then I realized this was actually the signature dish of the North.


Vietnam’s signature dish “Pho”, which to me is really a watery soup with a few mint leaves sprinkled on top


I found a whole lot of bland, flavorless food, such as pho and bun cham. I came to my own conclusion that most of the food here lacks any flavor, and since living in Vietnam I’ve been completely turned off by the food. I don’t even go out to eat street food anymore, I’m so disappointed. Instead, I cook at home in my apartment, or order takeaway from a restaurant. It’s sad it’s had to come to this point, but honestly I haven’t been impressed by any of the food in Vietnam, especially in the North, where the food lacks spice and taste.


They could at least present it better


About the only flavor you’ll find in restaurants in Vietnam is your occasional bottle of sweet chili sauce, and maybe a bowl of pungent fish sauce if you’re lucky. Along with your undercooked, slightly boiled bowl of (?) meat, you’ll get a bowl of what looks like shrubs picked off a tree (Probably mint or some other spice you wouldn’t normally eat with your food, but rather with a mojito), along with a small bowl of sticky gooey tasteless rice noodles to dip in some pungent fish sauce. Is your mouth watering yet?

To put it in perspective, South Vietnam has a lot more influences from Thailand and Cambodia, hence why their food has variety and is spicier and tastier. In the North, you’ll find simple, bland food. There’s also a lot more dog and cat eating going on up here, too. Often times I’ll drive by street food vendors and small restaurants and see something like this:


I can’t even fathom why people would rage about the “street food” here. About the only street food I can ever find that’s somewhat decent in is nuoc mia (Sugarcane juice) and your occasional baguette or donut. Boring.

Which is why, for as long as I live in Vietnam I’ll continue to cook at home and buy my food and spices from the international wholesale store, Metro.


3) Inconsideration of Others


In general, I like to think that lots of people in Vietnam are wearing these imaginary blinders most of the time, from the roads to the work environment. I sometimes feel they only see what they want to see, and nothing else, with no consideration for the people around them. You’ll see people spitting, picking their noses, and parking and driving their motorbikes on the sidewalks. The traffic here is really difficult to drive in, especially with the sheer number of motorbikes on the road and people even driving up on pedestrian sidewalks which are meant for walking, and instead use the sidewalks as a means to get past the traffic. Traffic here is already difficult enough, let alone with the middle aged women cyclists with cone hats covering their faces that zip out fast into the middle of oncoming traffic, and then will give you a cold scowl for getting upset with them for being in the way.


The whole vibrant Asian market experience was also not so good for me in Vietnam. I’ve found most of the locals aren’t very friendly, and you’re lucky if you ever get a smile out of any of them. Most of the times they have this cold scowl on their face and will ignore you or stare at you with a hostile mistrusting look any chance they can get. To us it comes across as hostile, and I must agree most people would take it this way. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some incredibly warm, kind locals here who’ve melted my heart with their smiles and kind words. But the majority come across as slightly hostile towards strangers, and it’s rare to catch anyone smiling.



Some locals aren’t so friendly


A day in the life of teaching in Vietnam – The classrooms barely have a fan, let alone A/C, and you find yourself soaked within minutes

I’ve also asked for help in Vietnamese plenty of times when trying to find directions, and most locals will just shrug and walk away and not even try to help, or pretend they don’t understand my Vietnamese, even though I’m using the correct tones and pronouncing the words very clearly. Lots of the times when you stand in line to purchase something in the supermarket, or at a restaurant, people won’t que up and instead will cut in front of you shamelessly, so you really have to fight just to hold your spot in line. I also found this to be a culture of blame, where whatever happens will always be your fault and never the other persons. There seems to be a lack of accepting personal fault or responsibility here. If for example you obey the traffic laws and go when the light turns green, and a motorist whizzes through a red light and nearly hits you? Guess what, you will be the one who would be cursed at by them, sorry to say. I found that the locals I saw when I was out and about in every day life can act selfish and rude, and it’s just an example of how they are wearing “blinders” so to speak, especially when it comes to strangers and people they don’t know.


Making some Nuoc Mia, or Sugarcane juice – One of the rare instances where a local tried charging me 10X the actual price of one glass of juice

4) The Pollution


Fish die due to heavy pollution


The pollution in Vietnam is no laughing matter. When I lived in Hanoi and had to drive to work every day wearing some flimsy cloth mask, I still came back from work coughing my lungs up almost every day. The smog in the air is unreal, and sheer amount of motorbikes on the road made me choke every time I walked down the streets. Some of the sources of air pollution in Vietnam include power plants, motorbike and car emissions, industrial emissions, construction activities, waste incineration, and household cooking. One of the biggest culprits is the burning of waste such as plastic, which fills the air and intoxicates your lungs. I’ve even taught in schools before where the locals nearby would be burning mounds of plastic, and the toxic fumes leaked into my classroom and made me choke. Living in a place this heavily polluted can have detrimental affects on your health, and could potentially trigger asthma and other lung diseases. According to this article, Vietnam has some of the most polluted air in all of SE Asia, so this is something you should prepare yourself for if you plan on living long term in Vietnam.




People have to wear masks due to the horrendous pollution flooding the air


It might look pretty, but the water is brown and polluted and not safe to swim


Your thoughts? I hope this article was helpful to you in some way! Let me know what you think in the comments. I’d love to keep giving you tips and advice so feel free to follow me by clicking on the Follow Box below! And don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook , Twitter , and Youtube! There’s obviously also a lot to love about Vietnam, so please keep a look out for my upcoming article “Four Things I Love About Living in Vietnam!”

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  1. Sathis says:

    Nice and very genuinely commented, I agree with the food, not much of variety. As for asian.

    1. Thanks so much Sathis! You are totally right, for Asia Vietnam definitely is lacking in variety. Thanks for stopping by my page! 🙂

  2. Steve says:

    What about a totalitarian regime with an appalling human rights record?

    1. Hi Steve 🙂

      Yes it’s true there are so many human rights abuses going on in the world, let alone animal rights being violated. Let’s hope the younger generation in Vietnam makes more of an effort to put an end to this kind of cruelty.


  3. Janet says:

    I agree with all of the above! Living in Vietnam is a real eye opener! With regards to friendly locals, I think it’s just the main cities like Hanoi that locals aren’t interested in foreigners. I live just over 2 hours away from Hanoi and the people in my city are mostly friendly, we get smiles and greetings from locals all the time. And I think there is an appreciation for the work we’re doing there (as English teachers).
    J x

    1. Hi Janet!

      Thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂 Yes it truly is a reality check..different perspectives, almost totally opposite ours in the West!! And I do agree that outside the big cities such as Saigon and Hanoi, the locals are more interested in foreigners.. Which city in Vietnam are you located? I’m currently teaching in Haiphong. That’s great to know you are also teaching English in Vietnam! What’s your experience been like so far? Hope this article was interesting for you and you come back to my site 🙂 Also keep a look out for “Four Things I Like About Living in Vietnam” coming up soon! Have a fantastic day. Xxx

    2. Ross Symonds says:

      Hey Janet which city do you work in?

  4. Sherry says:

    Blossom I look forward to reading your likes about living in Vietnam. I find it very sad the way the locals treat the animals. I certainly hope that the future generations start to value God’s beautiful living creatures. Continue to be the beautiful confident caring woman that you are. I pray God’s peace and protection surround you in all you worldly endevours.

    1. Hi Sherry,

      Thanks so much for the kind words!! 🙂 And yes it is so heartbreaking to see this kind of cruelty done to any animal. Hopefully with the coming years and the younger generation seeing things in a different light, things will start to change here. Hope you are having a wonderful day. Stay blessed. Xxxx

  5. Ross Symonds says:

    Another nuisance with Vietnameese food is that they do not remove the bones before putting meat in your soup.

    It can be tough maintaining your good manners and elegance why frantically trying to get rid of a bone that has trespassed into your mouth.

    1. Hi Ross!

      Thanks for reading my article! 🙂 And that is so true! They just keep the bones in the soup, or sprinkle some crushed bone on top (Even when you clearly ask for VEGETARIAN in Vietnamese).

      And it can be very hard sometimes to maintain manners when they keep insisting on their way and don’t listen to your requests..

      Hope you enjoyed the article, and hope to see you back again. Also keep a lookout for my upcoming article “Four Things I Like About Living in Vietnam.” 🙂

      Have wonderful day!

  6. I must say this is a great article, you explained everything very well.
    Good Job

    1. Thanks a lot Sunil!! 🙂 I really appreciate it! I tried to be raw and honest, not to shine everything in a negative light, but just to speak my own truth. Hope you keep coming back to my blog for more tidbits of advice and tips for solo travelers in Asia! Xxx

      1. Definitely, Now become a fan of your writings. I liked your Facebook page as well to get regular updates.

        1. Thanks for all your support!! It really means a lot! Xx

  7. Nadia says:

    Very cool article.
    Your pictures of the cooked dogs really made me shudder!
    I thought they cooked any old dog off the street in Vietnam but I asked a Vietnamese girl while we were there and she said it is only a certain breed of dog that you can eat. She said they bred them on farms for eating like cows.
    Interesting, although it doesn’t really make it any better or any less shocking & awful!

    1. Hi Nadia,

      Yeah, I mean honestly this kind of street food is so unappealing for me!! I don’t know how people can eat such things, I mean a lot of these dogs anyways are stolen pets from people in Thailand and elsewhere. I would just be afraid of contracting rabies or something. Seems there are so many nicer things to eat than dogs! Xx

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