Seven Things I Like About Living in Vietnam

Seven Things I Like About Living in Vietnam

Living in Vietnam has changed my life forever, for better or for worse. It’s made me laugh, cry, and nearly pull my hair out all in the same day. But ultimately, it’s helped me appreciate a completely new and different culture on the totally opposite side of the world. Now that I’ve actually had the experience of teaching in Vietnam’s schools and have integrated more in the culture, I’ve realized all the little things I missed the last time I came to visit in 2016. In my previous article I wrote about four things I dislike about living in Vietnam, but for most of those reasons I found just another reason to like living here, so here are the seven things I like about living in Vietnam..

 

1) The Cheap Cost of Living

 

If you’re one of many drowning in student loan debt back home, or running away from some other financial burden, or if you just want to live a more luxurious lifestyle than what you can afford to live in the West, then Vietnam is the place for you! On weekends, I can go out for dinner and drinks and have a great night out, all for under $10. When I lived in Miami, a good night out could easily cost me around $100. A mojito in Miami cost $30, that same mojito in Vietnam? $2. ‘Nuff said.

Rent, food, and pretty much everything else in Vietnam are very cheap. You can easily find a big fully furnished private room with a private bathroom in a shared house for just $150 per month, and that includes all utilities and even wifi. This is also the cost of living in a big city such as Hanoi or Saigon, as it is much less expensive to live outside these cities.

A lot of people I know can afford a maid. Back in the West, I couldn’t imagine hiring a maid or anyone to do my cooking and cleaning for me, since that’s something that back home we Westerners think that only rich people can afford. Some maids will even do their shopping for them and prepare dinner every day. Laundry service is also quite affordable in Vietnam, and they’ll even pick up and drop off your clothes so you don’t even have to leave your air conditioned palace. Numbeo helps to break down all the costs of living. You can use this site to compare the cost of living in your city with Vietnam.

 

Found some delicious tofu noodle soup for under 50 cents

 

Having a proper night out at a local Bia Hoi with a fellow teacher friend – This night cost us under $5

 

2) Motorbikes…Gotta Love Em!!

 

Vietnam wouldn’t be what it is today without its seas of motorbikes zig- zagging around its busy bustling cities. Owning a motorbike is MUCH cheaper than owning a car. They’re really good on petrol, they can traverse a city like no other machine, and they’re a lot of fun! Motorbikes are the perfect mode of transportation for Vietnam. It also means a lot less traffic jams and less time spent sitting in traffic. I remember back in Miami when I would be driving to or from work and sitting in traffic in my car for two hours waiting to get home, moving at about only 5 mph the whole time in start-stop bumper to bumper traffic. In Vietnam, there are more motorbikes than cars, so you don’t have the problems of car-based traffic jams.

I love the fact that I can jump on my bike and go anywhere I want with ease, with the cool breeze blowing in my face as I zip in and out of traffic. When you own a car, sometimes maintaining it can be SO stressful. Parking fees, outrageous car insurance costs, repairs, the high cost to fill your tank, not to mention all that sitting around in traffic. In Vietnam, parking is almost always free for motorbikes, you don’t need insurance to ride one, repairs are insultingly inexpensive, it usually doesn’t cost more than $2 to you’re your entire tank, and I haven’t had to sit in traffic much at all. The drivers here do drive a bit crazy and honk a lot, but at the end of the day no one in Vietnam is in a hurry or rushing, and it’s actually a very relaxing atmosphere. I still feel less stressed out living here than back in the U.S., despite the chaotic roads. I also think it’s the attitude of the people, they are way less uptight and way better at letting things go than Westerners in general. Once you learn to drive the Vietnamese way (AKA like a cray cray drunk person chatting to all the motorbikes beside you), you’ll love Vietnam’s scooter culture.

 

 

The best way to get around Vietnam by far!!

Luckily the motorbikes always just go around you when you cross the street, whereas back home you’d be sure to get run over

3) It’s Just More Exciting in Vietnam!

 

Compared to Vietnam, life in the West can be so boring. Every day is the same. Everything is so predictable, because there are so many rules and regulations and standards. Whereas in Vietnam, the only rule is that there are no rules. Back home when people talk to you, you can actually understand them. Boring. In Vietnam, most the time I don’t even know what the hell is going on. There are vibrant local markets everywhere in the cities here, and you can find anything you want at any time of day. Really craving for watermelon? Just walk a few meters down the street and ask that lady sitting on the mats filled with fruit and vegetable in the middle of the street and ask her where you can find some watermelon. If she doesn’t have it she’ll easily point you in the right direction and in no time at all you’ll have your watermelon! Whatever you want to find in Vietnam, you just have to ask for it and a local will always be willing to help guide you to find what you’re looking for. Back home, I couldn’t imagine going up to a complete stranger in the streets and asking them where I can find some watermelon. They’d probably look at me like I’m insane and just tell me to go drive to the supermarket. Again, so intolerably Boring!

 

Vietnam’s beautiful floating markets

 

Colorful markets – You can find anything you want on just about every street!

 

Lovely silk shops

 

Bustling cafe culture

4) Transportation is So Widely Available Everywhere

 

It’s so easy to get around Vietnam! Wherever you need to go, there’s always a train or bus or plane to get you there and for a very low cost. You can hop on a bus at the main bus station any time of day without having to book your tickets in advance and just pay on the bus and go anywhere you want! It usually costs me just $5 to travel two hours from Hanoi to Haiphong (The city where I currently live) on the Express A/C bus, which is next to nothing compared to what I used to pay to travel when I lived in the U.K. Sometimes traveling from where I lived into London for the day would easily cost me $60 or more!!. It was also difficult for me to travel anywhere when I lived in the U.S. whenever I didn’t have a car, since there’s no efficient public transportation system in the U.S. The buses in the U.S. are terrible and make Vietnam’s buses look like luxury, and there’s no real efficient train system to get you around there, so you’re stuck using your car or buying an expensive as hell flight (Since flights are so expensive in the states) and paying a ton of money just to travel anywhere.

 

Got somewhere you need to go right now? Some guy will take you there

 

There are loads of incredible sights to see in Vietnam, with most of them being just a few hours away. Since Vietnam is a relatively small country (Especially compared to the U.S. where I’m from), you can drive just a short distance and be at one of the top attractions in no time. If you’re located in Hanoi, you have a whole plethor of luxurious travel destinations, such as gorgeous Halong Bay, Sapa, and Cat Ba island. Flights in Vietnam are very inexpensive. Currently the best budget airlines are Jetstar and Vietjet Air. It’s possible to get a return flight to Thailand for just under $80.

 

There’s always a bus leaving every 15 minutes 

 

Sapa, one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Vietnam

 

Ha Long Bay – Need I say more?

 

5) It’s So Easy to Get to Know the Locals

 

It’s easy to talk to the locals in Vietnam. So many of them are excited to talk with foreigners or learn about about people from other countries, and won’t hesitate to ask you out for coffee just for a chat or just to hang out with you. Now, something like this would never happen in a country like Thailand. Why? Because I feel foreigners in Thailand are viewed as “farang” and walking ATM machines, and the Thai in general don’t seem to take any interest in us other than for monetary purposes. Now, compared to Vietnam, Thailand is heavily saturated with Western tourists, and the locals there are so used to dealing with Westerners. When I was traveling in Thailand, the only time I got a smile from the locals was when I was buying something from them. Whereas in Vietnam, it’s so much easier to make genuine friends, even if their English isn’t that great, since they take much more interest in foreigners. One travel blogger mentioned “I constantly met street sellers who tried to openly overcharge me. There was the bread lady who refused to give me back the proper change, the food seller who charged me triple even though I saw how much the customer in front of me paid, or the cabbie who rigged his meter on the way to the bus station.”

 

It’s funny that they mention this, since this kind of disrespect and poor treatment of foreigners is exactly what I experience every time I travel to Thailand, and as of late I’ve been traveling to Thailand a lot for visa run purposes and keep experiencing these same kind of shady taxi drivers and other locals who constantly try to rip me off. I don’t think the locals in Vietnam try to blatantly cheat foreigners. If anything, this mostly happens in over touristy places such as Thailand and Bali.

 

I think most of the time, especially outside the heavily touristy streets in Saigon and Hanoi, the locals almost always give you a fair price for everything from taxi rides to coffee. It’s only when you aren’t careful about your transactions and hand them a much higher bill than what you should, and they don’t give you back all the change you were expecting. In those cases you weren’t giving the person the amount you expected to pay for the item, and they took that as code that you didn’t actually know the real price, and maybe kept a few thousand dong (20 cents) for themselves. Something else the same blogger mentions is “…I never felt respected in Vietnam. I felt like people there looked at me not as a human being but just as someone who could be ripped off.” To some degree it’s incredibly difficult for Westerners to wrap their minds around how Vietnamese people interact with them when they come to their country. Maybe you won’t get a bow and “Sawadee-kaaa” and a big fake smile from the locals. Why? Because they’re busy going about their own lives, and maybe they don’t have time to entertain tourists, simple. So if you’re looking for more of a Disney Land version of SE Asia, I suggest traveling to Thailand instead.

 

Something else I like about Vietnam is that it hasn’t yet sold out to Western influence. This could also be another reason why Westerners find it difficult to travel and live here. It doesn’t have all the homely comforts they can find in places like Thailand or Singapore, so naturally they are going to feel a bit put off, but that doesn’t mean Vietnam is a country full of cheaters or locals disrespecting foreigners. If anything, they are excited to talk to foreigners since they have a lot less of them that in other parts of SE Asia.

 

This girl was interested in some art I had on display near Hoan Kiem lake, Hanoi

 

Try speaking a little Vietnamese and you’re almost guaranteed a smile (Or a laugh)

 

 6) Vietnam Makes Such An Effort to Be Beautiful

 

I always notice people making an effort to pick up rubbish in the streets and trying to make the parks and lakes clean by going around picking up all the litter. Granted there’s not much just one person can really do about the levels of air pollution that already exist, or the fish that are already dead in the lakes, but I notice that the local people are extremely industrious about picking up trash on the streets. They even have these adorable penguin waste buckets on their beaches for people to throw their litter in. In other countries such as Thailand, I notice people just kind of throw their rubbish anywhere they want, whereas in Vietnam people seem to be a lot more conscientious about cleaning the streets clean. These hard working ladies are constantly pushing these giant trash bins on two small wheels own the city streets multiple times a day collecting trash. Compared to other places I’ve visited in SE Asia, there seems to be a lot more effort here to keep the streets tidy.

 

 

Took this photo of a woman sweeping the leaves in Hai Duong

 

There are so many reasons to keep as beautiful a place as this clean

Ladies selling flowers

7) The Awesome Coffee Culture

 

And who doesn’t want a cold coffee sua da (With ice) on a blazing hot day? Vietnam has a strong café culture. The Vietnamese love to sit outside quaint little cafes in front of these old French style buildings with vines growing down them, sipping on strong coffee. No wonder Vietnam is called the “Paris of Asia.” Nobody is really ever in a rush in Vietnam, despite the hectic traffic, and everyone here has time to sit at a café and sip on some fine café sua da (Iced coffee with milk). One of my favorite coffee places in Vietnam is Highlands coffee, which serves anything from chocolate milkshakes to lattes.

 

Strong ca phe sua da (Ice coffee with milk)

 

One of my favorite coffee places in Vietnam

 

People in Vietnam like to sit outside on these colorful plastic chairs and drink beer and coffee – Life is so simple and uncomplicated here

 

So, there you have it. Those were the seven reasons I like living in Vietnam! I’d love to know what you think and what experiences you’ve had before while traveling or working in Vietnam. I hope this article was helpful to you in some way. Let me know what you think in the comments section or by sharing my article with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you tips and advice so feel free to subscribe by email in the box below. Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ! Keep a look out for my upcoming article “Five Quirky Things You’ll Only See in Vietnam.”

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    2 thoughts on “Seven Things I Like About Living in Vietnam

    1. Love this post!! I have such similar feelings after living in Vietnam, especially getting to know the locals. I felt such a sense of community in Truc Bach, the area I lived in Hanoi. It was so nice to read your thoughts and reminisce 🙂 it also kinda made me want to just hop on a plane and go back! I know I definitely will go back sometime.

      1. Thanks for the kind words Janine! 🙂 It’s such a great feeling to be able to feel so connected with the locals, it really makes all the difference, especially when you are actually living in that place. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this, and it makes you want to return to Vietnam! I’m excited for your blog updates as well. Keep up the talented writing! Xxx

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