Since 1986, when the Vietnamese government started a steady process of economic and political reform, the country has not only prospered but opened itself up to the world. It now attracts quite a large number of expats from all over the world. If you’re someone who’s planning to move to Vietnam, here are a few tips that should come in handy.1. Vietnamese is difficult, but learn it anyway. There are certain things about the language that make it extremely easy – the rules of grammar and sentence structure are quite simple compared to many other languages. However, what complicates everything, slows down new learners, and confuses and frustrates non-native speakers is the fact that tone is extremely important to meaning. The exact same words can mean something drastically different depending on whether your voice rises or falls. For people whose native tongue is a language like English, this is a completely alien concept that can be difficult to grasp. And because it’s possible to get by with English and a smattering of Vietnamese, many expats give up. However, without knowing Vietnamese, it can be difficult to really settle in and form more than superficial relationships with locals, even the ones you see daily.
2. Carry plenty of clothes and shoes. The Vietnamese people aren’t particularly tall or large, so people who aren’t from Asia tend to have trouble finding clothes and footwear in their sizes. Large sizes aren’t entirely unavailable, but your choices will be limited. And if you were a large size even back home, you’re going to have major trouble in Vietnam. The best thing to do is to carry a lot of stuff with you when you first move, and then stock up every time you visit your home country.
3. Find a good tailor. If you plan to stay in Vietnam long term, it’s a pretty impossible situation to be dragging clothes and footwear across the world once a year (or even less frequently). Fortunately, getting your clothes tailored is incredibly cheap in Vietnam. Finding a good tailor is difficult anywhere in the world, and it might take you a while here too, but once you’ve found one, hold on to them. For many expats, custom tailoring is one of the best perks of living in Vietnam.
4. Forget everything you know about driving and crossing the street, or it’ll be impossible for you to do either in Vietnam. Drive and cross streets like the locals, as long as you don’t do anything outrageously risky.
5. If you’re looking for a job, it’s best to do it after you’ve moved. However, if this is not possible, try VietnamWorks and expat groups on Facebook. Usually though, only people with exceptional skills and experience, and those with good access to a professional network in Vietnam are able to find jobs from overseas.
6. Burglaries are a bit of a problem in Vietnam, so make sure that you have adequate security. Ensure that your doors and windows are secure at night and when you’re away.
7. If you’ve always wanted to own a classic-style painting, you can find one in Vietnam. There are many shops and galleries in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that do such paintings, and many of them are quite good without being too expensive.
8. The internet has made book-buying quick and easy, no matter where in the world you are. However, sometimes delivery to Vietnam may not be possible, and at other times, you may just want to visit a bookstore. Fahasa is your best option – they have the widest range of international books, and they have outlets across the country. Bookworm in Hanoi is also said to be quite good.
9. Shopping is best on the streets that are dedicated to one particular item, especially budget shopping. Whether it’s clothing, jewelry, musical instruments, sweets, or spices, there’s usually a street dedicated to it. This is where you’ll find the best range, the best prices, and sometimes the best quality too.
10. Learn to bargain and haggle. You might find it uncomfortable and embarrassing, but remember that you’re in a different culture and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Vietnam does have large stores where prices are fixed, but a lot of your shopping will (and should) be at local markets and street vendors. Prices here are quoted with the expectation that they will be brought down; if you don’t play along, Vietnam is not going to be cheap for you.
Can we improve this article? Something wrong? Let us know in the comments.