Who are you?
I’m Lyra, a Filipina living in Ho Chi Minh City with my husband and 2 boys.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
My family moved to Ho Chi Minh City (from the Philippines) in 2009 when my husband found work here.What challenges did you face during the move?
My husband’s company was kind enough to cover for the move and saw to it that we received assistance when we needed it but adapting to Vietnam life had its challenges still —
Language. Eight years ago, my neighbors, the shopkeepers around, the cab drivers, and vendors hardly spoke English. I’d literally be on my phone translating words so that I could communicate. Luckily, the Vietnamese are very welcoming and were eager to learn English as well.
Transportation. In Manila, I could drive myself around in my own car. Here, I couldn’t because I was terrified of the motorbikes! Crossing the street is like an achievement.
English publications. It was so hard back then to find English magazines and books! I have to hoard books and magazines whenever we’re outside the country.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes. A lot actually. My neighbors are either Westerners, Japanese or Koreans.
What do you like about life where you are?
There are a lot of expat neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City but what I like about ours is that it’s a safe place for our kids to walk around and play without fear of getting hit by motorbikes.
Looking at the bigger picture, we enjoy our life here because it’s less hectic compared to Manila — less traffic and far from the stress of my country’s political drama.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Moving to a different country afforded us a new perspective in life and allowed us to get to know our adoptive country. We enjoy exploring the different cities and provinces in Vietnam. Vietnam is such a lovely, vibrant, and quirky country.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Not really cultural (because we’re Asians too) but — we actually feel more safe here. I am not saying that Ho Chi Minh City is without crimes but HCMC is still one of those places (at least in my neighborhood) where you can leave your bike outside your apartment and still find it there the next day. You can have groceries delivered from the supermarket without fear of losing them. You can call your house agent to send a worker to fix whatever you need fixing on the same day.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I would advise that before settling, go visit first. Spend a week to get to know the country and neighborhood where you plan to live. We did that before we officially moved here and it helped us tremendously in our decision making.
What are your plans for the future?
Honestly, we don’t know for sure if we’ll be moving on to another country or moving back to ours but most definitely, Vietnam feels like home. It is our home.
You can keep up to date with Lyra's adventures on her blog, Hello Saigon.