Life in Vietnam a lark, say expats

By Bao Van, Thanh Nien News

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Foreigners pose for a photo during an event in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach
Foreigners pose for a photo during an event in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach


Wayne Worrell explains why he left home in Britain and lives in Vietnam: "It is much easier to earn money, and things are cheaper."
There is big demand among Vietnamese for learning English, and so it is very easy to find an English teaching job in the country, he says.
During a trip to the country six years ago he found that many of his British friends earned substantial salaries teaching English, and he decided to stay and work here.
“Vietnam is a large market for English teaching jobs,” he says. Wages vary, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per month depending on the type of school and the number of working hours.
Most jobs are in the big cities, but there are also opportunities in the smaller ones, he says.
Without any interview or examination, he was offered a job at a foreign language center in Hanoi just a month after coming to the city.
Worrell has more than 10 British friends living and working in Vietnam, most of whom teach English. Besides working for schools, they work as private tutors since many people are willing to pay $20-30 an hour for foreign teachers to teach their children English.
“Life here is very good,” he says, adding there is no pressure. He has a Vietnamese girlfriend and plans to settle in the country.
Worrell is one of many foreigners who like to work and live in Vietnam. Low living costs and the government’s recent policies that facilitate foreign experts are also factors their deciding to stay in the country.
Failing to find a good job in his home country after graduating from university in Germany, Bkay M Adam came to Vietnam and got a job at a software company in Hanoi.
The work opportunities in the country are great. Qualified workers and professional training in technical and creative fields such as advertising and public relations are not enough to meet the demand of the emerging market. As a result, employers have to hire foreigners to fill the gaps. To attract foreign talent, many employers are willing to pay higher wages and improve the working environment.
With a salary of nearly $3,000, Adam has a comfortable life in Vietnam. The low living costs help him save $20,000-25,000 a year, which is enough for him to have nights out every weekend and several vacations a year both in the country and abroad.
In Vietnam, he can take a trip to the beach or spa every month, and a plane ticket from Hanoi to Da Nang and back costs less than $200.
In a survey done recently by HSBC, Vietnam ranked 25th in the list of places that are good for expats to work and live in.
The majority of expats say they have an easier life in Vietnam as they spend less money on accommodation, transport, clothing, household goods, utility and bills, compared to their home country. They are also able to save more in Vietnam.
Half of them think their work is more fulfilling in Vietnam than it was at home.
Open policies
Another reason for more expats to live in Vietnam is that the government has recently opened the country’s doors to them through various policies.
It recently allowed overseas Vietnamese, their foreign spouses and children to visit Vietnam without having to apply for a visa. It has also amended the Housing Law to allow foreigners with valid visas, international firms operating in Vietnam and foreign investment funds to buy residential properties since last July. They are allowed to own a property for 50 years and can extend the period by another 50 years.
There is no limit on the number of units a foreigner can buy as long it is within the overall limit for all foreigners in a neighborhood.
Adam said it is not too hard to raise more than $100,000 to buy a flat. Owning a property is better for him since he pays $700 a month to rent an apartment in Hanoi.
In addition to the opportunities for making money, the unique culture of Vietnam, including its food, attracts many foreigners. Tracey Lister, a Melbourne chef, and her journalist husband Andreas Pohl, are among them.
When they came to the country first in 1994 as tourists, they were impressed by the diversity of Vietnamese cuisine. The diversity lies in the ingredients, which are mostly vegetables, roots, fruits, and seeds, with much less meat than in European dishes, less fatty than Chinese and less spicy than Thai, Lister said.
"I like Vietnamese dishes. They're light, elegant and have distinctive tastes and smells," she said.
The Australian couple have published books about Vietnamese food and opened Hanoi Cooking Center, a cooking school in Hanoi that teaches Vietnamese cooking to tourists.
For other expats, the fascination is in the street life and seeing people go about their daily business. In this country, they can eat breakfast in a roadside restaurant or chat with friends in a sidewalk café.
It is very different from their country, where people in the streets are always rushing to go somewhere and whatever they do is done inside buildings.
“Expats I’ve met have said nothing but good things about Vietnam. Friendly people, great food, and interesting Westerners traveling through the country. What else could you want?” Worrell said.

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