Vietnam offers cozy life for expats

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Vietnam is one of the leading countries offering expats a comfortable life and it’s also a good place to make friends with other expats, a survey has found.

A report by HSBC Holdings Plc. lists Vietnam as the second easiest country in the world for expats to make friends with other expats in 2009.

Asia emerged as the place to go for making friends in general, with Thailand ranking the easiest country overall, followed by Vietnam, Hong Kong and Malaysia, according to the Expat Experience report produced by the HSBC.

The survey covered 26 countries and territories across four continents - Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

For the overall quality of life for expats, Vietnam was ranked seventh among 10 Asia Pacific countries as well as among 13 emerging markets; and 19th worldwide.

It is also valued as a country that offers luxuries to expat life. “If you’re lucky enough to be an expat in Vietnam, the chances are you’ll have staff â€" some 91 percent of expats in Vietnam have household staff at hand,” the report said.

Friendly

Radhanath Varadan, a 45-year-old journalist who’s lived in Vietnam for 8 years, said it was easy to meet expat friends at restaurants and while playing sports.

“I don’t go much to bars and nightclubs, but it’s still fairly easy,” he said.

He also said his Vietnamese friends were always friendly and helpful.

Patricia Norland, Cultural Attaché of the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City told Thanh Nien Weekly that while Vietnamese people were friendly, it wasn’t always easy to cultivate a deep relationship across cultures.

“I think it depends on how you define ‘make friends.’ If we mean ‘easy to meet someone and chat,’ then yes [it’s easy to make friends with Vietnamese].”

But she added that if making a friend is building trust and knowing someone well, then differences across cultures means that may well take longer. “After my brief experience of two and a half years, I am still learning a lot about cultural interactions among foreigners and Vietnamese, as well as among Vietnamese.”

Meanwhile, Thai midfielder Isawa Sittong of Dong Tam Long An football club said he couldn’t count how many Vietnamese friends he had.

“I have so many Vietnamese friends here and dozens of them are close ones,” said the footballer who has lived here for seven years.

“I have never faced any difficulties living here. I love football, Vietnamese rice and friendly locals,” he said.

Anthony Barnes from the US also said the Vietnamese people he met were “friendly in general.” He is a student of Vietnamese Studies Faculty at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanity (USSH).

South Korean Kim Hyo Sung, another student at USSH, said he had more than 50 Vietnamese friends after more than a year living in HCMC.

Love or a teddy bear

The second edition of the HSBC survey found 20 percent of expats had found love overseas, with Thailand being the most likely place to fall in love, followed by Germany and Brazil.

Almost half the expats in Thailand said they had found love. The report advised single expats in India or Qatar: “You best buy a teddy bear” as just 4 percent of expats have found love while living there.

“Vietnamese are very kind, easygoing and humorous. It’s easy to make friend with them, especially since I can speak a little Vietnamese,” he said.

The 24-year-old student said he also enjoyed cheaper daily expenses in HCMC than in South Korea. “I rent a room on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street for US$200 a month. A similar room in my hometown would be at least $1,000.”

In another country

Besides the good aspects, foreigners interviewed by Thanh Nien Weekly also point out some disadvantages in Vietnam such as poor infrastructure, taxi cheats and cultural misunderstandings.

Patricia of the US Consulate said, “Everyone seems to agree on the urgent need to take action on the poor public transportation system, the pervasive road work that causes traffic jams, and the air and water pollution.”

Anthony of the USSH said there might be a cultural gap when trying to make friends with local women.

“I can’t really have a real female friend. Everybody would think you are couple,” he said, adding that he has a local girlfriend and no Vietnamese female friends after a year and a half year in Vietnam.

Sung said getting around wasn’t easy in Vietnam.

He complained that taxi drivers often take detours to charge foreigners higher prices. He also said many claimed to have no small bills or coins in order to keep the change.

But Varadan from India said “there’s nothing I can think of, really,” when asked what could improve expat life in Vietnam.

In the report, major difficulties expressed by the expats included learning the local language, organizing schools for their children, finding accommodation and organizing their finances.

The Expat Explorer survey, commissioned by HSBC Bank International and conducted by third party research company FreshMinds, is the largest global survey of expats. More than 3,100 expats were asked between February and April 2009 to describe the opportunities and challenges they experience living away from home.

Reported by Thanh Nien staff

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