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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Submitted by AliJo333

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Ho Chi Minh City

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No. We came for a 10-day visit, about 4 months before our move.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

No. Vietnamese is incredibly difficult to learn. We have learned a few phrases, but if you pronounce even slightly incorrectly, the locals will have no idea what you are talking about. We feel it's not worth the effort to continue learning.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No - we really enjoyed our visit, so we had few concerns.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

It was quite a big change but we just took one thing at a time and absorbed all that we could.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Yes that sounds about right!

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Occasional phases of not wanting to avoid local food, combined with irritability for no reason.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

There's always something happening or something to see in Ho Chi Minh City that takes you by surprise. You don't know what you're going to see when you leave the apartment. A lot of entrepeneurs here, who have a positive attitude and we appreciate that alot, having moved from the doom and gloom and miserable attitude in Europe. Also we feel safe in the city and we're able to drive around independently on our scooter - something that can't be said of every city in south east asia.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

We used to have a selection of dried herbs/spices/oils/vinegars etc for cooking at home, but very little of that exists here. We don't have time to go shopping for fresh herbs and fresh meat/fish every day like the locals do, so we eat out every night instead. It's cheaper but we miss cooking sometimes. Nothing seems to work in a logical way here. It's as if each organisation is developing in different directions and so unexpected things happen a lot.

Vietnamese people can come across as very rude -but only if they don't speak english. They are embarassed to show themselves up. Otherwise, the locals who can speak english are very welcoming and will want you to stay in their country forever.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Probably, but foreigners' blunders in vietnam are "endearing".

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Expect everything to be different from your home country. Get restaurant reviews from Trip Advisor. Sign up for expat forums/ groups and meet as many people as possible (many people have different reasons for living in vietnam!)

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