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22 Things Expats Wish They Had Known Before Moving to Vietnam

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats in Vietnam talk about what to bring when moving to Vietnam, learning Vietnamese, healthcare, culture shock and more.

Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam

Whether you're moving to Vietnam to teach English, retire or start a business, expats have a lot of advice for newcomers. Here are 22 things expats wish they had known before moving to Vietnam:

What to Bring When Moving to Vietnam (and what to leave behind)

When we asked expats living in Vietnam what they wish they had brought when moving to Vietnam and what they wish they had left at home, they replied:

"I wish I had brought quality bed sheets and pillows, good hiking shoes and good lamps. I wish I had left my bicycle, most of my books, CD's and dishes," said one expat who moved to Hanoi, Vietnam.

"Brought-Cutlery, wine glasses and bedding Left - Leather jacket, old family photos (just bring copies) and dried foodstuff," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Vietnam.

"Everything can be bought here so there is no need to take anything with you; unless quality clothes and shoes. I arrived 10 years ago with 1 suitcase of clothes and 5 kg chocolate," commented one expat who made the move to Vietnam.

"I wish I'd brought more clothes suitable for a VERY warm climate. The climate here is hotter than I anticipated (C32 degrees in the wet season and C37+ in the dry). I am an average size in Australia but all the clothes are too small for me here and I have them made. Everything else is pretty much available. I wish I'd left behind the two pairs of 500 thread-count sheets I filled a small suitcase with - and brought clothes instead," remarked another expat in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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Advice for Newcomers to Vietnam

Phan Thiet, Vietnam
Phan Thiet, Vietnam

We asked expats in Vietnam, "If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them." They said:

"Be prepared for lots of noise and pollution. Most people find learning Vietnamese very difficult. But other than that, it is a very interesting place to live, also lots to see outside the city especially if you have a motorbike! Most Hanoians are very nice to foreigners," said one expat who moved to Hanoi, Vietnam.

"Learn the Vietnamese language or at least learn the basics because there are few people in vung tau that can speak English," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Vietnam.

"Learn at least some basic Vietnamese so that you can interact with people. Young adults and below usually speak some English but middle age and older rarely do. Check with a resident on what you might need to bring from home that can't be found here. Most things can be bought here or on a quick trip to HCMC but there are always some things that we miss from home," commented one expat who made the move to Vietnam.

"Be open minded. Be prepared for a slower pace of life. If things don't get done today, they may get done tomorrow. Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Be ready to smile and laugh every day. There are lots of new things to look forward too..food, people, rats, construction, the beach, dogs, tiny plastic chairs and Vietnamese coffee," remarked another expat in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Meeting People in Vietnam

Expats living in Vietnam talked about meeting people in Vietnam and local clubs and organizations:

"Depends on interests of course. UNIS (United nations international school) is out of town but offers courses to everyone, including language classes. L'Espace (French) Goethe (German) and other national organisations offer courses, exhibitions and events. Cinematheque offers "arthouse" films for members. Hanoi Opera House offers wonderful performances, very reasonably priced tickets so enjoy. for other information on events/organisations google Hanoi Infoshare and New Hanoian," said one expat who moved to Hanoi, Vietnam.

"Yoga classes - held at The Lady Club Volunteer work at local orphanages The Vung Tau Beach Club - many expats drink at this bar," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Vietnam.

"Taking Vietnamese classes, hanging out at expat hang outs like Bread of Life, The Waterfront (both restaurants)," commented one expat who made the move to Vietnam.

"DaNang Expats, any school organization, Danang Expat Jobs is VERY helpful. We love to visit the 'Lady Buddha' and Marble Mountain. We take long walks on the beach day or night. We visit the markets, we travel by bus to hoi an, we eat at local restaurants," remarked another expat in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Culture Shock in Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam

We asked expats about the culture shock they experienced when they moved to Vietnam. They replied:

"It was quite a big change but we just took one thing at a time and absorbed all that we could," said one expat who moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

"None at all. Vietnam is as different to New Zealand as you can get and it has several cultural differences plus the climate is very different. I knew all this before I arrived and they are the reasons that I came here. I have a sales baqckground and we are risk takers and change agents by definition so that made it easier for me," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Vietnam.

"The first shocking thing is the temperature difference in that I am not from the southern US, so I'm not used to hot all the time, it's hot, then hotter, then in the sun unbelievably hot. What is remarkable to me is how far viet women will go to not get a tan---it can be almost 100 degrees out, humid like a rain forest, and they will be wearing long pants, long sleeved shirt, a hat, and gloves! They want white skin, like usa white women want a nice tan..," commented one expat who made the move to Vietnam.

"Fantastic to be in a different culture... cross cultural relationship with girlfriend is tricky," remarked another expat in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

Healthcare in Vietnam

Expats in Vietnam talk about healthcare and expat health insurance in Vietnam:

"If you have a serious issue, travel to Bangkok or, Singapore for medical care. In Da Nang, there is a woman at the Pasteur Clinic who can treat women's issues but, I would go to BKK for more urgent/serious issues," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Vietnam.

"My Hoan is the hospital that I used for the medical clearance needed to get a work permit. Women have babies delivered at the Women's hospital. There is a Cancer Hospital (Da Nang Oncology Hospital) which is actually, brand new. There is an expat Medical Center called, Family Medical. You can use them and they organize evacuations for urgent care," said one expat who moved to Da Nang.

"Most friends will travel to Bangkok if they need special care ie: surgery of any kind, cancer, dermatology etc," said one expat who moved to Da Nang.

"Prescription medicines are easily available here at the local pharmacies. I did not need a script for my thyroid condition," said one expat who moved to Da Nang.

"Medicine is available over the counter. I have a good pharmacy I go to but, you need to ask around about pharmacy's because, not all medicine is real or unexpired. I have for example, purchased ibuprofen that simply did not work," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Vietnam.

Expat Health Insurance in Vietnam

Expats living in Vietnam interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Read Next

Moving-To-Ho-Chi-Minh-CityAn Expat Talks about Moving to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

An Australian expat in Ho Chi Minh advises newcomers to bring plenty of clothes for very warm weather since clothing there runs very small. He also recommends looking at a lot of apartments before choosing and taking into consideration proximity to work, supermarkets, swimming pools, because traffic is a major issue.

Culture-Shock-in-Ho-Chi-MinhAn Expat Talks about Culture Shock & Living in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

An Aussie expat in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam has had no problems setting into the culture there. Read about some of his experiences and his take on culture shock.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Jul 28, 2018

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