Expat Life in Ho Chi Minh City
The former capital of South Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam with a population of approximately 9 million with 70% of those being under the age of 35. The current GDP is around $58 billion and estimated growth is 7% per year.
Ho Chi Minh City is hot with its tropical climate and is a very cosmopolitan city surrounded by brand new skyscrapers and luxury shopping malls. There are markets and pagodas all around, this is a city of contrasts and expats find it very much a home away from home.
I fell in love with Ho Chi Minh City from the moment I departed Tan Son Nhat airport and I was more engaged by the colors, sounds and sights than I have ever been in any other country. It soon became clear to me that I needed to make the most of this opportunity and to turn this fast paced city into my new home. There are so many new things to see and experience, every day allows you to learn something new.
The city is buzzing with life and pulsates with energy generated from the thousands of scooters that have replaced the traditional bicycle that was so popular in the past. The architecture is a stunning mix of colonial buildings built by French, mixed with a modern skyline made up of gleaming skyscrapers. There are many traditional markets and shops that sell local and fresh foods day and night.
Ho Chi Minh City is known as the economic capital of Vietnam, the cost of living is surprisingly cheap in comparison to the West. There is an abundance of good quality local products that are fantastic value, International food shops provide imported western foods and cater for expat needs.
So what does it cost to live well here in Ho Chi Minh City? Well that depends on you. You can spend $1000 a month and live comfortably or you can spend $3000+ a month and live like a king. Establishing a living here is not difficult. There are many opportunities for business and there are many gaps in the market. Many Westerners come here to teach English and there is a thriving market for EAL teachers and teachers of Business English. Everybody wants to learn to speak English so you can make a fairly good living teaching, with minimal qualifications.
Establishing a business in Ho Chi Minh City is time consuming and takes a lot of time and patience, there are many hoops to jump through. In order to setup in business in Vietnam, it is imperative that you understand what license you will require and it is best to consult with a lawyer. Unless you speak Vietnamese, you will need to hire a translator to assist you. There is a growing market in Ho Chi Minh City and it is an excellent opportunity to start a business. The workers are affordable and very skillful and there is talk that Vietnam will be the fastest growing region over the next twenty years.
The Vietnamese are charming, hard-working and very friendly, there is a casual atmosphere to life and work and everything is less stressful. However, there are aspects of Ho Chi Minh City that some expats find difficult. Traffic can be very congested at times, especially during the peak traffic hours in the morning and evening, which can in turn cause a polluted environment. Frequently the pavements are turned into roads and you will often find motorbikes beeping at you to pass you when you are walking down the pavement. Being a communist country, you will often find that certain websites get banned (religious and politically sensitive content is usually blocked) and at times the internet connection can be very slow but I find these issues minor compared to the benefits of living in a large and diverse expat community.
There is a variety of accommodation available to expats in this rapidly growing city and you will be sure to find some accommodation that fits your needs and budget. Accommodation ranges from shared rooms, to luxury apartment complexes through to stunning French Colonial villas. You can spend as little as $150 a month all the way up to $6000 a month. Many expats choose to live in the ‘suburbs’ of District 7 (Phu My Hung) or District 2 (An Phu) as these areas are modern, quiet and perfect for families or couples.
Apartment complexes usually have 24hr security, swimming pools, gyms and shops so are often a better choice if you are just moving to the Vietnam and want to get a feel of the area. Contracts can be signed for as little as two months at a time although signing a longer contract will allow for negotiations in price. Finding accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is relatively easy, there are many real estate agents who can work for you or you can check out some of the expat forums and Craigslist.
Transportation in Ho Chi Minh City is extremely varied and simply crossing the street is a skill that any expat moving here will need to grasp very fast. Buses are great, they are frequent and inexpensive but you will need to learn a little Vietnamese to access these. Taxis are safe, secure and very cheap, although you must use a reputable company such as Mai Linh or Vina Sun. Most foreigners decide to either use a xe om driver (motorbike taxi) for their daily commute or they take the motorcycle license test and purchase their own inexpensive scooter
Expat life is varied and exciting and there is so much for you to do and many places for you to explore. Ho Chi Minh has many options for entertainment, both day and night. There are wonderful art galleries, cafes are parks to discover, you will be surprised at how much fun it is people watching.
Many people come here with an interest in Vietnam’s charming history and culture. From the tranquil churches and pagodas, to the famous museums such as The Ho Chi Minh Museum, The War Remnants Museum and the impressive Reunification Palace, which provide a fascinating insight into the Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh City is a fabulous city to live and it comes as no surprise that is an attractive option for expats. You can read more about this amazing city and read related news at http://saigoneer.com a website focusing on all things ‘Saigon’.