Expat in Vietnam - Pros And Cons Of Living In Vietnam

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Pros And Cons Of Living In Vietnam For Expats

So you’ve been thinking of moving to Vietnam, but still weighing the good and the bad. Two years ago, I thought I’ll stay in Vietnam just for three months to complete my volunteering project in beautiful Nghe An province, but I ended up calling Vietnam my home. It was so unexpected and unplanned, but I can’t be happier with that decision.

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I am so fortunate to have a chance to live in different places around the country, including one of the poorest provinces, Nghe An and one of the fastest developing cities, Da Nang.

Continue reading if you’d like to know the pros and cons of living in Vietnam. Please keep in mind it’s my subjective opinion so that it may differ from other people’s experiences. Let’s start!
The majority of developing countries face the pollution problem, and Vietnam falls into the same bucket. Pollution is everywhere, and it’s unfortunate to see how short term development is favored over long-term consequences. I can understand that since the country still faces high poverty rates, and fast-paced growth provides jobs and drives the economy.
Anyway, the consequences are real. Lately, Hanoi hits the highest on the list of the most polluted cities in the world. Air quality is pretty bad in the cities, and on some days, you can notice the layer of smog in the distance.
The air is much better in the countryside, but the life quality struggles, especially for expats as lacking infrastructure is real. Another shocking thing I’ve experienced is a culture of littering. As I was living near the beach in Nghe An, I loved to spend time on the beach. Unfortunately, beaches and surrounding area serve as a garbage dump for locals. You can find all kinds of plastics, styrofoam, nylon, fishermen, nets, etc.

The majority of that trash ends up in the sea, and gradually over time, it affects a marine life that’s the primary source of income and life in the region. I guess it’s a lack of education on the matter, and I’m not blaming people, but I believe we, especially expats, should work hard to educate locals and save the environment.

I’ve experienced small kids aggressively throwing covers of candy or plastic glasses on the road during the motorbike drive. The parents seem not to care at all, which again touches the point of lack of education. Currently, especially in bigger cities, the younger students and professionals started to show an initiative about saving the environment so you can join many beach clean-ups, educational events, and fundraisers, which is quite impressive!

The video below shows one of the best views in Vietnam – the top of Hai Van Pass. You can see yourself how much trash and plastics is around…
Chaotic Traffic (You’ll Soon Get Used to It!)
Alright, probably you’ve already heard about Vietnamese traffic, so I will be short here. I was extremely shocked to see traffic after I’ve landed in Hanoi. Since the tax on car imports is enormous, people’s primary vehicle is a motorbike. Did you know that officially there are around 45 million registered motorbikes operating daily? Imagine that! It’s close to one bike for every two people, which is just mind blowing.
Now imagine that amount of motorcycles on the roads…crazy, huh? Once you start driving and get comfortable, you’ll notice that there is a flow in traffic that everyone follows. The majority of people are aware of each other and traffic, most of the time, goes smoothly.

Don’t be surprised about the constant honking since it serves as an indicator to show others that you are in the traffic.
Be extra careful of trucks and buses since, in Vietnam, there is an unwritten rule – the priority goes to the bigger vehicle.
Looking to drive a motorbike in Vietnam? Check out our detailed articles covering every aspect of motorbike trips:
50 Lifesaving Tips to Safely Travel Vietnam by Motorbike
Motorbike Trip in Vietnam: Budget, Routes & Tips
How to Successfully Deal With Vietnamese Traffic Police
How Much It Costs to Travel From Hanoi to Saigon on a Bike?
You can see how driving during the rush hour in Saigon looks like (from our latest trip):
Lack of Food Hygiene
Vietnamese street food scene is booming, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the country, but it comes with downsides. The most significant disadvantage is food hygiene or lack of the same since locals prepare food on the street.

The air quality, insects, dust, non-drinkable tap water, wild rats are just a few aspects that lower food hygiene. I’ve been talking with many expats, and some of them are very concerned about food hygiene.
Many people traveling and living here got stomach problems related to food. Luckily for me, I’ve never experienced any problem with food in Vietnam (knocking on wood), and I enjoy street food every day.
Rapid Development and Construction Everywhere

Construction is everywhere in Vietnam.

Construction is everywhere, especially in low developed regions such as Nghe An province. When it comes to the countryside, it’s sad to see mid-aged women working on construction sites.
Rapid development isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it creates job opportunities for locals and improves their quality of life. Anyway, in some places, the construction and development pace is out of control, which has many adverse effects.

For example, in Da Nang (An Thuong area), it’s so hard to find a single street without construction work going on. It’s very shocking to see that the majority of construction workers are middle-aged women who work from morning till dark (sometimes during the night, too).
I must mention that I haven’t noticed women working on construction sites in the big cities, but in the countryside. If you know more about the reasons behind it, please let us know. When it comes to more significant projects, like building large hotels or infrastructure, the majority of workers aren’t Vietnamese people, but ‘imported’ Chinese workers.
How much does rapid development improve the life quality of the regular Vietnamese family? I have to mention that apartment hunting is profoundly affected by rapid construction in the cities. While I was living in Da Nang, An Thuong area was going through significant infrastructure upgrades, which translates to dust, unbearable noise, and bad traffic.
It’s tough to live next to a large construction site, so when you’re hunting for your next apartment, be sure to rent the place for a few nights before signing a contract.

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