Following Von’s post back in December, I want to enrich the international sections for the Asia part. I want to do an overview presentation of Vietnam, a country I’ve been living in for the past 4 years after having left France at 21 years old.
Like many developing countries, Vietnam is often overlooked and despised from a western point of view, including by me at my arrival. What I found here has blown me away and still continue to do so every day. Arrived here for a 6 months internship, I was supposed to come back but finally, I never left. Take a coffee, sit down I will explain to you why.
1 - PRESENTATION
Where is the country located?
Southeast Asia bordering China, Laos and Cambodia with a long 3260km coastline and benefiting from an ideal position for the development of commerce and economy.
What’s the weather like?
Tropical in the south and subtropical in the north. In the South, 2 seasons, dry and monsoon with the temperature always averaging between 22 to 35 degree and 4 seasons in the north with temperature from 14 to 34 degree. Due to the diversity of the relief, the weather is very different in the mountain or in the high plateau, even in the south where temperatures can drop down to 15degrees, especially Da Lat city.
What are the spoken languages?
Vietnamese is the first language however the english is spoken almost everywhere especially in the big cities and tourist places. Peoples under 30 years old can have very good English, far better than any french as they received english classes since they are little with native speakers. Parents invest a lot in english classes outside the schools (it’s a big business). Knowing how to speak English, at least with a basic level is mandatory to evolve with some serenity here. Studying the Vietnamese is a strong advantage in daily life as you are not considered as a tourist and people will have a different attitude toward you. Plus you will bond easier with the locals.
What are the worth seeing places? Cities, Touristic or remarkable places etc
Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), most populated city in the south, well developed, economic center of the country with 12 millions people. Vibrant, busy, warm climate, lots of different areas that can please all the tastes. Usually #1 destination for expat and Vietnamese seeking higher paid job and career.Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) by drone in 4k - DJI Mavic 2 Pro | Vietnam Travel - YouTube
Hanoi, capital of the city in the north, with 9 million people and a slightly different culture, the power rules whereas Ho Chi Minh is more money centred. Both cities have a strong French heritage, easily noticeable.
Hoi An, a wonderful small city in the center of the coastline classified at UNESCO for its architecture.
Hue also in the center of VN is known for the dynastic temple/castle heritage of the very long (thousand-year) Chinese occupation, it used to be the capital of Vietnam where Chinese and vietnamese emperors reigned on the vast empire. People there have a different accent often not understood by other Vietnamese.
Da Nang, 3rd city in Vietnam also in the center is a coastal and refreshing city. Often the choice of Vietnamese or expat seeking a different lifestyle but still benefiting all the advantage of a decent sized city.
- Worth seeing places
Phong Nha area, hiding one of the most majestic things on earth: the largest caves in the world, discovered in 2009. Visiting Hang Sơn Đoòng is a privilege that would cost you a long waiting line and 3000$ for the tour. Many smallest but not less breathtaking caves are in the same area. Still untouched gems worth seeing in one’s lifetime.
Ha Giang in the north with impressive limestone and granite peaks and outcrops. Ha Giang mountains have the most impressive and most beautiful landscape in Vietnam, see Ma Pi leng pass. (Đèo Mã Pí Lèng) https://fb.watch/4dl9fvACfV/
Ninh Binh, also called the terrestrial Ha Long Bay for the lookalike limestone but in the land.
Ho Chi Minh Road, Inland road that connects the north and south. Very low densely populated areas where one can be able to cross minority villages and breathtaking scenery along the way, special mention for the bike riders, hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of pure riding.
Da Lat, an inland city 300km from Saigon in the haut plateau, cooler weather with a French atmosphere.
2 - BUSINESS
Cost of life
Not expensive if you are eating like a local, and local. A plate in a local place cost around 1,5$ including rice, veggies and meat. (but don’t expect quality ingredients) A meal in a decent restaurant starts around 5$ up to 15$ (Vietnamese and Western food) A meal in a more high-end restaurant starts from 25$ up to 50$+
Vietnamese food tastes extremely good and is quite diverse.
I used to not cook and only eat outside for 2 years, spending less than 150$/month. Now since I cook myself, I buy full organic meat and food to achieve top health and mental performance I spend around 400$/month at the grocery store for local and imported stuff.
A low-cost 35sqm apartment ranges from 250 to 500 USD per month. Usually, those apartments are part of a small building, they are called “serviced apartment” meaning that you just need to pay the rent to the landlord and he will manage all the bills for you. A serviced apartment generally includes a cleaning service + water + internet (it can take 1 hour from the moment you see the apartment and the moment you settle down, just a signature and done)
A nice apartment in a tower with all the convenience of it, gym, swimming pool, tennis courts etc cost around 700usd. The advantage is that the bills will be under your name. Handling the bills is through apps as well as the cleaning service, very convenient. The agency from where you found the apartment will be present all the time for any request anyway.
My 80sqm apartment
My inspiring-make money dream desk
My everyday 5:30 am view during my morning routine, I can tell you the days start well.
Going out / Others
- Cinema ticket 5$
- Mobile 10$/month
- Coffee from 0,4 to 4$ (strong coffee shop culture, as Vietnam is second exporter of coffee in the world)
- Taxi to go from two far opposite district 14$ (around 0,6$ per km)
- Motorbike taxi (Grab) is even cheaper, 0,25$ per km.
- High end most expensive cocktails are at 12$
- Get a tailored suit 400$
- Renting a motorbike (prefered vehicle) : 50$/month
- Getting a car + private driver : 1000$/month
- Buying a cheap motorbike: 400$ Once you own it there is no need of assurance or yearly fees.
- Petrol: 0,7usd/liter - Usually cost 10$/month if you stay in the city
- Bus trip to the ocean or other city: from 12$
- High-end Gym membership : 28$/Month
- MMA/Muay Thai class 70$/month - Personal trainer 35$/session
- A fine for not having any driving licence or exceeding the speed limit by 30km/h…depending how good you are at negotiating with the police from 0 to 60$, and you’re good to go.
- 1-hour body massage: 12$
- Internet wifi cost 10$/month for high speed internet
- Cleaning lady twice a week 50usd/month
- Homestay cheap hotel 14usd/night
- Good hotel from 30usd/month to 70/160usd for a 5stars
From how much revenue per month you can live a decent life?
We live well from 1500$ USD in Ho Chi Minh even if you go out, eat partially European food etc. Above 1500$ you can use the excess to invest. Living in the countryside would cost far far less because there is no western supermarket and not much to do, I would not see the point of living in the countryside. Though living in a smaller city like Da Nang or Nha Trang would make sense if you prefer a less busy environment and more nature around.
Taxes, Company Incorporation and Bank
- Tax on foreign income (on person) 5 to 25%
- Tax on local income (on person) 5 to 25%
- CFC rules and CRS: no
- Property tax (real estate yearly tax): 0%
- Possibility of investor VISA, up to 1year extendable to 5years
- On companies: If the company is registered in VN, tax is 20% (worldwide revenues is taxable) but if you use a foreign company non-resident it is possible to not pay any taxes because there is no tax on dividend.
- Tax residency: From 183days in Vietnam and/or if you have your permanent residence.
In reality, the way to proceed here is a bit awkward, most of the Vietnamese businesses (small to medium) aren’t registered, and they don’t register unless the tax department knocks at their door! From that moment if you need you can start thinking of creating a company. Creating a 100% foreign or owned company here is expensive. I recommend opening it first under a Vietnamese name (a friend, girlfriend name) and then be introduced as a foreigner. I have some friends doing this kind of business, helping you open a company and getting a resident card from that.
If you are doing online business I don’t see why you would incorporate a company.
However, If you want to open a trading company or set up a local business (or do business inside VN), things can get more complicated, you may need some licence and unfortunately, Vietnam has inherited the French bureaucracy. Things can sometimes be worse than in France and can give strong headaches. Paying someone or getting help from a Vietnamese partner or/and bragging the authorities will solve all your problems.
Also moving money outside the country is extremely difficult (impossible) if you don’t prove where the money comes from and if the taxes have been paid, banks are also less flexible especially for foreigners. Flat rate for savings accounts is somewhere around 7% in Vietnam Dong - not bad.
In general more things get done in a given timeframe because businesses and factories are open 6/7j and Vietnamese are working +45h/week. Life never stops, all year round. It takes 2 hours to open a bank account if you have all the papers and 5 days to get your debit card.
For a local bank, I recommend Techcombank.
3 - SOCIETY
Life, particularities of the locals, state…
Most of the Vietnamese are living a simple and happy life, are friendly and easygoing. Even in companies, far from the grumpy people in France workplaces.
In your daily life, you don’t see many foreigners, and the ones you see here are in a way or another adding value to the country and making money. (unlike the majority of immigrants they have in France). The crimes are so low that we never hear about it, (even if it does happen as you don’t understand the news it doesn’t reach you) I never felt insecure in Vietnam, especially as a white foreigner, you are most of the time put on a pedestal and you really experience what it’s like to be privileged. And I’m not talking about the fake “white privilege”.
People here have obviously a different culture, some behaviour or manners would be categorized as bad education for us and vice versa. People are usually more direct, they get to the point, once you speak the language you understand why.
The control of immigration is very strict and is stricter years after years, 3 years ago you could enter the country and make a visa for 6 months, and renew as much as you’d like. Now, this period has reduced to 1 month, making a hard life for all the non-registered backpacker/english teachers who were forced to either find a long term solution or leave the country (that is a good thing in my opinion). The long term solution is to have a resident card and a working permit.
Here you will be cured of the deification of the democratie and you will stop to glorify it at number 1 way of ruling a country. Every state organization has its flaws of course but the party here is doing an incredible job, they have a 50+years plan, Vietnamese first, they act quickly without having to muck around and it works. I still don’t really know what is Covid here as the effect in my daily life was so little. The party was able to close the borders quickly and act with force.
There is no cast, everybody can reach the top. The vast majority of people have an entrepreneurial mindset, are resourceful, and extremely resilient, they will always find a way that will blow your mind.
People know the state is not going to help them whatsoever, therefore they have a strong sense of personal responsibility and they are not deluded with fake hope. Community and family are important. Despite the “communist party” the Vietnameses are among the most pro-capitalist in the world, more than in the US. This will also cure you of French socialism. Just living there will naturally bring you into the same mindset. As it did for me. It turns out communist Vietnam loves capitalism more than the US does | The World from PRX
The happy consequence of all that is that Vietnam ranks among the happiest countries in the world. Hehe, what a coincidence?
Interesting facts: Vietnam ranks fourth among the world’s top 10 countries with the fastest millionaire population growth. The country’s High Net Worth (HNW) population is set to grow by 10.1 percent each year in the 2018-2023 period. With a 10years GPD growth minimum 6%. It was around 2,8% in 2020 during COVID.
Vietnam is multiplying its business allies, new trade agreements have been concluded very recently with Europe, USA, Vietnam also members of the ASEAN.
Huge amounts of factories have delocalized from China to Vietnam. Vietnam is set to be and already is a major spot of world manufacturing. Companies like Alibaba are implementing their infrastructures to help the boom of manufacturing export. Amazon arrived a year ago for Vietnamese seller, a month ago Vietnamese language as been accepted as an official language for paperworks, more and more vietnamese will take this opportunity.
Family and children
- Women, rather conservative or progressive?
- Does the country encourage parents to have kids?
Yes the country promotes the women to have kids, the natality rate used to be 4 child per women decades ago, as a consequence the country is extremely young now but this rate has gone down to 2,1 (minimum required), to inverse the curve Vietnam is now actively encouraging the mother to make again more babies.
Getting married before 30yo is rather important for the Vietnameses. In fact the first question I got asked is how old I am and if I am already married.
- The population
60% of the population is below 35 years old, a very active and young. The family, as well as the population, is very homogenous, if they mix that would be between Asian or white foreigners. Black and Arabic type arent welcomed, they will be rather racist.
A typical family where you can get the chance to be welcomed during “TET” new year for example
- What are the best schools?
International schools are by far the best option, even though they all are very expensive, around 20 to 30k$ USD per year (the French school is cheaper though). International schools will provide for sure an invaluable address book for their future by being surrounded by wealthy children. And It will be far better than the mediocre Vietnamese education system but be aware that the teachers at international schools are foreigners teachers.
In my opinion, neither are good, the international schools are better with better-educated children but I doubt they are teaching what we want our child to learn. At DBL we are aware that school is engineering to create good and docile employees, perhaps less for the English ones.
Hire a preceptor, have your wife at home and free your time a little bit. 4hours a day will be enough to cover the minimum required + more. Pick the best of the world teachers online lessons, the best book and the rest of his time doing outdoor activities. And put him around DBL kids. There might be schools outside the system, alternatives school, similar to what we call in France “Ecole Privee, Hors Contrat” as I’m not going to have kids soon I do not know. If you are interested I can do some research.
- Performance of the local medical system
You have the public hospitals, quite cheap but not recommended as a foreigner. And the private hospital, International hospital, there are heaps of them making the system working very well, no waiting at all and well equipped, some can be very expensive so be prepared to get private insurance.
The price can rank up +50/100$/Month if you want good coverage at those hospitals. Be aware that they are business so it’s not unusual to be told to go for a heart check even if you are coming for the flu, they will often try to squeeze your insurance until the last drop. Just be aware of that. The advantage is that it’s a well-lubricated system, the inconvenient is that doctors can be greedy. In France your health is 1st because money is not in the equation, here both come together.
My insurance, whenever I go to the hospital (any kind of treatment), they take care of the fees, no advance from me https://www.aetnainternational.com/
Aah, I know you were waiting for this one, best comes last: No feminism here. The Vietnamese women know how to organize the house, to take care of it and the children. And obviously how to cook. Some would expect the men to make more money. Relations are here much more down to earth.
Age has more importance than in France, they will consider a relationship if you are older and if you can provide a minimum of financial security as there is no social law protecting anyone in case of job loss or any kind of covering.
But still, some will blow your mind by their entrepreneurial mindset or by their career focusing, women are more independent than before. They are very capable outside and inside the house.
As they get older, the women usually rule the house and manage the finance, and are very respected. In society, the respect regarding your age has tremendous importance.
Traditional Ao Dai
Girls are cute, are not difficult to approach, especially as a foreigner. If you are a 5/10 in France, good news here you are a 7/10. Girls are not arrogant and are full of surprise, especially when it comes to going to your bedroom, things escalate fast and you’ll be surprised as you were thinking that she was shy. They love sex even though is less an open discussion than in France but nevertheless, when it comes to going into your bedroom, you will be amazed.
A girl well know here: https://www.instagram.com/thaonhile/?hl=en
For a date, they will love being picked up on the back of your motorbike and they can love romantic things as they usually love French songs and French culture. Very innocent in appearance, clean and cute. Not a surprise if all the foreigners fall in love with the Vietnamese.
If you are not into Asian girls as I was, don’t worry your mind will change after some month.
4 - DOWNSIDES, MY WELLBEING, FINAL WORDS
Getting things from overseas can be annoying as well as not finding anything you want here.
Getting things done because you are a foreigner can be harder but it will develop your capacity to find solutions, so for me, it has been a good thing.
Sadly the Vietnamese have no awareness about their history and you will feel sometimes that you don’t go deeply into life talking (if you want that).
You will never fully integrate and could be forever seen as a tourist at first sight. If you make the effort of speaking Vietnamese, brotherhood and real friendship will be developed, don’t worry.
- Final words
All of this is obviously my point of view, with a lot of bias. I’m happy and fulfilled here if we put aside that my family is far. I’m living my best life, I managed to get my health performance to the top, I am privileged and I know it, I take advantage of it. If you come here there’s a chance that you will see Vietnam as I see it, and you will have a lot of opportunities, more than you can even imagine.
Vietnam won’t stop to surprise you, don’t forget that you will make the choice to expatriate therefore, high respect toward the Vietnamese is due. Do not replicate what you had against the invader in Europe. Do not try to change them, make your way around and improve yourself. A lot to learn from them. Get strong and design your life for the best. Choose a country that is rising and where people are hungry. You will be naturally led to the same energy.
Reach me out if you are seriously interested in Vietnam, opportunities are here and now, in a few years once Europe will have realized that Vietnam is an opportunity, it will be too late for you because it means things have already happened. Do some research in local newspapers in english and you will see that Vietnam has boomed, is booming and will for this decade. Take your chance.
(Post approved by Silvio)