What it’s like to work and live abroad in Vietnam

A lot of people ask me what it’s like to work and live in Vietnam.  The truth is, it depends on the day. Some days are amazing, incredible actually, while other days can be rather frustrating and inefficient.

For some background, my husband and I relocated to Saigon, Vietnam for 6 months for our business (www.timroon.com).  We help US companies with manufacturing here in Vietnam.  Business is going really well and we are very busy.  Half my time is spent on business development in the US, while the other is spent bringing on new suppliers and monitoring current manufacturing programs here in Vietnam.

Most days I get up at about 6:30, workout (either play tennis, do yoga, go for a run or work out with my trainer – costs $12 per session), shower, help with breakfast and then I leave the house around 830/9.  I ride my bike about 5 minutes to “town” and rotate between about 10 different coffee shops.  For me, this is exciting; I constantly get to work in different places.  For my husband, he’d prefer a set place.  Besides consuming lots of coffee, juice and of course coconuts, I love the change of scenery.

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One of my favorite office views

I can honestly say that I am so happy here in Saigon. Because of all of the help, I’m really able to focus on work.  The nice weather (sometimes too hot), means that we are always active and there are so many activities around us. The proximity to other places means that we can easily travel on the weekends – whether it’s exploring Vietnam, or going to Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, etc.  Most of the expats here are so friendly and I’ve really enjoyed making friends from all over the world. Life seems pretty easy here in Saigon and I am so thankful for this opportunity.

Here are my favorite and least favorite aspects of working abroad in Vietnam:

Best:

  • Always changing landscape – we can work from anywhere. Whether it’s a coffee shop, a restaurant, our living room or from a boat. As long as there’s wifi and power, we can make it our office.
  • Opportunity to Network – we are always meeting people who either work in manufacturing, do what we do or need things manufactured. Every day is a new opportunity to network.
  • Inexpensive Labor – it’s true that labor is very inexpensive. We have a cook ($4/hour), a housekeeper and a nanny.  When needed, we hire a driver (about $40/day).  We also have an assistant that costs about $3/hour.  We have employees here are on the ground in Vietnam whose salary is around 1/6 of what we pay at home. Labor is cheap and this allows us to focus on work, which is great!

 

Worst:

  • Time difference – being on a 12 hour time difference is very difficult to move things along. We often have to wait to get a response and vice versa. There are many nights where we stay up long into the night in order to be on East Coast time.  This is one of the negatives about working abroad. The positive is that during the day our time, I have lots of time to respond to our clients in the US, since they are sleeping.
  • Wifi – the wifi in South East Asia can be VERY frustrating. Some days it’s fine, but most days it is slow. Some times we even have power issues. In fact, right now I am using the hotspot from my phone because there is a power outage.
  • Culture Clashes – The people of Vietnam are wonderful, but sometimes we have some culture issues when it comes to working. People will always say “yes we can do this”, but often times details are overlooked and turnaround time can be slow.  We learned that we need to be very clear in our deliverables and constantly monitor the work to make sure it is getting done.  Face to face meetings are best.
  • Communication – Like any country, sometimes it’s hard to understand each other. Whenever we work with a new factory or a new person, I always make sure to start a Whatsaap group so we can text to make sure what we say is understood.
  • Air Quality – This doesn’t affect my work per se, but a huge negative is the air quality. Some days the AQI will reach over 150, similar to Beijing!  We can seldom see a blue sky and this makes us worried for our children.  If the air was clean, I would strongly urge everyone to pack up and move to Vietnam!

Do you work abroad? What are your likes and dislikes?

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