Changing your Mindset about Vietnam

I have had many great experiences when inviting foreigners’ friends to visit Vietnam. Many of them have a typical thinking that Vietnam is not safe to be visited, after war in the country and no development. I still remember when I brought my Japanese best friend to Vietnam in 2010, he was really shocked with what he saw along the way from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to District 1 in Saigon. He really amazed with the crazy traffic on the street as he was thinking that Vietnamese are only using bicycles as a means of transportation. Apart from that, he amazed that buildings are built everywhere and immediately when he entered city centre area, he saw numbers of international brands here and there.

Vietnam War and No Development

Many of my friend’s parents are not allowing their kids to travel to Vietnam by setting a mindset that Vietnam is post war country, dangerous and no development. This is the same mindset set up by Vietnamese families to their kids about visiting Cambodia by saying that the country is not safe to be visited. The fact is, the war was over ages ago and the country now is rapidly developing. In Saigon or Hanoi, there are many high-end shopping malls with international brands and good quality products. Besides, there are massive residential developments such as luxury condominiums for sale with price started from USD 1000 per square meter which can be considered as high as residential prices in neighbouring countries. The same scenario happened for commercial and office building in this country. Iconic development such as Bitexco Financial Tower (BFT) which is the tallest building in South Vietnam is living proof that this country is blooming and aggressive in terms of development. With this in mind, the mindset about this country is under pre-war and poor without any development is definitely a wrong judgement about Vietnam.

Everything is cheap in Vietnam

When talking about everything is cheap in Vietnam, it can reach to right and wrong points. Spending as a visitor can be as cheap as USD 700 for 10 days trip. However, when you are decided to stay here as an expatriate, your expenses will be very high and everything is no more cheap. House rental in Vietnam is among the highest in South East Asia with starting price of USD 1000 for a good condition 2-bedroom apartment in strategic city location. The only cheap place to shop is in local market such as Ben Thanh Market, Saigon Square or locally owned shops on the street. When you are referring to shopping mall, you have to think twice or maybe thrice before throwing your Dong for your desired item. Some imported products are relatively more expensive here. Example, the price for Bata shoes which is very popular in Malaysia and Singapore is about VND1,300,000 for a normal design and it can rise up to VND3,000,000 for a better quality. But then, the price for the same brand in home country is 50 percent cheaper until locals will call it “Buy One, Throw One” shoes.
The same with food in Vietnam, the rise up of petrol and power by the government has effected to cost of good sold of Vietnamese food getting higher. The price for a bowl of Pho can hike up to VND 60,000 in some places and a glass of Sinh To (Smoothies) can go for VND 30,000 for 1 glass. So, the mindset that everything in Vietnam is cheap is totally wrong. Living here as an expatriate means you will have some cost of living which is relatively high. Maybe you will not realize it. But after you do your monthly expenses calculation and convert it to your home currency, you will get shocked.

Language is always a Problem. People don’t speak English!

One of Vietnam’s economic growths was contributed by the tourism industry. If the people don’t speak English, how they can develop their tourism product? Starting from the airport, the immigration officers speak clear English, your hotel staffs also speak English and same goes to your tour agents. The fluency of English-speaking is depends on the places that you are heading for. Currently, English-speaking level among Vietnamese is much better compared to my first visit 5 years ago. Millions of visitors to Vietnam yearly had given more opportunities for them to practise their English communication and don’t be surprised when they are able to converse with good American dialect. Now, even the Fried Chicken Rice seller and Soya Milk Vendor in backpacker area are able to speak Basic English with their customers. With this in mind, the mindset about Vietnamese do not speak English and language will be a problem is definitely wrong.

Vietnamese are “In the Box” Thinking

Do you know that thousands of Vietnamese go to further their study in America, Australia and neighbour countries such as Malaysia and Singapore yearly? The number of Vietnamese students study abroad is increasing every year and this show that they are not conventional. They are always looking for the best in order to have a better future and continuing their family legacies. Modern Vietnamese are fashionable, business minded and more innovative. If they are “In the Box” thinking”, there will be no Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will come to this country. The fact is, we will see in daily newspapers about foreign companies investing for development projects and business ventures between foreign-owned companies with local businesses. This is a good signal that Vietnamese are always “Out of the Box” instead of orthodox.
One of the key factors when you want to travel in Vietnam is your safety. By changing your mindset, you will be safer instead of paranoia to scams or your personal negatives. Changing your mindset will reduce your culture shock and optimally enjoying your trip to this beautiful country. The people are great, foods are stunning and shopping is distinctive.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 15, 2012


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