For many years now, Vietnam has been a popular tourist destination - in fact, prior to the start of the COVID pandemic in 2019, over 18 million international tourists visited the country.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, hundreds of thousands of foreigners also decided to make Vietnam their home. Although there is no official figure on the number of expats living in the country, a report from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs shows that as of April, 2021 there were about 101,550 foreigners working in Vietnam on a permanent basis.
Which has got me thinking - why do so many people decide to make Vietnam their home?
Stevie Willows from South Africa puts a lot of it down to the cost of living.
“The cost of living is cheap, [Vietnam is] close to other Asia countries, so it's easy to travel. Socialising is easy and cheap too,” he said
It’s no secret that the cost of living is a big factor for many expats living in Vietnam.
Despite the average Vietnamese salary being around VNĐ7.8 million (US$336), in jobs like teaching where many expats are employed, wages start at around VNĐ30,000,000 ($1,300) a month.
This makes both the cost and quality of life very appealing to foreigners who are considering making Vietnam their home, especially in comparison to the savings-to-outgoings ratio in most peoples' home countries.
Kelsey Scheepers, also from South Africa, agrees: "Living costs are much more viable as opposed to my own country."
However, while the cost of living is a big draw, it isn’t the only reason that many foreigners have made Vietnam their home.
Others were drawn here by their work and didn’t expect to stay for so long.
Callum Maxwell is an Australian whose company posted him to Vietnam, initially on a one-year contract. However, because of the culture, people, and food, he’s decided to extend his contract and stay for longer.
“I love the food that you can eat here, there are so many things that just aren’t available back home," Callum said.
"I love seafood, especially things like fried eels, which you don't see very often in Australia. That, combined with just how friendly and welcoming the people are, is a big reason that I’ve decided to stay in Vietnam longer than I initially thought.”
Harriet Peterson from the UK has been in Hanoi for a year, one of the few who arrived during the COVID pandemic. She only ended up in Vietnam as her husband was offered a job here. While she only expected to stay for around six months, a year later she has no intention of leaving.
“I love it here, I really do. The people are so friendly and the way of living is so easy. A lot of people say that the language is too hard to learn, but I don’t agree. Of course, the tones are difficult to wrap your head around, but if you make the effort to try and speak the language, it really does go a long way.
“I think that is the single best piece of advice that can be given to someone who has just moved to Vietnam - try and learn the language. You can’t really understand somewhere if you are limited to only speaking to people that speak the same language as yourself, a foreign language to them. Learn the language and you’ll have a much better, more complete experience here.”
His reasoning is mirrored by Maria Nicole, from the US. She has been here for five years, though that was never her plan before arriving.
“My advice to anyone who wants to come to Vietnam is do it, just do it. You won’t regret it.”
The cost of living, high salary and savings potential are no doubt alluring for foreigners that have chosen to make Vietnam their home. However, it is clear that while the pay and savings potential is a big draw that gets people here initially, it's the quality of life, culture and ultimately the people of Vietnam that convinces people to stay.