What’s It Like Living in Ho Chi Minh City?

Suong Nguyet Anh (SNA) Street

What is daily life/quality of life like in HCMC?

Nico (South Africa): Life is quite relaxed in Ho Chi Minh City. There is something for everyone. At first, I was worried about staying healthy but there are many healthy meal options and if you enjoy exercising and sports. Ho Chi Minh has almost everything. There’s field hockey, rugby, football, tennis, squash and basketball. 

Stuart (England): Ho Chi Minh City is the most modern, international city in Vietnam. It’s a city always on the go. Outward looking. Perpetually moving forward at frenetic pace. Yet there is still a calm and relaxation to be found at every turn. Sit off and relax at one of the billion coffee shops or street food stops littering each street, or rev up and head uptown for cocktails, beer, music and dance.  

Marisse (South Africa): HCMC is pretty relaxed and laid back in a way, although the roads and traffic could take some adjustment. But there is a vibe in the air. If not attending work, joining a fitness centre such as yoga, gym, kickboxing and MMA is also a great way to stay in shape and have some activity to do. There’s also a lot of sport that’s available here such as soccer, basketball, badminton and tennis. Arts and crafts workshops, comedy nights and karaoke are great options for entertainment. 

Grace (Ireland): When I first arrived in HCM city I thought it was crazy, hot, and dangerous. I was scared to walk down the road to the shops because of the amount of motorbikes. But now it’s like second nature to me and I feel like I hardly even notice the traffic. It’s mad how quickly you get used to things. I love living here, I can drive my motorbike anywhere around the city and it feels very freeing. I have a lot of extra time to do whatever I want and there is always a new expat to make friends with. 

Emma (South Africa): It’s amazing. Ho Chi Minh will never fail to surprise you. The minor details of each day will quickly add up to some hilarious, heart-warming and interesting stories to take back home. Life here is packed with variety and can be as slow or as high energy as you want it to be. I get paid well and earn enough to explore SE Asia during holidays. The work/life balance is also great.

Photograph via Unsplash

What is the cost of living in HCMC?

Nico (South Africa): I love Vietnam and I really enjoy trying new things. However, sometimes I crave the comforts I had back in South Africa. Meat is generally expensive, especially if you compare it to the portion size, quality and price of South Africa. Expect to pay about 500k for a decent steak dinner.

Stuart (England): The cost of living is far cheaper than the U.K. Expect to pay 9mil for a well-heeled studio apartment near town, 40k for a flat white, 40k for a good plate of delicious street-side nourishment and around 1mil per month to rent the ubiquitous scooter.

Marisse (South Africa): I personally don’t ride a motorbike, but I so utilise the local motorbike service called Grab. On average, the cost to and from work (depending on where you stay), costs me around 1 million. This, however, does not include trips for leisure Coffee ranges from about 10k – 40k. Street food ranges from 30k – 65k. The western food is a lot more expensive, but definitely affordable with the salary you earn.

Grace (Ireland): 7mil/month but could get cheaper very easily. Coffee: 35k/2days. Motorbike: 1.2mil/month, Food: probably around 4 mil a week depending if I try not to order online. Social Life: some weeks it can be millions of dong but usually around 3 mil if I’m good.

Photograph via Unsplash

What are your favorite and least favorite things about living in HCMC?

Nico (South Africa): My favourite thing about living in HCMC is the wide variety of people you meet. Everyone has a story to tell and more often than not, they want to live here too, so you get to make friends as well.

Nico’s Least Favorite: My least favourite thing is definitely the pollution.

Stuart (England): Cliché ahoy… but I like the buzz and energy. The constant whirr of scooters. Late-night scooter rides through deserted streets. The smell of sweet, grilled pork from the charcoal. It’s nice to wake up to the sunshine most days too. 

Stuart’s Least Favorite: The air quality has its (frequent) off days and it can be tricky at times to find the most general household item without knowing someone local. Where do I get needle and thread to sew on my button?

Marisse (South Africa): Diverse culture and people from all over the world, as well as the city at night. The locals are also extremely friendly, and embrace the foreigners that live in Vietnam.

Marisse’s Least Favourite: Air pollution, the heat and the rain. Rainy season is +- 9 months of the year, every day. Be sure to get yourself a reliable raincoat and masks for protection from the air pollution.

Grace (Ireland): The interesting people you meet, the motorbikes, seeing interesting things all the time, and there is always something going on. Possibilities to travel around as well.

Grace’s Least Favourite: Pollution, people constantly leaving (temporary friendships) and difficulty adjusting to the way of life.

Emma (South Africa): Vietnam has a vibrant street culture. I love that people spend their time outdoors, especially at night when the city is at its most beautiful. It’s a dazzling blend of old and new here. Delivery is fast and cheap. And there is no shortage of cafes, restaurants, bars and markets. 

Emma’s Least Favourite: Animal welfare isn’t really a priority here, but it’s slowly getting better. I also miss temperatures below 30’C, clean air and tap water.

Photograph via Unsplash

What is the expat community like in HCMC?

Nico (South Africa): I quite enjoy the expat community in HCMC. I live in the most “Western” part of HCMC, district 2 but I still get the local influence in all the other areas when I get out and when I travel. The expat community is quite inviting and friendly and I’m quite shy when it comes to meeting new people.

Stuart (England): I live in a fairly non-expat area (Phu Nhuan) near the canal. I like the balance between local and central without bumping into Dave from round our way at the local Circle K.

Marisse (South Africa): Everyone here is almost here for the same reason, far from home and family. You’ll be sure to make some long-lasting friendships with people from all over the world. Lunches, coffee dates, dinner dates, social events and live music are some ways that expats socialise.

Grace (Ireland): There are many different groups, so you will find someone to click with in the city. I would say it’s similar to being at home in a way, you meet some people who you vibe with and others who you don’t. Just keep trying to meet new people would be my advice.

Emma (South Africa): I love a mix of expat and local life. Being friends with the expats is a bit like living in a small town, everyone seems to know each other. It’s easy to make friends here.

Photograph via Unsplash

What is living in Vietnam vs (your home country) like?

Nico (South Africa): I feel very safe in HCMC compared to my home country and I often go for late night walks/runs.

Stuart (England): Hotter, that’s for sure. More alluring. Less predictable. Liverpool is still great, though.

Marisse (South Africa):  South Africa is home for me, and it’s no secret that we have a high crime rate. So being in Vietnam is a lot safer, and I do feel freer. However, you should be vigilant at all times.

Grace (Ireland): Very fun, I love living in HCM because it’s always interesting and there are always outside activities going on compared to at home. This is mostly due to the climate, as it’s so wet at home.

Emma (South Africa): I feel that I have a lot more mobility. It’s not as expensive to travel around and explore the city. There are more things to do as every street is clustered with small shops, cafes and vendors. You don’t always need to travel far to find what you’re looking for. I feel quite safe here compared to my country. Still love South Africa though!

Photograph via Unsplash

What I like most about APAX is…

Stuart (England): APAX has offered me an opportunity to try out a new skill. To meet great people and help enthusiastic, friendly and welcoming students to become better than before. Memories to keep forever.

Marisse (South Africa): APAX is one of the best and largest teaching centers to work for in Vietnam. The people, culture, environment and the general work ethic is exciting and is very fulfilling. You will make long-lasting relationships with the people you meet at APAX.

Grace (Ireland): I think Apax is a lot of fun, it is very interactive and the community is very helpful overall. There is a good sense of community and there is always someone there to reach out to if you’re having any problems.

Emma (South Africa): APAX offers loads of benefits and takes care of its teachers. I appreciate the ongoing support and training, which can broaden opportunities. I love the kids, events and the community at my center.


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