As Vietnam’s business and financial hub, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is known for being the country’s most modern area. Despite this, it can take time to find your footing, as the local culture is still alive and well here. Living the life of an expat isn’t the easiest job, as moving to a foreign land can be nerve-racking for anyone. This is why we’ve rounded up the top things every expat should know to help them comfortably settle into HCMC.
Be a Smart Shopper
HCMC is a shopper’s paradise, as it’s packed with an array of stores — from local boutiques to high-end shops. As you go around the shops, Expatbets details how you will notice a Chinese influence on Vietnamese culture particularly in their ceramics, silk weaving, and engraved furniture. This culture clash is one reason why shopping in Vietnam is one of the things expats love about the country. However, there’s more to shopping in this city than simply picking an item and paying for it. A big part of Vietnamese shopping culture is haggling with the salesperson over the purchase. This is especially important since Culture Trip’s feature on major expat areas in HCMC notes that District 3 and District 7 are filled with shops. Before you start bartering, make sure to browse the other stores so you can gauge the real value of the product you’re eyeing up. But don’t forget to have fun when you’re haggling, as you’ll quickly notice that the Vietnamese are very friendly people.
Learn the Language
Vietnamese can be an intimidating language to learn. Although there are no conjugations or articles or gendered nouns to worry about, it is still a tonal language. This means that a simple change in intonation can transform an entire sentence and raise more than a few eyebrows. Thankfully there are many ways you can get started. You can try learning on your own with free resources and videos online, or you can try an app or enlisting the help of a local. Be sure to start with learning the alphabet and their phonetics, before moving on to useful phrases like “Ban co the giup toi duoc khong?” (which means, “Can you help me?”) or “Bao nhiêu tiền?” (“How much is it?”). All in all, knowing even the basics of the Vietnamese language can you help feel comfortable conversing with the locals in the city.
Prepare for Traffic
As the largest city in Vietnam, it shouldn’t be surprising that HCMC is infamous for its heavy traffic. However, you won’t just see tons of cars on the road, but you’ll spot motorcycles and scooters swerving around them. These two-wheeled vehicles are a popular mode of transportation among the Vietnamese, since they can easily evade traffic. If you plan on riding one of them, don’t forget to wear a helmet — not only for your safety, but it’s also mandatory in the country. Alternatively, many locals like to travel by foot. While it may seem scary first with all the cars and motorists, you can safely cross the streets by walking slowly and carefully watching the traffic around you.
Adjust to the Climate
Located in the southeastern part of Vietnam, HCMC has a tropical climate, as explained by Weather Atlas, this entails hot conditions with both wet and dry periods during the year. The wet season in HCMC starts from May to November, which means rainstorms and typhoons will pass through the city. Moreover, it’s especially humid during this time. If you’re not used to humidity, it’s best to have light and moisture-wicking clothing to help your body adjust to the climate. And of course, invest in the proper rain gear for when you have to head out. Fortunately, once the clouds clear, the dry season from December to April is filled with bright and sunny days that showcase the best of the city. Plus, the humidity during the dry season is at a much lower level.
Covid 19: Please to note that only Vietnamese nationals, foreigners on diplomatic or official business, and highly skilled workers are allowed to enter the country at this time. Anyone entering Vietnam must undergo medical checks and 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
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