Last week I posted about the mistakes I made in Vietnam, so it seemed only right that I follow it up with a list of the things I got right. In hindsight, I know that my start in Vietnam was not the smoothest, but all of these decisions helped me enormously on the road to happiness here.
Disclaimer: The following are decisions that were right for me; the same may not be the case for you, of course. Always do your own research and think about your own unique needs.
Doing my TESOL Course in Vietnam
This might not be the best option for everyone, but it definitely was for me. Even though the Ninja Teacher (AVSE) course certainly has its faults, it gave me direction, purpose and, most importantly, pals. Had I just moved here, certificate already in hand and tried to look for a job and apartment, I would have felt completely lost and alone. Studying for my TESOL for a month first allowed me to adjust to life here, get a feel for the city and make a few friends. To be honest, meeting my friends is what made the course worth the $1600; we joke (though it’s completely true) that we paid $400 a head for each other. It was totally worth it. Those guys were my rays of light during the rough-early-broke days, and I will never not be grateful that I met them.
Advice: If you’re worried about settling in and meeting people, doing your teaching qualification in Vietnam is a great way to get started- and worth the extra dough, IMO.
Starting This Blog
Be it blogging, painting or working out, the relatively empty teacher schedule gives you a TON of free time to focus on your passions. Personally, I start to feel a little low and what’s-the-point if I have nothing to focus on, so I’m trying to use this freedom to work on my writing. Dedicating more time to the blog has really given me a new sense of optimism. As well as this, I’ve been working out regularly with friends, which gets me out of bed at a reasonable hour every morning!
Advice: It’s okay to feel a little listless when you find yourself in a strange country with no real reason to get up before four pm each day, but trying new hobbies and dedicating time to passion projects- be that blogging or bettering your bod- can give you a massive, much-needed boost.
Getting a Motorbike
I can honestly say that getting a motorbike was one of the best things I’ve done here. After three months of hair-raising Uber and Grab journeys, I realised that, once I mastered the rules of the road, I could probably drive myself around more safely- and I was totally right.
When I first arrived here, I decided to leave driving to the locals; after all, they’ve been doing it their whole lives and the craziness is natural to them. However, that’s not always a good thing. After one too many drivers drove me at breakneck speed down the highway, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.
Getting a bike was a little scary at first, but I took it slow, practiced on familiar routes and refused to let fear get the best of me. It did take a while to get used to, but after about a month or so it became second nature and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been doing it my whole life. It gave me an enormous sense of independence. All of a sudden, the city was my oyster. If, mid-journey, I wanted to pull over at a café or boutique I wanted to check out, I could. I could spend afternoons driving around the city at leisure, exploring just for the sake of it. It’s still one of my favourite things to do.
Advice: for a more in-depth article about riding a motorbike in Saigon, click here. Otherwise, my main advice would be to get an automatic bike and practice with it somewhere quiet (Nguyễn Cơ Thạch street near the Sala Sarimi apartments in District 2 is a good place). Once you’ve got the hang of that, try driving on main roads around midday when the traffic is relatively quiet. Take it slow, and keep calm. You got this.
Finding a Nice Apartment
This one probably seems so obvious that you’re wondering why I’ve included it, but finding somewhere that feels like home made a world of difference for me. Obviously, everyone has a different idea of an ideal nest, but I do think it’s important to live somewhere that makes you happy. For me, it’s a nice apartment in District 2 skyscraper. For others, it’s cosy rented rooms, studios or Vietnamese-style houses. I didn’t find the right place right away, but that only made me appreciate it all the more when I did. I’m a lot happier living with a roommate than I was when I lived alone, and I love going home to somewhere that actually feels like home when the day is done. Before I lived here, going home to my various rented rooms didn’t bring me much joy, and I missed my family home a lot. Loving where I live really has done wonders in making Saigon as a whole feel more homely. After moving in here, I finally felt like I was actually living abroad, rather than just staying here for a bit.
Advice: Find what works for you, and if you’re not sure what that is (I wasn’t), move around a few times and see! I LOVE my luxury apartment living but others prefer to kick it more locally, and either is totally okay. You can get lots of short-term and rolling lease places, so there’s no harm in a little experimentation. Ho Chi Minh City is full of options, so check them out for yourself!
Have you ever moved abroad? What worked for you?