Vietnam, like other countries in the world, has the good and bad that create its mix distinctive from any country in the world. Moreover, what a person hates and loves depends on their perspective.

I am a Frenchman living in Vietnam for over 5 years now. I have decided that Vietnam would be my second home after exploring and learning about what the country can offer.

Therefore, there are so many things that I love about Vietnam. Not only that, I feel like there are more pros than cons. They convinced me to stay longer to explore, have a life here, settle in, and live a life with other Vietnamese.

However, we cannot talk about the pros forever because everything sounds like a dream people usually make about moving overseas. The cons exist. We all will have to accept their existence. Moreover, there are misconceptions among foreigners about Vietnam. Following the video, you will be able to see the true picture.

In this article I would like to list a couple of things to highlight the real perspective foreigners have about Vietnam : the downside and what some foreigners are complaining about while living in Vietnam.

Myths and misconceptions are also one important component I am covering in this guide that I had before coming here and it turns out that I was wrong on many of them, that’s why I think this article is very important for future-expats and foreigners wishing to relocate to Vietnam.

What foreigners are complaining about in Vietnam ?

But for now, let’s head to the 7 complaints first.

I want to highlight that it’s not what I think about Vietnam but some general thoughts that some foreigners are having in mind about Vietnam.

Now you have a better picture about what some expatriates are thinking about Vietnam. Obviously, it’s not everyone but those points seem to be shared by many foreigners living in Vietnam.

The notorious Visa policy

Visas have been a huge problem for many ex-pats living in Vietnam. Because of the ongoing lockdown in Vietnam due to Covid-19, the law has become more strict for foreigners to stay. The ex-pat community in Vietnam has been showing much frustration because they can’t find a way to deal with this. Consequently, many foreigners have to go back to their home country during such a difficult time.

visa change in Vietnam

As someone who has been living in Vietnam for a few years now, I look forward to seeing the government carry out some adjustments to the visa policy. Vietnam needs a huge foreign workforce to boost its economy. Therefore, it will be a huge disadvantage if the visa policy becomes more strict. As the lockdown is over, things are slowly getting back to normal. It could be a good sign showing that the visa policy will soon be changed in favor of foreigners living and working in Vietnam.

The job opportunity

Vietnam is emerging fast. Therefore, the number of job opportunities began to grow significantly. However, it’s not as easy as many people expect. Many foreigners come with disappointment when they cannot find any job relevant to their background/expertise.

Most foreigners come to Vietnam for a teaching job. However, there have been some changes in the way this system works. For those who are not native English speakers, they have to get 2 – 3 certificates (For example CELTA, TESOL, IELTS, etc). It also depends on the level that the person looks forward to having a teaching job in Vietnam. Since the market is pretty competitive, it has gotten harder for many non-native English speakers to get a teaching job here.

Other sectors are booming in Vietnam that require a foreign workforce to do the work. As similar to teaching, those sectors require suitable certificates/degrees to be qualified. Not only that, the selection has become a lot harder compared to 6 – 7 years ago.

Vietnam has a lot of job opportunities indeed. However, not everyone will be able to achieve what they aim to when moving here. You may want to consider your decision very carefully before making an official one.

The hierarchy

This may sound like a funny thing to hear but it’s what makes Vietnam become a distinctive country among other areas in the region.

The hierarchy in Vietnam presents through how people call each other both in daily and professional activities. For example, in English, we only tend to keep the only two words “You” and “I” to call/talk about a person despite their age. In Vietnam, there’s a more complicated system for it. There will always be a difference when talking about a person who is older or younger than a specific person.

Asia hierachy and showing respect oldest in Vietnam
That hierarchy system applies to how people talk and treat each other in their daily activities. There is nothing much to say about it from the day-to-day perspective. However, it rather prevents the working relationship between employees and managers. For example, people in Vietnam tend to respect a manager older than them more than a manager who is younger than them. This doesn’t happen that much. The chance to see it is 1 out of 100. However, it did happen to some of my friends or some of them have seen that kind of interaction happen before. Also, since there’s an obvious gap between an employee and a manager, there’s usually not too much discussion between both sides. The employees are worried about being criticized by their boss. They tend to keep silent even when there is a thing that is supposed to be spoken up. This issue affects the professionalism of the business. A lot of my ex-pat friends have talked about this a lot. None of them enjoy seeing this because such disparity makes work less efficient.

However, this kind of mindset has begun to change slowly over time. The young generation starts to show the country an innovative awareness. I hope that in the future, this mindset will disappear forever.

The “too” easy way Vietnamese are

Since Vietnam is gradually approaching the pace of the world, there might be some off beats that you may run into when working with a Vietnamese.

For example, you may see passive behavior in the workplace when working with Vietnamese staff. The Vietnamese tend to wait until being assigned instead of offering the manager some additional assists. Such matter causes a slight misunderstanding between the leader and the employees. Some managers may assume that the employees are not dedicated, which has been proven wrong in many cases. This passive behavior comes from the gap between the manager and the employees. Therefore, the Vietnamese are sometimes distant from their leader and tend to remain passive most of the time. However, when there is work to finish, it is done as well as expected.

The crowd and the traffic

Vietnam is popular among tourists around the world because of the vibrant city lifestyle. If you visit big cities like Saigon and Hanoi, the noticeable trait is the high density of traffic throughout the whole day. It only seems quiet after midnight and gets back to the busy transition at 6 am. The street fills with different vehicles and people walking on both sidewalks. This expresses the uniqueness of Vietnam. Therefore, Vietnam is one of the biggest attractions for the people who love the vibrant lifestyle of city life. However, not everyone is a fan.

Traffic crowd in big cities like saigon or hanoi
Since there are too many vehicles on the street, it makes the pollution in Vietnam worse. Also, crowds make pickpocketing easier for bad people. Pickpockets usually happen in tourist districts such as district one, one of the most popular towns for tourists. Moreover, there are not too many quiet places for introverts. I have a few friends who are introverts. They told me that they struggled to find a peaceful atmosphere on the street to relax after a long day at work. Unlike many European countries that are a lot less populated, Vietnam will give you a rather difficult time if you look forward to enjoying the peacefulness.

The constant changes

Vietnam is an emerging country. Therefore, there has been a lot going on here for the innovation of the country. It’s indeed a good sign showing that Vietnam has finally reached the positive growth that it has pursued for many years. However, such a phase usually makes everyone feel a lot less comfortable.

For example, the small alley where you live could change unexpectedly. Many new houses and buildings may appear as a part of the zoning plan of the government. Such could annoy you badly because of the construction noise that may interrupt you during your lunch break. Of course, no one would want to be constantly disrupted during their work or leisure time.

Another thing which is a more critical matter is about the regulations. As the country is growing too fast, changes in the regulations will be made depending on different periods. Most of the time, these adjustments open the gate for more foreigners to come into the country. It’s a part of the strategy of Vietnam to improve its economy. However, Vietnam still has a lot to learn to improve its system. It’s why there will be a time they have to carry out changes to the regulations to decide whether one is compatible with the conditions of the country.

The financial aspects

The financial picture in Vietnam could be an obstacle for foreigners. There are restrictions on the foreigners’ side that prevent them from achieving what they look forward to doing in this country.

Firstly, the complexity of the required paperwork always makes all of us suffer. The procedure when working with a bank in Vietnam could be a huge frustration. When opening a personal or a business account, there’s a lot of paperwork involved. It confuses many ex-pats because they’re still not quite sure how to catch up with it. Moreover, there are some certain services that a foreigner cannot do while being in Vietnam unless they meet one or more within the 3 criteria which include:

  • Having a job in Vietnam
  • Having a business in Vietnam
  • Getting married to a local

If you don’t have any of the 3 criteria, things will be hard for you. For example, if you want to carry out an international transfer, you will need to meet at least 1 criteria mentioned above. As Vietnam is still developing, limitations are still there. Such make it hard for foreigners to adapt.

Next, we come to the second point of the article: the misconceptions that many people have about Vietnam

Myths and misconceptions about Vietnam

Expats have complaints about their experience while living in Vietnam. However, complaints don’t come with the false assumption that many make about this country. Being an emerging country has never been easy for Vietnam. Many assume that it’s not safe to choose a developing country like Vietnam to settle in. However, it’s a wrong assumption.

Every country has pitfalls and disadvantages. Nevertheless, if you take a step closer to seeing the country, you may realize that it’s not as bad as people usually talk about. Some things make Vietnam a place worth settling in, working, and enjoying life.

There’s no entrepreneurship mindset in Vietnam

If you’re exposed enough to the picture of Vietnam, you will see the opposite. The reality is, Vietnam started to build a rich culture of establishing their own business. You can usually see this within the young generation of Vietnam. Every year, thousands of people express their business ideas to the public in many different sectors. The young people of Vietnam is hungry to help Vietnam have a better stand among other developed countries. For example, in the fashion industry, there have been many Vietnamese brands that aim to change the awareness of Vietnamese consumers. Well-known brands like Bitis, Dirty Coins, Elise, etc, have convinced Vietnamese to support their local products instead of pursuing expensive international items.

Moreover, there have been many IT startups in Vietnam for the past 5 years. Vietnam has had a decent talent pool of IT developers. Many countries have chosen Vietnam as the place where they outsource most of their remote workers to take care of their projects. The number of successful startups has also grown tremendously over the years, making Vietnam an option for other countries to trust and support the services.

Vietnamese always strictly follow their country’s politics

Another thing that many have talked about is how obedient the Vietnamese are to the politics of Vietnam. There’s no doubt that politics are important to a country because it defines the function of a country. It also creates a unified system that sustains order. These basic conceptions prove the point of following one country’s politics is not wrong. However, the Vietnamese don’t entirely follow their country’s politics if that prevents them from achieving their goals.

politics in Vietnam : vote and news

Especially the young generation of Vietnam, they are passionate about reaching out of their limitation. Politics can sometimes slow them down. Therefore, if the situation asks them to think outside the box, they will not hesitate to do the right things for them.

Vietnamese are closed-minded

Many people assume that the Vietnamese are close-minded because they are from a developing country. However, things are pretty much the opposite. Vietnamese approach global matters pretty quickly. If you have ever worked with a young passionate Vietnamese, you will see that they’re always open to listen and talk about everything with you. The young generation is always eager to learn as much as they can to improve themself. Therefore, pretty much you can share with them a lot of different stuff casually and professionally.

Vietnam is dangerous

Vietnam is not dangerous at all. If you ever visit Vietnam, you will see that it’s a safe country with decent security which is going to make sure that you have a safe trip as a tourist or an interesting experience as an ex-pat working in Vietnam. The city has strict observation of local policemen. You may not need to worry too much about facing some snatch-and-run on the street or being robbed late at night. It’s not 100% but it seems safe most of the time even if you’re outside late during the night.

Foreigners cannot do business in Vietnam

Any country that wants to progress among its international community must welcome foreigners to come into the country and open businesses.

Vietnam has always welcomed foreigners to enter the country and express their business ideas. These are very important to Vietnam because they help improve the economy of this country. Therefore, Vietnam has a rich potential that has attracted many foreign investors and entrepreneurs to come. There have been many foreign-owned businesses in Vietnam over the years. These are what make the Vietnamese market more vibrant than ever.

The reality is here, which depends on you whether Vietnam is the right place for you or not. But more importantly, as someone who has lived in Vietnam for more than 5 years, I strongly believe in the progression of Vietnam in the next 5 – 10 years. There will be a lot of opportunities waiting for you in the long run.

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