One of the fastest rising nomad spots in Southeast Asia right now is Vietnam. The digital culture among young people in this country is bursting at the seams – and that’s just the locals.
For incoming nomads, there’s a serious kick to working life in Vietnam: from that first sip of rocket-fuel coffee to the hectic bike rides through the cities’ weaving traffic. Vietnam is one of the more acquired tastes on the nomad trail; some people don’t get the place while others can’t imagine leaving. But what brings so many digital nomads to Vietnam in the first place and why do so many of us stay?
Working in Vietnam as a digital nomad
The most important thing to know about working as a digital nomad in Vietnam is the café culture here kicks ass. Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee exporter – only beaten by Brazil – and you’ll soon taste why the world can’t get enough of this country’s coffee beans.
Better yet, that coffee culture comes with cafes and free wifi stretching along almost every street in Vietnam. The wifi is among the best in Southeast Asia too and you can get 3GB of data on a pay-as-you-go sim for less than $10. You’ll find some web sites are blocked by government censorship – like Twitter and the BBC, for example – but you can easily override these with a VPN.
The downside to working in Vietnam is it can be a bit hectic in the major cities – no more so than in Saigon, aka Ho Chi Minh City. The swarming motorbikes and insane taxi drivers force you to keep your wits about you, but even in the city’s more tranquil gardens, it can be hard to find peace. I soon stopped trying to work in Saigon’s public parks because the hoards of students who approach you, insisting on practicing their English, make it difficult to get anything done. Bless ’em.
Things are more tranquil outside of the city center and even more so away from the major cities in Vietnam. There are some cracking smaller cities, countryside retreats and an entire coastline of beaches to find a more secluded work spot if that’s what you prefer.
Vietnam’s business environment
One of the things that impressed me most about Vietnam when I first arrived here was how obvious the business potential instantly became. Corporate empires are being built around you and serious money is being invested into the place. The digital landscape is brimming at the seams with young talent too and you can easily see Ho Chi Minh City becoming one of the next Silicon Valleys.
There are opportunities everywhere here, which makes it an exciting place to be as a digital nomad. There are various complications that come with doing business here, of course. But, if you get inspired by Vietnam’s corporate environment, you’ll find plenty of people here who want to help you make it happen.
Living and working in Vietnam
Aside from the business landscape in Vietnam, I can think of plenty reasons why you might want to extend your stay here. The country itself has a collection of places worth visiting time and again: Saigon, Nha Trang, Da Lat, Da Nang, Hoi An, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Sa Pa and a number of islands – just off the top of my head. Living in Vietnam means you’re only ever a cheap domestic flight away from one of these cracking holiday spots when you need some downtime.
Speaking of cheap, the cost of living is among the lowest I’ve found in Southeast Asia, although you will pay over the odds as a foreigner for some things. Getting a fair price (by Vietnamese standards) on an apartment can be tricky, but you’ll be able to get a two bedroom apartment in Ho Chi Minh City for $500 a month. Luxury apartments will cost you more in the region of $1,000+ per month but you get a good return for your money here. Luxury is pretty damn affordable in Vietnam.
All in all, I feel like I get ripped off way less here than many other countries in Southeast Asia. Some people will disagree with me on that, but I can only go by my experience.
I have to mention the people here too. I read some pretty scathing reviews about Vietnam on Trip Advisor and other useless websites before I came here. All I can say is don’t pay attention to any of those review sites and try these places out for yourself. Because I fell in love with the Vietnamese people in no time: one of the most genuine, friendliest bunch of people I’ve come across on my travels.
My only criticism of Vietnam is it’s becoming less Vietnamese with every year that passes – a common trend across countries in Southeast Asia. The ‘Western’ influence brought over by the US while it slaughtered millions of civilians during a pointless 20-year-long war only grows stronger. History tells us Vietnam won that shambles of a conflict, but looking at the way US influence is gradually killing Vietnamese culture I’m not so sure.
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