Ways To Adjust To Life Abroad

Moving to another country can be tough. The environment, food, air quality, and mannerisms can be different than what you’re used to. This is especially the case when moving from a western to an eastern country and vice versa. After 10 months of living in Vietnam, I am officially adjusted and can’t imagine my life any different. Most of it has been good, but some of it has been really dang hard. I’ve compiled a list of a few things that helped me during my adjustment period while living abroad: 

Try learning the language

Although it’s pretty easy to get by in bigger cities without knowing any of the language, knowing even a little bit can completely change your experience while there. This is especially the case in Vietnam, where a handful of the Vietnamese don’t know much English besides a few simple words or phrases. Knowing the language makes it so much easier to find more local spots and friends. It also never fails to put a smile on someone’s face when I attempt to speak to them in Vietnamese (or even a belly-laugh as they ask “are you trying to speak Vietnamese to me?” when I completely botch what I am trying to say).

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Attend as many events and classes you can

Especially in bigger expat hubs like Ho Chi Minh City, there are always events and classes going on to meet other people. Even just getting out of the house can help with the initial homesickness. There are several things you can go to such as yoga classes, live music, city clean-ups, drag queen shows, and my personal favorite: taco cook-offs! Put yourself out there and make friends both local and foreign. Foreign friends are much needed, but really what’s the point of moving abroad/traveling if not to meet locals, listen to their stories, and get to know their culture? The Vietnamese friends that I have made are some of the most generous, kind-hearted, and fun people I have met. They are always more than happy to tell me about their country and show me all of the good spots to eat and shop.

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Living a balanced life

“Everything is a balance” – isn’t this what people always say? Well, they’re right. For the first few months living abroad my life was consumed with work and that’s all I really had time for. I was constantly exhausted and my depression was creeping in. I was unhealthy mentally and physically, as I didn’t make time for my physical health, social life, and most importantly – “me time”. After evaluating what I really needed, I decided to cut back my working hours and really focus on myself. I noticed such a difference in just a few days after making this adjustment.

Practice self-care

Going along with the above, making time for yourself is so so important! Make sure to fit things into your schedule that refresh you, relieve stress, and bring joy. Every morning before work, I wake up 30 minutes early to meditate, stretch, or journal. All of these things calm my mind and make me feel energized for the rest of the day. Having a healthy lifestyle such as eating well and exercising regularly has a tremendous effect on how someone feels physically and mentally. Other good self-care activities can consist of massages, facials, creating art, reading, and much more. Find what works for you and make sure to incorporate it into your schedule whether it’s daily or weekly. 

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Research research research

I did so much research before moving overseas and I can’t stress enough how much it helped me. Any free time I had I was reading blogs, watching videos, and talking to expats about their experiences and advice. Although culture shock is inevitable, I was able to understand/empathize with the differences that maybe would have caused frustration if otherwise. I understood the currency, knew how to get around, what food to try, and simple Vietnamese phrases that I would need to know.

Give it time

It sounds so simple, but it’s actually pretty difficult to practice patience when things get rough. I’ve been in love with Vietnam since day 1, but the first few months were like a rollercoaster of emotions. I was constantly sick as my body was adjusting to the environment and pollution, exhausted from long working hours, and easily irritated at the smallest of things because I was so worn out mentally and physically. I knew I would never go home that quick, but the thought occasionally popped into my head on how easy it would be back in the States. BUT MAN am I glad that I just gave it time because all of those things have past and now I’ve never been happier.

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Although adjusting to life abroad can be hard, it’s one of the most fun and exciting things! You’re constantly being challenged and exposed to new things. I’d love to hear your stories about your big move overseas!

Until next time,

Hales

A Trip To The Ancient City – Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi is rich in history, culture, and character. I have yet to see another city like it. I was weary to spend my 4-day weekend in yet another big city, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Although it’s the capital of Vietnam and a large city, it has an amazing vibe. There’s plenty of greenery covering the streets and buildings. You can also easily drive about 20 minutes outside of the city and be surrounded by tranquil countryside. The architecture in Hanoi has a French influence, making the Vietnamese/French style buildings aesthetically pleasing. Here are some of the things I did during my weekend trip to the ancient city of Hanoi, Vietnam:

Halong Bay

Halong Bay isn’t in Hanoi, but seeing as it’s only a few hours drive outside of the city, I don’t think anyone should take a trip to Hanoi without visiting Halong Bay. It’s emerald waters is comprised of thousands of limestone islands topped with beautiful rainforests. I’ve heard hit or miss reviews on Halong Bay, but my personal experience was very good. Halong Bay was named one of the world’s natural wonders, and for good reason – it is breath-taking. Four hours and a couple bus, boat, and ferry rides later, we finally made it on our cruise. It was very peaceful sitting on our boat while we floated through Halong Bay. We also got to experience the bay and limestone islands closer up by going kayaking. On the way to get to our accommodation for the night, we were able to watch the sunrise on a private boat. We stayed on Cat Ong island, which is a small private island just a 20-minute boat ride from Cat Ba Island. The next day was more relaxing, as we got to enjoy our morning on the beach and took a short hike to see a panoramic view of Halong Bay. The other option we were given was to go on a hike through Cat Ba National Park, which I aim to do my next time around. I will say, certain parts of Halong Bay are very touristy, but we were lucky enough to go with a company that strays away from the busier parts (we went through Camillia Cruise). My friend and I also ventured off while kayaking to an area most people don’t go, where we found a lot of trash floating in the water. It was definitely eye-opening to see how far Vietnam still has to go in becoming more environmentally conscious (and made me more aware of my waste production as well). All-in-all, it was an amazing visit to Halong Bay.

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The view of Halong Bay from our cruise

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is located in the Ba Dinh Square of Hanoi. It holds the embalmed remains of Ho Chi Minh, attracting crowds of people every day. It’s only open for a few hours each day, typically in the morning. Something also to note is that for about two months out of the year Ho Chi Minh’s body is shipped to Russia to be touched up. I would suggest getting there early, as the line gets extremely long. Typically the wait is supposed to be around 1-2 hours, but I tried to go on a holiday weekend where the line stretched to be about 3-4 hours. It’s safe to say that I decided to just view the Mausoleum from the outside this time around.

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Temple of Literature and National University

The Temple of Literature and National University was constructed in the year 1070 and was the first university in Vietnam. It honors Vietnam’s finest scholars and signifies the beginning of a uniform educational system in Vietnam. Students used to be able to come and rub one of the turtle statues’ heads in order to gain good luck on an upcoming exam, but in order to preserve the statues, touching them is now prohibitted. Many people also come here to take graduation photos, as it makes for a picturesque background (there were 3 different groups taking photos when I went). It is a very big tourist attraction, so you should come early in the morning.

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Long Bien Bridge

Long Bien Bridge was one of the four greatest bridges in the world at the time it was built. It was bombed many times by air attacks by the American army, which destroyed many spans of the bridge. The spans still remaining today remind us of an unforgettable past. The bridge has become a living historical relic. You can walk along the bridge where there are street vendors, views of banana fields, and the Red River. Tourists will also hop onto the train tracks for a picture, but you have to be careful as a train still runs through.

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Train Street

This is by far one of my favorite things I did during my trip to Hanoi. You can simply type ‘train street’ into Grab and your driver will more than likely know where to go. At first glance, it’s just a small residential area with train tracks where the street should be. As you keep walking, there are various cafés that offer tables around the tracks to watch the train pass through. The shop owners set tables and chairs on the tracks for people to sit, eat, and enjoy the atmosphere. Like clockwork, when it’s time for the train to come people pick everything off the tracks and move to the side to watch it go by. Afterwards, everyone goes back to what they were doing: putting the tables back on the tracks, eating, and taking photos. It really is amazing to watch. There are a few times the train passes through the area each day. We decided to go to the 1:15 PM time, but came an hour early to take photos and find a café to settle in at. We enjoyed the experience so much that we stayed for the next train at 2:30 PM! It’s definitely a can’t miss when visiting Hanoi and less touristy than the other places we visited.

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Hoan Kiem Lake

The legend behind Hoan Kiem Lake is that in 1428, Emperor Le Loi obtained a magical sword from the Dragon King to fight against the Chinese oppressors. After the successful battle against the Chinese invaders, Emperor Le Loi visited the lake again. He was boating through the water when a giant golden turtle appeared. The turtle explained that he was sent by his master, the Dragon King, to retrieve the sword from Le Loi. The Emperor returned the sword to the turtle, who swam back beneath the green waters.

Hoan Kiem Lake is the symbol of this elegant and charming ancient city. Being at the center of Hanoi’s historic district, Hoan Kiem has become a huge gathering spot. Amidst the lake is Turtle Tower, The Huc Bridge, and Ngoc Son Temple. Early in the morning the streets are blocked off from automobiles and the locals come to run and do Tai Chi. It is very peaceful as there aren’t many tourists about yet, so it is nice to grab some coffee and take a walk around the lake. Hoan Kiem Lake is located in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, where later in the day there will be street performers, vendors, and markets all around. A perfect place to enjoy the lake and some performances is at The Note Coffee (located at the northwest corner of Hoan Kiem Lake). This coffee shop is covered in little notes from people who have come from all over the world.

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The Note Coffee

West Lake

Located in Tay Ho District, West Lake is a nice place to go in order to get out of the hustle and bustle of Old Quarter. You can walk around the lake while stopping to get some bò bía, which consists of coconut and honeycomb wrapped into a roll by flat pancakes. Here you can also visit the Trấn Quốc Pagoda or rent a cute swan paddle boat. There are also various places to grab a drink or bite to eat around the lake.

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Trấn Quốc Pagoda

Cafe Giảng

Cafe Giảng was founded in 1946 and most famous for its cà phê trứng (egg coffee). If you haven’t had egg coffee yet (or even if you have) this is the perfect place to try it. Its chief ingredients are egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter and cheese. The founder of Cafe Giảng developed the recipe in days when milk was scarce in Vietnam, so he used egg yolks to replace it. The sweet egg yolk taste and bold coffee flavors balance each other out perfectly. It gets packed with locals and tourists, so coming early will not only be a great start to your day but save you the headache of waiting for a table.

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Egg coffee with chocolate

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

St. Joseph’s Cathedral was constructed and completed in 1886. Its beautiful architecture is magnificent to look at. Located directly outside of it is a statue of Mother Maria. A good place to eat with an incredible view of the Cathedral is La Place.

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The view of St. Joseph’s Cathedral from La Place

Places to eat:

  • The Hanoi Social Club
  • La Place
  • Nhà Hàng Ngon
  • Home Hanoi Restaurant

Places to stay:

  • Annie’s Little HaNoi
    • 9 Ngõ Hài Tượng, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội
  • Gecko
    • 85 Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội

If you have any questions about my trip to Hanoi or life abroad, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

52 Places To Eat In Ho Chi Minh City

(*) = my top picks

Breakfast:

1. The Running Bean

  • Order. the. french. toast.
  • 115 Hồ Tùng Mậu, Quận 1

2. Saigon Bagel (*)

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 2
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Salmon Gravlox Bagel

3. The Hungry Pig

  • They are most known for their breakfast, but offer lunch and dinner options as well.
  • 144 Cống Quỳnh, Quận 1

4. Cork & Fork

  • A small French restaurant that offers sweet and savory crepes, paninis, and wine.
  • 3/2 Đề Thám, Quận 1

5. L’Usine

  • Multiple locations in District 1

Vietnamese:

6. Quán Út Hương (*)

  • They have a large menu filled with various Vietnamese meals such as mì xào, bột chiên, rice dishes, and much more. They have two shops across the road from each other: one for take-away orders (with some seating) and the other for sit-down meals. Warning: the service here is terrible, but the food is cheap and good!
  • TK31/7 Nguyễn Cảnh Chân, Quận 1
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Mì xào trứng

7. Vo Roof Garden 

  • A beautifully decorated restaurant with a rooftop view of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street.
  • 7th floor, 44 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1
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Fried fish filet with green mango and basil sauce

8. Cậu Ba Quán (*)

  • Various Vietnamese seafood dishes with vegetarian options (the tofu is highly recommended). If you are in Hồ Chí Minh, you cannot leave without stopping here!
  • 85 Hoàng Sa, Quận 1
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Mì xào hải sản

9. Cơm Tấm 577

  • 577 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Quận 3

10. Bánh Canh Ghẹ Chicharito

  • Good bánh mì. Pro tip: I notice that the food is better around dinner time, rather than lunch.
  • 17 Nguyễn Cảnh Chân, Quận 1

11. Bánh Xèo Ngọc Sơn

  • 103 Ngô Quyền, Quận 5
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Bánh xèo

12. Bánh Tráng Nướng in Chợ Hoa Hồ Thị Kỷ

  • This is not the exact address. It is a small food stall located within Chợ Hoa Hồ Thị Kỷ (flower night market).
  • Hẻm 52 Hồ Thị Kỷ, Quận 10
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Bánh tráng nướng (aka Vietnamese pizza)

13. Quán Lẩu Cá Kèo Bà Huyện 2 (*)

  • Very good and a little less pricey than the fancier hot pot places.
  • 10 Nguyễn Thông, Quận 3
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Hot pot

14. Bún Thịt Nướng KK 

  • Hẻm 51 Cao Thắng, Quận 3

15. Bún Thịt Nướng Cây Xoài 

  • 1238 Quang Trung, Gò Vấp
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Bún thịt nướng (minus the pork)

16. Lò Bánh Mì Hà Nội Cúc Phương 

  • Good and very cheap bánh mì and bánh bao.
  • 61/5 Phạm Văn Chiêu, Gò Vấp

Vegetarian:

17. Mãn Tự Vegan 

  • Free vegan buffet, all that the owner asks is you make a donation as you are leaving (however big or small). It’s a small restaurant and does get extremely crowded, but the experience, food, and friendly staff make it worth it.
  • 14/2 Tôn Thất Đạm, Quận 1

18. Pi Vegetarian Bistro (*)

  • 19 Võ Văn Tần, Quận 3
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Pumpkin curry

19. Hum Vegetarian 

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 3

20. Prem Bistro & Café (*)

  • 204 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, Quận 3

21. Buddha Chay

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 5

22. 3LA Chay

  • 32A Cao Bá Nhạ, Quận 1

23. Rou Vegetarian 

  • 37B Cô Bắc, Quận 1

24. Chay Phương Mai

  • 86F Võ Thị Sáu, Quận 1
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Pad thai

24. El Cafe International Vegetarian Food

  • 1 Bis Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Quận 1

English:

26. Union Jack’s Fish & Chips (*)

  • 130-1 Tôn Thất Đạm, Quận 1
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Veggie bangers & mash

American:

27. Burger Joint Saigon (*)

  • 136 Nguyễn Thái Học, Quận 1

28. Journey’s Sandwich Café

  • 21 Nguyễn Văn Tráng, Quận 1
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Black bean sweet potato burger

Sushi:

29. Poké Saigon (*)

  • It’s not exactly sushi and it’s Hawaiian, but it’s basically sushi in a bowl so I’m throwing it under this category. It’s the best poké I’ve had and the staff that work here are incredible.
  • 2nd floor of The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1

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30. Sakura Việt Nam

  • 505 Sư Vạn Hạnh, Quận 10

31. Sushi 79

  • 2nd floor of The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1

32. Sushi M – H (*)

  • Side of the road, cheap, and delicious sushi shop.
  • 193 Đường Nguyễn Văn Cừ, Quận 5

33. TL Sushi 

  • 34 Đường số 45, Quận Gò Vấp

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34. Yen Sushi & Sake Pub 

  • Locations in Districts 1, 3, and 7

Italian:

35. Pendolasco 

  • 36 Tống Hữu Định, Quận 2
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Squid ink tortellini stuffed with shrimp

36. Pizza 4P’s (*)

  • Locations in Districts 1, 2, 3, and 7
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Half salmon miso & half margherita pizza

37. Pizza Company 

  • It’s a chain restaurant across Southeast Asia and the inside is nothing special, but the pizza is actually very good and always my go-to.
  • Multiple locations in HCMC

38. Phở Ông Tây (*)

  • Great western pasta dishes.
  • 17 Quốc Hương, Quận 2

Korean BBQ:

39. Lò Nướng Đá

  • 63 Phạm Văn Chiêu, Gò Vấp
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Vegetable skewers

Mexican:

40. La Fiesta! (*)

  • Amazing food and staff. There’s always a coupon for a free margarita online and you get a free lemon tequila shot when you get your bill. Pro tip: try the queso mac & cheese.
  • 33 Đặng Thị Nhu, Quận 1

41. A Simple Place (*)

  • 84 Quốc Hương, Quận 2

42. Sancho’s 

  • 207 Bùi Viện, Quận 1

43. Taco Leo 

  • A more healthy Mexican option.
  • 20 Cao Bá Nhạ, Quận 1

Indian:

44. Bollywood Indian Restaurant & Bar (*)

  • 207 Bùi Viện, Quận 1
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Dal tadka

Other:

45. Vintage Emporium 

  • Locations in Districts 1 and 2

46. Bến Thành Street Food Market 

  • There are various food stalls offering different types of food from around the world – Vietnamese, Indian, German, Thai, etc.
  • 26-28-30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Quận 1
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Egg biryani from an Indian food stall

47. The Maker (*)

  • 3rd floor of The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyễn Huệ, Quận 1
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Spaghetti arrabbiata

48. Chanh Bistro Rooftop 

  • Multiple locations in District 1

Dessert:

49. Ca Cao Dừa 136 (*)

  • There are various things on the menu, but the ca cao dừa is a must-try and only 17k.
  • 136/1 Nguyễn Tri Phương, Quận 5
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Ca cao dừa (coconut ice cream with cocoa powder)

50. Maison Marou (*)

  • 167-169, Calmette, Quận 1

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51. Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart 

  • This place is known for their cheese tarts, but an unusual (and somehow good) option from the menu is cheese ice cream. They also have durian and chocolate cheese flavors.
  • Multiple locations in District 1
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Cheese ice cream

52. Uncle Lu’s Cheesecake 

  • Just a heads up – it’s not your typical cheesecake, as it has the texture more of like angel food cake. Nonetheless, it is delicious (especially with milk poured over it).
  • 25 Đường Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, Quận 1

 

Until next time,

Hales

Pros Of Being An Expat In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Almost 7 months ago I made Hồ Chí Minh my home and it has been spoiling me ever since. Not every day is a bed of roses, but Việt Nam has enriched me with so many new experiences and growing opportunities that I will forever be grateful for.

Over the last few years, Hồ Chí Minh’s expat community has grown immensely, and continues to do so. Here are a few reasons why I, as well as many other expats, have chosen Hồ Chí Minh as a second home:

Lifestyle

One of the main things that bring aspiring English teachers to Việt Nam is the low working hours for good pay. A typical work week for English teachers is around 20 – 25 hours, giving plenty of free time. The pay is also high compared to the low cost of living, which allows for a comfortable lifestyle, frequent travel, and a little money left over for savings.

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Travel

With Hồ Chí Minh containing one of Việt Nam’s main airports, it is cheap and easy to travel within Việt Nam and Southeast Asia. There are many beautiful places in Việt Nam to travel to that are just a quick bus or plane ride away. International travel is also fairly cheaper here than it was in the US. It’s easy enough to book a last minute plane ticket to Malaysia without breaking the bank. Of course, this all depends on the type of traveler you are. If you’re wanting to stay in a nice resort it’s going to be pricey, but if you’re down with hostels then it can be very cheap. After moving to Southeast Asia and seeing the beauty it has to offer, my bucket list of destinations has expanded drastically (RIP to my bank account).

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Cheap Beauty Treatments

Back in the US I was hardly ever able to have a spa day, as it’s ridiculously overpriced (along with basically everything else in the States). Luckily, ‘Nam has blessed me with all things cheap – massages, facials, nails, the works. Don’t get me wrong, there are many expensive places here too, but why would I go to those when I can get a killer gel mani / pedi for 350,000 VND? Ladies, are you ready to move here yet?

There’s Always Something To Do

Hồ Chí Minh is a big city packed with millions of people, which means it’s always filled with things to do. There are night markets, DIY classes, and various shows. My favorite Friday night outing has been going to the past 2 Sofar Sounds shows. Seriously, amazing. I have a love / hate relationship with Bui Vien, but it’s definitely a must-see as it’s filled with various bars, clubs, and restaurants! If none of those do it for you, there are always the tourist hot spots like The Café Apartment, Post Office, or War Remnants Museum.

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Before my second Sofar Sounds show. They discourage having phones out during performances, so it’s a nice way to disconnect and relax.

The Unreal Coffee Scene

Việt Nam is the perfect place for coffee lovers, as it’s one of the world’s largest coffee exporters. Whether it’s the famous cà phê sữa đá, drip coffee, avocado coffee, egg coffee, coconut coffee – you name it, Việt Nam has it all. There are at least 5 coffee shops on every street and most of them are so cute and offer a unique experience.

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Shelter Coffee & Tea – one of my new favorite coffee shop finds. Avocado coffee (left) and cà phê sữa đá (right)

Food

Don’t worry, Hồ Chí Minh has most western food to satisfy your cravings (if you find Ranch though, please hmu), but the real deal is how delicious and underrated Vietnamese food is. There’s nothing like sitting on a small stool on the side of a road eating a plate of cơm tấm. If you can tell me where I can find better bún thịt nướng or bánh mì, that’s the day I will leave Việt Nam. On top of how amazing the food is, I can eat most meals for less than $1 or $2 USD. There’s no beating it, really.

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Bánh tráng nướng (Vietnamese Pizza)

If you have any questions on my life as an expat in Hồ Chí Minh, please feel free to contact me!

Until next time,

Hales

A Day (Or Two) In The Life Of An English Teacher In Vietnam

Since moving to Vietnam, I get a lot of questions on what my days typically look like. In reality, the daily activities here are not that much different than in America, but it’s more of that my lifestyle is different. I ashamedly admit that I spent most of my free time in America watching Netflix, with occasional outings. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that Ho Chi Minh is a busy city or that I want to make the most out of living in a foreign country or maybe both, but my lifestyle has completely changed. I hardly ever just sit in bed and binge watch Netflix now. I always at least try to just get out of the house, whether it’s going on an aimless walk, to a coffee shop, or to a museum. I work 8:00 – 5:00 PM every Monday – Friday, which is pretty rare for expats in Vietnam. Expats working as English teachers typically work evenings on the week days and all day on the weekends. My week days and weekends differ quite a bit so I will do a rundown of both.

Week Days

6:00 AM

This is when I wake up and get ready for work. Since I don’t work until 8, I normally go to The Coffee House by my work in District 3 every morning to get a cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese milk coffee with ice). Yes, all of the workers know my order and have it put in before I even reach the counter with their hand waiting to scan my rewards. Yes, they also help me with Vietnamese pronunciation and yes, my pronunciation is still the worst, xin lỗi.

8:00 AM

I work from 8 – 5 PM, with a two-hour break from 12 – 2 PM for the kids’ naptime. This is normally when I eat lunch, grab another coffee, lesson plan, and then steal a kid’s pillow to take a nap too. After work I will book a Grab Bike home, but if it’s Monday or Wednesday I will head straight to Vietnamese lessons until 8:00.

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Another foreign teacher’s and my class doing yoga.

6:00 PM

I normally get dinner in my neighborhood around this time, either solo or with my roommates. My go-to places are Út Hương and Bánh Canh Ghẹ (both off of Nguyễn Cảnh Chân street in District 1). Vietnam isn’t necessarily known for its great customer service, but the customer service at Út Hương is probably the worst I’ve experienced. every. time. The only thing that keeps me coming back for more is the terrific food.

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Mì xào trứng at Út Hương.

7:00 PM

If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll head to either The Running Bean or Cộng Cà Phê (both are coffee shops) to get some work done for a few hours. If not, I’ll probably just run some errands and then work on stuff at home.

10:00 PM

After working with little kids all day, I’m normally exhausted so catch me going to bed early every night, not sorry about it. People in Vietnam normally wake up early anyway, so I like to as well … just not as early as they do. I can hear my neighbors out and about by 5:30 AM. Some breakfast places in my neighborhood are normally closing up shop by the time I leave for work at 7:15 AM if this tells you anything.

The Weekend

9:00 AM

The sunlight normally wakes me up pretty early in the mornings, but I tend to not leave the house until around 9 in the morning. The first thing I do on weekend mornings is take my laundry to get cleaned (exciting, I know).

9:30 AM

In the mornings I’ll go for a long walk, stopping at Phúc Long to get a smoothie and chocolate croissant then head to the park to get a little nature fix in this concrete-filled city. Every time I go to the park, I end up meeting a local or two wanting to practice their English, which gives me the chance to practice my Vietnamese.

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A Buddhist temple in Tao Đàn Park.

12:00 PM

Lunch time! My favorite lunch spot so far is Hum Vegetarian in District 1, where I got green curry and rice noodles.

1:00 PM

Around this time, I’ll try to do something more intriguing. A few things that I’ve spent my days doing is going to the War Remnants Museum, visiting temples in District 5, and going to a spa with an infinity pool in District 7.

TempleThienHau
Thiên Hậu temple in District 5.

3:00 PM

With no shame at all, there is always a part of my day that will be dedicated to some coffee shop time. Vietnam’s coffee culture is out-of-this-world so you can’t not go to a coffee shop every day. I always go to my favorite place to get work done on the weekends, The Running Bean.

6:00 PM

My favorite time of the day – dinner time! I normally eat dirt cheap throughout the week, so I like to treat myself to nice meals on the weekend. One of my favorite finds so far is VO Rooftop Garden. The food is superb, the aesthetic is on point, there’s a nice view of Nguyễn Huệ Walking Street, and it’s decently priced for the location. A few weeks ago though, Ngân (a woman who owns a laundry shop in my neighborhood) invited my roommates and I over for a home-cooked Vietnamese meal with her, her family, and some friends.

Nganandfriend
Having dinner at Ngân’s home.
Nganfood
The dinner she prepared for us. She even made a ton of vegetarian food for Mima and I.

7:30 PM

My weekend nights are always different, but mainly consist of doing something in District 1 or 2. Right now it’s soccer season, so on game days there will be huge screens set up on the square of Nguyễn Huệ for people to sit and watch (it gets CRAZY – the Vietnamese don’t play around about their soccer). Some other things I have spent my weekend nights doing are going to rooftop bars, hitting up Bùi Viện (my feelings for Bùi Viện are bittersweet but I’ll spare you), going to a Sofar Sounds show, the movies, and more.

Vietnamwinaff
After Vietnam beat Malaysia and won the AFF!

There you have it, a day (or two) in the life of an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!

Until next time,

Hales