Hari Chathrattil, Indian, Hà Nội
I came to Việt Nam with undying curiosity about a nation that had been ravaged by wars it had done nothing to instigate, but had beaten superpowers like France and the USA. I also came in blind in terms of what I would do here. In the back of my mind, there was this snippet I’d read somewhere that all the Vietnamese men had been so busy fighting the French and Americans that they’d forgotten how to farm! Ironic that an agricultural miracles would unfold in front of my eyes in the coming years, making Việt Nam a leading exporter of rice, coffee, pepper and other cash crops.
However, this growth and attendant “modernisation” has exacted a heavy toll on the nation’s natural resources, its water, its air, its land, and yes, its people. The sad thing is that most of the social and environmental impacts could have been easily foreseen and a lot of the problems avoided.
As someone who loves this place and its people and is grateful for the opportunities it has provided, I only hope policy makers as well as other stakeholders take off the rose-tinted glasses with which they see “modernisation” and disembark from the neoliberal path that typically lays nations to waste.
A more professional, merit-based workplace that removes non-constructive habits and attitudes will be forced on institutions as they open up to regional and international competition. A good workplace will also attract expat talent of better quality.
Chris Whiffin, Polish, Hà Nội
I have been in Việt Nam for eight years. My first job was teaching English at a high school and then at a university. Since I came here, I have learned a lot: Vietnamese, its culture and its working style. I still teach at an English centre in Hà Nội. It’s a job I love because I am surrounded by enthusiastic and passionate students. I am motivated every day. I think Việt Nam is a promising land for expats like me to work.
It is also an interesting place to live. Eight years in Việt Nam is not enough for me to understand everything about the country. But I am sure I will be here for longer as I plan to settle down here. I met my wife in Việt Nam. We had a wedding in Poland and have returned to Việt Nam to continue our careers here.
Tjaart Herbst, South African, Hà Nội
I came to Việt Nam more than a year ago because job opportunities in my own country are very limited. And I am enjoying every moment of it. It is really a promising place to work and live. I have enjoyed working here as a teacher. Two things have surprised me. The Vietnamese people are really noisy. This was a pleasant surprise, because I had expected them to be somewhat quiet. Secondly, people are very friendly and tolerant and respect foreigners a lot. Unfortunately, this is not an image that people always have of Asia.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Hà Nội
Professional ex-pat life is great on an executive salary. You live in a bubble of villas, private car with driver and international schools for the kids. It’s not so great as an English teacher. I can’t seem to get my bonus or be warned of schedule changes. I always get blamed but never get praised. The exotic nature of the environment and my personal freedom to explore makes up for any shortcomings. My university time was like that.
One year the annual ranking went up and they tried to convince us we were such a great facility. Never mind that fees kept rising, classes were crowded and my reports on cheating were not well received. That’s real life! Vietnamese coffee is great, world famous & inexpensive. Never mind traffic, pollution and corruption; gimme another cup! Here’s my expat Christmas wish list: streamline and simplify the visa renewal process.
Create an ‘Expat Ministry’ where I can register for additional work or even volunteer and participate in cultural exchanges. The host country loses when visitors can’t participate. I once stopped a clearly drunk driver, actually grabbing a neighbourhood security man by the shirt and slapping the windshield of a police van. They didn’t care and kept going. So did the drunk driver. We expats, male, female, black and white, collectively shook our heads and shrugged our shoulders. — VNS