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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expat Life in Vietnam: Everything Is Affordable, Not Much Is Available

Vietnam enters the top 10 destinations for expats in 2024 despite major shortcomings in quality of life.

Since last year, Vietnam has improved its rankings across all indices of our survey, placing 8th overall in the Expat Insider 2024 survey. The main reason for the country’s attractiveness as an expat destination can be summarized in one word: finances. And while expats show praise for the Ease of Settling In (13th) and Working Abroad (14th) Indices, they have to adjust to a less-than-stellar Quality of Life (40th). All things considered, expat happiness with their life abroad in Vietnam is ranked 13th worldwide.

How Expats Rate Life in Vietnam


Mostly Free from Financial Worries

In the Personal Finance Index, Vietnam has occupied the pole position for four consecutive years. The general cost of living in the country is rated positively by 86% of expats, which is more than twice the global average (40%). Half of all respondents in Vietnam (50%) even give this factor the best possible rating — by far the highest share among expats worldwide.

It’s no surprise then that 68% of expats agree their disposable household income is more than enough to lead a comfortable life — again, a record share compared to other countries in this year’s survey (global average: 41%). And compared to 30% globally, only a relatively small share of 15% say it’s not enough. This roughly corresponds to the 18% who say they are not satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 26% globally).

Work–Life Balance Trumps Career Advancement

Finances and work are often intertwined, but what’s notable about Vietnam is that less than half of its expat population is working full time (46% vs. 57% globally). About one in five expats (21%) works part time (vs. only 12% globally), and a similar share (18%) is retired (vs. 11%). Still, 38% of expats cite work-related reasons as their primary motivation for coming to the country, which is slightly higher than the global average of 35%.

Working expats in Vietnam are overall satisfied with their situation, granting the country a respectable 14th place in the Working Abroad Index — an improvement of 15 ranks since 2022. One of the main drivers for Vietnam’s good performance is an 8th place in the Work & Leisure Subcategory. Expats are particularly satisfied with their work–life balance: almost three in four (73%) give this a positive rating (vs. 60% globally).

Another positive is the Salary & Job Security Subcategory, showing above-average satisfaction levels with job security (15th) and the state of the economy (20th). Most notably, around three in four expats (76%) feel that they are paid fairly for their work, which is considerably higher than the global average of 58%.

Life here is stress-free for me, it’s a wonderful change from my work life, which was very consuming and hectic.– British expat

Nevertheless, career prospects aren’t all rosy: while the local job market (18th) and personal career opportunities (14th) are generally seen in a positive light, only about two in five expats (43%) say that moving to Vietnam has improved their career prospects (vs. 56% globally).

The Work Culture & Satisfaction Subcategory is another mixed bag: almost three in four expats (73%) report high overall job satisfaction (vs. 60% globally); at the same time, close to one-third (31%) complain about the inflexible local business culture (vs. 19% globally).

Patience Required for Getting Paperwork (!) Done

Inflexibility and bureaucracy are among the factors that are responsible for Vietnam’s mediocre 29th place in the Expat Essentials Index, which nevertheless represents an improvement of 14 ranks compared to 2023. Still, Vietnam remains in the bottom 10 countries for nearly all factors in the Digital Life Subcategory — notably, the availability of administrative services online (52nd) and cashless payment options (51st).

In the Admin Topics Subcategory, only one in five expats (20%) says that it’s easy to deal with local bureaucracy/authorities (vs. 36% globally). While opening a local bank account is more difficult than in most other countries (44th place), Vietnam has removed some hurdles in the immigration process. The share of expats who agree it was easy to get a visa is on par with the global average (54% vs. 53%), boosting the country’s performance for this factor by 28 places in the ranking compared to 2023.

Housing, another expat essential, doesn’t pose any challenges: both availability (4th) and affordability (2nd) receive excellent ratings. And while learning the local language is considered difficult by 87% of expats in Vietnam (vs. 40% globally), more than three in five (63%) agree that it’s easy to get by without it (vs. 48%).

Friendly People Make Settling In Easier

Facing no significant language barriers certainly helps with finding friends, which is one of the subcategories in the Ease of Settling In Index (13th). At 57%, the share of expats who say that it’s easy to make local friends in Vietnam is higher than the global average of 38%. However, the 51% of expats who feel they have a personal support network in Vietnam remains slightly below the global average of 55%. Still, more than three in five (63%) are happy with their social life, while globally, only about half of respondents (52%) say so.

When it comes to Culture & Welcome, the share of expats who feel at home in Vietnam (18th) and say it’s easy to get used to the local culture (17th) is higher than the global average, but it’s another factor that makes the country stand out: 85% of expats feel welcome in Vietnam, which is 22 percentage points above the global average of 63%.

Vietnam’s best ranking in this index is in the Local Friendliness Subcategory (5th). Almost nine in ten expats appreciate both the general friendliness (88%) and the friendliness towards foreign residents (89%); whereas globally, only 63% and 61%, respectively, say the same about their country of residence.

Living Standards Have Expats Lower Their Sights

Quality of Life is Vietnam’s sore point in our ranking. Despite an improvement by seven positions compared to last year, the country still lands in an unimpressive 40th place in this index.

The worst-performing subcategory is Environment & Climate (50th), where Vietnam ranks in the bottom 5 for four out of six factors: air quality (51st), availability of green goods and services (51st), government support for environmental policies (51st), and the urban environment (50th). In 42nd place, the natural environment fares slightly better, with approval ratings close to the global average (78% vs. 82% globally). Only the weather & climate (21st) make expats happier than in other countries (69% vs. 58% globally).

Pollution is bad, and the environment needs to be cleaned up.– Canadian expat

Vietnam’s performance in the Healthcare Subcategory, albeit having improved compared to 2023, remains subpar. Its 37th place is mainly due to the below-average quality of medical care (54% positive ratings vs. 66% globally) and the lack of equal access to different kinds of healthcare services (48% vs. 60%). While general availability of healthcare (23% negative ratings vs. 16% globally) is an issue, it’s fairly affordable when you manage to get it (62% positive ratings vs. 58% globally).

The Travel & Transit Subcategory holds another 37th position for Vietnam, with public transportation suffering from similar infrastructural problems as healthcare: mostly not available (44th), but affordable (14th). Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives either: the infrastructure for cars doesn’t impress (47th), and a quarter of expats (25%) say it’s neither easy nor safe to get around on foot or by bicycle (vs. 13% globally).

The only two subcategories where Vietnam ranks above-average in this index are Leisure Options (17th) and Safety & Security (26th). Almost nine in ten expats (89%) appreciate the culinary variety and dining options, and four in five (80%) give culture and nightlife a positive rating (vs. a global 73% and 66%, respectively). However, the share of expats dissatisfied with the opportunities for recreational sports the country offers is almost twice as high as the worldwide average (21% vs. 11%).  

When it comes to Safety & Security, personal safety (18th) and political stability (13th) pose no major concerns, but personal freedom suffers: a quarter of expats in Vietnam (25%) feel they cannot openly express themselves or their opinions (vs. 17% globally).  

The Typical Expat in Vietnam

Further Reading