Eveline: Miss Jakarta Gets Lost in Saigon
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vietnam, etc.
Indonesian citizen who used to work mostly in banking industry in Jakarta, Indonesia (Bank Danamon Indonesia, Citigroup, American Express). My last employment was with Thiess Contractors Indonesia (Australian contractor for mining and construction). I moved to Vietnam in July 2011 for personal reason.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I knew it before I even moved to Vietnam, that I would start blogging since I’d have time to do it. Blog was started in July 2011.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My first entry which is my original resignation letter to my employer seems to attract lots of readers. In fact, it’s the post that has the most readers. Other favorites are Ha Long Bay and Paris J’adore.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Vietnam differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I visited Vietnam 2-3 times before I moved. Also, coming from Asian country, I can manage the difference. Still, there is some difficulties especially the language and of course the culture. By learning the local language, it helps to reduce the headache. The level of education of the people in Vietnam, even though in Ho Chi Minh City, it’s a big town, it is still lower than where I came from.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vietnam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Yes! My partner moved to Vietnam six months earlier. He had prepared everything for me including accommodation in the service apartment managed by 5-star hotel which is located in the city center. Intercontinental Asiana Saigon Residence. The apartment staff is good, friendly, and reliable. It is near to everywhere including supermarkets, doctors and restaurants. This helps a lot and reduces the hassles i.e. dealing with domestic helper, etc. Also, we preferred to use taxi as main transportation as we do not want to hire local driver. By minimizing our interaction with the locals, it helps us a lot.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Having Asian look like I do, most local people think I’m Vietnamese or even Viet Kieu (refers to Vietnamese people living outside Vietnam in a diaspora. Of the about 3 million Overseas Vietnamese, a majority left Vietnam as refugees after 1975 as a result of the Fall of Saigon and the resulting takeover by the Communist regime). As a consequence, they often speak Vietnamese to me! However, if I looked back, they speak Vietnamese anyway to everyone since they don’t speak any other language.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vietnam?
Learning the local language will make your life much easier.
Low your expectation, don’t expect perfection.
How is the expat community in Vietnam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
As I don’t work in the corporate life in Vietnam, I don’t get to meet business acquaintance. However, I meet them in social life.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vietnam in a single, catchy sentence?
If I survive living in Vietnam, I will survive anywhere else.