James

Working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings Around 81,000 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I make 50 million VND (around 67,000 baht) from my main job at a high school teaching 17 hours a week with no admin or prep time. I also make an extra 10 million VND (13K) from a language centre I teach at 3 hours a week in the evening. So I earn double what I made in Thailand with less workload.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can easily save 30,000 a month. I could save more but I also want to have a decent lifestyle.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

My apartment is around 8,500 baht a month.

Honestly, one of my biggest gripes here compared to Thailand is accommodation. Even most of the new apartments here aren't as nice, most of them lack the facilities (pool, gym, onsite convenience store, etc) that are commonplace in Thailand and they just aren't the same.
Modern places similar to the ones in Thailand cost more than they do there and are only really found in the bigger cities.

Outside of Saigon/Hanoi, you'll probably have little choice but live in a Vietnamese style box with bars on the windows, noisy neighbours and no pool or gym. Even if you have the money to pay for more, there's no availability. Vietnamese people just aren't interested in modern, Westernised condos like Thai people are and they're mostly happy living in their boxes.

I really miss the standard of modern condos in Thailand.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

Transportation

I bought a motorbike for a few thousand baht so besides petrol which is dirt cheap, nothing.

Utility bills

About 800 baht depending on how much I use the air conditioner/TV. Water and wifi is included in rent. Netflix is 66 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend a lot on food as I'm not a fan of the Vietnamese fare. I spend up to 500 baht a day on Western/Japanese/Indian food. So that's up to 15,000 a month. Yeah, I could live a lot cheaper if I only ate pho, bun bo hue or banh mi every day but I just can't bring myself to do that more than a couple of times a week.

I'm lucky because I live in HCMC where a wide variety of international foods are available. But compared to Thailand, I don't think the food scene is as good. Outside of the bigger cities, it can be tough for picky eaters like me.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not really a party animal so I only maybe go to my local expat pub once a week or drink at a Vietnamese street bar with some friends where the beers are 14 baht a glass so this expense is maybe 2,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Nothing.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I have a very good standard of living and Vietnam is well worth a look for farangs who are jaded with the low salaries, ever worsening visa hassle and Thailand's xenophobia but still want the tropical climate, laid-back lifestyle and don't fancy the entertainment 'wastelands' of The Middle East or the freezing winters of Korea.

Honestly, I do miss Thailand though. It is more fun there, the nightlife scene is a lot better, it's more developed, the infrastructure is better, the food scene is better, etc but with how things are going, it just didn't make sense to stay there anymore.

People are a lot nicer in Vietnam. There's less anti-farang sentiment and creepy nationalism here and I actually get treated like a teacher rather than a dancing white circus clown.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Practically everything.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

You could survive comfortably on 30,000 a month or even less if you live outside of the city and eat Vietnamese food. It really is one of the cheapest countries in the world to live in.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks for that James. You certainly paint a rosy picture of Vietnam as an alternative to teaching in Thailand. I have only been once for a short trip - and although a holiday compared to living and working in a country are two entirely different things - I thought the Vietnamese people were wonderful!

Some interesting insights there on food and accommodation. I'm kind of with you in terms of the cuisine. If I had to choose a restaurant for an evening meal, Vietnamese would probably be bottom of the list. I've just never grasped its appeal at all. 

I guess when it comes to housing, we are spoiled in Thailand by such a tremendous choice of Western-style apartments, etc and don't really realize it. It's a very interesting comparison though. I'm someone who needs a nice living environment and I certainly wouldn't fancy one of those Vietnamese boxes.

But all in all, it sounds like you're enjoying life and don't regret the decision to move. Well done!  


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