Choose the best place to live in Vietnam.
Finding a place to live is usually the first concern for anyone who has decided to move. For expats in particular, it can be a very stressful part of the relocation process. Because expats are far from their family, friends and country, it becomes especially important that ‘home’ provides a place where they can feel comfortable and safe - a place where they can relax after work, spend time with family and develop the full potential that is required to start a new life in a new country.
In Vietnam, as in other countries, there are a wide range of housing options available, and it can be challenging for a newcomer to know where to start their search. Here are some tips to consider:
Start your research before you move. The internet makes it easier than ever to remotely collect information and begin to know your new city and country. There are forums which can help to you access this information, as well as communicate with people already living here. Try to find out about the layout of your new city; the location of important things like your work, schools and shops; transport options; and the features of different residential areas in the city. In Vietnamese cities, expats tend to live in several specific areas, which cater to expat’s needs and have their own characteristics. Try to narrow down the areas which are most likely to meet your needs and lifestyle.
Determine your housing priorities. It is often hard to find everything you desire in housing - therefore, it is important to know what your highest priorities are in your new home. Is it most important to be near your work? Or near schools? Do your prefer a busy inner city lifestyle or is green space more important? Do you need somewhere where you can exercise your dog? Do you need a pool or gym? Do you prefer an apartment or house? Do you prefer to live in a compound or outside? What is your budget?
Expect that your housing search may take some time. As in most cities, it can take some time to find housing that meets all your needs. Try not to be rushed. It often helps to stay in serviced accommodation for several months while you undertake your search.
Find a good agent or company to help in your search. Like anywhere, housing can be found directly through owners or advertisements. However, in practice, few expats take this path due to the language barrier. In addition, even if the language barrier can be overcome, local Vietnamese may not clearly understand your needs and expectations, and service may be below the standard many foreigners expect.
For these reasons, it is recommended that expats use the services of a housing agent or relocation company when conducting their housing search. Professional companies are usually very efficient, understand the needs of expats, and can provide better advice about the advantages and disadvantages of various housing options. Make sure you deal with a reputable agency or company. Do some research and spend some time talking with different agencies and companies before you choose a service provider. Beware of agencies who focus on commission and drive you to the most expensive options without really caring about whether your needs are met. Be sure that the agent is aware of your requirements and priorities - it is useful to provide these in writing so ensure that they are understood.
Consider staying in a serviced apartment. Serviced apartments offer some considerable advantages for expats. Firstly, the owner is a company and contracts are generally reliable. Services such as security, cleaning, apartment maintenence, and internet are provided. Many serviced apartments also provide gyms, pools and transport services. Staff generally speak English and are on hand to assist with any problems. Whilst the price of these apartments may initially seem higher, at the end of the month you have no additional bills and do not have to manage staff yourself. Many expats find that not having to deal with these day-to-day issues themselves reduces stress in a new country and allows them to really enjoy their free time for hobbies, socialising and family.
Ask questions and read your contract carefully. Don't assume that things will operate the same as they do in your home country. Before you sign the contract, try to meet and talk to the owner, and get a chance to know him or her. The relationship you have with the owner can have a real impact on your future housing experience. Make sure all your requirements, even small ones, are stipulated in the contract. A classic example: if the AC breaks, who will organise the repair? who will pay? how long can the repair be delayed? If you are careful with your contract, you will avoid stress in the future, because something in your house will inevitably need attention at some period of your stay.
Be aware of the language barrier. Many people in Vietnam do not speak Englsih, so managing your household can be more challenging than in some other countries. You may need someone who can speak the language to assist you to keep your house secure, manage bills, organise utilities, and find services and repair shops.
Enjoy your time in Vietnam! Vietnam is a beautiful country with an interesting culture, delicious food and friendly people. Expats can have a fabulous lifestyle here - more so if their housing needs are well taken care of. A little planning at the beginning can make all the difference to your experience.
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