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Deciding where to make your home

With a rapidly growing economy, a vast array of cultural influences and beautiful scenery, Vietnam is becoming an increasingly attractive place to live.

The first settlers were migrants from Indonesia and nomadic Mongols from China and it is believed that the nation came about in order to develop rice cultivation in the rich Red River Delta thousands of years ago. Ever since, neighbouring China has taken and relinquished control of the country, leaving strong cultural nuances behind. In more recent times, the arrival of the Portuguese and then French colonial rule in the 19th century brought with it Western-style architectural influences and industrial infrastructure, such as the railway linking Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In 1975, after much turmoil, the country was unified under an independent communist government. Market reforms were introduced in 1986, in 1994 the U.S. lifted their economic embargo and in 2000 the Vietnamese stock exchange opened. . Whilst some of the rural areas still feel the effects of war-ravaged land, the main cities are vibrant commercial centres with growing, dynamic expat communities. Vietnam is clearly keen to get over the trials of the past and get on with living in the 21st century. As of July 2017, the population is estimated at 96.1 million, making it the 15th most populous country in the world.

From the fertile soils of the Red River Delta in the north to the green Mekong River Delta to the south, the country of Vietnam sits on the Indochinese peninsula with the South Chinese Sea along its entire coast. Long and thin, China sits to the north while Laos and Cambodia meet its western border. With lush greenery, white sandy beaches, and stunningly beautiful mountain ranges, Vietnam has a varied landscape ideal for expats looking to escape city life now and again for outdoor adventures or those who would like to experience a whole new way of life altogether.

With regard to climate, it is better to envisage Vietnam as three areas. The mountainous north has varied temperatures: from the chilly nights of winter, with snow on the mountains, to the warm, wet days of summer. Lower down, around Hanoi and the Red River Delta, it is hot and humid in the rainy, summer months. The central area is hotter and drier but the rainy season during October and November occasionally brings typhoons. In the south, the temperature remains hot for most of the year with two seasons: wet and dry.

Although there are other areas in Vietnam which are becoming increasingly attractive for expats to settle in, the main cities are more likely to provide better access to health care and international schools as well as being economic and commercial hotspots with better employment prospects.

Hanoi

  • Mercer cost of living ranking: 100
  • Mercer quality of living ranking: 155

The city is rich with art and culture, drawing on the rich tapestry of its past: ancient monuments and temples of spiritual and historical significance as well as museums and galleries housed in beautifully preserved colonial buildings. To see how well old and new sit together, view the Old Quarter from the 65th floor of the Lotte Tower, opened in 2014. City streets buzzing with traffic, chaos, and pollution give way to smart, high-end living areas with Michelin-starred restaurants, office buildings, and shiny shopping malls.

Home to NGOs and a large diplomatic community, there is a vibrant expat community with all the advantages of high standard health care, international schools, and Western-style grocery stores and eateries.

With distinct summer and winter seasons, the cool and dry winter lasts from November to April with temperatures averaging from 17 to 22 ° Celsius  Summer lasts from May to October, when it is hot and humid and average temperatures soar to 30 degrees or above. July to September are the wettest months of the year.

The safest and most vibrant place to live in Hanoi is said to be the Old Quarter but for Westerners, it is thought that Tay Ho is best for goods and shops but it is more expensive. Hoan Kiem is in easy reach of the bars in the centre of the city but accommodation tends to be small and rent pricey. Each quarter has its own characteristics so it is well worth exploring how well they match up to your demands before making a decision on where you would like to live.

Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly Saigon

  • Mercer cost of living ranking: 97
  • Mercer quality of living ranking: 152

Located in the south of the country, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. It is home to the stock market is the country’s financial and commercial hub. Modern high-rise buildings are a contrast to the pollution and noise below and there is a well-established and growing expat community and plenty of Western cultural hotspots to keep them occupied.

The city has many monuments to the events of the 20th century, as one might expect, but it also has many surprises. The War Remnants Museum is home to American warplanes and tanks, whilst revered temples and pagodas celebrate cultures and beliefs stretching way back into history. And then there are colonial gems like the vaulted ceilings of the Central Post Office and the stunning 19th Century Catholic Notre Dame Cathedral. With bright lights and cosmopolitan cuisine, view the treasures of the old and new from the Skybar at the top of the 68- story Bitexco Tower.

The climate of HCMC is divided into the wet season from May to November and the dry season from November to April. Expect the most rain from June to August, when downpours can be severe and there may be flooding. Late February to early May is hot and humid but the average temperature is from 25 to 35° Celsius all year around.

The city is divided into 24 districts, with the heart of the city in districts one and three. Populated largely by young, single professionals and couples it is a busy, congested but exciting place to live. With the highest living standards available, it is home to shopping areas with high-end, designer stores. For a quieter place to live, many people consider district three and with international schools and more Westernised accommodation, many expat families choose to settle in district seven.

The best of the rest: Nha Trang City, a beautiful, laid back, coastal city with beautiful beaches and Da Nang, a clean, comfortable city, that’s home to the stunning Dragon Bridge.

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