Friendly people. Healthy food. Amazing landscape. Feels like home. That’s what Vietnam is to me, so far. So, at the moment, working here has been great.
Those who view Vietnam as still a closed economy should take second hard look. Apparently, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) has long shifted from a highly centralized planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy, just like what China did on its march towards being the second largest economy in the World. China will be the largest economy in the World by 2024, but that is another story.
Nowadays, the economy of Vietnam essentially relies on foreign direct investments (FDI). Everyone wants to be in Vietnam these days – Japanese, Koreans, Americans, the French and the Chinese (even if they are playing the role of agitators in the South China Sea on the side), among others. I’ve heard of ongoing and upcoming big projects in Vietnam – power plants, highways, light rail transit (LRT) systems, tunnels, ports, oil refineries, etc.
You only have to visit Ho Chi Minh (Sai Gon), the largest city and Ha Noi, the capital, to witness the country’s vibrancy. Office towers, skyscrapers, malls, freeways, roads and bridges, and other infrastructure, seem to be constantly under-construction. And Vietnam’s second-tier cities look more prosperous than ours.
In other words, there is work in Vietnam for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Similarities with the Philippines
Even the Philippines has a presence in Vietnam, would you believe? We have Jollibees in Vietnam’s key cities. And if the whispers through the grapevine are to be believed, we may have an SM mall at the nearest big city in the near future, as Henry Sy contemplates on penetrating the ASEAN market.
Vietnam and the Philippines are natural allies. Although the Vietnamese seem to be prouder of their culture than we are of ours, we seem to have similarities as a country and as a nation. We have almost the same land area and population. Vietnam has a slightly larger area, but a slightly smaller population than us. We have similar gross domestic product (GDP), but Vietnamese exports are more than double of ours. Our demographics are almost the same – we both have lots of young people. Prices of goods and services are almost the same in both countries.
And we both hate China.
Traveling to Vietnam
Vietnam’s two main gateways – Ho Chi Minh and Ha Noi – are just two and a half (2 ½) and three (3) hours away by plane from Manila, respectively. Cebu Pacific offers great value fares, while Philippine Airlines offers “prestige” and nothing else. There are a few secondary airports in bigger cities.
Travel within Vietnam is mainly confined to a north-south axis, in the general direction of the Ha Noi-Ho Chi Minh corridor. The most favored mode of travel is by train or sleeper buses for long distances, and by regular buses in shorter distances. Taxis abound even in smaller towns, whereas they are only available in big cities in the Philippines. “Habal-habal” or motorcycles for hire are also plenty in Vietnam.
There are domestic flights between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi and from either city to the bigger provincial cities in between them.
Working in Vietnam
Working in Vietnam has many advantages for the OFWs. First advantage is its proximity to the Philippines. It is just a short plane ride away. Second advantage is the climate. It is almost the same with that of the Philippines. Winters though, are much colder in the northern part of the country. Then, there’s the standard of living. Our standard of living is just a little bit better than Vietnam’s, but the prices of goods here are also a little bit cheaper than in our country.
Other advantages of working in Vietnam include their generally favorable treatment of expat workers. Work permits and temporary residence permits are issued in no time and without any delays. Assimilation in Vietnamese society is very easy, especially to those who have Oriental features. Filipinos can walk the streets of Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh, or even Nghi Son, without being perceived as foreigners. I cannot count the times that I have been mistaken for a local here, so I have to learn to say, “Tôi xin lỗi, tôi không noi duoi tiếng Việt.”
Except for some very indigenous dishes, Vietnamese food is very similar to ours. Think about balut, kinilaw and ginisa. Think about sinigang, sinabawan and adobo. Most of all, San Miguel Pale Pilsen and San Mig Light are on the grocery shelves.
Wala nga lang traffic dito. There are billions of motorcycles in Ha Noi, but there is no gridlock, so far. Manila, what happened to you? 😀
To be continued…