When I was first job hunting for teaching jobs in Vietnam I came across a multitude of opportunities to work in smaller cities across the country. I thought no way – I would only working in Saigon or Hanoi. The thriving expat community of the biggest cities in Vietnam attracted me. I thought to make friends and a life for myself I had to be around Westerners. So I took a job in Ho Chi Minh City.
Fast-forward several months later, due to various circumstances I ended up taking a new teaching job, where a requirement was that I had to commit to living in a small city for at least four months. This was something I never expected to do, but Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t all I had hoped it to be and I wasn’t ready to leave Vietnam so I decided to give it a shot.
So how is living in a small city? Well surprisingly, I am still here six months later. I thought I would do this placement and want to get straight to Hanoi as soon as it was over. In fact, I don’t want to move to Hanoi or back to Ho Chi Minh City at all.
It was definitely an adjustment moving here, and expectations had to be managed. The small group of expats here aren’t as closely knit as I had expected and it’s sometimes it’s hard to be independent. But I enjoy the more quiet life, the atmosphere isn’t as hectic and the pollution isn’t nearly as bad. There are still things to do, but you have to look harder for them – they aren’t things that are going to be on TripAdvisor (but I think that makes them all the more enjoyable, like that time I went to a random cave where no other tourists go).
I’ve learnt to appreciate the smaller things, such as cheap market shopping and cooking in my own apartment (it beats the rat-infested place I had in Ho Chi Minh City!). Milk tea and coffee shops are a big deal here, and we’ve found some really cool ones so exploring those has kind of become an obsession of mine! As an adult I’ve never been able to have much in the way of hobbies but because I’ve got so much time now I go to the gym, draw, write this blog and just generally get some time to myself. Hanoi is still close by, so we can still go when we need some shopping or western food. It’s not the most exciting life, but it’s definitely comfortable.
Having said all of that, I moved here with my friend and I don’t think I could have done it alone, definitely not at first anyway. It does have it’s downsides. The stares get unbearable sometimes and some days I would love to not be a walking tourist attraction! There are still days that I wonder why the hell I am here and what I’m doing with my life, but those days are becoming few and far between.
Moving here was the right decision for me at the time. I couldn’t do it forever, but it’s a nice enough base to be, in order to save and to travel from, at least for another couple of months.
Would you prefer living in the big city or a smaller one?
If you want to see more photos of my travels you can check out my Flickr