Please welcome our first guest post from a Alex Wilson, a creative writer and teacher currently living in Ho Chi Minh. Like what you’ve read? Read more from Alex here https://w26alx.wordpress.com/
Yesterday I went for a haircut, I decided to splash out a bit as it’s been a long time since I dared put my hair in the hands of someone wielding a pair of scissors- 6 months to be precise. I’d heard good things about Hair Saloon 99, so there I went. Definitely fancy- young trendy looking staff, comfortable hair washing station complete with head massage and ear cleaning, English speaking hairdresser, four women to blow dry my hair, security guard who took the registration of my Grabbike and then called me when it arrived. All this for 320,000 vnd, a lot of money when the woman down my alley would do it for less than 100k. I blanched a bit, although it was cheaper than I expected. Then I realised- that nice haircut with good treatment with someone who actually seemed to be knowledgeable cost me a tenner. In English money I spent £10 on what I considered a pricy cut.
It got me thinking about how affordable (relatively) it is to live here as an expat, especially as an EFL teacher. There are not many places in the world where on an EFL teacher’s salary you can live the life we live here.
Consider rent: How much would it cost you to live by yourself, walking distance to the high end shops, round the corner from the British and American embassy’s, near a couple of major monuments in London or Paris or other major cities? Here it costs me $500 (£365) per month + electricity- and that’s on the expensive side for EFL teachers in this city. But it’s also doable.
If you like eating out, then Ho Chi Minh is a great place- there’s the local food places where a bowl of Pho or noodles will cost you a £ or 2, or there’s the more upmarket restaurants where you’re paying a tenner a head for the kind of restaurants you’d go to on a special occasion back home. The range of cuisine and the quality of the food is incredible- sometimes the only problem is choosing where to go. Japanese style pizza with homemade cheese-yes please! Then for the lazy among you (me), every restaurant delivers, so the same thing you had at the restaurant the other week can be had in front of the tele in your PJs.
The same goes for drinking, head for plastic stools and join the locals for beers on the street for pennies a can one night, then the next head to the rooftop bar with the great view, music and cocktails for a fiver. Cruise the happy hours and ladies nights, join the backpackers in your flip flops one day then head somewhere fancy the next. Regularly comment how much you’d be paying in London for the equivalent (hint: at least double or triple). I’ve been to some of the coolest bars and drank some of the nicest cocktails in this city, places that back home would be an occasional splash out kinda thing.
Transport is different too. I’ve got so out of the habit of using public transport that my last trip home was a shock. No waiting for buses here. Take out your smartphone, select Uber or Grabike and you are quickly being whisked away to your destination. And for pennies compared to similar journeys back home. Worrying about the last bus or tube seems so foreign now, whilst I take fewer taxis than I did at one point, they are still an acceptable way of getting around, especially now in the pre rainy season heat.
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