Expat living in Ho Chi Minh City


I'm Lucie Spillebout, and I've just finished my internship at the graphic design agency What'zhat in Paris. Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. So I wanted to write an article about this internship and the fact that I lived for 2 months in this huge city and economic capital of Vietnam: Saigon.

Firstly, I wanted to come to Vietnam. I didn't yet know in what context, when or for how long. Initially, I thought I'd come here as a backpacker, but I came as an intern, which enabled me to combine the discovery of a country with work experience (so the road trip will be postponed). I wanted to come here because, after my studies, I want to move to another country, probably an Asian country, for a few years. I'd really like to immerse myself in this culture, which intrigues me.


To begin with, the Vietnamese are great, they're all smiling. Well, not all of them, but ¾ of them, because seeing tourists all day long must be exhausting in the end. But they're all smiling, and the most adorable thing is the children who wave or come up to us to say "hello". I remember cycling through the jungle near Can Tho and passing houses, every other house I heard the inhabitants say hello to us.

Secondly, here stress is not a way of life compared to France. People are calm and don't run around. Like in a restaurant, for example, it's very rare for everyone to be served at the same time, waiters don't run around, you don't hear stressful remarks coming from the kitchen, and service is done with calm and a zen attitude. I've seen scooters break down on the side of the road and the driver calmly fixes it on the side, whereas in France we'd tend to get excited.


To get around in the same way as the Vietnamese, I downloaded theapplication Grab. Grab is Asia's Uber, but here most of the shopping is done by scooter rather than car. Unfortunately, I didn't hire my own scooter as I don't know how to drive one and I didn't want to risk accidents on the other side of the world. And I'm not good enough at driving Mario Kart...

The most impressive thing about their driving is the red lights - you'd think you were at the starting line of Mario Kart, once the light turns green all the scooters go off at the same time and in all directions. You're being overtaken from left to right, everywhere.

What's more, their driving is quite noisy, and here the indicators are used very little, unlike the horn, since they drive where there's room on the road. They use their horns to warn others to turn, to overtake on the left or right, or to cut through a junction... (I wonder how the drivers know where the noise is coming from, knowing that all the vehicles are honking...).


I also tried out some typical Vietnamese dishes such as the "Phở"which is a rice noodle soup with meat and herbs.Bún chả"andBún thịt nướn", which are thin rice noodle dishes with pork and vegetables. The shape of the pork differs between the two dishes and the "Bún thịt nướn" contains spring rolls and peanuts.

The dishes here are all based on rice, noodles or rice noodles and meat. I visited the rice noodle factory in Can Tho at Mekong Delta after visiting the floating markets.

I also tried some typical South Asian fruits such as small bananas, mangosteen and dragon fruit, but I didn't try the durian. This fruit is notorious for its repulsive and very strong smell, which is a fact and the smell is comparable to that of rubbish. In fact, they are strictly forbidden in airports, much to the annoyance of the Vietnamese.

At work or at home, we've got into the habit of ordering on Grab food and have it delivered directly to the site. This meant we could access food from other districts quickly and easily. At work, we often ate together, either in the restaurant or at the agency.

During my work placement, I worked and lived in Thao Dien in district 2, which is more of an expatriate neighbourhood. I met a lot of French people there, but also Americans, South Africans, Irish...

I mainly spoke French and English, so I didn't learn many Vietnamese words, just how to say bonjour "Xin Chao" and merci "Cam on". The Thao Dien district and the city of Ho Chi Minh in general is not a pedestrian zone, so it's not very easy to get around on foot here, which is why I mainly got around on a Grab scooter. District 2 gives you the opportunity to eat all types of cuisine, being an expatriate district, you can find all types of restaurant here. Last but not least, the area is quite quiet, which is nice for walking around in the evening when the traffic is lighter than during the day.

In district 1, or the hypercentre, you can also find all types of food at all prices. If you want to find cheaper food, you still have to get out of the expat or tourist areas. There are also a lot of markets, and I went to one in the city. by Bén Thành the one of Bà Chiểu and one in district 10.


I wanted to write this article for 2 reasons, firstly because it was my first professional experience abroad, and secondly because I don't think I'll ever be able to find a similar working environment in France.

I did my work placement with the What'zhat design agency, which was set up 1 year ago by 2 French expats living in Vietnam.

Working here, or rather working at What'zhat, means working independently and having objectives to achieve each week, so I had to learn to manage my timetable and my daily tasks. So I had to learn to be independent and rigorous in my work to prove that they were right to trust me and let me be independent. I really appreciated the weekly meetings to analyse what I'd learnt, explain what I was planning to do for the following week and talk about our personal and professional feelings.

I had 3 main missions:

  • The first is business development, i.e. enriching the company's customer file by prospecting on LinkedIn.
  • Secondly, I was responsible for referencing the website on directories, or netlinking, to improve the e-credibility of the What'zhat website and increase its visibility.
  • And finally, my last main task was to develop the agency's Instagram account, and to monitor and develop sales on this platform.

I found it a rewarding experience, as it enabled me to learn more about how companies work, how they sell and how they canvass customers. I was also able to discover how SEO works and a company's brand image on social networks. What's more, this working method has enabled me to learn more about myself, my autonomy and my way of seeing and approaching work.


Have you ever been there or worked there? Tell me about your experience in the comments.

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