As promised, I am asking to international travellers and people living and working in a foreign country to share their life stories with me to know why they decided to leave families and friends behind to explore new realities and meet new cultures!
Are you curious about how they managed to adapt and settle in their new countries? Then follow my expat interviews categorised by country! Are you an expat wanting to share your tips and experience with the rest of the world and be a source of inspiration? Then fill in the expat interview form: I would love to hearing from you!
“Travelling—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Iba Battuta
Let’s meet Iveta: a digital nomad who made the world her home
Introduce yourself briefly. Tell us who you are!
Hi there, my name is Iveta! 🙂
I kicked off my expat journey in 2010 when I left my country, the Czech Republic, and hopped on a plane to the US. Now, we are in 2020 and I have lived in 14 different places so far (as an expat and digital nomad). I’m really grateful because I love what I do for a living and I’ve got the freedom to travel as much as I wish (of course, unless there is a virus going on 🙂 ).
Apart from travelling, I love online marketing, psychology, great coffee, apple strudel and early mornings.
Why did you move to your current country?
I’ll be sharing with you my experience from Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) where I lived altogether for 6 months in the last year. Why did I move there? I was travelling in SEA and thought it’d be cool to get a vegan Pho! 😉 Just kidding! I’ve heard it’s a cool place for digital nomads so we headed there with my boyfriend.
However, I’ve also heard many negative things about Saigon (noise, pollution, etc.) and honestly, I thought we’ll stay there for a week. But gal, I loved it! We stayed there for 3 months and then I came back alone for the other 3 months!
What do you do for a living? How was the job hunting?
I run my own location independent business that fills in my heart and bank account in equal measures – I combine online marketing and psychology and I help expat and nomad women launch a profitable and purposeful business in 12 weeks.
You know, they usually want to start their own business but are not very clear on their business idea, and have no clue about where to start and how to attract first clients. So I teach them how to do that so that they can create their version of freedom – whether it includes travelling or not.
How is the social life in your city, is it easy to make friends?
I found it fairly easy to connect with people in Saigon. I don’t speak Vietnamese so was looking into connecting with expats. Usually, young Vietnamese people speak English and the older generation doesn’t but they smile and try anyway. 🙂
There is a great group for expat women on Facebook called ‘Fexpats – Female Expats and Locals in Ho Chi Minh city’. So when I arrived, I created a few posts and first connected with like-minded women online and then organized a little meetup. It was fun. 🙂 There are other platforms I used such as Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com. Also, I was a member of a yoga centre where I connected with lovely Vietnamese yoga teachers and expats.
Why should people move there? Why did you fall in love with this place?
If you enjoy big cities, you want to have fun, you enjoy delicious food, coffee, you want to live in a cheap place where people smile no-matter-what than definitively give it a go.
In Saigon, compared to e.g. Bangkok, people are not used to foreigners that much so people are always genuinely nice, it’s incredible. I’ve never had a single problem. Vietnamese are different.
So why did I fall in love with Saigon? In a nutshell – the reasons are people, internet, vegan food, coffee shops, taxi, pathways and of course – the cost of living. I fell in love about the way people made me feel (plus they do karaoke all the time, so it’s fun!). Also, as a digital nomad, the internet is very important for me. Vietnam is a hidden gem! They’ve got super-fast internet everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE.
Another thing is that I’m vegan. There are many DELICIOUS vegan restaurants so I could be lazy and not cook at all (I’m not the best chef :P). Why would you cook if you can get a lunch for £1 or £2, right?!
They have great coffee and coffee shops. I love coffee and coffee shops play another huge role for me – they’re my ‘offices’. I usually work from coffee shops and Saigon is FULL off original, local, fancy, design mind-blowing cafes.
Taxis are so cheap: that’s another huge plus. Saigon is fairly big – involving 10 million people, 7 million scooters, it is noisy and I don’t drive. Going around walking and being able to rent a nice taxi was a huge plus. The cost of living played a big role. It’s very cheap, even more than Cambodia which was surprising.
What do you want to say to people looking to move there?
Just give it a go, get 3 months tourist visa and see if you like it! 🙂 In my opinion, it’s a great place to live for a few months.
How is the health system? Is it a safe place to live in?
I never had to call any doctor nor visit any hospital luckily, so I don’t know how the health system is. As for safety, I felt safe all the times.
How is the general cost of living, what is the average rent?
I had a very nice apartment in the centre (1+1) with 24 hours security in the building, housekeeping and laundry included and I paid something around $550 for a month. Of course, I could find a room for $150 (or probably even less!) but I wanted to live in a nice place.
A luxurious massage cost me something around $20, coffee around $1.50, vegan meals in local restaurants are very cheap but if you go to foreign restaurants you can easily pay $10 for a meal. Taxi trip for about 30 minutes could be something like $3.50 (when I say a taxi, I mean a car which is usually twice the price of renting a scooter. I was too scared to hop on a scooter as the transport is really crazy in Saigon 🙂 !
Tell us something you don’t like about where you live and the difficulties you came across when settling in.
Traffic is crazy: I’ve never seen anything like this. London, NYC or Bangkok are a joke compared to Saigon. There are scooters everywhere – on the road, on the path walk… So it took me a few days before I had even courage to cross a street without joking! Also, pollution is bad so I usually wore masks when walking outside.
One episode that made me upset when moving to an apartment is that manager of the building told us they were doing some refurbishing and that It wouldn’t last more than 2 days. In reality it went on for the next 10 days and they even worked at 3am in the morning! I was told by another local expat that Vietnamese people just try to make you happy, no matter what, even if they have to lie a bit. At the end they moved us to another place and all was good at the end.
Tell me an unmissable thing to do in your city over a weekend
If you ever go to Saigon make sure to visit these places: Independent Palace, Ngoc Hoang Pagoda! Here are some tasty vegan restaurants you should try: A Di Da Phat at 114 Tran Quang Khai, Quan 1 (the best £1 you’ll ever spend in your life) and Nha Hang Chay Dieu Phap at 303 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Quan 3 (the best £2 you’ll ever spend in your life)
Here are some of the cafes where I used to go working: Cay Cot Dien, On Coffee at 11 Truong, Quyen, The Loft, She Cafe, River Cottage in D2.
Did you find Iveta’s experience useful? Then check out the other upcoming expat interviews in other cities! Are you an expat or digital nomad who recently started or would like to start a business? Have a look at Iveta’s website and contact her to receive personalised tips and idea to gear up your project!