Life as an expat in Ho Chi Minh City has a unique set of health challenges that can easily be managed with our following tips!
So you’ve set your eyes on Vietnam as your destination to relocate, or maybe you’ve been living here a while? It’s no surprise: the South East Asian metropolis has quickly become one of the top global destinations for expatriates, providing some of the highest quality of life in the world for expats, thanks to a relatively low cost of living, a booming economy and access to pretty much everything you could want or need.
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However, as a bustling city in a mostly subtropical developing country, Saigon’s physical health hazards abound. Add to that the stress that comes with being far from home, navigating a completely foreign culture and not having a solid support system of loved ones and friends. Maintaining mental and physical health can be a challenge.
But don't worry! If you follow these 11 tips on how to maintain your health and wellness while living and working in Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll be able to stay on top of your game and get the most out of your new life here.
1. Listen to the Health Signals your body
To stay healthy, be aware of the signals your body is sending you. The common flu-like side-effects of most diseases can and will eventually occur. Horror stories of foodborne illness, mosquito-borne viruses, parasites and communicable diseases can make some symptoms seem terrifying. More often than not, they are signals of manageable, non-disease related issues like dehydration, sleep deprivation and exposure to higher levels of pollutants, to name a few.
Listen to your body and be sure to seek professional advice whenever concerned.
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2. Familiarize yourself with the Healthcare Landscape
Before you arrive, research clinics, hospitals and urgent care centres near your workplace and home. That way, you know where to go in case of an emergency. The Vietnamese Government invests greatly in pharmacies and hospitals, so there are options all around Saigon.
Pharmacies can be found in most neighborhoods and all you need is a generic name of the medicine you need, or you can just describe your symptoms to your local pharmacist and get most medications for a cheap price.
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3. Choose Healthy Food Options
Food in Vietnam has different microorganisms, and the food safety standards are low for most places. As you eat your way through the country, use discretion. See how the food is prepared, make sure it is cooked fresh and has not been sitting too long, or that it is re-cooked to piping hot before serving.
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If you want to maintain a healthy and well-rounded diet, the best option is to cook your own food at home. That way you can control the quality of what goes into your body.
4. Maintain Physical Health with Activity
International sporting activities like CrossFit, soccer, weight lifting and yoga are on the rise in Saigon, as locals continue to search for the perfect daily routine for healthy body and mind. Simply visit your local park in the morning or early evening and you'll see people flocking to stretch and move their bodies. Most districts have local and foreign gym options, parks with calisthenics equipment or boutique studios offering other means to keep active.
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5. Explore some Alternative Medicines
Overseas, traditional Asian practices like cupping therapy or acupuncture can cost a fortune. In Vietnam, these wellness regimes are commonplace and much more accessible. Like anything, you should research the practice and practitioner and seek professional medical advice before you get any type of treatment for any disorder.
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6. Wear Protective Clothing
The heat in Vietnam can be unbearable. Still, it's important to protect your body! Overexposure to the equatorial sun can cause health issues, so wear light clothing to cover up commonly exposed skin areas.
Dawn and dusk are high times for disease-carrying mosquitoes, so cover your limbs in long, loose-fitting clothes to avoid getting bit.
Also, air pollution is a big problem throughout the city, so try to make wearing a filtration face mask part of your daily routine to protect your lungs from gases and dust.
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7. Prioritize your Mental and Emotional Health with Self-Care
It is easy to get lost in the excitement of socializing, the demands of work deadlines and the overall adjustment phase we all go through when relocating to Vietnam. In order to avoid having a mental or emotional breakdown, take time out for yourself! Go to a spa, Netflix and chill, read a book in the park, meditate, anything to help you decompress and reset your frame of mind.
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8. Look after your Relational health and Keep in Touch
Homesickness comes and goes. To cope with it, be sure to reach out to people who make you feel at home. Part of the adjustment process is sharing what you are going through. Just err on the side of caution: keeping in touch with loved ones abroad can make homesickness even worse!
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9. Make New Friends
Your family and friends back home won't always be able to relate or understand what you are going through, which can feel isolating. However, most foreigners here are going through similar challenges, which is why they are generally easier to talk to than your friends back home. And people start to feel like family very quickly. Both foreigners and locals are warm and easy to approach and most people are willing to help if you ask.
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10. Explore New Things
Humans love familiarity, and even in a place like Vietnam it's easy to get too comfortable with routine. As you settle in, don't forget to continue to try new foods, see new angles of your city, take a short staycation or vacation to a nearby town or province, keep your experience here dynamic so that you’re constantly stimulated and don't begin to feel stagnant.
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11. Take up a Hobby
In a place like Saigon, you will be a ‘big fish in a small pond’. In many hobbies that are popular back home such as stand-up comedy, singing or dancing, you may face less competition and pressure to outperform others. Saigon is a great place to get your feet wet, dabble, and try some new things! Be brave and challenge yourself to something outside of your comfort zone. Plus, classes are often way more affordable here.
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Staying Healthy in Ho Chi Minh City is totally doable!
No matter where you go to live in the world, maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes work! Even though life in Vietnam will present itself with health challenges, if you follow these simple tips, you are sure to take some of the mess out of the stress and have a more balanced Vietnam Expat experience in Ho Chi Minh City.
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