20 Laws Every Expat in Vietnam Needs To Know

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Every country has its own sets of laws and regulations, and while most of them are there to ensure the country doesn’t descend into chaos, there are some laws that are highly questionable. Vietnam is no exception to this, with some laws that are similar to most other countries in the world, but also a select few that may seem strange to some.

Before we delve into this, take note that Vietnamese society operates on the Confucian concept of ‘Asian values’ and some of these laws run parallel with this ideology. So what may seem strange to an American or European may be very normal to an Asian. With that in mind, let’s move on to the list.

1. Register Yourself!

Whether you’re an expat or just a tourist, as long as you’re a foreign citizen, you are required to register with the local police when you move into a residence. As a tourist, your hotel/hostel usually takes care of this for you. (That is why they ask for your passport.) But for expats who are here for the long haul, your landlord is required to do it. Why? Simply so they know you live in that place and that you’re accounted for.

Also, stay out of trouble. If you’re the only foreigner in the neighbourhood, you’ll stick out like a lighthouse in a dark sea in the middle of the night.

2. Having More Than Two People on a Bike

More than 2 people on a bike

This should be more of a common sense entry than anything, but if you’re walking down the street and see a motorbike with an entire family of four (and their dog) on it, it is illegal. According to Vietnamese law (and common sense), it is illegal to have more than two people sitting on a bike. Plus, you also need a licence to be able to drive or ride a bike on the road, just like in every other country in the world.

3. Stay Away from Funky Balls

Nitrous oxide, or N2O, should only be allowed to be traded and produced for industrial production and not to be licensed for human use, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The ministry said N2O was not included in the list of banned and restricted chemicals for medical use. At the same time, it was yet to receive any registration for drug or medical equipment that required this gas.

Nitrous oxide is capable of inducing feelings of euphoria due to its impact on the neurological system, and so can be used as a recreational stimulant. But overuse may lead to memory or sleep disorders and a tingly sensation at the extremities, among other effects.

At the moment, nitrous oxide is still listed as a chemical regulated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade with practical applications as an anesthesia in medicine among its uses. Violating regulations relating to its production or sale could result in fines of VND12-25 million ($515-1,070).

4. You Actually Need a Work Permit...to Work

law in vietnam

Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually technically illegal to work in Vietnam on a tourist visa. You’ll need a full-fledged work permit if you’re a foreign employee, and the maximum validity of one is two years. The work permit is usually handled by the company that hires you. To aid your application, you’ll need a degree, a letter of referral from a respected company, proven experience in your field and a valid health check.

5. You Need Money for a License to Start a Business

Of course that goes without saying for all businesses, but we’re not just talking about start-up capital here. According to Vietnamese law, you will need at least US$30,000 in the bank before you can get a license to start your own business.

law in vietnam

Now this will be a major issue for start-ups and online retailers who don’t need so much money to begin with, but that’s just the way it is here. Of course, there are some who start their business before registering and then pay once they have that amount sorted out, but this is playing with fire. All it takes is a jealous business rival and you’re in trouble.

When planning your business, it’s highly recommended to make sure you are in contact with a lawyer well-versed with Vietnamese law who can advise you on what to do and, if possible, speak to a CEO in the same field about his/her experience. For more helpful information, check out this site.

6. You Can Buy Property but Not Land

Ever dreamt of buying a nice plot of land to build a house, or a three-storey mansion so you can sit on your verandah sipping wine and reflecting on life? You can’t do it here.

Buying in Vietnam

According to Vietnamese law, you can buy a house but not the land. So you can still live that dream to buy a house, or a mansion, but the land wouldn’t belong to you and you will have to lease it. Land leases in Vietnam last a maximum of 50 years, after which you can renew the lease without the rent being increased. So yes, you can own the property as long as you lease the land but you can’t own the land.

7. It’s Illegal to Overwork Yourself

According to Vietnam’s Labour Code introduced in 2013, you are officially not allowed to work for one employer for more than 48 hours a week. This amounts to a maximum of 8 hours a day, or if you don’t work everyday, a maximum of 10 hours a day without being paid overtime.

If you are reading this now at 8:00 p.m. on a weekday on your office desktop, there’s a high chance you’re breaking the law. In other words, you should go home now.

8. Yes, the Legal Drinking Age Is 18

Drinking in Vietnam

This entry was made to clear any confusion about the legal drinking age in Vietnam. Yes, it is 18.

9. Know Your Probationary Period

Speaking of work, if you have just taken up a new job, your probationary period cannot exceed 30 days of employment with a position that requires professional or vocational qualifications and 60 days of employment with a position that requires a college-level qualification or above and just six days for all other cases.

You will be paid a minimum of 85 percent of that position’s official wage, so if you’re reading this and realise you’re being shortchanged at your current job, you know what to do!

10. You’re Not Allowed to Gamble

Gambling in Vietnam

Gambling, except in government licensed casinos, is illegal in Vietnam. Anyone found to be in violation of this law is subject to steep fines and/or a severe prison sentence. Access to licensed casinos is restricted to holders of foreign passports.

Alternatively, you could use that money for other not-so-illegal things.

11. Don’t Bring Your Pornography Over

It is illegal to import pornographic materials into Vietnam as pornography itself, including the production, distribution and possession, are all illegal in this country. Enforcement of this law really depends on your luck and the punishment varies between fines and detention. To be on the safe side, it’s better not to be walking around lugging DVDs of the dubious variety. The rationale behind this law is that pornography harms traditional Vietnamese values.

12. You’re Not Allowed to Export Antiques

Fancy that vase that you saw in Da Nang that has been around for about 200 years? Bad news: you can’t bring it back home. Well, not unless you get a permit from the Ministry of Culture. It is illegal to export antiques from Vietnam without a permit, so your best course of action is to speak to the ministry to get further advice on what you can do if you really like that vase and can already picture it in your living room back home.

13. Don’t Do Drugs, Not Even in Vietnam

There seems to be a rather relaxed and nonchalant attitude about drug usage in Vietnam. After all, it’s not uncommon to catch a whiff of marijuana smoke wafting in the neighbourhood. But don’t be fooled – penalties for drug offences in Vietnam are severe!

Drugs in Vietnam

Under the Vietnamese penal code, a person caught in possession of even a small amount of heroin can be sentenced to death. There are actually foreigners in prison now serving life sentences or facing the death penalty for drug trafficking, and Vietnamese authorities have tightened their stand recently against drug-related offences.

14. Prostitution Is Illegal

This might surprise a number of you, but prostitution is actually illegal in Vietnam! It’s very common to see ladies of the night canvassing for customers, though – usually male tourists walking alone – and sometimes you’ll get the occasional shady-looking middle-aged man on a bike asking you if you want a massage. Yes, all those are illegal and chargeable offences.

On a more serious note, the Government is trying to crack down on sex-trafficking, especially when it involves the underaged. Although it will take time to eradicate this due to the numerous syndicates around, it is still a work in progress.

On a side note, I’ve discovered a simple trick to brush away those pesky bikers who keep harassing me for a massage – just yell “I’m gay” and watch them scoot off into the night immediately. You’re welcome.

15. Maternity Leave Entitlements

If you become pregnant, you are entitled to up to six months of maternity leave, with two of these months marked as compulsory. You will get 100 percent of your salary paid during that time and if you are carrying more than one baby, you are entitled to take an extra month of leave per child.

Maternity leave

Imagine having quadruplets – you’re pretty much not going to the office for almost a year.

16. No Drugs, No Weapons, No… Used Car Parts

There exists a list of prohibited items that you should avoid bringing into the country. Some are straightforward like drugs and pornography, like I mentioned earlier, but there are also some other additions to that list, and some are strange.

For example, no weapons, ammunition and explosive materials; no military equipment; no reactionary and “depraved” cultural products which could include T-shirts with a beer brand’s logo on it; no fireworks; no second-hand consumer goods (yes, apparently); no second-hand electrical and electronic household appliances; no goods that can cause environmental damage; no second-hand spare parts; no waste and disposable materials; no money amounting to more than US$5,000 without declaration; and, my personal favourite: no children’s toys that can detrimentally influence a child’s personality, education, social order, safety or disturb the peace.

However, you are allowed to bring no more than 400 cigarettes, no more than 100 cigars, no more than 500 grammes of tobacco, no more than 1.5 litres of liquor at 22 percent of volume and above (spirits) and no more than 2 litres of liquor below 22 percent volume (beers and wine). So it’s not all that bad, I guess.

17. Be Careful What You Shoot

For those of you into photography, or just like taking pictures in general, do take note that photography of, or near, military installations is generally prohibited. You might get your camera confiscated and be subjected to some serious questioning. Also, why would you be taking pictures of military installations in the first place?

Shooting in Vietnam

Another big no-no is taking pictures during demonstrations. If you’re taking a picture of a non-state sanctioned event, you’re unwittingly putting yourself into a situation of being part of the demonstration which can get you in serious trouble, especially if you’re a foreigner; we’re looking at potential detention or deportation. So just stay away from demonstrations, let alone take pictures of one.

18. Things to Not Bring on Your Way Out

Now that you know what not to bring in, here’s what you can’t bring out of Vietnam: weapons, ammunition, explosive materials, military techniques equipment and effects; antiques; drugs of all kinds; toxic chemicals; wood, logs, timber, preliminary processed wood of all kinds; rotten materials (why would you even?); wild, or precious, and rare animals and plants; and money amounting to more than US$5,000 without declaring it.

19. Legal Age for Marriage Is…

Twenty for men and eighteen for women. Of course this information was added just in case…

laws in vietnam

20. Don’t Linger Too Close to the Border

Earlier I mentioned that you’re not allowed to hang around near military installations. This law also applies to an area that is close to the border. If you’re planning to visit a village, commune or ward that is close to one, you may need to get permission from the provincial police department. Also always ensure that you have an ID with a photograph of you. This is not a suggestion, it’s an actual law.

So there you have it – 20 Vietnamese laws that every foreigner in this country should know. Always remember to err on the side of caution when dealing with any of these issues. There have been cases where foreigners got detained and their passports confiscated, and prisons in Vietnam aren’t exactly the best environment for one’s physical or mental well-being. So stay safe and stay out of unnecessary trouble.

Banner Image source: chiasemeohay.com


Deutsches Haus: German World-Class Design in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Deutsches Haus is “the symbol of the strategic partnership and friendship between Vietnam and Germany.”

On the 1st of August 2017 Deutsches Haus, Southeast Asia’s most eco-friendly and well-constructed building, will open its doors on the corner of Le Duan and Le Van Huu in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, right beside the InterContinental Asiana Saigon Hotel.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The 25-storey, 40,000 gross sq m building represents the union of the Vietnamese and German governments, showcasing modern German technology and acting as a model of sustainable design.

In 2011, Germany’s Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed a declaration establishing the partnership between Germany and Vietnam, designed to strengthen the political, economic and cultural relations of the two countries.

For the past five years, Germany has been Vietnam’s biggest trade partner in the European Union, totaling a trade volume of US$8.92 billion in 2015 alone. The Deutsches Haus is to be the central platform for German and Central European companies doing business with Vietnamese and other ASEAN businesses, as well as the place to be for cultural exchange and relations.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The project aims to receive the USGBC LEED Platinum certification - the highest level of green certification possible. This will be the first building in Vietnam to receive LEED’s Platinum level, and is one of a few in Southeast Asia. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally recognised certification that ensures a building uses less water and energy, has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, pays particular attention to its construction material (and their effects on health and environment), and much more.

Examples of LEED Platinum certified buildings include the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, U.S., which contain the world’s only Platinum certified greenhouse; the massive Taipei 101 building in Taiwan; Canada’s Manitoba Hydro Place, quoted by CBC News as one of "the most energy-efficient office towers in the world”; Kohinoor Hospital, Asia’s first LEED Platinum certified hospital; and other select stadiums, hospitals, office buildings, conservatories, universities, convention centers and homes around the world.

Currently, there are only a total of 40 green certified buildings in the country, based on two certifications: LEED, and LOTUS (a certification similar to LEED, but more attuned to Vietnam’s climate and conditions). The first building to garner a LEED certification in Vietnam was a manufacturing facility owned by Colgate-Palmolive. The Diamond Lotus is a LEED-certified condominium project that will have three connected apartment complexes covered in bamboo, to be built in the coming years.

The design of Deutsches Haus has been entrusted to world-renowned architect Meinhard von Gerkan, who has over 50 years of experience. Gerkan has designed Tegel Airport, Lingang New City, the National Museum of China, the Hanoi Museum, Hamburg Airport, both the National Assembly and the National Convention Center in Hanoi, and many others. The design he undertook for Deutsches Haus is meant to express Germany’s role as an industrial and technological leader in the form of sustainable architecture, as well as German-standard architecture abroad.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The building’s double façade will eliminate the heat of the sun while allowing a great deal of sunlight to pass through, minimizing artificial light usage while ensuring a comfortable interior. In addition, this “double skin” will reduce noise and provide superior thermal insulation.

This façade is unique in Vietnam and is to be a milestone for future developments. LED lights will be used throughout the building for brighter and more energy-efficient lighting; the building’s air will be cleaned through a superior hospital grade filtration system; personal comfort is pushed to the forefront with particular attention to localised temperature control, centralised dehumidification, shading and daylight control and integration of all non-life systems; rooftop solar panels will be able to power the building’s lobbies during normal business hours; and a thorough plan for the building’s water system includes rainwater harvesting, grey water flushing systems and the reuse of treated sewage for irrigation and cooling.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

The city is certainly in need for a greener urban environment: according to numbeo.com, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked the ninth most polluted city globally. This is more than evident in the amount of noise and smog one encounters while cruising around the city by motorbike. Although initiatives are being taken by introducing electric buses and other green projects, until the population adapts more sustainable practices, greener buildings are a necessary beginning.

The building will feature premium office space; a residential living space on the top floors; the largest rooftop terrace in the city; a pool and a fitness center; a multi-functional conference, exhibition and event-space; a restaurant; public areas with workspaces; coffee shops; a mobile washing station for cars and motorbikes parked at one of the four basement parking levels; raised floors (functioning to hide wires and regulate room temperature); and a fully-featured lobby. The lobby will feature screens projecting weather, German and European news, the building’s environmental stats, and will include an air freshener system, German artwork, and architecturally congruent seating. The building will also be the new home for the German Consulate and other German and European institutions.

Deutsches Haus in Ho Chi Minh

This is a serious undertaking in a city full of delimiting regulations and architectural mishaps. The building is an example for the entire country to follow - projects integrating some of its features have already began construction in Vietnam. The Deutsches Haus is to be an environmentally and culturally sound representation of the city’s international future - and it seems to have been entrusted to the right hands for the job.

Image source: flickr.com


Meet the Expert: Charles Gallavardin on sustainable architecture in HCMC

By: Patrick Gaveau

Today, the demand for more sustainable design in HCMC is steadily getting off the ground. Charles Gallavardin of T3 Architecture Asia sat down with Citypassguide.com to give his perspective on green buildings in Vietnam. Charles and his wife started T3 Architecture in France in 2007, specialising in green architecture. When Charles arrived in Vietnam in 2011 to begin T3 Architecture Asia, the demand for green building was low, although interest was growing. We spoke with Charles to determine what changes were taking place to catalyse this newfound interest.

What is the definition of a green building for you?

It’s a building well integrated into the place it’s set up at. It should take the landscape into consideration - the shape of the building is quite important, to be protected from the sun and allow for natural ventilation. The idea is to avoid direct light in a hot tropical climate; that’s why we design overhangs or balconies, to take the facade away from the sun, so you keep your main walls in the shadows.

Secondly, you have to take care of the roof, and make sure there is a double ventilated roof to keep the air flow and make the top floor always cool. Then, ideally, you try to use green building materials, sourced not too far from where you are.

Why does Saigon need such type of construction?

Saigon is one of the more polluted cities in Asia now. There is a huge issue concerning air pollution. The demand of energy is getting higher than what can be produced. What we can see for many years is that Vietnam is mainly doing a “copy-paste” of buildings they saw in Western countries with full glass facades but they didn’t realise that the climate is totally different and that they have to create their own style to make their building more appropriate to the climate, to save energy, save costs and make the building more comfortable.

Do you think one of the main challenges to building green buildings in Vietnam has to do with people’s perception?

Yes. I think when you discuss this with most Vietnamese, of course they want more parks and more green areas. But in reality, in urban development in Vietnam, this is still considered a quantity issue. Which means they try to plant vegetation to increase the number of green area per square meter per inhabitant, but without having in mind that it’s better to have many small parks than having long green areas along the highway. It is the same story with green buildings: a green roof doesnæt make your building green.

 

Do you think one of the main concerns for people who don’t understand green buildings too well is the fear of additional costs?

I don’t think so, because finally we can do green buildings quite cheap, depending on the material you use. But the green principles are very basic and you can find it everywhere in the traditional architecture of Vietnam. Traditionally you have your long and narrow plot, with the shop facing the street, the house on the backside and a courtyard in the middle. The air ventilation is efficient and you have natural light in your house and your shop. The house is far from the street so it’s far from the noise. For 20-30 years, Vietnamese have lost their knowledge of how to create a green house, but recently some young Vietnamese architecture firms take traditional building materials and traditional Vietnamese architecture and incorporate it in a more modern sense to make the house more green.

So green houses are one issue, but can you tell us about the problem of green urban areas? Is this something that can happen in Vietnam?

Yes, it could. But what we can see in the development in Vietnam, it’s always private investors who wield the city, and their model is a Singaporean one, but with a lower budget and less knowledge. There are really few alternatives for high-rise buildings and private houses. So when you have a private house, the plot is usually very small, and you have very few green areas. And for high-rises, you need to build these by large streets if you follow regulations, so then you have very narrow green areas.

One solution would be to make the city very dense, with apartment blocks lower with some streets more narrow, but keeping some spaces open for parks and public gardens, like we have in Europe.

Is the government aware and sensitive about the need to do something about that?

Yes, they are. There are many discussions about this. But if you’re a private investor and you finance infrastructure, the government cannot complain too much about what you do. You try to optimize your plot as much as possible.

Is it possible to bring more awareness to private investors by showing them the financial reward in doing so?

Yes. In America and Europe, the government pushes green building by giving a loan or some advantage. The government in Vietnam doesn’t have a lot of money, so they’ve let the private investors do the development. But private investors’ awareness is going up because they see people want more green spaces, nice areas around their apartments, so it’s starting to change.

Is it feasible to build a green house or building using only locally sourced material?

Yes, it’s possible. There are many materials available; less than Western countries or Singapore, but enough to build something green. The prices are the time.

What about reusing old material. Is that something that happens in Vietnam?

Yes, a bit. For example, many architects reuse wooden shutters for part of the facade to use as ventilation. But not so much, since the quality of the construction is not so good and when you destroy a house there’s not much you can use.

Some years ago I met with an architect and he told me something that surprised me. He said that Vietnam is one of the best countries in the world for recycling. When a house is being dismantled, the Vietnamese will often take every brick and every cable, to try and reuse it for some other purpose. Is this true?

This is partially true. They reuse material by placing it on natural soil to make it not porous anymore, and then they pour cement over it to make a concrete slab. But then you have the problem that you don’t have enough natural soil then to absorb the water during rainy season, and it makes flooding a very important issue in the near future.

Energy consumption is growing, meaning the price has to go up, which means it makes sense to have more energy efficient practices and buildings, correct?

Yes, this happens in every city. When energy prices go up, green houses and buildings become more and more normal. Of course, for Vietnam, electricity cost is very low, even compared to the standard of life. One issue, even though it’s never easy for government to say that they have to increase electricity costs, especially for poor people, it’s a real way to make developers and private investors more concerned about energy savings.

In 10 years from now, what do you think the state of green buildings will be in Vietnam?

Green construction has been developing more and more, first in hospitality projects; you have international guests, so five or six years ago in the private sector and even residential projects, Vietnamese started to be more concerned about energy and cost savings, and the quality of the environment. Thanks to Vietnamese architects and small agencies, we can do something more.

Almost none of the existing high-rises in Ho Chi Minh City are really environmentally friendly. If the price of energy rises, most of these building will have to be rebuilt or adapt to the new demands. And you provide this service?

Yes, full renovation to adapt an existing building and make it less costly in terms of energy, and most important of all we make it more comfortable for people!

How big of a project is it for someone who wants to make their home more green?

Usually, you have to touch up the facade and main structure, so it’s a bit costly, but you don’t have to demolish all. It can be from some very simple like adding shutters, to touching up the roof at VND 3 million per sq m, up to VND 10 million per sq m to redo something very properly and almost reconstruct the house.

Is the wiring in Vietnam efficient?

In terms of fire hazards and electric shock, no. 

And LEDs?

There is a huge market for LEDs. They are replacing halogens with LEDs everywhere, more and more in residential projects. But before thinking about advanced technology and costly equipment - which is important also - the first thing is to try and hire a good designer when you are creating a building. And if the design is well done you are sure to have very low consumption. And of course you put some LEDs and solar panels. One of the problems in Vietnam and in developing countries in general is people don’t think of the basics. Once you do this, then you can think of the high-tech equipment and energy efficiency.


The Foreign Investor Guide to Real Estate in HCMC

By: Eric Le Dreau

Are you a foreign investor and want to know about real estate laws in HCMC? Confused by the new Property Law? Indochina Legal clears up the confusion:

One of the most notable changes introduced by Vietnam’s new 2014 property law and its regulations is the revision of the right for overseas Vietnamese, foreign individuals and organisations to own residential houses, as follows:

Overseas Vietnamese (or Viet Kieus) can now own residential houses in the same way as Vietnamese citizens without further residency requirements or any limitations on the type or quantity of houses, or the terms of ownership. They must hold a valid passport with an entry verification stamp marked by the Vietnamese Immigration Department (VID) and a document evidencing their Vietnamese origin.

Foreign individuals have the right to own residential houses, subject to certain restrictions as compared to Vietnamese citizens and Viet Kieus. In order to own houses, a foreigner is required to have a valid passport with an entry verification stamp marked by the VID and cannot fall under diplomatic or consulate preferences and immunities. Requirements of residency, investment in Vietnam, work permit, social contribution and/or marriage to a local Vietnamese is not necessary for residential housing ownership. However, as to ownership duration, foreigners married to Vietnamese citizens or to Viet Kieus are entitled to an indefinite term, whereas foreigners who are not can only own residential housing for a period of 50 years. This can be extended for another 50 years, subject to approval by the provincial People’s Committee where the house is located. Unlike other foreigners, those who are married to Vietnamese citizens are also exempt from notifying the housing administration authority at the district level prior to leasing their houses to others. Apart from that, the new legal framework grants foreigners the same rights of Vietnamese in the cases of subleases, mortgages, etc. of residential housing.

real estate in hcmc

Photo by: Manh Hai

Foreign organisations are allowed to own houses provided that (i) ownership term shall not exceed the period stated in their investment certificates issued by Vietnamese competent authorities, including any extensions; (ii) use of the houses is for residential purposes only, for their personnel; and (iii) lease-out of the houses is not permitted.

It is worth noting that foreign organisations and individuals shall not collectively own more than 30% of the total number of apartments in an apartment building or not more than 250 separate houses in an area where population is equivalent to that of a ward. In addition, house ownership beyond real estate projects (e.g. a villa built by individuals) is not allowed. For national defense and public security purposes, foreign individuals and organisations cannot own houses in certain areas. With respect to these limitations, the local Department of Construction will publish on their official website the projects where foreigners cannot own houses, detailed numbers of apartments or separate houses eligible for foreign ownership, and the number of houses where foreign ownership has been recorded. To our understanding, the database is not yet completely developed for all cities and provinces in Vietnam. Meanwhile, payment for purchase or lease of residential houses shall be made via credit institutions operated in Vietnam. So far there has been no specific instruction on foreign exchange control for relevant inbound and outbound foreign funding of residential housing.

Despite certain remaining limitations, the NHL has provided a more open approach to ownership of residential housing for foreigners. The hope is that these changes will ultimately defreeze the real estate market and create a new wave of foreign investment in Vietnam.

Website: www.indochinalegal.com


Hong Kong and Singapore Investors Seek Opportunities in Vietnam

By: Timo Schmidt

Vietnam’s new laws for foreigners, released in July 2015, have already had great impact on the local housing market in the country.

Particularly, investors from within the region are amongst the first ones to actively seek investment opportunities in the country. Savills Vietnam has seen great interest and real demand from foreign buyers based in Singapore and Hong Kong. To better understand the reasons for their aggressive moves it is important to look at the local housing market in these respective countries.

Property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong have been heating up over the last decade due to ever-increasing demand from local and foreign investors. While Singapore is a preferred investment destination for buyers from Malaysia, Indonesia and mainland China, the market in Hong Kong has seen tremendous investment from the latter.

“Property markets in Singapore and Hong Kong have been heating up over the last decade”

To react to the social problems caused by the price increases - such as lack of affordability for first-home buyers - governments in both destinations have put cooling measures in place. These are now showing effect with a considerable drop in transactions, and prices are expected to drop in both countries.

In Singapore and Hong Kong the governments reacted as early as 2009 with a variety of cooling measures, which included:

  • Increase of Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) for purchases of multiple properties of up to 15% in Singapore and 8.5% in Hong Kong respectively, particularly for non-resident foreigners and entities.
  • Seller’s Stamp Duty (SSD) on resale of properties with short holding periods in Singapore for periods of less than one year, which was later increased to three years. And in Hong Kong from two to three years.
  • Limits on loan-to-value for multiple unit purchases, meaning that buyers could not leverage purchases by using bank loans. Especially relative to foreign buyers or those who purchased multiple units.

These measures were specifically introduced to curb property investment and speculation - particularly by foreign investors - rather than preventing irsthome buyers from purchasing units. The effects are finally starting to show with transactions and prices decreasing in both markets, and talks of a property market crises making the rounds. More importantly, the yield potential in these markets has declined due to the additional purchasing costs.

Photo by: Tri Nguyen

Taking into consideration that Hong Kong and Singapore investors are amongst the most active in the region, Vietnam is seen as one of the most attractive destinations for property investment in Southeast Asia. With excellent yield potential and prices at a fraction of those in Hong Kong and Singapore, investors can purchase multiple units at the value of one property in their home markets.

“Vietnam is seen as one of the most attractive destinations for property investment in Southeast Asia”

Savills Vietnam was among the first real estate agencies to take advantage of this by creating an international sales department to actively promote Vietnam’s properties in these key markets; in collaboration with Savills regional offices.

“We have seen great interest of local developers to market their projects abroad, and have scheduled a series of sales events in Hong Kong and Singapore over the year 2016. Our offices in both countries are excited to promote Vietnam’s properties given that the easing of restrictions allows foreign investors to take advantage of low prices and excellent yields in comparison to their local markets,” says the head of International Residential Sales for Savills Vietnam. “Since inception of the department we’ve transacted nearly US$20 million in sales to foreigners without bringing projects abroad. We are confident that this number will increase dramatically over the coming months.”

The opening of the Vietnamese property market to foreign investors is expected to draw more foreign investment into Vietnam from private and institutional investors.


A Day in the Life of KAZE Interior Design Studio in Ho Chi Minh City

By: Katie Kinnon

What is Functional Beauty? Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen from KAZE Interior Design Studio explains.

Time for Gelato! KAZE Interior Design Studio goes on location.

Collaboration makes it happen; KAZE’s style of brainstorming.

The word KAZE is Japanese for ‘wind’ it represents expansion, growth and freedom of movement. Danish architect Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen chose this name for her boutique Vietnam based interior design studio when she launched it in 2009 as a reminder to never allow KAZE’s sense of style and knowledge stagnate. The goal of each KAZE designed projects is to have the same sense of movement, lightness, and power as a gust of wind.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE interior design studio, has been going strong for more than 10 years and it is one of the top interior design studios in Vietnam. The firm has taken on more than 100 high-profile projects across Vietnam and Cambodia. Specialists in development in the fields of Hospitality and F&B, the KAZE team has transformed the style and spirit of major projects such as Le Meridien Cam Ranh Resort & Spa by Marriot, Liberty Central Saigon Citypoint in Ho Chi Minh City and DIAMOND ISLAND PENTHOUSE & VILLAS by Kusto.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

KAZE Interior Design Studio’s Idea of Functional Beauty

Fong-Chan has an unwavering commitment to what she calls her “building for humans” philosophy. This means nothing goes into the space that will not be useful, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. It should be a usable space, not simply a pretty picture.

As Fong-Chan puts it, “you can tell a lot about how a person runs their company by the way the toilets are kept.” If management only cares about the aesthetics of a company and not the functionality something has gone wrong.

Far from the stark, harsh modernity that can be found in certain ill-designed spaces, KAZE Interior Design Studio’s projects are categorised by beauty, light, warmth and innovation.

But what happens between concept creation and the moment that someone walks into a fully realised KAZE designed space? City Pass Guide acts as interior designer for one day to learn more about the processes, inspirations and, at times, frustrations of being the leading interior design studio in Vietnam.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Mornings in the Beehive; KAZE Interior Design Studio Gets Ready to Get Creative

When someone walks into KAZE interior design studio in Saigon’s District 2 it is clear to see that the office is a hive of energy where anything and everything can instigate inspiration. Fong-Chan has created a unique environment that is the right balance of easy going and innovative. Interior design books stacked on shelves range from tomes about types of marble used in 15th century Italy to glossy coffee table books filled with new design trends. The volumes propped open suggest the team study hard and the single-use plastic free ethos provides an insight into the environmental focus of KAZE’s design projects.

The open plan office is fairly minimalistic in terms of design with a mix of dark wooden desks and large glass windows that let in lots of natural light. While the monochrome colour scheme enables the raw materials that are scattered around the office to pop.

Desks are covered with brightly coloured fabric samples, varying sizes of intricately detailed tiles and project sketches. It is mind-boggling to imagine how all these snippets of inspiration can possibly turn into a finished project. The different textures, colours, patterns, and shapes are the starting point for the designers to focus their ideas and start putting a design idea into actuality.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Individuality is the Key to Creativity

Each designer has a different style of working. A junior designer named Duong loves following new trends and finds ways to incorporate them into his work. Maria, a project designer is detail oriented. Part of her morning is typically spent researching ways to use historical styles while maintaining modernity. Other teams members contribute their individual senses of style and focus to create an environment that is always in “creation-mode”. KAZE is a boutique company of only 28-30 employees, this enables Fong-Chan to get to know her team on a personal level and get a sense of their likes, dislikes and work style.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

When Fong-Chan walks into the office she immediately commands the room. Despite having a cute dog following her around, she is a no-nonsense woman. She knows what every single person in the office is working on and exactly what they will be doing next. Like any great mentor, Fong-Chan looks after her team and ensures to regularly spend time with each and every member, going through what they are working on the moment, challenges they are facing and provide guidance on how they can improve. She takes pride in teaching every single member individually and she will push and challenge them until they unlock their potential.

As we walk through the office and take time to speak to the team members, one thing is clear, Fong-Chan’s team finds her to be an inspired leader.

Diving into the Project’s; an Afternoon at KAZE Interior Design Studio

All of KAZE’s projects are created from a story, they are what gives a project meaning. These stories are inspired by the brief from the clients, the space and location of the project as well as real-world experiences the designers have had. Fong-Chan organises annual design trips for the team to experience new things around the world and find new inspiration. Some of their most recent trips include Bangkok, Taiwan, and Milan. Without these trips, designers find inspiration from pictures on a computer and can’t really understand the emotions certain places can evoke or how they can awaken new senses, for example, the sense of achievement earned from reaching a mountain peak or tasting real gelato in Italy for the first time.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Back in the interior design studio in Ho Chi Minh City, these experiences enable designers to create incredible projects together. In a small company like KAZE, the office feels like a symphony masterpiece, everyone is playing their own instrument but when put together it makes a beautiful finished product. In one corner, the junior designer is sketching out multiple designs to work out the best places for the lighting fixtures to create the right ambiance for the project. On the other side of the room, the project designer is using miniature furniture models to understand the way people would naturally enter a room and where they would want to sit down. Down the small hallway, a headphone clad designer is testing out the acoustics—he is listening to how the noise of ocean waves resonate against wooden walls versus concrete walls. The whole process is fascinating to watch and Fong-Chan is the perfect conductor.

Fong-Chan explains to us that KAZE has a “design language” and everyone needs to be able to speak it. This helps the KAZE team effectively communicate, brainstorm and develop ideas with each other as well as to understand all the ideas going on in Fong-Chan ’s head. For those who don’t speak the ‘language’ Fong-Chan spends her time managing their expectations, sometimes this can be with clients who don’t really know what they want and sometimes this can be with her own team who haven’t quite come to grips with their part of the project story.

Collaboration, Creation and Coffee in Saigon’s District 2

Every Tuesday and Thursday the KAZE team gather for a coffee break to socialise and discuss their ideas. Fong-Chan explains that there is a real buzz in the office during these meetings. Everyone suddenly goes from working quietly at their desks to talking loudly in groups, getting excited about project ideas and working out how their concepts can be developed. This collaborative effort helps to solve problems and generate new ideas.

KAZE’s Friday afternoon workshops are a fascinating way to experience the ins and outs of what happens during a design process. Each member picks a designer or design topic and delivers a presentation on it, detailing the history, inspiration, and work behind it. The workshops encourage the team to learn new things, try new ideas in their work and delve into a new world of design they may never have realised existed.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Hometime

Burning the midnight oil is not a strange concept at KAZE, although it may not quite be midnight, many of the team stay after hours to develop their design knowledge and experience to improve their work. They work hard to ensure their part of the project is just right. They all dedicated and strive for perfection. A passion for design is the beating heart of KAZE, as one of the top interior design studios in Vietnam, it is clear to see that only those who work hard and are passionate about their ideas achieve success in this demanding profession.

KAZE Interior Design Studio

Image source: KAZE Interior Design Studio


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