Housing Know-Hows in HCMC
There is some general useful advice when living in Ho Chi Minh City than any resident should keep in mind. We candidly answer a few pressing questions those residing in the big city might have - before it’s too late.
What should you pay attention to when living with a Vietnamese family?
Meals are generally eaten at fixed hours and often earlier than in Western countries. Lunch is at 11:30 a.m. and dinner around 6:00 p.m. There might be some food under a plastic strainer and rice kept warm in a cooker for family members who work odd hours. If you are around, you will be invited for dinner. If you are feeling homesick for some Western food, it is probably best to have some cooking skills as they probably don’t know how to cook food from your country, and they may be (politely) delighted by your offerings. If the family is feeding you, it is appreciated if you help with some household bills. Vietnamese tend to get up early and it might not be appropriate to come home too late after a night out. You will be asked to attend celebrations that honour memories of the elderly, such as death anniversaries. Make sure you attend as a sign of respect.
How can you negotiate your rent?
Once you have narrowed down your decision, it is time to negotiate your rent. Negotiation is dependent on three factors: furnishings, required deposit and contract length. Also note that the first price the landlord offers is not necessarily the one they will agree to. It is a tricky balancing act and you can generally achieve positive results on two of the three factors. A common negotiating tactic is to find an unfurnished place and negotiate to have it furnished how you want it.
How can you establish and maintain good relations with Vietnamese neighbours?
In general, good relations with Vietnamese neighbours do not require much effort compared with other nationalities. Apart from the principle that you should treat others the way you wish to be treated and the general rules about Vietnamese culture, note the following:
Be sure that the neighbourhood is suitable for you before buying/renting a house or flat. Go there in the evening when people return from work and use your observation skills (i.e., listen for loud karaoke). Say hello and goodbye to your neighbours with a sincere smile every time you meet. Show interest in their lives by asking a few questions, including questions that might seem strange for expatriates.
If there is a dispute, be patient and firm. Don’t raise your voice or make them “lose face”. If a suitable agreement cannot be reached, ask for help from the residence management board, To dan pho, or the ward’s People’s Committee. They will handle the mediation/conciliation. Offer your best wishes for special occasions such as Tet (and don’t forget to give some small li xi – lucky money – for children in the family).
Offer small gifts when returning from a long trip (not necessarily a bottle of Chanel No. 5 – it is the thought that counts)
What are the advantages of living with a Vietnamese family?
Living with a Vietnamese family can be very rewarding as it gives you a look into the daily lives that many expatriates never experience. Family is very important here and when you live in the same building, you pretty much become a de facto member even to the point of being called brother, sister, son or daughter.
What about security?
Violent crime against foreigners is rare, but petty theft can be a problem. Even shoes are at risk! In some parts of town it would be wise to leave your Christian Louboutins tucked away – expensive shoes left in front of the door have been known to disappear. Apartment blocks are more secure than flats and houses thanks to security measures such as CCTV cameras, security guards and enclosed parking areas. Also, many of the villas in D2 and D7 employ 24-hour security. If you are looking for a place to live, take a look at the windows in the surrounding buildings. If you see bars on the windows, this could be an area that gets burgled frequently. Also, a hem with a dead end is better for security as there is only one avenue of escape for a would-be thief.