LIVING IN HANOI AS A LOCAL
Moving to a completely different country and culture can be shocking at first and moving to Hanoi, Vietnam can seem especially daunting. This is even the case for Vietnamese people from other provinces. There is a language barrier, it is difficult to find accurate information, and living in a new city is intimidating. Nevertheless, more and more foreigners choose Hanoi as a long-term destination. If you know some pro tips, life will be easier.
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, located in the center of the northern region. It used to be the capital of Dai Viet, the strongest ancient kingdom of the Vietnamese, for more than a thousand years. After the Vietnam War, in 1976, Hanoi was chosen to be the capital city of the country. Now it’s the second fastest developing and populated city, after Ho Chi Minh City in the south.
Khue Van Cac – the symbol of Hanoi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Nowadays, many foreigners decide to live long-term in Hanoi, not only because it’s a beautiful city, but also because the cost of living here is cheap. In this article, I will share some basic notes about Hanoi and how to live here like a local. Let’s start with the weather and climate.
Weather in Hanoi
The Hanoi climate is typical of northern Vietnam. Expect a humid tropical monsoon climate with the very hot and rainy summers and cold dry winters. From May to September is summer, also known as the rainy season. Winter lasts from November to March. Between these two main seasons, spring and autumn act as pleasant transitions in April and October respectively.
During the summer, the estimated average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. The hottest season is in June, of which the monthly average temperature is 29.2 degrees Celsius, some days it gets up to 38 degrees. You will feel extremely irritated by this kind of weather! But this heat does not last long because after the hot consecutive days, it will rain heavily, dampening all the heat in Hanoi.
From mid-September, it turns steadily into autumn when the temperature drops and rain lasts for several days. In autumn, the plants change from green to yellow. People say that autumn is the most stunning and charming season in Hanoi, in which Hanoi becomes subtle and poetic. There have been many songs and poems written about Hanoi’s fall season.
Hanoi is so romantic in autumn. Photo: maxpixel.net
In November, winter arrives. Dry air blows from the northeast to Vietnam, bringing with it low temperatures and a very dry atmosphere. Temperatures can be as low as 17 degrees Celsius. This season feels colder than usual because the humid air makes for a chilling atmosphere. The cold humidity gets into your clothes and can leave you more chilled than expected.
In February and March, the temperature and humidity rise. It begins to rain all day long. This is the signal of spring. Usually, Tet (Vietnamese New Year) occurs during spring, when plants start to revive. From April to May, the first thunder indicates the arrival of summer. Then, the cycle of the seasons continues.
Colorful Hanoi during spring. Photo: wiki-travel.com.vn
The four seasons keeps you on your toes. Notice the transitions to prepare suitable clothes for each season. During spring, as I mentioned above, it rains lightly all day, so you should always have a raincoat or an umbrella. One more note of importance is that March is the time of the Nom wind. This makes it so hot and humid that you cannot dry
your washed clothes by hanging them. If you don’t have many clothes, you should use a dryer to dry them after washing, or pay for washing and drying services.
Shopping in Hanoi – Where to Buy Clothes, Cuisine, and Household Appliances?
Hanoi is one of the most active cites in the country so many people immigrate here from within Vietnam. This populated situation creates a demand for many types of goods. As such, Hanoi has many malls, stores, and supermarkets selling everything you need for your living requirements.
Regarding clothing, we have published a detailed article Guide to Shopping in Hanoi for all your shopping needs. We have included well-known stores for both men and women.
Photo: Flickr @shankar s.
Food is arguably one of the best parts about Hanoi. As you know, Hanoi used to be the capital of the ancient Vietnam for thousands of years. This condition has gifted the city with traditional and typical Vietnamese dishes. If you live long-term in Hanoi, you shouldn’t miss these famous dishes:
Pho should be the very first thing you eat. Pho, or noodles with beef soup, is considered the most famous and delicious food of Vietnam. Nowadays, pho acts as the symbol of Vietnamese cuisine. People say that it originated in Hanoi, so Hanoian pho brings a very exotic taste to the table.
Bun cha of Hanoi should be the second name on the list. This is a kind of rice vermicelli with grilled fatty pork. Bun cha of Hanoi became famous when Barack Obama visited Vietnam and complimented its excellent taste.
Another traditional dish of Hanoi is com of Vong village. The immature heads of grain are collected to make this green rice. It has a special and wonderful taste and many nutrients.
There are many other awesome dishes waiting for you in Hanoi. We have collected the best dishes of Hanoi and the trustworthy restaurants and stalls that sell them. Take a quick look at this article and determine your favorites.
If you want to cook meals yourself in your apartment, I recommend going to the supermarket instead of local markets. The two main reasons being you probably don’t know enough Vietnamese to communicate with buyers at local markets (the majority of locals don’t know English well), and the price at supermarkets is fixed so you can manage your budget better. This also helps you avoid scams abundant in local markets when buyers consider you a traveler and think you are ready to pay higher prices.
In the supermarkets, you can also buy household appliances with reasonable prices and high-quality goods. Here are my recommended supermarkets:
· Tran Phu street, Mo Lao urban area, Mo Lao ward, Ha Dong district, Hanoi city
· B1 basement, Artemis tower, 3 Le Trong Tan street, Khuong Mai ward, Thanh Xuan district, Hanoi city
· 7-9 Nguyen Van Linh street, basement of Savico Megamall, Long Bien district, Hanoi city
· First floor, Me Linh Plaza, Kilometer number 8, Bac Thang Long – Noi Bai highway, Quang Minh ward, Me Linh district, Hanoi city
· 222 Tran Duy Hung street, Trung Hoa ward, Cau Giay district, Hanoi city
· B1 basement, The Garden mall, Me Tri street, My Dinh ward, Tu Liem district, Hanoi city
Vinmart+: There are hundreds of Vinmart+ convenient stores all around Hanoi city. Access this link to find the closest store to your place.
Traffic in Hanoi and How to Rent a Motorbike to Get Around
At present, Hanoi has nearly six million motorbikes, 500,000 cars, and more than 1.2 million vehicles from other provinces driving Hanoi’s streets. The city is densely populated and it rises every day, which means the number of vehicles increases while the streets remain unchanged from many years ago. During rush hours, which are usually 6:30 AM – 8 AM and 4:30 PM – 6 PM, there are many congested traffic jams.
The traffic is beyond annoying. It wastes your time and even harms your health. At a traffic jam, hundreds of vehicles release fumes at the same time and on your motorbike, these fumes float directly at face level. Therefore, my tip for this situation is that you should not go out during these hours.
On your very first days in Hanoi, if you don’t want to buy a motorbike immediately because you don’t know whether you can ride it well, renting one is a good idea. Not only is Hanoi a political and economic center of Vietnam, but it is also home to many famous tourist attractions, so there are many tourist services, including renting motorbikes out for traveling around the city. Here are some recommendations:
Tam Viet Motorbike for Rent Address: 26, Alley 35, Duong Lang street, Dong Da district, Hanoi city Website: Tam Viet WebpageContact: +84 966 209 796 Price: 50,000 – 150,000 VND per day
Bon Bon Motor Address: 246 Ton Duc Thang street, Dong Da district, Hanoi city Website: Bon Bon Motor Facebook PageContact: +84 1255 222 555 Price: 50,000 – 150,000 VND per day
Hanoi Motor Tour Address: 167/37/119 Tay Son street, Dong Da district, Hanoi city Website: Hanoi Motor Tour WebpageContact: +84 92829 0000 Price: 50,000 – 150,000 VND per day
Than Thien Transportation Company Address: 678 Bach Dang street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi city Website: Than Thien Webpage Contact: +84 912 310 505 Price: 50,000 – 150,000 VND per day
Areas to Live in Hanoi – Cost of Renting – Other Conveniences
Hanoi is big, and it offers people many different types of places in which to settle down. You can stay anywhere in the city if you want and it’s easy to travel to your workplace. However, there are some areas with a higher concentration of expats with a network of amenities that you might need.
· Tay Ho district: This district has the most expats of Hanoi, it provides many conveniences for Westerners such as gyms, restaurants, and bars. Surely, Tay Ho is the most expensive choice, but it’s worth it to pay for those amenities, right?
· Ba Dinh district: This district is next to Tay Ho district to the south. It’s more “Vietnamese” than the previous one, but you can find a lot of people who speak the same language as you here. Ba Dinh is also home to Thang Long Imperial Citadel and Ho Chi Minh mausoleum.
· Dong Da district: From Dong Da district, you can easily reach other areas of Hanoi. The population density in Dong Da district is the highest in Hanoi, which means more Vietnamese locals. But a plus of Dong Da is that it’s home to many universities, so there are many options regarding accommodation and you can find the cheapest places to stay here.
The cost of renting varies, of course, based on the area and the quality. Normally, it’s not difficult to find a room or an apartment with two bedrooms and well-furnished for about 300 to 400 USD per month. There are also plenty of options for luxury rooms and villas in Hanoi. Airbnb in Hanoi can help you find a place that you can call home.TNH Hanoi is also a great help to find a qualified place to accommodate yourself.
Since Hanoi is one of the most flourishing cities in Vietnam, you don’t need to worry about conveniences like hospitals, pharmacies, schools, and banks. Foreign hospitals are way more expensive that local hospitals, and you can get treated in local hospitals. The professional Vietnamese doctors are better than ever. However, the problem is the language barrier! Most Vietnamese doctors can speak English, but not very well. Sometimes, there may be big problems with your health and it’s much easier to communicate with a doctor speaking your own language. Here are two recommendations:
Family Medical Practice (American Hospital) Address: 298 Kim Ma street, Ba Dinh district, Hanoi city
L’hôpital Francais De Hanoi (French Hospital) Address: 1 Phuong Mai street, Dong Da district, Hanoi city
How to Find a Job in Hanoi?
It’s not difficult to find a job in Hanoi! If you have a university certificate, you’ll definitely find a job with good compensation. Vietnamese companies prefer employees from Western countries because they believe they have received a better education than their Vietnamese counterparts. If you don’t have a certificate or just simply don’t want to work in that field, there are still plenty of chances for you: every day foreign English teachers are needed! English centers in Hanoi are abundant. Most of the time, you do not need to have any teaching certificate like TEFL or CELTA (having one definitely gives you a better chance and higher salary). Some social groups on Facebook post teaching jobs every day, you can effortlessly find one.
You may want to visit and join these groups: Hanoi Massive, English Teachers In Hanoi, and Hanoi Teachers. Teaching is paid by the hour and only when you are in class. Most schools will not pay you for lesson planning. The salaries vary based on the hours you teach, morning or night classes, and weekday or weekend classes. Normally, you can earn around 16 to 25 USD per hour. Be sure that you are making around 500 USD a month in Hanoi, this will easily cover most of your expenses.
If you are going to live and work in Hanoi for a very long time, you will need a work permit! According to Vietnamese law, foreigners who work in Vietnam more than three months are obligated to ask for a work permit and sign a labor contract with their company. The available duration of a Vietnamese work permit is a maximum two years. Expats usually say that it is no problem if you do not have one. However, if you are recognized by the authorities, the consequence is expulsion.
To get a work permit, you need to ask your employer to help you. Your Vietnamese employer knows the language and the law better than you. In general, if you are working for an English center, your employer will help you but be wary of scams. Some English centers will use the work permit to keep you employed at their company for over a year. So during this process, be sure to clarify all details between your contract and work permit.
People in Hanoi – Notes on Lifestyle
Wake up at 5 AM and you will see many Hanoians on the streets already, especially in the parks. Hanoi citizens love to get up early in the morning and exercise. You will see some people gathering to practice Tai-Chi, and some run around Hoan Kiem lake. Hanoian people like to start their day earlier than in other cities of Vietnam. If you have been to Ho Chi Minh City, you will see the obvious differences between it and Hanoi.
Hanoi’s lifestyle is typical of the northern Vietnamese lifestyle due to cultural and historical reasons. Generally, Hanoians really focus on appearance and tradition. For example, you need to dress neatly when you go out, especially at work. You are required to wear formal clothes in the office if you don’t want to be looked at like an alien by your Vietnamese colleagues. Our country has an expression “nhap gia tuy tuc”, which means when you enter one’s house, you should follow the culture and rules of that house. Your employer and colleagues will be more impressed if you know how to respect them. People think dressing well is one way to show your respect to others. Moreover, elderly and high-position people should be respected in our culture.
Street food is a characteristic eating style of Vietnamese cuisine. You will encounter many food stalls on the streets around Hanoi. It is believed that street food tastes much better than food in restaurants. Moreover, it’s really cheap. You can easily drop by any stall you see on the street and enjoy the traditional dishes. But you should be aware of food safety. Not all the street food stalls are safe for your stomach and health. Choose the ones that have a lot of people and are making food fresh.
Photo: Flickr @katiebordner
One more cultural note is that what if you visit a Vietnamese friend’s home and are invited to a meal with the family, politely decline. I’m sad to say that you should not accept the invitation and instead, you just need to say thanks! This must do with a northern type of politeness. In Hanoi, guests usually don’t visit at meal time. If there are guests, the hosts will delay the meal time or invite the guests just out of politeness. And the guests will decline the invitation due to politeness as well. This has become the culture of Hanoi and northern Vietnam. If you are living in the south, you can comfortably eat with the hosts if invited.
I hope this article provides you some useful information about living long term and working in Hanoi, our beautiful capital city.
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