When coming to Vietnam to work there is always uncertainty as to what to bring – what can you buy there? What can’t you get? – this article aims to address these needs offering concrete suggestions as to what to pack and what to leave behind.
What to pack when coming to Vietnam
The first thing you need to think about what to pack when coming to Vietnam are clothes. At work, the Vietnamese tend to dress very smartly so there is a need to pack some formal clothes for work purposes. For men, this is a shirt and tie and long trousers ( not jeans ) and for women a blouse and skirt or trousers or a dress ( with sleeves ) You can buy clothes in Vietnam however as a general rule they are for the smaller sizes so it is not so easy to get clothes the larger you are. It is possible to have clothes made so if you have a favourite item of clothing then bring this along and you can get it replicated in various materials.
Do make sure that you look up the weather for where you will be working in Vietnam as the country has a huge difference in climate. In the South ( for example, Ho Chi Minh City ) it is hot all year round so you will need to pack thin tops and shorts and clothes made of natural fibres. In comparison, in the North (for example, Hanoi) there are distinct seasons with the summers being hot and the winters being cold so there is a need for cardigans and thick jackets.
As well as catering for small sizes in clothes, the same is true for footwear. For women the largest size typically found is a maximum of European size 38 or 39 and for men European size 42 or 43.. This is relatively small for expats so unless you have small feet it is recommended that you bring a selection of shoes with you for both work and leisure. There are however a large number of sports shoes (trainers) which are available in slightly larger sizes. Many of these are pretend brand names (which can be of exceptionally high quality) so just bring one pair and purchase when coming to Vietnam.
Swimming costumes are quite hard to buy in Vietnam – bikinis are quite common however. The swimming costumes tend to be the type with skirts and bows etc. – so more decorative rather than designed for serious swimming so it is advised that you bring your own. There are a lot of pools in Vietnam (as well as a lot of beaches) so even if you are not yet an avid swimmer there will be a lot of opportunities for you to wear your swimming costume.
During the school year there are often opportunities for you to showcase your country’s traditional costume – so if you can bring something along that would be great. If your country does not have a costume as such then it is a good idea to at least bring a flag. People in Vietnam are always curious about your home country and your home life so photographs are always useful to bring as well as any local maps or tour books.
Flashcards and teaching materials
In relation to teaching materials, there is a huge variety between what schools and language centres offer, however it is best to bring more rather than not enough. Flashcards that you like are a good start and you should also include any special games when coming to Vietnam. You can buy sticky balls and stationary here so you can always make your own things as well.
Vietnam has a wide range of foodstuffs and most basic things are available. At the international food shops (L’s place), you can buy imported goods – however these are incredibly expensive so it is recommended that you bring a supply of your own favourite foods – whether this is marmite or pickle or some special local speciality. Chocolate is available in Vietnam however it is expensive so if you have space in your luggage make sure that you fill it to the maximum with chocolate.
There is a huge range of toiletries in Vietnam – often at cheaper prices than in the West – so just bring your essentials for the first few days and simply buy here. All of the major brands are available and there are even some body shop stores. The only toiletries that are not easily available / are very expensive, are tampons – so it is advised that you bring enough to last you when coming to Vietnam.
Although you can have your hair professionally dyed in the beauty salon, if you usually dye your hair then it recommended that you bring your own dye with you. As Vietnamese have black hair then the dyes are suitable for black hair (typically a range of browns) which means that although looking great on locals, for foreigners the look is less than great!
Although Vietnamese food is good, there is a lack of dairy products in the cooking so it is easy to become low in calcium. As a result it is recommended that you bring a supply of basic multivitamins with you – the simple one a day type is fine – you simply need something to boost your basic intake.
As you will undoubtedly be invited to people’s houses for events and dinners, it is a good idea to bring a selection of cheap gifts from your home country. These do not need to be expensive, but as they are unusual then they will be very much appreciated. Items such as local pictures, local embroidery or local Knick-knacks are recommended.