Scottish Expat Living in Viet Nam - Interview with Jennie

Published: 17 Jun at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Viet Nam
As a university graduate stuck in a rut in the UK Jennie completed a TEFL course which has taken her around the world teaching, learning new experiences and travelling to places she never thought possible!
After heading out to Thailand with the view of staying for 6 months Jennie found a passion for teaching English, a love for a country and a love for an Australian boy! Jennie and Andy moved to Perth, Australia for a year before heading off again this time to South Korea to teach on an island off the bottom of the peninsula. Another year on Jennie and her now fiancee Andy have set up home in Vietnam to get one last great adventure under their belts! Jennie's expat blog is called Jennie McKie (see listing here)

Snowboarding in Gangwon-Do, Korea
Snowboarding in Gangwon-Do, Korea

Here's the interview with Jennie...

Where are you originally from?
I am originally from Glasgow, Scotland.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am now living in Hai Phong in Vietnam

How long have you lived in Viet Nam and how long are you planning to stay?
I have only been here for one month so far as I have just left South Korea where I was teaching for a year. My plan is to stay in Vietnam for one year right now, although if I like it who knows how long?!

Playing with baby tigers in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Playing with baby tigers in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Why did you move to Viet Nam and what do you do?
I am an English teacher and have used my TEFL certification to travel most of Asia. I have lived and taught in Thailand and South Korea, both for one year and have lived in Australia for one year. My fiancee and I wanted one last big adventure before moving back to Australia to buy a house, get married and live happily ever after and teaching in Vietnam seemed a great opportunity to achieve this!

Did you bring family with you?
Unfortunately no. I would love nothing more than to have my mum, dad and brother closer to me as I miss them a lot whilst I am away however the adventures I wanted meant moving far away from them. I still talk to them almost every day thanks to smartphones!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
At first when I moved to Thailand I had a sudden panic of 'What have I done?!' It was the first time I had lived on my own and been so far from home and will admit I had days when I wanted to go home.
When I just embraced the culture and made friends everything became a lot easier. Now after moving from Scotland to Thailand, then to Australia then Korea and now Vietnam it has become easier and the transition is not so bad not to mention I have my partner Andy here with me which makes the whole transition easier as you have someone to share your worries with. Going it alone was great fun but it is nice having someone with you! It can be stressful at first but I have learned just to go with the flow and enjoy myself and enjoy learning a new culture!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It has been different for the countries I have been in.
In Thailand I was in a smallish city, there were only about 15 expats- mainly older men. I hung out a lot with them but also had Thai friends and had Thai friends at school too.
In Korea, I was in the biggest shipyard in the world! There were literally 1000's of expats which meant I only really socialized with other expats as the Korean's and expats didn't really mix.
This time in Vietnam we are staying in a place similar to my experience in Thailand which I prefer much more and can hopefully make some great Vietnamese friends!

Hiding in a hidden passage in the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
Hiding in a hidden passage in the Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Visit the two big cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, both have very different styles, HCMC is just crazy and full on where as Hanoi is more laid back- but still crazy!!
Go into the Cu Chi Tunnels, shoot an AK47, learn about the Vietnam war, cruise round Ha Long Bay, see the water puppets, walk around the Hanoi Lake and eat some pho!
If you have time Hoi An is a great place to go to get tailor made suits, dresses or shirts for cheap!

What do you enjoy most about living in Viet Nam?
The food is incredible- my first week I had Pho everyday!! After Korea where I found the food a bit bland/sour/bitter the food is just so tasty and cheap! The people are super friendly and will give you a smile or even chat away to you.
I love learning about the country I am in and Vietnam is so interesting!

How does the cost of living in Viet Nam compare to home?
Dirt cheap! Although its reflected in your wages. Alcohol is very cheap as is street food. For your wages you can live like a king, but exchange it back into western money and its not a massive amount.
However while we are here we are planning on getting a wedding dress and suit made, pay for flights to India and our visa cost for Australia so you can get a lot done for your money!
It's great if you are going on holiday!!

Making friends with the locals, Vietnam
Making friends with the locals, Vietnam
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Viet Nam?
You need to learn the taxi's as there are many scams in the big cities where they ether make up a price, set the meter to go fast or jump up at a higher rate than normal. Try to use the green taxis... they seem to be the best!
There are also some people who take advantage of you not being aware of what is going on, read up on scams before you come so you know what to look out for so you don't get caught out!
The weather can be VERY humid which can make things uncomfortable at times!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Viet Nam, what would it be?
You can sometimes get Dong (currency) outwith the country... I could only get $200 worth as it is a closed currency. However you can bring US dollars with you (as long as they are new!) and exchange them here no problem! Try and bring quite a few $1 with you which are always handy and if the currency conversion blows your mind download the XE app which always comes in handy!
Also check your visa before you come, to get a tourist visa you MUST get a letter of invitation... don't just turn up without one!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Missing out on important family events, I missed my cousins wedding and my best friends engagement party. It can make you feel very low when you miss something or when you are helpless to be there when a family member is sick or when you are sick.
After three months home sickness tends to go away, but 3 years on I still get points where I miss home a lot.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I have been back twice in 3 years for a couple of weeks and it was reverse culture shock! There really is nothing like arriving home and getting a huge hug from your mum and dad at the airport, sounds silly but that simple gesture is worth millions after being away for so long. However after a few weeks you are dying to get back out there!
After Korea I had a list of food I wanted to eat and had my mum get ready for me returning... I left fat!!

Swimming with sharks in Busan, South Korea
Swimming with sharks in Busan, South Korea
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Do your research- what do you need to bring, what you can get there, is it somewhere you want to live, cost of living, what to look out for etc
  2. Have a quick look over customs so you don't offend the people.
    In Thailand for example never touch someones head or show the soles of your feet to anyone!
    In Korea- never put your chopstick in your rice sticking up as it looks like incense at a funeral.
    Just having a bit of cultural awareness will stop any awkward situations
  3. Learn some lingo! Even if it is 'hello' or 'thank you' it can get you far in a country with a different language. The locals will love you for it even if you say it wrong and it is a great way to make friends!
  4. Make a 'bucket list' of things you want to achieve whilst there, it will mean you see everything while you are there as you have all your long weekends planned whilst giving you time when there to discover hidden treasures!
  5. Go with an open mind- I meet so many expats who complain about life living away. Either about the food, customs, people or general day to day. You need to remember you are in a different country/culture and things are not done the way they are at home, or to the standards you might expect.

    If you go comparing everything to back home or expecting the same standards as back home you will have a miserable time... embrace it and you will enjoy it!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I come from a very close family and my blog was originally a way of keeping them up to date with my day to day life and so they could look at pictures and show other people if they wanted. (Not everyone has facebook and there are limits on pictures by email)
After a few months I started getting emails from people moving away and it started to become a blog to help people along the way, share some of my experiences and give advice to people who were thinking of becoming an expat!
I use it as an adventure diary, I don't write down every thought and feeling but more the adventures, achievements and advice from my travels.
I love writing it as it lets me relive all my wonderful, crazy experiences!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Either thought the 'contact me' section on my blog or via email- [email protected]

About the author

Expat Blog ListingJennie is a Scottish expat living in Viet Nam. Blog description: Across The Globe On The Adventure Of A Lifetime! Exploring Asia by teaching!
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