Vietnam… we’re still in the country and have at least a week & a half left as I write this but just wanted to jot down some thoughts as we go forward.
First of all the Vietnamese people are hands down some of the nicest we’ve ever run across in our travels. And we’ve met a lot of nice ‘locals’ over the years. Genuine, not because they can make a buck on us, sincerely nice folk. Sure when we’re in restaurants and on tours we kind of expect the kindness. But when we’re walking through back alleys and areas where this isn’t a business enterprise in sight and the residents we’re passing have no way to sell us anything they’re still awesome! The kids in particular are ‘hello, hello!’. I think the locals realize the importance of english as a ‘universal language’ and so encourage their kids to learn it early. I’ve even had moms on public buses try to gently push their pre-school age children into a light conversation with DJ and I for the experience. Even the adults who never learned any english and have no desire to do so will still wave and flash a sincere smile. So while yes, it seems everyone in Vietnam wants to sell you something even when they’re not they are awesomely nice!
Why does everyone in Vietnam want to sell us (americans) something? It’s largely because they see us as all being quite wealthy and relatively speaking we are when compared to the average local. We’ve heard numbers somewhere along the lines of $7-10 USD a day. As I look through some of the local job postings that number seems to be borne out by the ads – here’s one:
To break that down a bit… using the current exchange 5 million dong a month is $219 USD. A month. Even the chef is ‘only’ earning $307 USD / month on a six day workweek. Oh, and the cook making 20k dong an hour is getting the equivalent of 88 cents US an hour. Granted there is food & drink included in these particular salaries but if you think for a second that it is anything extravagant you’d be sadly mistaken. Local dishes can be purchased for less than a buck USD and we’ve seen hostels for $3 USD a night. So I guess you could add perhaps $3-5 USD a day to the above rates. The reality is the average service worker is going to be in the sub $2 USD / day range. And my point to this little wage and earnings exercise is that as an American you can live like royalty here if you do you want for a fraction of what it would cost back in the states.
Other costs while I’m jotting down financials… local beer (not that I like it) less than $1 / can. Thirty minute shuttle ride from Hoi An (current location) to the main airport, $10.97 for up to 4 pax. Coke / soda can be had for 50 cents/ can. Our lodging, which is quite nice and includes a good breakfast, is working out to $29/day and we could have gone MUCH cheaper but this is our comfort zone.
There is a very noticeable expat population here and it’s quickly becoming clear as to why that is!