Our first year in Hanoi: 3 tips for new expat families

It’s already been a year since our little family of 4 has settled in Hanoi.

Yes, we are totally melting in summer, freezing in winter and we do wear the  usual anti pollution masks far too often.

But we played it like Vietnamese scooter drivers. We connected to the energy of the vibrant city and kept on moving. There is so much to explore here, it’s easy to make friends and make the best of your stay in Vietnam!

1. Visit and keep on learning

First thing you need in Hanoi is to download the Air Checker apps so you don’t forget your masks when the index are bad .. Simultaneously, download the Translate App and Google Map. Viber and WhatsApp are must too, as people hardly call each other but text. The cheapest and most efficient way to communicate.

Now you’re set!

Chances to explore Hanoi are endless. Pay a visit to “Made in Vietnam” to dress according to the weather and get outside!

50 cents for a decent haircut in the street!

The city is safe, and even if your Vietnamese is as limited as mine, you ‘ll always find someone to help you find your way.


Just bear in mind that most Vietnamese, like most of Asian people, would rather indicate a wrong direction than admitting that they don’t know. It’s a matter of not losing face. So trust yes, but confirm it all with Google map.

I can’t recomment Hanoi kids enough. They are super knowledgeable about their town and I always learn so much about the Vietnamese society and culture. Make sure you book in advance though, they are becoming famous hence not so available.

Duong 2 is on our top list of Vietnamese restaurant. They offer great cooking classes, including a visit to the market. They made it vegetarian for me and my family, and we loved it. Visiting with locals, listening to their stories and learning about their life while cooking is the best combo. It feels like sharing the table with friends.

And if you can spare a few hours a month, volunteering is indeed the best way to get to know your host country. I am working with the NGO Coup de Pouce and there are many other ones that would also be glad to have you on board.

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2. Reach out to the expat and local communities !

There are endless Facebook groups and ways to make friends in Hanoi. Try Hanoi Massive, Hanoi Beautiful, 40+ and fab, and scroll the long list of events happening in town.

Expat wives, there are great communities such as Hanoi International Women Club, Le Cercle des Francophones …

Yoga has been a great way to meet up with wonderful people! Namaste Yoginis ❤

There are also many options for SAHM with babies, such as Hanoi Parent and Baby group on Facebook! Expat fora are the best to find a helper or a nanny as they are coming with recommendations. The majority of nannys speak English and some even good French.

Expatriation has its super high and super down moments, so having a circle of friends is essential when you are so far from home. Don’t be shy, introduce yourself on fora, talk to your neighbours and before you know it you’ll be fully booked with friends from all over the world!

3. Make it happen, it’s easier than you think

If you ever feel lonely, think that you are certainly not the only one so reach out!

I started teaching yoga once a week a month after we moved here. And after 8 months I have 6 classes, including kids yoga. It just worked out of words of mouth, and I am so grateful for the chance to teach also at my kids school, the British International School.

Super grateful for the chance to teach kids from year 2 to 4 this year. Strong, focused and super sweet little yogis!

If you believe in what you can offer, let the world know. As simple as that. Hanoi is a very fast moving city, with an incredible energy. People will be happy to try new things, to meet up. That’s how I’ve met with my closest friends, by sharing what we like best. I am eventually taking singing classes and I found a highly professional yoga and pilates studio where I will learn to become a Pilates teacher next fall!

Last January we set up a big fundraising campaign and the response was far beyond my expectations. There were so many kind people asking for what they could give, time, clothes, any kind of expertise. We even got a restaurant that hosted our garage sale for free. Again, it’s all a matter of reaching out, really. So don’t be shy.


We have been expatriates for over a decade so I know the feeling of starting over in a new country. Feel free to contact me if you have any question, I’ll be happy to help or point you to someone who would do it better.  Welcome to Hanoi!






16 thoughts on “Our first year in Hanoi: 3 tips for new expat families

  1. Great post on your first year. Wow a year in Hanoi, already?! So fun to have seen your transition from Phillipines to Hanoi and applaud you for throwing yourself into your new ecosystem with zest and enthusiasm. Love the pic of the kids in the rickshaw, especially your sons expression and those eyebrows!

    When we were there Ben loved to get his shave on the street and we enjoyed the yoga studio there as well.


    1. Thanks ❤ I discovered Zenith thanks to you, and this studio is my other home 🙂

      Yes it's been a massive change from the Phils, and even though Marcel is still working like a radical Swiss (can you believe Swiss voted against an extra week of paid holidays?), we are enjoying Vietnam!
      Feels good to experience seasons again and to have a circle of friends. And last but not least, we have been blessed by many visitors this year, half of my family included 🙂

      We are traveling back to France in 10 days and for the first time in years I have something to look forward to after the holidays. I had always pretended it was not so meaningful, but .. it is actually.

      Big Hug !

  2. What…no…it can’t be a year! I don’t believe it! 😲

    I’m so glad to hear you and your family have adjusted to Hanoi. You seem to be doing so well there!

    1. Neither can I ! time has been flying at an incredible speed. Yes, we really like it here, I can find so many things I ve been missing in the Phils. First and foremost great friends and a very professional yoga studio, and so much to explore .. First time in years I am actually happy to come back after the summer break 🙂

      1. Ah that’s wonderful! I could tell from your posts and pictures that you’ve seemed to have found more of a community in Hanoi. So happy for you! Enjoy your summer break!

  3. A great welcoming post Estelea. Thank you. Hard to believe you’ve been there a year. Warm wishes as always. Thanks so much for your recent important comments on thechangingpalette. They were much appreciated.

    1. Thanks a lot Andrew! I am always so touched by your humanity, thanks for writing those necessary posts!

  4. I’ve been in Hanoi a few months now. I’ve found two English corners to make friends, and two of those friends are helping me learn a little Vietnamese. Tough language, friendly people.

    1. Very tough language indeed! You are braver than me 😉 although “learning basic Vietnamese” has been on the top of my to do list for a while now .. I really feel ashamed to speak (hardly any) Taxi Viet: left, right, straight, stop, thanks .
      I came to realise I actually don’t know many Vietnamese people either, for this reason. The only ones I know do speak English, even French! Your message reminds me to put some effort into this resolution and find a way to learn more Vietnamese sooner than later 😉 Thanks !

      1. Most of my Vietnamese friends speak decent English, too, a rather random assortment from English Corners and work. I used to live in China, and most of my friends there were college educated (or grad students), middle class women, because their English was generally the best.

    1. Ça passe plus vite ici qu’aux Philippines ! Cet été on sera déjà à mi mandat … va falloir se remettre à faire campagne bientôt !

  5. You and your Globetrotting Family is awesome.
    Was it a year already?!
    You´ve done really well.
    You have integrated and conquered all these Expat blues..a very honest posts about what happens there on an ordinary street life.
    Hanoi looked definitely a very exciting place to visit, hopefully we can make it soon,thanks to your daily shares that I am having a glimpse of your world.
    Stay Happy!

    P.s I loved every photo of your son having a haircut in different countries..! too cute

    1. Oh thanks so much !!! It’s been almost 3 years already ! Time really flies, I can’t believe we are leaving in 4 months already. We have a hard tme figuring out the “where” in those weird covid times, but something nice will come out.. Well, it’s the company that matters so we should be fine 😉 Lots of love to you all!

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