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!
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.
2. Reach out to the expat and local communities !
Expat wives, there are great communities such as Hanoi International Women Club, Le Cercle des Francophones …
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.
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!