“How life is easy here. You have your motorbike, you do what you want to when you want to. I do appreciate this freedom ! You can go from a small Vietnamese folk place to a rooftop skybar, there are too many options in this city ! Depending on your wishes and needs, you just have to walk a little bit to find what you need. It’s cool and full of great places to discover.”
What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Domitille, and I come from Orléans, in the center of France. But I studied in Brussels, Belgium.
Why did you come to Vietnam?
Vietnam is a constantly moving country. Especially in the field of architecture, there are many opportunities, more than in France, and I am particularly interested in emerging countries. I began looking for an internship in many countries, all emerging countries such as Vietnam. I I had the opportunity to do an exchange program in Chili, through the Erasmus Program, so I applied to many companies in Chili. But I heard that real estate is quite on stand-by there so it was tough, and Archetype replied quite quickly so here I am.
How long have you stayed here and when will you decide to come back to your country?
I’m here for 5 months now, and I don’t know when I’ll go back to France. I know for sure that I’ll come back to Vietnam because I had a crush. Ideally, it would be to come back to France in August for holidays, then moving back to Vietnam in September to work here.
What do you like the most in Vietnam? Why?
How life is easy here. You have your motorbike, you do what you want to when you want to. I do appreciate this freedom ! You can go from a small Vietnamese folk place to a rooftop skybar, there are too many options in this city ! Depending on your wishes and needs, you just have to walk a little bit to find what you need. It’s cool and full of great places to discover. Vietnam, more generally, is a nice country still wild. I’ve been to Phu Quoc Island, and I was like “Oh no, what are they doing to this island ?!” Because you hear everyone saying that it’s a paradise island, the most paradise of Vietnam. Then when you arrive, you see them building everywhere, full of dust, you just want to tell them to stop it right now, to keep it natural and wild ! Obviously Vietnam is developing, but without much caring, and they’ll be aware of it in 20 years, when it could be too late. They are not aware that we come for nature and wildness. With my friend, we thought that if walk a little bit to the South of the island, it would have been better, we would find a place more natural. Finally we arrived to a village, but it looks no more like a village, everything is under construction, once again full of dust. They build hotels and resorts along the beach, so many parts of the beach are becoming private beaches. We found a non-private place, but then it was full of waste, while it’s a paradise place, the water is turquoise there ! From our European point of view, and especially French point of view, we always think it’s shocking. But it was the same in France 20 years ago !
I also remembered when I came to Ninh Binh, the earthly Ha Long Bay, I asked informations to the receptionist of my hotel, she told me “Come to that place ! It’s nice there !”. So with my friend we’ve been there, and then we arrived in a noisy area full of Vietnamese tourists, constantly taking pictures. We were just looking for a natural and wild place, with ricefields and mountains.
The cultural gap is also in tourism, Vietnamese tourism and European tourism seem different.
We do not travel for the same reasons.
Do you think it is difficult to find a place to live in HCMC?
No I think it’s really easy. Because we always know someone who knows about Saigon. Or on the expats groups, everyone will tell you where you should live. Concerning how to find a place, it’s really easy on the Facebook groups. I posted and on the same day, I got so many replies ! That’s how I find GlobeTrottr.
Where do you live right now in Saigon ? What do you think about your neigboorhood ?
I love it ! Because it’s between the district 1, the center of Saigon, the district 2 where my friends live, and my office in district 4. Even though there are many building constructions around here, it’s still a Vietnamese folk area, and that’s what I wanted. It’s also really close to the Binh Thanh district, which is such a lovely district ! Anyway I think if I stay in Vietnam I’ll move to Binh Thanh. District 2 is nice, but not to live in, it doesn’t help in cultural immersion, not authentic enough.
What do you think about youth mobility now? Is it easier compared to the generation of our parents?
It’s becoming more and more common. Nowadays, I think that our mentalities changed and we get used to traveling and moving. Opportunities that we can get overseas might be better than the ones we can get in France. Especially in the field of architecture, where it’s clogged. It’s now a bit better than before, but the effects of the crisis are still here so nobody hires. Here, it took me only 2 days to get 3 interviews.
So now, we move more because of the opportunities overseas, and also because of our need of discovering, of traveling. And now it’s trendy ! Before I told myself that later I should move abroad and travel. Having been in Chili, loved it so much, mer new persons et began a new life, it was amazing. I believe that sometimes it’s good to change your life and get out of your routine, your comfort zone.
Do you think in general, with digital evolution, home ownership is still a social standard for young people?
From my point of view, and for now, I won’t buy a house. But I think that at some point in my life, I’ll need to settle down, and depending on your mentality, you may want to have a family, with kids and stop wandering around. You may also want to invest.
Home ownership is something that is still in people’s mind. Maybe less than before because we travel more, but it stays. For now, I can travel, but at some point I will come back to France and settle down, mainly because of the family staying in France, and I miss too many family events, such as wedding, etc.
But it also depends on people, because some people are homebirds, they need their friends and their family around them, in their own little cocoon, so they don’t expect to travel much.
What do you know about GlobeTrottr?
It’s a very nice choice of concept, which will work better if some points were improved.
So according to you, on which points can we improve?
I think that it’s a great concept ! I really like it, especially the fact that GlobeTrottr is a lot on social networks, such a good idea. GlobeTrottr also replies really quickly on Facebook Messenger, even by sending pictures etc, so everything goes really quickly.
However, when I arrived, they just showed me the room, nobody made a visit of the house to me, while I needed it, because I booked my room without visiting, only through pictures. Since I knew what I wanted to book, and I needed to book it quickly, and it fit my expectations : a sharehouse, with housemates from different countries, a Vietnamese folk area, close to my office and practical. And when I came, it wasn’t really clean.
I also had a VISA problem, I sent an email and I didn’t get any answer. When it became urgent, I had to send a second mail, because it always takes several days when you need something, but when it comes to bills they are always on time.
I think that the concept is really nice, organizing events for expats is great ! But I think that they also need to invest more in renovating the houses or about cleaning. Their houses fit perfectly with semi-long term stay, but if I stay longer in Vietnam, I’d like a cleaner place, even if the maid comes twice a week. We may have differents standards of cleanliness, but they should adapt more to expats standards. However, it may be just in my house, some houses may be cleaner than others.
Whatever, the concept is awesome, so there is not much for it to be really really great !!! Adding more comfort and equipments and it will rocks because it’s a promising concept !
Can you tell us a little story which happened during your trip ?
I was taking a night bus from Hoi An to Nha Trang with a friend, we were telling each other “Don’t forget to tell to the driver to stop near the Whale island”. We told him, and he was so angry, you know how the Vietnamese drivers are ! He groaned but finally at 3am, he dropped us off where we wanted him to. He violently woke us up because they were in a hurry (as always!). I even forgot my bras in the bus ! When he opened the hold, I quickly took our two backpacks and they left. We were in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, so we thought about going to a joint, taking something to eat or to drink then resting on the beach. My friend carried on her backpack and suddenly screamed “Domi ! Domi ! It’s not my bag !!!” (laughs). So I had my backpack, but she had someone else’s backpack. The worst thing is that we don’t even have the name or the phone number of our bus company. Furthermore in Vietnam, there’s no bus station, all the bus stop at gas stations or coffee shops. I was so embarrassed because it was me who took the backpack off the bus. We didn’t know what to do so we just kept walking to find a joint, and my friend was almost crying. At the joint, we tried to explain what was happening but nobody understood. Then we tried to negotiate with a truck to drive us to Nha Trang but it doesn’t work. Finally a night bus showed up and accepted to drive us and dropped us off at a gas station. There were many buses there, but we couldn’t find ours. It was hell because we didn’t sleep, we were tired, people were screaming “taxis, taxis?” everywhere and we still didn’t find the backpack yet ! I looked at the backpack and we saw a label on the bag with name and the number of the owner ! We met at a coffee and exchanged the backpacks. From this moment, everything was cool. There was a building site next to the coffee we were in, so all the workers were having their coffee before going to work with us. We had so much fun with them, they took so many selfies ! When we were about to leave and wanted to pay our coffees, the waiter said that the workers already paid for us. But they already left, before us, and they didn’t say anything ! It was so nice !! And the waiter was so nice too, he didn’t try to scam us.
Then we took another bus to get back to the Whale island, where we were supposed to be 6 hours ago. Once there, we realized that it was too difficult to catch the boat and to reach the island. A guy came and told us “Come on, I’ll take you there!”. Completely unconscious, we followed him, we were 3 on the scooter with our 2 big backpacks, without helmet !!! For 20KM until we reached the peninsula !
But that’s what a nice trip is about, full of ups and downs ! It was the same in Chile, crazy things happened, but it always ends well.
Can you resume Vietnam in one word ?
What is the biggest culture shock for you ?
There’s a huge culture shock. Because it’s chaotic, everyone does what he wants to here, but it doesn’t matter because it works. And there are always out there in the streets, you can come home at 3-4am after a party, you’ll see people already out for gym !
Do you consider yourself as a global citizen ?
No. When I come to another country, I always miss France so much. For example at this moment, I am missing French food so hard. When being abroad, I feel more like a “French citizen living abroad” than a global citizen. I adapt myself really quickly and easily to other cultures, but I stay French.
What will be your next destination ?
For now, and if possible, it would still be Vietnam. Of Asia more generally, because I think there are many opportunities in architecture. Same in South America, that I loved so much ! Africa seems interesting too. I lived in Madagascar for 6 years when I was younger, because my dad worked there, then we came back to France to study. I really enjoyed living there, that’s why I want to discover more about Africa. It’s not safe enough for the moment, and many problems need to be solved. But once it’ll be done, it would be a great place ! People don’t think much about Africa because it’s not dynamic enough but it certainly is a nice continent.
Interviewed by Joanny, GlobeTrottr staff