“If you want to grow up, get out of your comfort zone”.
Who are you?
My name is Alexandre Le Sonn, I am a French student at Grenoble Ecole de Management. Passionate about entrepreneurship I am a member of a student organization called Gem Entreprendre and I am also crazy about traveling and motorcycling.
Why did you come to Vietnam?
I decided to come to Vietnam for 2 major reasons, the first is that I have Vietnamese origins on my father’s side, yes I know, it doesn’t show. (laughs) Secondly, as part of my studies I wanted to do a 3-month internship in an international start-up, so it was the perfect opportunity to fly away to Vietnam.
What do you like the most in Vietnam? Why?
I haven’t been here so long but I can already say that I really appreciate the kindness of people here in Ho-chi-minh. Although it’s a big city you can feel a certain proximity with the population. The food is also incredible, as a food lover, I really find my happiness here, the dishes are really good and varied. Even if for the moment it’s not the opinion of my stomach. (laughs)
How long are you going to stay here?
I will probably spend 4 months in Vietnam, the time to do my internship and to travel all around the country.
Do you think it is difficult to find a place to live in HCMC?
Finding housing isn’t that hard, there are a lot of Facebook groups, and people are more of a mutual helper. However, finding a place that you really like and that meets all your expectations is another story. We should not forget that we are in Vietnam and the Vietnamese standards and services are not necessarily the same as in Europe.
Where do you live right now in Saigon? What do you think about your neigborhood?
I am living in Binh Tanh, it’s a very authentic neighborhood, very few expatriates live here, I am one of the only strangers to live in this district, which does not fail to attract the curiosity and smiles of my neighbors. I sincerely believe that to discover a culture and a way of life in depth this is the best solution.
Can you tell us a little story about what has happened to you during your trip?
The first day of my arrival it rained a lot because it’s the monsoon at the moment. At the end of the day, once my first day of work was over, I wanted to go home, but in the neighborhood where I live there are problems with pipes and because of the rain all the streets were flooded, there was at least 40 cm of water, I had never seen that in my life. So I took off my jeans and shoes and walked in the rain with water up to my knees to get home, it was an unbelievable situation.
A thing like that in Paris and the news would have been talking about it for 2 months but here everyone was going on with their lives normally and people were smiling and they were amused by the situation, that’s what marked me the most.
Can you describe Vietnam in one word?
I can’t describe Vietnam in one word because I only know Saigon at the moment, but if I had to describe Ho-Chi-Minh in one word I would say: VIBRANT! There is a real energy in this city that is quite different than what can be found in other big cities.
What is the biggest culture shock for you?
I would say without hesitation, the scooter culture and the way to ride here. There are about 9 million scooters in Ho-chi-minh and I’ve never seen a mess like this before. Every trip is full of surprises, I’ve been riding since I was a kid but I’m always impressed by the traffic here.
Do you think it’s difficult to go and live abroad?
I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but it obviously takes effort. We often tend to believe that grass is greener elsewhere but in reality there are advantages and disadvantages to living abroad. People often confuse holidays and expatriation and it’s really not the same thing. It is a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to live abroad and to go out of one’s comfort zone for a while but one should not forget that life elsewhere remains a life like any other, with its ups and downs, and its specific problems.
What do you think about youth mobility now? Is it easier compared to the generation of our parents?
Nowadays, it’s very common and trendy to travel, probably because it has never been so easy and cheap to wander the world, especially for Westerners. Experience abroad becomes the norm for younger generations. We are incredibly lucky to be able to go and live wherever we want. The hardest part is getting started, but today most of young people can travel and discover the world if they want to, which was not the case for our parents.
What will be your next destination?
I would like to travel through Vietnam to discover a bit more in depth the country. If I have the opportunity, I will go to the north of the country to visit Hanoi and discover the city where my grandparents come from.
Finally, do you have any advice for someone who would like to move to Saigon?
Go for it without hesitation! A wonderful experience awaits you. Oh, yeah, and if you’ve never driven a scooter, practice a little before you come. (laughs)