Erika Sanchez Wong

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a picture of vietnamese food
Practical Advice, Vietnam Basics, Vietnamese Food

Dietary Requirements

Life would be so much easier if everyone liked to eat everything or could eat everything. I know my life would, but, like many people, there are some things that I don’t like and others I can’t eat because I am allergic. There are so many dietary requirements in one’s life that you have to be careful, especially when you are not cooking yourself. When you go to a restaurant and order something, it is hard to know what ingredients they use exactly.

Vietnamese food is full of fresh ingredients and spices. If you are planning on going to Vietnam and you have specific dietary restrictions, this blog may help you get through.

It is ok! You don’t really have to eat EVERYTHING there is. There are several reasons why someone doesn’t eat a specific type of food. It could be allergic reactions, religious reasons or simply because you don’t like it.

Allergies

I hate it when I start eating something and all of the sudden my entire body starts itching because of something I ate (a lot of times I don’t even know what exactly). Others react very differently from me. Sometimes you could have a serious reaction to it, so you have to be careful.

I am allergic

Vegetarian / Vegan

Many of us have chosen to live a certain lifestyle and we all have to respect it. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal!

It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chayhủ tiếu chaycà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian” or, if you are a vegan, “Tôi là người ăn chay trường”.

I don't eat meat

Religion

In some religions, certain animals are sacred like the cow in Hinduism. In other cases, for example in Islam is forbidden to eat pork.

I don't eat beefI don't eat pork

But also in Judaism you can find dietary restrictions. Jews are only allowed to eat Kosher.

Only eat kosher

Or if you simply don’t like a certain time of food you just simply say “I don’t eat (type of food)” in Vietnamese “Tôi không (…)”. For example,

I don't eat seafood

 

There are many other dietary requirements and restrictions. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know if you like something if you haven’t tried it!

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Daily Life in Vietnam, Practical Advice

How easy is it to get by with just English?

If you are going to Vietnam and have no knowledge of the language, you ask yourself: How easy is it to get by with just English? I will talk about English in Vietnam and how difficult it is for a foreigner to get by without any Vietnamese in this blog.

In the past, Chinese and Russian were largely taught in most of schools and were considered as second language. In recent years, as Vietnam’s contacts with Western nations have increased, English has become more popular as a second language and taught in a larger scale, eventually replacing Chinese and Russian.

English in School

Nowadays, English is mandatory in most schools in Vietnam, sometimes alongside French. English proficiency is now seen as a vital requirement for employment. According to an educational reform, all students will have a minimum level of English by 2020. English in schools is limited in reading and writing skills, but not much speaking & listening skills. As part of the strategy, officials have adopted the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to measure language competency. Students are expected to reach the level B1 by the time they graduate.

EF English Proficiency Index

The EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) attempts to rank countries by the average level of English language skills amongst those adults who took their exam. Vietnam is in place 34 of 80 countries worldwide and 7 of 20 in Asia with a score of 53.43, which is considerate a moderate proficiency. While the Southeast and the Red River Delta, Ho Chi Minh City’s and Hanoi’s regions respectively, are regions with the highest English proficiency within Vietnam; the North Central Coast, on the other hand, has the lowest proficiency. According to EF EPI, women have a higher English proficiency than men, but the difference is not big.

Vietnam English Proficiency
English Proficiency per Region
Source: https://www.ef.edu/epi/regions/asia/vietnam/

So…is it easy to get by with just English? Long story short, the answer is yes, BUT depends on where you go. Residents in all the tourist areas are able to communicate in English. In more remote areas, English speakers can be very rare. Some older Vietnamese people will speak more French than English, especially in the former South Vietnam. The importance of promoting English in Vietnam is growing due to its importance in the business world.

If you want to know about Vietnam, don’t hesitate and live this adventure with us! Apply now!

Healthcare in Vietnam
Practical Advice

Healthcare in Vietnam

Vietnam’s public healthcare system only covers about 30% of the population. This means that many Vietnamese have to use private health care.

Hospitals in Vietnam

Hospital Symbol

The quality and accessibility of health services differs considerably on whether you are in the city or in rural areas. The majority of hospitals and clinics are located in the larger cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Public hospitals in Vietnam are not the nicest of places due to a general lack of funding by the government in the health sector. Doctors and nurses tend to only speak Vietnamese so communication may be difficult.

However, private hospitals in Vietnam are a completely different story. With doctors and nurses usually speaking English and the quality of the hospital being much higher. This is usually the preferred place for travelers and expats alike.

Ambulance?

If you are in Vietnam and need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible an ambulance may not be the best idea. Ambulances can take a long time to arrive so it is recommended to try and get in a taxi and take yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible.

Changes to healthcare

Vietnam is aiming to improve its health care system to public system which covers all citizens. Following the trend of nearby Thailand, Vietnam hopes to be able to provide a public health care system in the not too distant future.

Individuals, however, will still be able to add on additional private healthcare should they wish to do so.

Ho Chi Minh City has a wide selection of different private and international hospitals on offer.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), basic health indicators are better than those of other developing countries in the region with similar per campita incomes. By 2013, there were more than 11,000 health communes, and 1,040 hospitals.

Although Vietnam’s health status has improved over the years, it has still a long way to go. Vietnam still has three problems to solve. First, more Vietnamese are diagnosed with some sort of chronic disease and increases the cost burden. Second, the big difference on quality and accessibility of health services between urban and rural continues to be a big problem. Last but not least, overcrowded hospitals. This a big issue due to long waiting lists for surgeries.

Health Issues

By taking some basic precautions, people who are traveling to Vietnam can minimize the chances of experiencing a visit to the hospital.

Drinking tap water in Vietnam is not recommendable, even having ice in the drinks at restaurants and bars. In this case it is better to buy bottled water.

Temperatures in Vietnam can soar so sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are significant problems for new arrivals.

Common diseases are tuberculosis and malaria. It is recommended to have all basic vaccinations up-to-date.

The boy who receives vaccination

Vietnamese language
Daily Life in Vietnam, Vietnam Basics

Vietnamese Crash Course

Today I am going to do a Vietnamese Crash Course for those who are learning or want to learn Vietnamese.

As redundant as it may sound, Vietnamese is the official language in Vietnam. But for a very long time Vietnam didn’t really have its own language. For so long it was object of constant foreign intervention. Therefore, Vietnamese has borrowings from Chinese, French and also English. Vietnamese is a difficult language, especially because it differs between regions.

Like other Southeast Asian languages, Vietnamese has a comparatively large number of vowels.

InternVietnam - Vowels

Some consonant sounds are written with only one letter like “p”, other consonant sounds are written with a digraph like “ph”, and others are written with more than one letter or digraph. Vietnamese has no use for the letters F, J, W and Z. Also, not all dialects of Vietnamese have the same consonant in a given word (although all dialects use the same spelling in the written language).

InternVietnam - Consonant

So in Vietnamese, every syllable is a separate word, this is why Vietnam is sometimes written as Viet Nam!

Tones

Vietnamese is a tonal language, with 6 tones in total, which means that one syllable can have at least 6 different meanings. Be careful with the tones! You’ll probably end up calling someone’s mother a horse or a grave at some point. Tones differ in length, melody, pitch height and phonation. The tone is indicated by diacritics written above or below the vowel.

InternVietnam - Tones

Grammar

Similarly to languages in Southeast Asia, there is no real number and gender for nouns in Vietnamese and verb tenses generally don’t exist.

Useful Phrases

Basic
  • xin chào = Hello
  • Khỏe không? = How are you?
  • Khoẻ, cảm ơn = Fine, thank you!
  • Tôi tên là… = My name is…
  • Làm ơn = Please
  • Cảm ơn = Thank you
  • Không sao đâu = You are welcome
  • Vâng = Yes
  • Không = No
  • Xin lỗi = I’m sorry
  • Tạm biệt = Goodbye
Lost in Translation
  • Biết nói tiếng Anh không? = Do you speak English?
  • Tôi không biết nói tiếng Việt [giỏi lm] = I can’t speak Vietnamese [well]
  • Có ai đây biết nói tiếng Anh không? = Is there someone here who speaks English?
  • Tôi không hiểu = I don’t understand
Emergency
  • Công an!/Cảnh sát! = Police!
  • Việc này khẩn cấp = It’s an emergency
  • Tôi bị lạc = I’m lost
  • Tôi bị ốm = I’m sick
  • Tôi cần một bác sĩ = I need a doctor
  • Nhà vệ sinh/wc ở đâu? = Where’s the toilet?
  • Cứu (tôi) với! = Help!
Transportation
  • Một vé đến … là bao nhiêu? = How much is a ticket to …?
  • Xin cho tôi một vé đến … = One ticket to …, please.
  • Tàu/xe này đi đâu? = Where does this train/bus go?
  • Tàu/xe đi đến …ở đâu? = Where is the train/bus to …?
  • Tàu/xe này có ngừng tại…không? = Does this train/bus stop in…?
  • Tàu/xe đi…chạy lúc nào? = When does the train/bus for…leave?
  • Khi nào tàu/xe này xẽ đến…? = When will this train/bus arrive in…?
  • Tắc xi! = Taxi!
  • Làm ơn đưa/chở tôi đến… = Take me to…, please.
  • Mất bao nhiêu tiền để đến…? = How much does it cost to get to…?

Money

  • Có nhận thẻ tín dụng không? = Do you accept credit cards?
  • Tôi có thể đi đổi tiền ở đâu? = Where can I get money changed?
  • Máy rút tiền (ATM) ở đâu? = Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Food
  • Cho tôi một bàn cho một/hai người = A table for one person/two people, please.
  • Cho tôi xem menu? = Can I look at the menu, please?
  • Tôi ăn chay. = I’m a vegetarian.
  • Tôi không ăn thịt heo (South) / lợn (North) = I don’t eat pork.
  • Tôi không ăn thịt bò. = I don’t eat beef.
  • Tôi chỉ ăn thức ăn kosher thôi. = I eat only kosher food.
  • Cho tôi xin một chaicà phê / nước trà  /  nước / rượu vang / bia? = May I have a bottle of coffee / tea / water / wine / beer ?
  • Cho tôi xin một ly (South) / cố (North) …? = May I have a glass of …?
  • Cho tôi xin một ly (South) / cố (North) …? = May I have a cup of …?
Shopping
  • Có size của tôi không? = Do you have this in my size?
  • Bao nhiêu (tiền)? = How much (money) is this?
  • Đắt quá. = That’s too expensive.

Tips

Seems like these tips might have been said many times before, but they are so true and useful!

  • First of all, look for language classes. Either in a one-on-one class or in a group class, you can learn about the differences in tones and the Vietnamese grammar. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand.
  • Also, practice makes perfect! For some people, learning a new language might come easier than for others, but no one can be fluent without practicing. You can look for a language partner. Go out and make friends!
  • Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Locals will appreciate that you are making an effort on learning their language and you can also learn from your mistakes.

Learn more and apply now! 

Transportation in Ho chi minh city
Daily Life in Vietnam, Vietnam Basics

Two Wheeled Supremacy: Travelling around Vietnam

Transportation in Vietnam, especially in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, can be chaotic and confusing for foreigners. Many even called it an “organised chaos!” However, you can easily find services like taxis, Uber, Grab, Easy Riders, among others.

Taxis are really cheap and you can find them everywhere. However you might find the occasional fake taxi, especially around the tourist areas, so be careful.

Did you know that there are more than 38 million motorcycles in Vietnam? That’s 18 times more than cars! That means that mopeds are make up more than 90% of the whole country’s vehicles. The main reason why there are more motorcycles than cars is certainly because the cities are extremely compact and dense. Also, no license is necessary for motorcycles under 50cc, or electric bikes!

It is quite impressive what Vietnamese locals can balance and transport on just a motorcycle, from live animals to stacks of chairs. If you see 4 dogs and an entire family on just one motorcycle, don’t be surprised!

Uber versus Grab

Uber vrs Grab

Uber started operating in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in mid-2014. 

It offers 5 types of transportation services, UberMoto, UberBlack, UberX, UberSUV and UberTOUR. Since Vietnam loves motorcycles, UberMoto  it may be faster to travel with the motorbike due to traffic jams. They are also a very cheap form of transportation. UberX is a low-cost Uber, while you can also use UberTOUR for longer trips.

Prices with Uber are almost one third versus Vietnamese taxi services due to their promotion programs.

Uber not only offers transportation services, but also delivery services. Since September 2017, UberDELIVERY delivers your food from your favorite restaurant to your doorstep.

Uber is not the only company offering transportation services with an app. Grab is their main rival in Vietnam, who also started operating in 2014. It was the top-ranked ride-hailing app in 2017 in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In this case, Grab has 3 types of transportation services, GrabTaxi which are regular taxis, GrabCar which are private vehicles and, like Uber, Grab also has a motorcycle taxi service, which is very unique to Vietnam. GrabExpress it’s their delivery service.

InternVietnam - Grab

Bus

Taking the bus is probably the cheapest way to get around Vietnam. The bus network is very extensive and goes across the country.

Every province in Vietnam has a main bus terminal,, mainly in the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These are interprovincial buses. Prices always depend on where you want to go and which type of seat you choose. There are travel agencies who can help you buy a ticket in advance.

Wherever you go, I advise only to buy bus tickets of registered booths from large companies inside the bus terminals.

 

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vietnamese Pho
Vietnamese Culture, Vietnamese Food

Yin and Yang, Banh and Pho

Imagine yourself walking through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam and a wave of people with food in their hands comes towards you. Suddenly you are surrounded by all sorts of smells and flavors! Just the thought of that makes you hungry, right? So let’s explore the wonders of Vietnamese food together.

Vietnamese Food

Some might say that Vietnamese food is like any other in Southeast Asia, nothing special. What they don’t know is how wrong they really are! Vietnamese food is neither bland nor boring.

The combination of fresh herbs and spices makes the food not only colourful, but also full of flavor. Although it might differ from region to region, there is always something that makes Vietnamese cuisine unique. The aroma, the taste of sweet and sour, and the hint of fish sauce are all combined and perfectly balanced. It is all about yin and yang, in every meal providing beneficial input to your body!

China influences heavily the food in the north. That means a lot of stir-fries and noodle-based soups. Then towards the southern part the flavors become more and more tropical, almost blending with Thai cuisine. But it is hard not to talk about the French influence in Vietnam cuisine.

One example would be the bánh mì which is basically a crispy/fluffy baguette filled with seasoned pork and vegetables like cucumbers, cilantro and pickled carrots. Some say you can find the best bánh mì in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

InternVietnam - Banhmi

When you walk through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, you are definitely going to find Ph. Pho is made of a smooth broth with vermicelli rice noodles and meat, topped with the freshest herbs you can find. It is a very popular street food in Vietnam and probably the most known Vietnamese food in the world. Surprisingly, is usually eaten as a breakfast!

InternVietnam - Pho

If you are a pork fan, then bún mọc is for you. In it you can find pork sausage, fried pork meatballs, pork ribs and pork belly with a light mushroom broth and garnish with fresh herbs. That is a lot of pork and all in one bowl!

 

Exotic ‘Nam

If you have more of an adventurous side, you can try the coconut worms in fish sauce and chili slices, usually eaten alive while drinking! One bite of these fellas pops salty and spicy flavors into your mouth. But be careful with their mandibles because these little worms may bite while you are trying to eat them!

Another daring option would be the balut, a fertilized bird embryo, usually duck. The Vietnamese believe that the balut is very nutritious and restorative for pregnant women.

InternVietnam - Balut

 

But enough about meat!

Don’t be afraid to visit Vietnam if you are vegetarian. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal. And even if the restaurant is not specifically vegetarian, you can still find or ask for vegetarian options.

It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chayhủ tiếu chaycà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian”. Another option is to say that you don’t eat pork “Tôi không ăn thịt heo” or beef “Tôi không ăn thịt bò“.

InternVietnam - Veggies

There are a variety of vegetarian dishes you can get, like sticky rice (xôi). Most of the xoi are vegetarian and found in the food stands on the streets. Đậu sốt cà chua is a fried yellow tofu with tomato paste and onions. You can accompany your dậu sốt cà chua with some fried water spinach and garlic (rau muống xào tỏi) or some bok choy with shitake mushrooms (cải xào nấm).

Cheers!

Drinks are on me! A common drink is the Vietnamese iced coffee or cà phê đá made with freshly brewed dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee and condensed milk. But if you go to Hanoi, you might come across the egg coffee (cà phê trứng) which includes egg yolk. Sugarcane (nước mía or mía đá) is a really popular drink during the hot summers. Kumquat juice is often added to the sugarcane to balance the sweetness.

InternVietnam - IcedCoffee

Vietnam has its own brewery called Sabeco, which is Vietnam’s leading beer producer. They produce not only the classic Saigon Beer, but also Vietnam’s favorite 333. Bia hơi is a draft beer popular among the locals. It can be found in small bars and on street corners. It’s brewed daily and each bar gets a fresh batch delivered everyday! Going to the stronger liquor is the rượu đế, rice wine, made out of cooked glutinous rice.

InternVietnam - SaigonBeer

 

Enjoy these delicacies and join us!

Weekend Trips from Ho chi minh city
Weekend Trips

Weekend Trip from Ho Chi Minh City

After a long week at work, you are probably looking for a weekend trip away from the traffic and the noise in Ho Chi Minh City. You daydream while working about a nice relaxing getaway , and you are not the only one! There are so many places around Ho Chi Minh City which you can explore.

Cat Tien National Park 

At only 3 hours away from Ho Chi Minh City, you can enjoy nature and some fresh air away from the city. The National Park protects around 30% of Vietnam species and it is home to gaur, sun bears, deer, elephants, several species of monkeys, and dozens of bird species. You can explore its wonders by foot, by bicycle, jeep or kayak!

12 km away from the park headquarters you can explore the villages at the Ta Lai Longhouse, where you can find Ma, Tay S’tieng ethnic minorities.

Cat Tien

Mũi Né

Mui Ne is a coastal fishing town on the southern side of Vietnam, only 200 km from HCMC, and is the perfect place for a weekend trip at the beach. The beach is very popular among kite- and windsurfers due to its strong wind conditions. But it is also equally popular for its sand dunes located about 10 km from the main resort strip.

Mui Ne is where the famous Vietnamese sauce (fish sauce) is produced. So you can visit their plants!

Mui Ne

 

Ho Tram Beach

Another nearby beach is the Ho Tram Beach, situated about 125 km southeast from HCMC. Thanks to its accessible location, the beach attracts not only locals, but also tourists from all around the world. The Grand Ho Tram Hotel offers a casino and a golf course, which is also open to non-guests. You can either go camping around the beach or have a relaxing day in the hot springs.

Ho Tram

 

Da Lat

Da Lat is located just about 300 km from HCMC, and is a very popular spot for the Vietnamese on the weekend. Someone said Da Lat is a mix between the French Alps and Vietnam, and if you visit you will see how well French legacy is preserved among the streets.

Da Lat

 

Mekong Delta Villages

The Mekong Delta Villages offer several travel destinations for the weekend. Can Tho, My Tho, Vinh Long, and Ben Tre are some of the villages in the Delta region. The area is famous for its maze of rives and canals with floating markets, and is also known as the “biological treasure trove”.

The region is home to cải lương, a form of Vietnamese folk opera.

Mekong River

 

Stu’s Explorer Club 

From the city jungle to the real jungle, some offer two-day long jungle trips from HCMC. These take you through the Đồng Nai forest, a natural landscape of Vietnam

Bảo Lộc

Bao Loc is one of the city’s most underrated weekend getaways. The temperature in Bao Loc is a little bit cooler than in HCMC. Their best-know attraction is the Dambri Falls, the highest waterfall in the province! Another attraction is the Nam Phuong Lake, where travelers love to walk around. You can also visit the Bát Nhã Temple.

Bao Loc

 

Enjoy these weekend trips and Apply Now!

Nightlife In Saigon
Daily Life in Vietnam

Nightlife in Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City is also known as Saigon. It is definitely a party city with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. Of course, Saigon parties to late, and it seems like the perfect place to spend your time is around the Pham Ngu Lao district area. Due to its popularity among foreigners, it is usually called the backpacker district, right in the heart of the city. The Pham Ngu Lao area is made up of two parallel streets, the Bui Vien Street and the Pham Ngu Lao street. In between, there are small alleys connecting them.

The streets are full of light and people. Small shops tend to set up tables and chairs on the street and offer drinks. Pham Ngu Lao is where the expats and the locals come together to eat and drink. The most popular places to go around the area are the Go2 Bar, Allez Boo Bar, Crazy Buffalo Bar and The View Rooftop Bar at Duc Vuong Hotel Saigon, where, rumor has it, you can find beer for US$1!

Because they are the perfect place to enjoy the sunset, rooftops bars are really a thing in Saigon.  Enjoy the sunsets in one of the most exclusive rooftop bars in HCMC, Chill Skybar on the 26th floor of the AB Tower. If you can afford it and if you can get past the strict door policy, it is the place for a classy drink or a date. Glow Skybar and MGallery are favourite among expats and tourists.

Rooftop Bar

In case what you are looking for is to dance all night long, then Lush is your place.  It is probably the most famous nightclub in the city, especially among foreigners. Ladies’ Night is every Tuesday!

Live Music

Saigon has something for everyone. In some places in the city you can find good coffee shops with live music. Whether you are into rock or jazz or anything in between, you can go to Abracadabra Café, House 7 Café, Yen Café, Cúcuta Café, and others.

Live Music

Quiet Nights in Saigon

If all of this sounds like too much for you, there are some quiet activities you can do. Good for a quiet night out, the Bonsai Dinner Cruise takes you to a  journey down the Saigon River with live jazz music and traditional Vietnamese dance. Or enjoy a play, opera or even ballet shows at the Saigon Opera House.

Cruise

Nguyen Hue Walking Street is the place you wouldn’t want to miss. It is the perfect place for a night walk through the city. The visitors, the performers and the local shops create an upbeat atmosphere.

People say “Saigon never sleeps”. Well…there’s only one way to find out. Explore Saigon with us and Apply Now!