An early mid-life crisis – From Sydney to Saigon.

How I went from working as baby health nurse in Sydney to an English teacher in Vietnam.

 It began with a sort of early mid-life crisis.

At the beginning of 2018, I was 35 years old, living in Sydney and feeling like something just wasn’t right. Nothing was particularly awful about my life. I had my health, I had a pleasant enough job that paid alright and I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family. Sure, I was single, but I was out there dating, which was fun most of the time. And when it wasn’t fun, at least it was funny. But something wasn’t right.

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I have a cousin in Vietnam and I kept seeing photos of his come up on my Facebook. It looked like he was having a good time, so I sent him a message to find out a bit more. The decision to pick up and move to Saigon followed an exchange over Facebook that went a bit like this-

“Hey cuz, how is Vietnam? I am getting bored with my life in Sydney and feel like a change”.

“It’s great. You should move here”.

“Righto then, see you in a month”.

I handed in my notice at work, booked a one-way ticket to Saigon, then embarked on the special kind of hell known as, “selling your things on Gumtree”.

Do you enjoy receiving messages from strangers who will bargain with you over the cost of an old chair only to disappear into the ether once you agree on a price with them? Do you like getting ridiculous requests from entitled twats who think because they are buying something second hand for $10 from you, you should drive across the city to deliver it to them personally? If this sounds like you, then you too should try selling your goods online.

Anyway.

Moving to Vietnam, I had absolutely no idea what to expect and even less of an idea of what I was going to do next if it didn’t work out. Back in 2012, I went for a two week holiday to Vietnam with some mates. My main memory of Saigon is of partying all night only to come back to the hostel and throw up in a bin.

halong bay

Here I am in Halong Bay in 2012, oblivious to the fact that I was going to be calling Vietnam home 6 years later.

From the moment I arrived, it didn’t take long for this city to draw me in with its chaotic energy.  Saigon might not be the prettiest city in the world, but it’s vibrant streets heave with life. Food stalls spill onto the pavements, traffic is bedlam, the nightlife can be wild and the heat is exhausting. This city is at once captivating and maddening but the warmth of the people and the food culture by far and away makes up for any faults.

commute

Off to work we go.

 

dinner with friends

Dinner and beers with friends.

 

In just decades Saigon has gone from being one of the poorest places in the world to a boomtown where sky-scrapers are going up at a rapid pace. Change is in the air and maybe in 5 or 10 or 15 years, increasing gentrification will take away some of the city’s untamed charms, but right now, it’s a place that feels like anything can happen, and there is no place I’d rather be.

 

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eating outside

Food is basically my main hobby here.

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Never in a million years did I think I’d wind up working as a teacher in Vietnam, but here I am.

Moving to another country isn’t without its challenges and for me the biggest one has been the language. When I first arrived, I was sure I was going to learn to speak Vietnamese no worries. After all, I’d previously learnt to speak Spanish. Sort of.

Learning Vietnamese though is a whole different kettle of pho. The smattering I have learnt is usually met with that Vietnamese hand wiggle gesture or a shake of the head.

Out to dinner one night,, I tried to order a beer. The Vietnamese word for beer is ‘bia’, so surely this one at least wasn’t going to be too difficult.

“Bia”, I said smiling at one of the staff.

He looked at me.

“Bia”. I tried again. “Beeee-a. Biiiiia. Bi-ah.” I tried some variations on pronunciation while making a ‘drink’ hand gesture, only to be met with a look something like this-

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He walked off and came back and handed me a glass of some kind of green juice.

“No, no”, I said. “Bia”.

A Vietnamese person sitting close by me said something which I can only assume was along the lines of, “she’s asking for a bia”.

The man laughed, “Ha ha ha oh, bia!” he said.

Suffice to say I don’t think I will be having deep and meaningful conversations in Vietnamese any time soon, but I am taking classes and trying.

The last 10 months have been a wild ride and while it hasn’t always been perfect, it has been pretty wonderful, so I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere any time soon.

 

16 thoughts on “An early mid-life crisis – From Sydney to Saigon.

  1. Hey Carly, thank you for stopping by my Travel and Photography blog.

    I enjoyed reading this post as it reminded me so much of the wonderful 2+months travelling overland from the south to north of gorgeous Vietnam, back in 2014. I’d love to return.

    It’s amazing to see just how many people around the world choose to live elsewhere than their home country. I was born in Sydney but moved to QLD in the early ’90s. We left in 2014 to travel for a year of 2 but have been in southern Italy for almost 3 years now. 😉

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  2. It is interesting that you moved to Vietnam. I haven’t been there in years. I’m glad this has worked out for you so far. I didn’t realize that beer is bia in Viet. I’m here thinking my parents were saying in English this whole time!

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

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  3. How much do I love this post? Hugely….! Especially the way you decided to move to another country no less. Hahaha. I have changed countries many times and am about to change once again. Our stories quite different obviously. I have lived in Vietnam a few years back, for three months and been quite a few times but am about to return…. due to a strange series of events… (all in our last post) and will be starting w a week in Saigon, a city I know very little of. Yay, I can’t wait to start eating too!

    Peta

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    • That’s awesome thank-you! Good luck in Saigon and feel free to message me if you want any tips on where to eat ect. I keep planning to make a local-ish guide to Saigon but I haven’t gotten around to it yet

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  4. Haw! Haw!
    Love it!

    I first went to Vietnam in 2007 and absolutely loved it. I travelled throughout the country for a month, then went to Bangkok to recover as I caught a cold on the Aeroflot plane from Moscow and couldn’t shake it off. I had a magnificent time though!

    I’ve lived in 4 countries now but Berlin is where my heart is, so this is where I now live, got married, etc and created a life for my British expat self.
    Good luck in your move. You’ll have a blast! 😀

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    • Berlin is a cool city! My sis in law is German and she has fam there and I stayed with them when I went – always better to stay with a local. That old airport that is now a park is so cool. The whole city had a funky vibe about it I see why you love it.

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      • Thank so much Carly!

        Berlin is soooooo cool and I’m enormously happy here!

        How lovely that your sister-in-law is German ‘cos you can visit whenever you like! 😉

        Yep! The Tempelhof airport was very historical being, I think, one of the largest airports in the world?!

        Now we use it as a festival venue, fashion events, and a huge community park for us all where you can safely fly kites, go rollerbladding, cycling, use the scooter, or simply walk. My friends and I have also used it as a venue to make independent films! 🤣

        I simply couldn’t live anywhere else!

        Liked by 1 person

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