How would I describe my life in Vietnam in one sentence?

This article was originally posted in many years ago while I still resided in Saigon, Vietnam.  Now that I have lived outside of Vietnam for three and a half years, I wanted to publish an edited version of this post.
“Vietnam is like attending an American high school all over again.”
Your first couple of years you are a freshman. You are gullible, you believe everything. You believe everybody is your friend and that they want to help you.  You can’t defend yourself, you get used. If you are a guy, you believe that your Vietnamese girlfriend loves you. Many expats get crushed during the first couple of years in Vietnam. They run home with their tails between their legs.
Vietnam throws many new surprises at you
Vietnam throws many new surprises at you
Years 3-4 you start to understand Vietnam and the culture a little more. These are your Sophomore years. You are still gullible but you can protect yourself. You question every intention, whether good or bad. You learn that being paranoid is actually a good thing in surviving in Vietnam. The motorbike riders seem normal to you. You begin to like Vietnam. You were engaged to a Vietnamese girl this time but if you did not marry, then you will most likely get divorced. Culture is still biting you in the butt.
Years 5-6, you are a Junior. You think you know many things about Vietnam but in the end, you realized the last 5-6 years you learned nothing. These years are great times to fail in your business, for the first time. These years you think you are strong so you let your guard down. That is why you will fail in business, ask the Expats that lived here. NEVER let your guard down. Lick your wounds, move on. Relationships during these times are worthless because you are worthless. Again, move on!!!
Senior, what is it like? I don’t know. I don’t think many Expats know what it is like to be a Senior in Vietnam. We are still Juniors. I suspect it means growing up a little bit and being more confident. It could mean having a successful marriage with children. It could mean you finally have a successful business. This phase could be long, I do not know.
Note: This article is written from a male perspective. If any woman would like to submit their version, please email
The original article is an edited version of an article posted at:
Kevin Miller, Jr. resided in Saigon, Vietnam, from 2004 -2013, and is known for his blog,  He is currently teaching computer science with an international school in Shanghai, China, flying frequently back to Vietnam.