Many people who want to teach English in Vietnam have a big dilemma: where to teach English, in Ho Chi Minh City or in Hanoi? Well, if you ask ten people then probably five of them will say Hanoi and the other five will say Ho Chi Minh City.
From the beginning I want to tell you that both cities offer great opportunities for teaching English and if you are good enough then you won’t have any problem finding a good teaching English job in either cities.
I have been living and working in Ho Chi Minh City since 2005 and I have been to Hanoi several times for business purposes only. But, I have spoken to many people and I think I can give you a personal opinion about the living conditions in both Saigon and Hanoi.
One thing that I dislike about Saigon is the weather. It is always hot. I am from Romania and I am used with four season weather. Although there is no real winter in Hanoi (with snow and negative temperature), I think weather in Hanoi is better than in Saigon. However, a Romanian friend of mine hates winter and cold weather and he is totally pleased with Saigon’s weather. So is an Australian friend from Sydney.
As I have seen, Hanoi is a classical city with a slower pace of life than Ho Chi Minh City. It is fulfilled with parks and lakes and it seems to be more pedestrian friendly. Saigon is bigger than Hanoi, more crowded and I used to think it is dirty but I think Hanoi is dirtier. There are barber shops on the street! Can you imagine how that street looks like? Personally, I think Hanoi is a little bit more beautiful than Saigon because of the parks and lakes and because of the architecture.
The traffic is bad in both cities but probably it is worst in Ho Chi Minh City since it is the bigger city. However, everybody agrees that Saigon has more traffic lights and the traffic is more “organized”. Anyway, whatever city you choose you will get bad traffic!
It is very hard to talk about food since it depends on each person’s taste. I am not so much into Vietnamese food, I actually don’t really like it and I am not an expert when it comes to food. One thing I can tell you thou, the food in Saigon is very sweet. They put sugar in food and they put a lot of it. I am pretty sure that you can find delicious meals in both cities.
I spoke to many Vietnamese people but they were all from Saigon. It seems that everybody tells me that the people from the north of Vietnam are not friendly, or not as friendly as the people from the south of Vietnam. I really don’t know what I should believe. I have met nice people in Vietnam and it is hard for me to believe that there is a significant difference between the people from the north of Vietnam and the people from the south of Vietnam.
I am not into the night life but everybody agrees that Saigon is the winner here. So, for a young, single person who is interested in the night life, probably Saigon will be better. That’s not to say there is nothing to do in Hanoi after 10 pm. There is night life in Hanoi too but since Saigon is more modern and faster city probably that’s why everybody says the night life in Saigon is more “enjoyable”.
This is my comparison of the two biggest cities of Vietnam and which one is better really depends on you. I highly suggest you to visit both cities and choose the one that suits your needs and you expectation because at the end, living and working in Vietnam must be an enjoyable experience.