What is life like for a Saigon digital nomad?
I have mixed feelings about living in Saigon as a digital nomad. I was really excited when I arrived, but over time my enthusiasm has waned. As you see in the video and post below, there are some things in Saigon that negatively impact my quality of life.
The whole point of being nomadic for me is to live a high quality of life in places that allow me to be happy. It turned out that Saigon was not allowing me the freedom to live the life I want.
Saigon for working remotely
Saigon is a great place for work. It has a superb energy – it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the world economically. More millionaires are being created in Vietnam than anywhere else in the world right now. That means the city has an infectious energy to it. People in Saigon are getting shit done.
After a couple of months in Chiang Mai I was ready to get into the big city and be around people with drive. I love Chiang Mai, but it’s a very lazy culture. Not many people are doing very much in term of business growth, least of all the retarded ‘Digital Nomad’ scene there.
Immediately upon getting to Saigon I got into a great flow for work and was happy to be around that energy. On top of good surroundings, you have an incredible coffee culture. Every other shop in Vietnam is a coffee shop.
While most of the local coffee shops aren’t appropriate for working, there is a ton of ‘Western style’ cafes in Saigon. Good wifi, good seating/desks, good coffee and a good atmosphere. My favourite spots are The Workshop and WORK Saigon. Check them out if you’re a Saigon digital nomad.
In terms of knuckling down with business, Saigon is a great place to be.
Meeting People in Saigon for digital nomads
Now this is where Saigon was a huge let down for me. The people and social culture at large are not what I was hoping for.
There seems to be a big divide between the young and older generations in Saigon. The 35 and unders are very friendly, happy to make friends and welcoming. They have an interest in meeting you and learning about your culture, tend to speak English well, and are what I’ve experienced everywhere else in Asia (friendly).
The older people seem not to like outsiders very much. They’re much less friendly and are very authoritarian. You’re pretty much not allowed to do anything in Vietnam, apart from when driving, when there is no rules. But you damn well best park in the right place!
At almost all accomodation you’re not allowed to have girls stay the night, and even when they let you have guests during the day, they do their best to make it an unpleasant experience. It is the most sexually repressive place I have ever been (and I’ve been to a few Muslim countries).
This is both hotels and when you rent your own apartment. After a while, it becomes grating. Having your landlady giving you dirty looks every time someone comes over, making the girl feel uncomfortable is just unpleasant.
If it was an individual persons/businesses policy, and they told you in advance then that would be no issue at all. When it is everywhere it is just a ball ache. I’m gonna get onto entertainment in Saigon in a moment, but I didn’t experience the nightlife at all. There didn’t seem much point when I can’t bring anyone back.
I think in 15-20 years, it will be a very different place. When the younger generation are the business owners, it will become a lot more friendly and open, I imagine.
The Westerners in Saigon seem to very much live in bubbles, not integrating very much with the locals (for obvious reasons). I didn’t meet many people who were ‘digital nomads’, it’s mostly expats working in big companies; banks, etc. or English teachers.
I’m sure there are plenty of digital nomads around if you want to find them, but I tend not to mingle in that scene, so you’ll have to do some further research to find events.
Food & Entertainment in Saigon
The food in Vietnam is incredible, and it’s the healthiest in South East Asia too. It is a great place for eating, and I love the coffee culture. Both food and drink are incredibly cheap, and the beer is pretty good too. You will never run out of things to eat and drink in Vietnam.
Entertainment wise, Saigon is a big, modern city with plenty to do. You won’t run out of things to do or see, and just driving is entertainment in itself. If you’re confident on a bike, it’s great fun driving in the traffic. It’s so insane that you cannot ever take your eyes off the road or relax, which means you’re fully in the moment. Always in a state of flow.
Conclusion: My Opinion of Saigon for Digital Nomads
Overall I think Saigon is a cool city that is worth seeing, but the negative social/dating atmosphere gets tiring quickly. I wouldn’t spend a lot of time there.
I’ve since gone to explore the rest of Vietnam and the people are much more open and leave you to yourself. It seems to only be Saigon that is very authoritarian. I’m writing this in Dalat, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
Vietnam is an interesting country that is definitely worth a visit, but probably more of a travel destination than somewhere I would want to spend extended periods of time.
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