If you are a foreigner (Westerner to be precise) and you choose a house to live in Hanoi, you must be really an unconventional person, at least from the Vietnamese perspective. The reason is that there is a huge difference between Western culture and Vietnamese culture. While Westerners may be more open-minded and straight-forward, Vietnamese tend to be more conservative and indirect and this contributes to the difficulty of living in a house among Vietnamese.
But if it doesn’t stop your curiosity it will be my duty to help you be able to live happily among Vietnamese. Preparation is the key, my friend, and I could show you a short, but useful list of things to consider when renting a house in Hanoi.
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How can I measure affordability? This is a tricky question. It is tricky because when talking about affordability, we don’t mention the price of renting the house alone, but also the price of almost everything else: electric bill, water bill, internet bill, etc. Besides, you will have to go to the market every day to buy food, to go to the motorbike shop sometimes to get your bike fixed, to go to the swimming pool in the summer to cool it down, etc. You have to calculate them all to understand your affordability.
For affordability, in Hanoi, the main driver would be the location. Because location will impact almost every aspect of living in terms of price. Eating a bowl of “Phở” in the center area costs you around 50,000 vnd while in some outer area, it would be only 30,000 vnd. Or buying from shops around Old Quarter will empty your wallet way faster than buying from those around, let’s say, Cau Giay District.
That’s why scouting the location is the most important thing to do before renting a house unless you have a big wallet with a lot of money to spend. One more thing: Go with a local, which should help you a lot with asking for prices for various stuff. Preparation makes the perfect decision.
No, Hanoi is not 100 percent burglar-proof, that’s a sad truth we Vietnamese have to admit. And those burglars sometimes dare to infiltrate even the most secured houses. Be careful is never too much in this case. Choosing where to live also matters.
It will be some sort of a trade-off with affordability mentioned above. A cheap place may not provide you with enough security, especially when living among strangers. Before moving in, always scout around to see what the neighborhood looks like.
If it consists of friendly people, many shops around, that place tends to have better security. If it consists of manual labors, houses in poor condition, many places to jump from house to house, that place should be avoided. Sometime the first impression of people living in the place will tell much about it.
Also, staying vigilant is mandatory along with always being prepared. Two locks, one inside, one outside, is recommended for most cases. Two layers of main doors can also give you some extra security. You should never leave the windows open when getting outside or the burglar can climb on the balcony to get into your house. That’s why, when looking for a house, always look for one with two layers of door and firm, tight window panes, hard to climb balcony.
Avoid too narrow and long alleys, avoid construction and avoid bad neighborhood are three rules you should follow when looking for a good house. The long and narrow alleys are even uncomfortable for Vietnamese. The lack of sunlight, the humidity when it rains, and the difficulty when reaching the main roads… will irk you more than you think they should. It hardly gets better because urban planning usually takes forever in Vietnam.
The construction site should always be avoided at all costs. Its noise, its workers who often have no respect for people living in the area, its materials being put all over the place because of poor environmental management in Vietnam can be devastating for months for anyone living next to it. If you have very bad luck, they may decide to build a road and make everything worse for you for even a year.
The bad neighborhood can be determined by several factors: too many temporary houses for manual labors, the transition of the urban area and suburban area, or just bad reputation among those who have been living in Hanoi for decades. You should go with a local, should be an experienced Hanoian to get the idea of what is good, and what is bad. Talking from personal experience, the old neighborhood usually offers better security than younger ones.
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