With the recent economic growth of Vietnam, the environment in Da Nang is changing dramatically on a daily basis. I think this is a result of Vietnam also becoming a more developed country. I have only known Da Nang for about three years, but the place has changed a lot in this period alone. Incidentally, has anything changed in your three years in Japan? The absence of change is seen to be a stability in a positive sense. Change is seen as instability or growth. Problems and challenges arise because growth requires doing new things for the first time.
Why I chose Da Nang, Vietnam and the current situation
You can surf in the open sea and the sea water is clean
The waves in Da Nang are very uneven, with good and bad times, but there is an environment where surfing can be genuinely enjoyed, which is a big attraction. Specifically, there are very few surfers. Many ordinary surfers may feel that there is an imbalance between waves and the amount of surfers, or that there is something wrong with the localism of the territorial movement. In Vietnam, however, such problems do not occur because there are plenty of surf spots where there are no surfers. This is an environment where you can enjoy “surfing simply as an exercise”, and there are still many such places in Vietnam. One could honestly enjoy the exercise of playing in the waves because there were waves in the sea. I could also feel that the times when there were too few surfers. The fact that there was no surf shop also added to its attractiveness and made the inconvenience less bothersome.
No hay fever
One of the attractions to moving abroad for me was the absence of hay fever. When I was in Japan, I suffered from allergic symptoms almost all year round. There is no cedar or cypress pollen in Da Nang and it is very pleasant. The air seems clean too. However, I recently began to experience obvious allergic symptoms, such as itchy eyes. There are large number of trees on the side of the road with allergy-inducing pollens similar to ragweed. It may possibly be related to allergies. But in comparison to what I experienced in Japan, it is only about a tenth of what it is in Japan, which is not a big deal.
Safe and secure
This is a condition that cannot be removed when it comes to living abroad. Vietnam is a safe place with low levels of violent crime and no violent aggression towards foreigners. Security in Da Nang is better than it was three years ago. Incidentally, fake pricing, pickpocketing theft, lying, etc. occur in large numbers on a daily basis. What has been worrying recently is that road traffic usage has deteriorated in Da Nang with a sudden increase in the number of cars in the area over the last year or so. Driving etiquette in this country is the worst of any country I have visited. Road accidents are also very common.
Temperate climate and almost no natural disasters.
Da Nang’s climate is generally pleasant all year round. Winters are particularly wet, but the minimum temperature is around 20°C, so one can enjoy a warm winter. I can never go back to Japanese winters. The fact that there are no earthquakes at all is also quite good. However, Vietnam has its own share of typhoon damage.
Vietnamese impressions of the Japanese appear to be good. Vietnam is a country where Japanese people have more to gain than to lose. I also have a particularly good impression of Japanese-speaking Vietnamese, people who have worked for Japanese companies, etc. Recently, however, the impression of Vietnamese learning Japanese has gradually changed. An increasing number of Vietnamese are learning Japanese because they are interested only in gaining the financial aspects of it, not the cultural aspect of Japan. The number of Vietnamese who views the Japanese language as a money-making tool will increase.
2-hour time difference with Japan
I was looking for a place with a small time difference, preferably no time difference from Japan, so I chose Da Nang. The two-hour time difference does not bother you when communicating with anyone in Japan. It is also physically easier when you return home.
Low cost of living
The low cost of living is a positive aspect. We managed to get on the last period when we could make significant use of the difference in Vietnamese prices relative to Japanese incomes. However, when I lived abroad, I realised that this was not the case in some parts in life. The more you try to live comfortably like in Japan, the more expensive it becomes. Three years ago, I thought that prices in Da Nang were cheap. For example, the restaurants frequented by Vietnamese people costs JPY 100 per meal, transport such as buses trains and taxis are cheap, and new hotels and flats just a short walk to the sea cost JPY 30,000-40,000, inclusive of breakfast and housekeeping service. The conditions were very good for living here for the price difference with Japan.
Now, three years later, I have learnt that there is a clear reason why things are cheap. When I used to eat in local restaurants, I frequently had stomach problems. I felt sick every week. There is no food safety here, including hygiene. Except for serious family-run restaurants, I now have a strong concern of local restaurants and I go there as little as possible. Thanks to this, my stomach is in good shape. There is also the challenge of nutritional value in cheap products, as it is often biased and can easily affect health. Health is a very expensive non-saleable good and is irreversible. If you are stingy here, you will pay for it later with sickness. In other words, for me, food in Vietnam in general was either cheap or bad.
As for hotels and flats, depending on the area, the more expensive the monthly charge is, the more likely it is for foreigners to live there. A flat which cost JPY 30,000 in Vietnamese quality three years ago now costs JPY 50,000. This is a normal price increase in the centre. In the future, those who do not own property will either be driven to the edges and back of Da Nang, or pay high rents for landlords. Perhaps rents will fall as the property bubble bursts. Considering the rate at which prices are rising, I think we are approaching a stage where prices will soon no longer be cheap enough for foreigners to live comfortably in Da Nang. I think it will be another few years to 10 years before the Japanese go to Vietnam and South East Asia completely for the number one reason of low prices. The moderation aimed at the difference between the Japanese yen and foreign currencies is fading at a fast pace.
If you want to spend cheaply in Da Nang, you need to have the same standards as the Vietnamese locals. This is true in any foreign country. And there are very few foreigners who can live up to local standards.