One of the best benefits of living in Da Nang is how freaking cheap everything is. At first, I almost felt guilty when getting the bill at a restaurant or paying for my lunch, as if I were getting away with something immoral. Now, I'm bargaining to get the price of a pair of flip flops down by less than $0.50 and gasping when my mom tells me that the hilariously inept massage she got at the Aveda spa school was “only” $45.
A really good 60-minute Vietnamese massage at the spa two blocks from me costs just over $11. A manicure-pedicure combo, with polish, is about $9 there, and it's actually a bit pricey. Paying the equivalent of $6.70 is common.
When I first got here, I realized that I needed a few more hot weather clothing options. A friend recommended a shop in Hoi An's Ancient Town with lots of colorful pieces in a variety of patterns. I bought three pairs of shorts, two dresses, a pants jumpsuit, and a shorts jumpsuit. It sounds like quite the spree, huh? All of it cost me not much more than $22.25. I'm used to that slight rush from buying new clothes paired with a tinge of guilt for spending money on something I don't truly need. But this was just so cheap. It was only when I was finding places for the new items in my closet that I found a reason for guilt: the obvious fact that nobody could possibly be making a living wage working within that business model, even in Vietnam.
Nobody that I know in Vietnam has a "phone plan". Everybody uses the old school, pay-as-you-go SIM card technology. I spend less than $10/month for calls and text and data, and I use my iPhone whenever I feel like it. 3G works here, but I only really need it when the internet at our apartment is being finicky or I'm not at a bar, cafe, or restaurant. So it's rare. Almost every establishment has WiFi here, including the many cafes and restaurants that occupy the first floor of people’s homes.
This was my lunch a few weeks ago:
This is informally called "rice and gadgets". It cost me just over $0.50. That's not a small plate. I couldn't eat the whole thing.
Here are some more rough general costs, converted into USD:
I could go on, but this gives you a sense.
Some things are more expensive than back home, like wine and granola, because they're imported. Other things are about the same as back home, like dairy products, which are either imported or come solely from a city in Vietnam with a distinctively temperate climate, called Da Lat.
And rest assured that no matter how little you pay for something, the Vietnamese will always tell you that you’ve paid too much.
From a disposable income perspective, I'm saving a lot of money since I simply don't shop as much. For one, I can't online shop since I can't have things easily shipped to me, so all of the emails that I subscribed to notifying me of sales are no longer relevant. Mostly, I've found that I really just don't need to shop. I have more clothes than I need right now, as it is, and I have less than half the clothes that I had back in the States. Admittedly, there is a temperature difference, but still…being an outsider in a culture makes me less susceptible to consumerism. And having more time has given me the chance to take more time with my gifting, including making gifts rather than purchasing them.
I'm told that once I get used to prices here, it's hard going back to the States and actually having to spend real money on things. I hope I can keep some of my newfound practices going. Other than bargaining for shoes. That might not go over so well.
I quit a job I enjoyed at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and left my family, friends, and beloved dog to join my boyfriend in moving across the world, in search of adventure and new experiences. I arrived in August 2015.