Moving our kids from one country is already a great issue. Now that we are already living in a foreign country, we still try to give our children the better version of the world by seeing to it they are living in a safe and comfortable environment, and getting the best we could give them. This is the harder part! Parents like me can enumerate a lot of concerns and in this post, I will cite three major issues that concern me most.
Number One: Where to live
My single friends live in a hotel or a room in a house paying 200 to 450usd max but having kids means paying double or triple for accommodation in Vietnam. Options are limited to renting a whole unit of the apartment or the house.
We have been moving from one apartment to another every year for fours years- searching for security, affordability, and accessibility as our main factors in choosing a better place to raise our kids. Later did we know, our concerns supersede the landlord factor which had given us great pain! They always seem so nice before you sign the contract but once you have inked the document, you are on your own. The worst challenge would be getting back your 2 months’ deposit at the end of the contract but let’s not dwell on that, and I tell you, when you find a good one, you are very lucky.
Most expats with children usually opt for an accommodation in District 7 or District 2. There are security guards and police officers visible in these areas. We have been living in District 7 for almost 4 years. District 7, especially Phu My Hung area has a lot of facilities for children like the swimming pools and the parks plus more schools, supermarkets and banks just around the corner- indeed very convenient for families.
Number Two: Which school to send the kids to
For a foreigner married to a Vietnamese, this is not a big problem because they can send their children to government schools, which are in almost every ward. But if both parents are expats, private and international schools are the only decent options. Needless to say, this requires a lot of money. In District 7, most Asian expats prefer sending their children to South Saigon International School as it is the closest plus well-known in providing high quality education. Imagine paying 13,352 USD for the tuition fee excluding the annual capital fee, meals, books, etc. This takes such a huge portion of the family’s resources. Well, there are other schools too where you can pay a little bit higher or lower like RISS, CIS, SIS and all these are in District 7.
When I first learned about this, I wondered how parents could afford this kind of education. For most Koreans, I have gathered that their husband’s company shoulders their children’s education. Many expat teachers who are working in these schools enjoy a discount in tuition fee and others get free tuition for their children as part of the benefits. And well, for others (including myself) we pay out from our own (not so) deep pocket.
I have sent my kids to different schools. These are not as expensive as the ones I have mentioned earlier. On top of superb student care, VAS is great with little kids. My children were 3 and 5 when they studied there; we only stopped because my kids couldn’t cope with speaking in Vietnamese. We have also sent them to SIKS as nearly everyone spoke English there but the school had (for us) this unacceptable culture. There was an issue of bullying which they failed to address and we were happy to just withdraw our kids and find another school. Another one was Saigon Star International School which was the most expensive school that we sent our kids to but I tell you, our kids had the most wonderful time of their student lives when they were there. This school had been in District 1-very accessible when we were living in District 3, but they moved to District 2. Our children are now in a different school and we hope we have found the best academic system for them.
In short, as parents, we always consider our budget when deciding for our children’s education but the quality and culture of the school sometimes weigh more than how much we could afford.
Number Three: Which hospital to go to
Most expats would agree when I say FV is overrated but it’s the most convenient as hospital staff speak English and it’s just few minutes away from the expat district. We went directly to FV when one of our kids had a terrible illness and we paid a whole lot even when they only attended to us for 2 hours. After that, they sent us to Nhi Dong 2 (Children’s Hospital 2) because the latter had the expert pediatricians and more complete facilities.
Nhi Dong 2 on Nguyen Du St. saved our kid. We were so satisfied with their service and grateful for helping our kid get back to health. None of the doctors spoke English when we were there though, but they could speak Chinese, French or Russian and unfortunately, we hadn’t learned to speak any of those languages. So if you send your children there, bring a Vietnamese friend to break the language barrier.
As for simple health complaints like sore throat or diarrhea, Family Medical Practice, which is right next to Diamond Plaza on Dong Khoi St. is where we would go. We sometimes head to Victoria Clinic and Columbia Asia as they are not as busy.
After mentioning these three things and giving my 2 cents, I believe other people have a lot to share too. The ones above are all based from my experiences which could be the same or different from yours. Most of my friends in Vietnam are single and I do hope to connect to more expat parents and exchange info with them too.