Top Things You Need To Know While Interning in Vietnam

by Kristine Ibanez

Preparing for internships abroad can be tedious, though well worth the effort when completed. Amidst packing and preparing to see a new corner of the world, it is good to be informed of local laws, cultural rules, and other essential regional information. When interning in Vietnam know the do’s and don’ts before you step foot on the place, to avoid unpleasant surprises during your stay.

Strolling through Hoi An's tranquil Old Town
Strolling through Hoi An's tranquil Old Town. Photo by Tom Gore

Climate

A sub-tropical country, there is no specific "best time" to intern abroad in Vietnam, as it has several climate zones. In general, the tourist season is from December to March. The climate can be mild and misty, but it is typically dry. Excursions are perfect during the summer days, between May and September, when it can be very hot and humid.

No-To-Facebook

Facebook users in Vietnam have not been able to access the social media site since 2009. Rumor has it, the government has blocked all access, though there has not been official confirmation. Some interns might see this as a negative attribute of the country, but in the end it is much more meaningful to see the world without your eyes frequently glued to Facebook. Instead of Facebook, take pictures and create lifelong memories. Save Facebook stalking and updating for when you are back at home. (If you really cannot live without social media, don’t despair. Some businesses have found a way to bypass the blocked access). 

Register 

Want to sleepover in a friend’s hotel room? You must find a local police station and register yourself before you can stay overnight in someone else’s room. Surprisingly, if you’re a female and you want to visit a male friend in his hotel room, you need to pay for another room before you can set foot on the grounds of the hotel. Keep these things in mind to avoid taboo cultural incidences.

Vietnamese woman in their traditional dress

No Revealing Clothing Girls 

More is always better when it comes to clothing. Women are not allowed to wear revealing clothing, foreigners included. Say no to plunging necklines and short-shorts, or you’ll end up humiliated publicly and you might even spend a night in jail or get deported in extreme cases.

License to Drive - Not Valid

Foreign driver’s licenses are useless in Vietnam and that includes International Driver’s Licenses. Only locals are granted Vietnam driving privileges. But recent updates regarding this Law were passed and interns who plan extended stays in Vietnam can now apply for a VN License. 

Watch your back

Crimes, like theft, overcharged taxis, or higher hotel fees for foreigners, are not matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the police. These are regarded as civil dispute matters. Local police won’t be much help if someone snatches your bag. If such an unfortunate event takes place, a private investigator will have to be hired to help resolve the issue.

Drugs in Vietnam

Transporting drugs to Vietnam is the most offensive crime of the country, with a maximum penalty of death. If you are bringing prescription medicines, be smart and bring the prescriptions in case they aren’t available but make sure they fit with the local laws.

Buu Long Buddhist pagoda, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

All about Taboos

Students should speak to teachers quietly and in a passive manner. A lack of eye contact shows a sign of respect. Nose picking is totally acceptable but picking one’s teeth in front of others is considered rude. No shorts or tatty beer t-shirts when visiting pagodas; it is considered extremely rude and offensive. Do not take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages, they are considered to be too intrusive by the local people. Eating is a big part of life in Vietnam and lunch is a very important part of the day. Don't expect to get anything done between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the afternoon. Remove your shoes if you’re invited to a Vietnamese house. Avoid public displays of affection with the opposite sex, but holding hands is acceptable.

Most students opt to intern abroad to gain new perspectives and work experience, learn a new language, and visit amazing places. Interning abroad will help take studies, and ultimately one's career, to the next level. So bring along this need-to-know knowledge and insight on Vietnamese culture to reach a new level of meaningful travel.