Expat Documentary 2022 | Living in Vietnam | Working, Doing Business and Investing in Real Estate
Hey guys, welcome to this new video. Today it's going to be a little bit different. I was on a podcast recently with Conor who has been interviewing more than 400 people living in Vietnam.
And in two days video, this is an introduction about that podcast that we've been doing together. So we're going to go around and I'm going to show you my day. So you're going to see a little bit how it's like in Vietnam and on the audience aspects, you're going to discover what we've been discussing with Conor We're going to talk about life in Vietnam versus life in Europe. What's the perspective of a foreigner living here? How is it to do business in Vietnam as a foreigner? And then everything you need to know as well about real estate market, the trends, and then also the regulation and how things work on foreign perspective.
Let's get into it. Hello and welcome back to the .. . podcast. As usual, I am your host Conor, and as you know, I interview people from around Saigon on a variety of topics which include entrepreneurship, expat, life, creative projects and more. And I'm delighted to welcome my French guest today with Guillaume, currently living in Saigon, Vietnam, and has done for the last five years. Can you talk to me about when you arrived to Vietnam and you settled in Ho Chi Minh What happened then? When you moved to Asia And then MOVETOASIA? When I settled here, I wanted to do something that was more aligned with my next journey. So I was making money online.
I was having a team, one Filipino person, one French person working remotely. So I didn't have a lot of hassle on my shoulder here, which was really the digital normal lifestyle as well as the lifestyle business. You can basically go to any coffee shop, you take your laptop for three, 4 hours. It was SEO, the skill that I was mainly focusing on. So as soon as you have your website that is on the top of Google, you don't really need to work more than that, right? Because you will get everyday people coming to your website and if you build a funnel behind, you have everyday sales. So I was at that journey that after five years doing that, I wanted a new challenge and I wanted something more exciting, more exciteful.
And that's how I find that doing some reflection about my core skill sets and then also my kind of early commitment into Vietnam, into living in Asia, I found that I could use my skills into building a community, building a website. At the same time I start to learn about things to be living in Vietnam. So how do you live long term in Vietnam Either you need to find a job, what are the job opportunities? Either you have the business approach, you need to set up a company here, how does it work? And by learning it, I start to share on YouTube as well as on a blog about life in Asia, but with 70% focusing on Vietnam. So the real estate market, how do you work with accounting firms, how do you set up a business, et cetera. And then because I build that content after I start to have some people inquiring me and saying you did that, how does it work? And then step by step I start to build a network of partners here that could support those inquiries.
So okay, I'm French. I have an advantage. I can explain to French people how does it work, but I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a real estate person.
So how do you find trustworthy people around yourself to partner with? And then you can do some kind of joint venture help. So it starts by that and then of course later on you build something more professional. You build a team. When you have an inquiry, you have someone following up, giving information first and then inboarding new customers.
But we talked about three years so of course you do it again. Step by step, you iterate. And then that's how you end with something that you are more proud of. Now I'm more proud of giving my business card about move to Asia, talk about why I think and I see MOVETOASIA in five years becoming something rather than before when I was selling other people products. Are you really proud of what you are doing? Not so much.
It was kind of tech sync. Now it's more something more aligned and more with a vision. Yeah, of course. I suppose you will be innately passionate about your project, your work, your baby almost MOVETOASIA and just getting out there and saying this is what I've done, this is how I can operate. And you must have pride in showing that work to people and saying this is what I've done and I can give you some kind of template. It must be great for you.
Yeah, definitely. I think the end goal of any entrepreneur is at the beginning maybe you will just have a term in French "Bricolage" It's like you are in your garage, you do some little things, you tweak a project and maybe it's going to work, maybe it's going to bring 100 of dollars per month. Maybe if you are lucky, thousand of US dollar per month is good. This is the first step. Then you try to scale it.
Then you are finally being able to replicate and to scale something is good. But the end is to really have your own products. Either it can be selling your service or products or digital products. Then you really control everything. You put a lot of time, you build a team, you train your team to follow your vision and then you sell something that match with what you are aiming for.
And I think that's the direction entrepreneur should follow. Yeah, absolutely. I love that phrase.
Bricolage, yeah, brilliant. It just reminds me so much of the entrepreneurial mindset and I love it. I definitely think it's a very apt analogy of what it is like. And I have a lot of friends actually who come here and I suppose take the traditional route of teaching but always talk to me about starting a business and they've got the idea, et cetera, but they're always thinking, well, it's not going to be the American model or the French model or the British model. They have to adapt not only to, I suppose, business, but also their clientele in Vietnam.
What sort of things would you suggest, based on your experience about setting up a business here in Vietnam? How do you go about doing so? You have different ways of approaching those business ideas. I think first you have to think about what you are good at and then try to find something that is at least matching that skillset. Then you have the component of finding a business partner in Vietnam. When you come to a country that is not yours, you have to cope and you have to match with also the regulations. And now things are implemented in this part of the world. We are talking about a very emerging market.
Foreigners can set up their companies, but it's not always 100% straightforward. And then it's always better to spend time either, as you say, you have a job as an English teacher or you find a job with a foreign or local company. Here you spend two, three years and when you really start to acquire knowledge about how things are working here, then you can consider jumping into the real world as an entrepreneur. So you set up a company, you invest $2,000. A couple of years ago we could just start a company with $5, 000 in Vietnam and then that could grant you long term visa.
Now it's not the case anymore. You really have to be able to put on the table 20, $30,000. So it's not everyone who can do that. That's why if you have a bunch of friends, you are more salesperson, you find someone that's more tech person, then maybe two people with a little bit of saving can start a new journey.
So finding the right person you can associate with because if you have no experience, you have super high chance of failing. But on the other side, because we are in Vietnam and we are in the land with a lot of opportunities, there are also a lot of potential things that are not taken yet. Or just because I'm French, there is a lot of lawyers in town, there is a lot of people providing business services. But because you are French, you will immediately have an advantage over the French community, for instance, for my case. So of course you will have more inquiries for people who understand you better and an advantage over the locals.
So in Vietnam we see here in Thao Dien, we have buildings, restaurants, coffee shops, bar popping up very often, but we have at the same time at least that are opening and then after two to three months sometimes they shut down and there is a new business. So it's for sure not easy, for sure there are a lot of opportunities, but it come with the experience. Again, understand more how the market works first and then later on consider doing something more entrepreneurial. I see. with your business you mentioned earlier something I want to touch back on is products within selling your products perhaps digitally or offline, I'm not sure of the word, but selling your products, are there any products that you've sold that you're particularly proud of in your journey from Movetoasia since you've arrived? So there is a funny thing about this funny product that pop up. It's like I start to build content at the beginning, very broad, so a lot of content, a lot of topics about life in Vietnam.
And then I got an article ranking very high on Google. It was find a job in Vietnam. So every day I had hundreds of visitors visiting my page and then start to send me inquiry, I want to find a job in Vietnam. So what I did at that time is that I tried to go out there and see if any companies would like to get my leads, would like to get those people who are looking for a job.
And then I went to head hunters firms trying to tell them oh, I have very good profile, are you interested in those resume? And I can give you those resume and maybe you can give me a commission if you have a good profile. And finally I didn't find a product market fit with that because of course those head hunter firms, they already receive hundreds of resume per month. So you had to tweak the problem one more time and say okay, if those people are looking to find a job, how can you help them? I made friend with a French guy that is a head hunter here and we made together an online training. So it's basically resources that have been putting out there, that are updated a list of companies that you can contact proactively because most of the people who are looking for them, they would just go on the Facebook page and say hey, here's my resume, is anyone interested? Mostly they won't have any answer, right? But if you proactively, find the companies that are matching with your resume, with your experience and contact them and say I'm physically now in Vietnam, I have two weeks for instance, I'm on Evisa or tourist visa and I'm willing to meet you, then of course you have a higher chance to at least have a first introduction and talk with the key decision maker of those companies.
So that product that we design came after iteration of trying to acquire an audience first and then we bootstrap very fast with a friend of mine that is still running and we are still doing sales every month and it's 100% online. So people can sign up. People can buy those resources.
Access to the training. Et cetera. And after they can implement it by their own.
They are autonomous to do it. And then other products will be more selling services and selling consulting, partnering with someone in Vietnam that has the knowledge, has the experience, for instance, a lawyer. And then when we have an inquiry about a specific topic, I'm going to consult you at an early stage and then my partner here can do the paperwork aspects. For instance, set up a company. I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not updated about all the different regulations. I'm not someone from the immigration as well.
So it's more finding the right partner in all the different fields and then offering a service up front, consulting that customer. And then when the customer is willing to sign up, then we will outsource the work to those partners to offer that service. So it's two different products that you can consider. Absolutely.
And it definitely kind of ties into the themes that we've been discussing about assistance and also the online versus offline. I don't really mean to fast forward too much, but I do want to talk about real estate. I feel like that is important as I know that is something that you operate within with your work and Movetoasia Can you tell me more about that and how it's developing in Vietnam perhaps in the last few years or so, from what you've seen? So from what I've seen, there is a huge gap between how we see the real estate in the West and how the real estate is in Vietnam.
Over the last four years it has been booming. It used to boom already and I had to meet a lot of people because I wanted to live in Vietnam. So four years ago I bought my first land in Vietnam. So of course, as a foreigner, you cannot own the land. So you have to either set up your company to do that or either rely on a trustworthy Vietnamese person that's going to own your title. Right.
So it's been a long journey of understanding the pros and cons the regulation, the risk as well. What I can kind of extract from that long journey is that there are opportunities. There are also a lot of pitfalls you can fall in. You have some areas like Bao Loc, is a destination that has attracted a lot of investment from locals. Other destinations like Nha Trang, Danang, over there you have a lot of projects that start with a lot of focus from real estate agents in Vietnam saying that here is going to be the next big thing.
That's going to happen. And finally, you're going to invest in a project that you won't get the ROI, the return on investment. And then you have other locations that are more growing organically all around. Saigon, Dong Nai, manufacturing areas, long An, Binh Duong, in the north.
Those areas attract real businesses. So over there can be more interesting to study the market because the trends will be more smooth and you won't have so high speculation that you had, for instance, in Phu Quoc before, you had so many people saying that it's going to be the next booklet. So I think from a foreign perspective, it's the same as setting up a company and doing business. You really have to spend a lot of time checking the different projects, checking how the price and the value of apartments are going out there, and then trying to match something with your own appetite of risk. Because if you are talking about owning a land, for me, it's like cryptocurrencies.
You won't go all in crypto. You can have some. Cryptocurrencies is as an alternative investment, but it shouldn't be your main focus. So if you want to acquire land, let's say your girlfriend is Vietnamese, or let's say you have a good friend from a long period of time who is Vietnamese. And owning a Vietnamese passport. You can do that.
But it comes with a lot of risk. That person can just run away and then you are losing everything. Right. And then if you go to real estate investments that are allowing foreigners to invest, we are talking about the big luxury projects that are everywhere, but mostly Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi. And those projects may be some time really polished. So from outside, everything looks very nice.
But it can be risky in a way that you won't necessarily get the return on investment. Because if you are buying under foreign quotas so it's a quota that is only for foreigners, then if you want to sell it, you can sell it to locals or to foreigners. But the locals, they will have their local price, so they will buy under the price that the foreigner will buy. So if you need to find another foreigner that is going to invest in those projects, it may also not be so easy to find.
So you have the two ways as a foreigner, you can be owning the title of your apartment. It's usually a leasing agreement for 50 years. Or if you go to exotic investment of going into lands, it's something more tangible, but you are not 100% the owner. So pros and cons. But from my understanding how I look at this market, still a lot of opportunities when we compare to the west, how easy and how liquid the market is and how there are not so many rules like France, let's say you are renting an apartment. If someone breaks into your apartment and manage to stay, I think it's more than 48 hours in your apartment, you cannot kick them out.
Then you have to go through a low process of nine months or twelve months to kick those people. I think it's not fair. Right. Because as an owner, you take all the risks in Vietnam. If you meet investors here and then you tell them the story, they will tell you.
But if someone breaks into my house, you will just kick them out. And I think it's more fair, right? Absolutely. And it's not something that's in Vietnam yet. And that's why I think that there are a lot of promising things to do here.
Yeah, I find that fascinating because I've had conversations with guests before about Western models versus Vietnamese, and one of the things that always comes up is like the clarity of the laws and regulations where in the west you know exactly what you can and can't do. Whatever. This can relate to real estate or I suppose, let's say natural law, Vietnam, the lines are always so blurry. So it's about also adapting to that. And I suppose being flexible, I guess. I mean, would you concur that coming here and being involved in business, real estate or anything else, as an endeavor, you have to be adaptable and flexible.
One person has to be adaptable. It's crazy how regulation has changed very fast and how sometimes your partners that can be either in the immigration or, for instance, lawyers, they won't necessarily know because there is a blur area that is there. And even then, sometimes they need to interpret what is written in the law, but what is commonly done.
Absolutely. And I suppose then, I guess if you had to sum up in like a small manifesto, the things that you have to prepare before you're going to start this journey in Vietnam, what would you say that is? So I wrote a book that I call the Seven Mistake You Shouldn't Do in Asia. But actually the seven are dedicated for Vietnam, so I can share some of them, but people can go and have a look if they're interested, as we discussed before, about real estate, about business, there are obviously a lot of things that are not 100% straightforward in Vietnam and things that change very fast.
So I would say in Vietnam you have to be aware about the immigration policy. That may change a lot. So if right now you are, for instance, setting up a company, invest, let's say, $20,000, and you will have the right to get a certain type of visa, let's say an investor visa next year or in two years, that fact may change. So they may not ask you anymore, 20,000, but they may raise that minimum investment to, let's say it's an example, right? It can be the same for real estate.
For like three years ago, you could buy, sell land, and then when you go to the notary, the price that you're going to write on sale contract will be different from the price that will be declared in the authorities to basically pay your personal income tax. So in Vietnam, the personal income tax is very low when you buy and sell land. But before locals have these common things everywhere, instead of writing that I sell you my land, 100,000 USD, for instance, I'm going to write $10,000.
Okay, so you're going to pay the taxes on those $10,000. So of course, it was commonly used everywhere, not only in hospitality, but everywhere in the countryside as well, that it was that rule. And then this year it becomes strict and now the authorities say, now you guys cannot do that anymore. Well, thank you for sharing.
I think it would be very valuable for those listening who are interested in setting up in Vietnam and aren't quite aware, because it can be very easy to say, oh, I have this idea, oh, I'd love to go to Vietnam, let's go. And you think there's a lot of things that there's a lot of not loopholes, maybe loopholes, small, little tricky things that you should really be aware of. So thank you for sharing.
I am interested in how you balance. I suppose your time with Movetoasia So based on your time on real estate and also then basing it on entrepreneurship and offline, online. How do you manage, I suppose, and how do you proportion your time on what you spend on each area? Very interesting question. It's still something I have to work on that because in late 2021, I took a new project.
So there were a French media that is a Franchising model that was available. So it's a big media that is called Le petit Journal that is across more than 70 destinations worldwide. And then the Vietnamese edition was available.
The previous person that was handling it here left Vietnam. So at that time I was already very busy. Right. But I wanted to take again a new journey because that Franchising model is something that I never explore. And I also see opportunities into owning the media because if you own the media and if you are somehow able to find content out there, you can also influence. Of course there are some signage that I can push to my own business.
So when we talk about adjusting and balancing your time between the different business that I'm having and also my personal life is not always very easy. When you're an entrepreneur, you have potential new business ideas everywhere right, now because I'm helping people to set up the company. Sometimes I have people inquiring me with so good business ideas and I have some time to tell myself, no, this is enough. I cannot partner with them and help them to grow and then maybe take some equity from their company. I have to say no, because then you will never be able to balance between entrepreneurship, time dedicated for your business to grow and then your personal life. Yeah, it can be difficult to focus as well when saving.
You have so many ideas and so many areas you think am I spending enough time on this or too much time on this and narrowing the focus and working out what the most important things are and what aren't. It can be very, very tricky. I suppose what I'm wondering about go to Asia and the whole kind of, I guess the whole vision and the whole mission and what your values are. I'm just wondering what it's like, as in what would you say your mission is? What are the key values that you abide by? Can you tell me a bit more? I know that's broad, so Movetoasia For me, the legacy I want to leave and then the footprint I want to have in Vietnam and maybe later on Asia because I already have my life here now. I really want to show to the world what is happening out there. You will have a lot of travel vloggers aren't, going to restaurants and enjoying Vietnamese food.
It's good. There is already content out there for that. And there are a lot right now.
But there are not so many things about potential opportunities, potential things that you can do as an entrepreneur or as an investor. So that's the kind of the mission to trying to go out there and meeting new people like you, do what you are doing. Trying again to bring content about people having specific life in Vietnam.
That's really the same direction I'm in. And I'm trying to bring that awareness. And then in five years I would like Movetoasia to be a hub.
So really trying to connect foreign people to what is happening on the local scene, but still staying on the business approach because that's something that still drives me. And I like to spend an hour with someone discussing about entrepreneurship, meeting those like minded people and then maybe being an angel investor, maybe investing a little bit and then mentoring that person. In ten years, 15 years of experience in Vietnam, I guess at that time, we will be more mature, having better perspective about how things are here. Yeah, that's the direction I want to do for Movetoasia