Come home 'Phở' good: thriving economy, cultural affinities beckon overseas Vietnamese

By Anh Nguyen   August 29, 2019 | 02:05 am PT
A vibrant business and social environment as well as the ‘magic of Vietnam’ are enticing the diaspora back home.

"Vietnam is a playground where anything is possible."

"Of course, there’s all the excitement of new opportunities, but what really beckons is the magic of Vietnam."

The words of an overseas Vietnamese who returned home recently speaks to what has changed and what endures as Vietnam celebrates its National Day on September 2, 74 years after declaring its independence.

After overcoming decades of wars and their aftermath, Vietnam has come into its own as one of the most dynamic countries in Southeast Asia and the world.

Its phenomenal, continued economic success has laid a solid foundation for the Vietnamese diaspora to return home, drawn by a shared culture and the promise of a fulfilling future.


Phuong Vo, a successful candidate of the Come Home Phở Good campaign.

Phuong Vo, regional customer relationship manager (CRM) in charge of rolling out CRM system for Nord Anglia Education, a British educational group, returned to Vietnam last year after 12 years in Singapore.

Explaining her return, Phuong said: "Nowadays in Vietnam, there are a lot of startups, especially in the field of technology. Foreign companies are also investing heavily in Vietnam. The demand for experienced and skillful professionals is increasing and businesses are willing to offer higher salaries."

The professionalism, discipline, teamwork and project management skills she picked up while working in Singapore has served her well after she moved back to Vietnam. Furthermore, she feels her current role is a step up from her previous job. It’s a more senior position with more responsibilities and her contribution can significantly help the group to transform its business processes and she now has a bigger role in decision making within the company.

Phuong’s move to Nord Anglia Education was facilitated by specialist professional recruitment consultancy, Robert Walters, under its "Come Home Phở Good" campaign, launched in 2016 to encourage professional Vietnamese living abroad to return home to work.

So far, the campaign has reached out to over 1,200 overseas Vietnamese and helped many to find jobs and settle down, back home.

Trang Truong, international candidate manager of Robert Walters.

Trang Truong, international candidate manager of Robert Walters.

Land of opportunity

Of late, Vietnam has consistently been ranked as one of the best countries in the world for expats who have given the country high scores for financial security and quality of living.

Its economic resilience and dynamism have also made it a land of opportunity.

Drawn by digital innovation and the growing wealth of one of Asia’s youngest and fastest growing economies, venture capital money is pouring into sectors ranging from fintech and AI to food tech to e-commerce. In addition, with around 3,000 startups, Vietnam is now the third largest startup ecosystem in Asia.

And these new companies, along with multinationals and the professionalization o flocal companies, are providing new employment opportunities that are professional and stimulating, both for returning Vietnamese diaspora and those from Vietnam who have worked or studied abroad.

These young people, along with the children of first-generation immigrants, are playing an increasingly vital role in the country's growth and can now see their home country as a new land of opportunity.

In the past, several factors deterred overseas Vietnamese professionals from returning, and the most prominent of these was lower pay. However, with local companies expanding, startups burgeoning and a steady influx of FDI, wages have risen very quickly.

According to market research group Nielsen, wages are predicted to grow by another 30 percent and income by another 26 percent by 2022.The relatively low cost-of-living also ensures a lower financial barrier for entry and lower stress when making the change.

This, paired with the ease of life in the major Vietnamese cities, the lack of violent crimes and rapidly improving quality of life, is making the country even more attractive for returnees.

Non-material values

As Trang Truong (Vicky), international candidate manager of Robert Walters said: "The return of the Vietnamese diaspora is also aided by a shared language and culture."

"Typically armed with professional aptitude and education, many serve as a link between local and foreign companies seeking to expand in the Vietnam market. Foreign and Vietnamese companies looking to expand internationally are benefitting from the English language and professional skills of returning professionals."

There are other pleasant surprises waiting, too.

Phuong thinks she’s fortunate that she still gets to work in an environment that is professional and international. She didn’t experience the culture shock she had expected before she moved back, and her colleagues here are as highly professional and skillful as she would expect in Singapore.

In addition, Phuong doesn’t miss the stressful and hard driven work environment in Singapore. "I got used to the working environment there and wanted to look for something new. When I came across this opportunity, it really motivated me to consider moving back. The IT field is really diverse, and the technology being used for this project in Vietnam is very exciting for me."

Phuong is enjoying the challenge of working in early-stage projects, something that keeps her stimulated and interested because she learns something every day.

Language, culture, food and most importantly family ties are some of the key factors for overseas Vietnamese to return home. "My private time after work in Singapore was quite boring and routine. Now, my whole family gathers for dinner every night. I have friends here to catch up with and delicious local food is everywhere. And Saigon now has an amazing night life," she added.

Ready to make your move?

The lack of information about job opportunities in a constantly changing market was often a challenge faced by Vietnamese living abroad.

This is where campaigns like "Come Home Phở Good" play a role. Job searches through specialist firms that are geared towards the local market are simpler and more efficient than any other channel.

Phuong heard of the program on social media and was introduced to the company by a friend who worked there. "Robert Walters consultants have helped me a lot by understanding my career aspirations, providing me with information and advice, sending my CV to potential companies, organizing interviews ... I got an offer within a month. Soon after, I wrapped up my life in Singapore and came back to Vietnam."

Vietnam has become one of the most dynamic countries in Southeast Asia and the world.

Vietnam has become one of the most dynamic countries in Southeast Asia and the world.

Asked what advice she would offer to those thinking of returning to Vietnam, Phuong said, "You should consider information from different sources thoroughly, ask friends who have returned about the environment, job market, salaries etc... There should definitely be no prejudice about Vietnam because there are many opportunities in the country that may be even better than their current overseas location."

There it is, in a nutshell. Since declaring its independence 74 years ago, Vietnam has come a long, long way. It now offers a flourishing economy, better standards of living and plenty of opportunities ready for the diaspora.

Phuong gets the last word in for the diaspora: "If the economic condition is good, the quality of life can be even better than abroad. And after all, there’s no place like home, right?"

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