A rapidly growing economy and a fast-evolving country, Vietnam offers a wide variety of internship opportunities, ranging from global development to science and technology. The small Southeast Asian country located on the Indochina Peninsula and bordered by the South China Sea boasts the 13th largest population in the world.
Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi, and largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, are two of Southeast Asia’s most lively cities. They not only promise exciting careers, but also provide an enjoyable after-work life and active expat communities. You will find yourself immersed in a combination of both cultural-historical discoveries and bustling urban life.
Starting from Doi Moi, an economic reform policy initiated in 1986, set out to change the country from a controlled economy to a socialist oriented market economy, Vietnam has been growing rapidly. PricewaterCoopers predicts Vietnam to be the fastest growing emerging economy in the world by 2025 and its rapid growth would allow the country’s economy to rival that of the UK’s in the next few decades.
Foreign investment and domestic savings have multiplied since the early 2000s. Vietnam boasts a booming variety of industries and more and more Vietnamese are able to afford a comfortable lifestyle. Work opportunities in Vietnam are diverse, so interns can choose to work with large enterprises in city center skyscrapers or on global development and education projects in smaller villages and towns.
Banking and Finance
With the influx of large foreign investments in profitable Vietnam banks, a banking career in banking is becoming one of the most coveted and prominent intern options. Top Vietnam banks include VietinBank, Agribank, Vietcombank, and BIDV, which all offer exciting summer internship opportunities that can furnish not only your resume, but also your professional experiences. Alternatively, interns interested in finance and stock exchanges can work at the two large stock trading centers, Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center or the Hanoi Securities Trading Center.
Healthcare and Medicine
Medical students, healthcare professionals, and childcare workers have a prime opportunity to make tangible impacts on the lives of patients in Vietnam, especially when working with children with disabilities, which are sometimes caused by Agent Orange released during the Vietnam War. Interns will have the opportunity to work in occupational therapy, speech therapy, or medical education with hospitals, or charities, such as Children of Vietnam. Vietnam is a great country for health practitioners and medical interns to gain some unique first-hand treatment and therapy experience and build lifelong relationships.
The tech industry in Indonesia is one of the most stimulating budding industries for software engineers and programmers who want to make a difference. With a growing number of startups, Vietnam has a burgeoning software development industry, which was worth $2.3 billion USD in 2012. The usage of technology not only makes Vietnam one of the biggest providers of outsourced IT work, but also allows for more efficient infrastructure construction and improvement. You have the choice to work as an innovative developer for a startup or as a tech intern in a government office.
Planning Your Trip
Most internships in Vietnam are offered in the summer. Besides applying online for positions in large firms, or contacting smaller companies individually, a convenient way to find and settle into a suitable internship is to find an internship placement company. Often when an internship is agreed upon, the company will apply for your work visa on your behalf, so it is normal for employers to ask for your biographical information.
When and Where to Look for an Internship
The best time to intern in Vietnam is the summer, but there are internships that are offered for the length of a semester. The Visa for working lasts a maximum of 6 months. The most popular intern destinations are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, because they not only offer a diverse selection of internships but also provide a relatively comfortable lifestyle for foreign interns.
Cost of Living in Vietnam
The cost of living in Vietnam is relatively low (all the prices in this section are in USD to help you obtain an accurate perception of the cost of living in Vietnam). Food is delicious and the cheapest. A workday lunch is between $1.50 and $3.00, and dining out with friends at a restaurant is usually around $10. Soft drinks and beers are mostly less than a dollar. Rent for an apartment for one person ranges from $250 to $450 per month depending on how close to the city center you want to live. Paying for internet, hot water, electricity, and gas in your apartment costs $50 dollars per month on average. If you want more information on daily costs, visit Vietnam cost of living on Numbeo.
Work and Labor Laws in Vietnam
In Vietnam, workers can work no longer than 10 hours a day or 48 hours a week. Any company with more than 10 employees should be able to provide a tangible document of Internal Labor Rules. If you are interning in Vietnam for more than 3 months, then you must have a working permit, which takes 15 business days to process and costs $20 USD. Find out more about working permit application from the Vietnam Working Permit Guide.
Work Culture in Vietnam
Group work and collective discussion is key in Vietnam work culture, so try to understand the different layers of hierarchy and do not try to rush a professional process.
Appointments should be made a few weeks in advance to show organization and respect, and it is very important to be punctual to your appointments. Different from America, handshakes are usually only used between members of the same sex. You can greet the opposite sex with a slight bow of the head. Additionally, you should always let the most senior person enter a room first. At work, Vietnamese dress very conservatively. Thin but long sleeved shirts are important during the hot summer months.
As in many Asian countries, the notion of face is key in any work environment. Some ways to prevent a loss of face is to stay quiet when you disagree with someone until he or she is in private, as public arguments are considered a loss of face for both you and the other party. You will also lose face if you fail to keep a promise or your delay can cause another person to lose face.
Vietnamese is the official language of the country, and it is very complex and hard to learn for foreigners. The language is not required for all internships, and many business owners can speak English. There are also many interpreters and translators in Vietnam. However, knowing basic Vietnamese is always helpful, for example, “Seen Chow” means hello.
Networking is key. Having a “get to know you” meal or meeting and presenting a small gift at the end is a standard practice with any new person you meet at work. An important event that interns working in technology should attend is the ICT Committee Breakfast Meeting in Ho Chi Minh City; it provides opportunities to speak with the Chamber and other major IT organizations. The German Business Association Monthly Meeting, also in Ho Chi Minh City, is another good opportunity to meet and network with important and respected business figures in Vietnam.