Thursday, January 19, 2012

We're in!

I still haven't taken any pictures, so I'm sorry that I can't show you our new apartment.

What an awful 2 weeks it has been!  In fact, it's not even 2 weeks - it will be 2 weeks tomorrow.

I was so angry with the Sweethome Apartment manager that I could barely look at her by the time we actually left.  I know it's probably some weird Vietnamese cultural thing, whereby she tells me what she thinks I want to hear, and then I am expected to do whatever it is she wants, even if that is the exact opposite of what she says.  But the woman came to visit me, and said that we didn't have to move at all, and apologised.  And then two days later Martin's company confirmed that actually, yes, we DID have to move.

Plus the whole business with Mr Tony.

Dan, the little wee real estate agent showed us lots of places, but in the end it was a third agent Ms Trang who showed us the winning apartment.  Ms Trang speaks English OK, but doesn't seem to be able to understand spoken English at all - despite the nodding and smiling.  And so there have been some annoying communication problems with her.  Also, it is Tet. And really, all Ms Trang was interested in was collecting her commission in advance of the Tet holiday.  As she eagerly demonstrated with several text messages:

Hi Martin.  Can you confirm you take the apartment and when the deposit be paid so I can collect my commission. 

Hi Martin. Please ask your company to transfer the rental because the landlord don't receive any information from your company. At least, please let her know when they transfer. She want to know to make sure about your company before she goes back to Hanoi tomorrow. Thanks, Trang. 

Hi Martin. You shall talk to Ms Thao (the HR Manager at Martin's company) about transfering the rental. Because the end of the day, the landlord don't receive anything from you and your company. She calls me many times to ask but I don't call Ms Thao yet, maybe she is very busy. Please let know now and send the receipt. Thanks. 

These are just the ones that came through to my phone - not even Martin's.  I like the way she changed her tactics, to make it sound like the pushing was coming from the landlords end.  But Martin spoke to the landlord's daughter (who has perfect English) and also to Ms Thao and the landlord was in fact happy with the arrangement we had in place.

Because of the urgency of our situation, and also because of the fact of Tet, and because of the need to deal with Martin's company for the contract and paying the deposit etc - we had all agreed that the contract would be signed on Tuesday (which it was) and that we would move in on Wednesday (yesterday).  But, because Ms Thao needed 2 signatures to get the payment activated, the bank transfer couldn't be made until late on Wednesday or maybe Thursday morning.  The landlord asked me to give her a cash gratuity which she will return to me when the full payment has gone through - so I gave her 2 million dong (about US $100) yesterday, and she will give it back to me when she gets back from Hanoi after Tet.

I think that Ms Trang maybe didn't understand any of that, and so was hassling the landlord, the company and us to try and get us to speed things along - which we couldn't do.  Ms Thao was very fed up with her and not answering her calls, and it wasn't until Martin called the landlord again last night that she finally has backed off.  Anyway - I think the payment will have gone through by now, and so we'll probably not have to deal with Ms Trang again.

It is surprising to me how expensive accommodation is in Vietnam.  The rent on our new place is US $1,100 per month - which is more than double the average Vietnamese educated office worker's salary.  Serviced apartments are much more expensive, and unfurnished apartments are a little bit cheaper - but not by much.  Most Vietnamese people own their own homes and live together with their extended families - with women moving out to join their husband's families, and young men buying their own homes usually before they get married. I think most Vietnamese people if they had to rent could probably afford to pay about $100 a month, and I shudder to think what quality of accommodation that would be.  Probably a very small room and maybe a toilet room with a shower over it and a very small, possibly external kitchen.

We are living in relative luxury - a luxurious apartment even by NZ standards. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a massive open plan living room and kitchen area.  There are some things about it that are not to western tastes - no oven in the kitchen, and not many drawers - no bookshelves - fluorescent lighting tubes in every room (eek!).  But it is by far the biggest and nicest place we have ever lived in (though Sweethome was nice too), at 150 sqm. 

There are some things to get used to (traffic noise! It's unserviced - no maids so far...) and some things that are a huge bonus (supermarket on the ground floor - enough space for dancing).  I will give another apartment update after we've been there for a couple of weeks, and try and get some photos for you all.

My next focus now after the unpacking is finished is our trip to Singapore.  We are still going - leaving on Sunday this week and coming back next Friday.  I have been told that Singapore will be crazy busy with Chinese New Year activities - so hopefully that will actually be quite fun!


  1. Great to hear the move is completed. Hope your new home works out well for you both. Enjoy your Tet break in Singapore!

    1. Thanks Robbie! Singapore, we realized yesterday has IKEA- so I am hoping to go and find some bed linens!