Around the World with PayPay is a series of articles featuring our global workplace, with people gathered from approximately 40 countries around the world. The article consists of two parts: “FROM OUTSIDE” (published every first Thursday of the month) focuses on a comparison between Japan and the interviewee’s home country. “FROM INSIDE” (published every second Friday of the month) focuses on experiences within PayPay.
In this article, we’ve sat down with Khiem Nguyen from Viet Nam!
Don’t forget to check out past issues too.
* The Japanese version of the article is available here.
Country: Viet Nam / Years in Japan: 7 / What do you do at PayPay: Backend engineer / Location: Kanagawa
“I quit my job, spent 6 months studying the language, and came to Japan.”
Where are you from?
A city in the countryside of northern Viet Nam, called Thai Binh. You probably haven’t heard the name before because it isn’t all that famous, but it’s about 100kms or a 3 hours bus ride away from Hanoi, the capital. I came to Japan around 7 years ago, back in 2015.
What do you recommend doing in Viet Nam?
If sightseeing is what you’re after, you should definitely go to Da Nang. There’s a lot you can do there – the beach is especially beautiful and the food is great – so it’s a popular destination for domestic travelers too. You can catch a direct flight there from Tokyo, plus it isn’t too far a side-trip to the world heritage Hoi An or one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – Nha Trang.
If you want to get a more down-to-earth feel of how people live in Viet Nam, you should check out Ho Chi Minh and the Mekong River Delta area, which is towards the southern end of the country. Ho Chi Minh is the biggest city in Viet Nam and is always bustling with people. Going west from there and you’ll find the Mekong River Delta, where you can lay eyes on the “on-water” lifestyle of the people living there. You may have heard of the floating market, but you can enjoy a variety of other activities on the water too. There are many rivers coursing through the area, hence in Vietnamese, it’s referred to as the Cuu Long area, meaning “nine dragons,” because there are 9 big rivers crossing the area. Also, you should absolutely try the food here too!
Recommend a dish from Viet Nam?
The first to mind is pho, a Vietnamese soup that you can get pretty much anywhere in Japan. Banh mi, a type of sandwich or roll, is also nice and readily available outside of Viet Nam.
My soul food is pho cuon – I really recommend it, but unfortunately, I’ve never seen it served in Japan even though there are a lot of Vietnamese restaurants. It’s cooked beef and vegetables in a wrap, sort of like a spring roll.
Although they don’t have pho cuon, Thi Thi, a Vietnamese restaurant in Kamata is very nice. They serve south Vietnamese food which is even tastier than quite a few restaurants in Viet Nam. Make sure you try the bun bo hue, a type of spicy rice noodles with beef in it!
Where do you live now?
What do you recommend in Japan?
Nikko! It’s so easy to get there by public transport – a two hour train ride from Asakusa Station or a bus ride from Tokyo Station. It’s an absolutely beautiful world heritage surrounded by nature. You can read up on Nikko if you visit Tochigi Prefecture’s official website, where there’s information about the famous shrine or onsens (hot springs) and ryokans (Japanese style hotels) in Oku-Nikko, but in my opinion, going for a hike or trek in Autumn when all the leaves have turned red is the best experience. My recommendation for a trekking course is the one crossing Senjogahara Marshland. Not too far off are the Kinugawa onsens and theme parks like the Tobu World Square or Edo Wonderland, which are good visits. The Tobu World Square is a great visit if you can’t travel the globe – you can see all the famous monuments from around the world as miniatures.
What is similar between Viet Nam and Japan?
I guess I can say that the people in both countries are foodies, and they both happen to use chopsticks!
What’s the main reason you came to Japan?
I’d always been interested in Japan since high school. After graduating, I started working for a Japanese business making social games, located in Viet Nam. I saw how skilled the Japanese engineers were, so given that Japan is also the most developed country in Asia and I could expect to learn a lot and develop my skills, I quit my job, spent 6 months studying the language, and came to Japan.
The first year in Japan was the most difficult in terms of getting used to everything, partly because there were only Japanese people in the office I was working at. I started to get used to things in the second year, at which point I could speak enough Japanese to get by on a daily basis. That’s not to say I’m super fluent in the language though, even after 7 years – most of my friends are Vietnamese and I don’t need to use Japanese too frequently, especially now I’m working at PayPay too.
What’s been difficult living in Japan?
Finding a house, if you’re a foreigner. There’s so much paperwork, so many “tetsuzuki (=Japanese for procedures),” and it’s common that landlords aren’t too happy about opening their doors to a foreigner. At least back when I arrived. Nowadays, it’s easier since there are more and more companies supporting foreigners getting set-up and Japan’s now more opening for foreigners
Check back in next week for “FROM INSIDE” !
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Special thanks: Khiem Nguyen / Author: Kye / Managing Editor: Az
*Employees’ affiliations are as of the time of the interview.