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Your mother and I signed a deposit agreement for a new apartment recently. We had been talking about moving since we extended our lease agreement late last year as rents in the city were dropping significantly due to COVID-19, issues with the apartment and our landlord’s unwillingness to discount rent for that term. Even though we had found our new apartment a few days before signing, we – mostly me – weren’t entirely sure about moving and I purposely stalled the process. I was holding onto some hope that our landlord would try to keep us because I like the view, which is basically what kept us here last time, and our agent had rubbed me the wrong way by acting in her own self-interest to force a quicker decision. Unethical tactics, unfortunately, are currently commonly used by many Vietnamese people to get their way, or at least try to.

It wasn’t until the day before when our landlord reluctantly offered a 5% discount to your mother’s only request that the decision to move had become clear. Given that rents for comparable apartments had decreased by 15% to 25% on average, her offer wasn’t tenant friendly for whatever reason and that’s okay. Neither were we surprised nor were we angry but that was my final straw. We would have probably considered staying had she offered a 15% discount for the next term.

I wasn’t ready to move six months ago despite my issues with the apartment, which included invasive ants, a family of rats living in the ceiling and ghost lights. Rents had already dropped but I didn’t want to lose the view and that resulted in a futile, last-minute apartment search. Your mother had pointed out that was such a dumb reason because I usually keep the curtains closed. She’s right. If I had started looking for a new apartment about two months before the lease’s expiration rather than four weeks, it’s possible that we would be living elsewhere by now. Moving wasn’t really an option given the lack of time, nevertheless. The slightest risk of homelessness was unacceptable. It’s my responsibility to make sure that we always have a roof over our heads.

Prior to six months ago, we spent months looking for an apartment to buy in the city. Your mother and I had visited over 20 properties at more than 10 buildings but we couldn’t find the one. Although a couple were acceptable enough to possibly settle on, my intuition kept us from moving forward because I didn’t feel it was a good family or investment decision and I lacked confidence in the overall procurement process. Your mother wasn’t happy when she realized that I gave up looking, which was before you were born, but she eventually agreed with some of my thoughts and understood others.

Our future isn’t here. It would be very selfish of us to stay despite a good quality of life, politics, cultural inadequacies and potential income aside, because that would put your future and the future of your family and beyond at great risk. It’s not impossible to succeed at an international level in Vietnam, but it’s highly improbable. For example, I knew an educated woman from Hanoi that had worked as a math teacher and had maintained active long-term visas for Canada and the U.S. She came from a respectable Vietnamese family as her father was a member of the Communist Party and her Uncle and Aunt ran a successful small business in Canada, yet eventually choose sex work because her 6,000,000 VND ($250 USD) monthly salary was insufficient. She would have always needed to rely on a man.

Given how far South Korea is ahead of Vietnam in practically everything of economic and social importance despite both countries gaining their independence during the same year, 1945, I’d bet Vietnam will still be far behind it and much, if not all of, the developed world by the time you start your career. Movies, in my opinion, are representative of a target market’s culture. Plots are written to be relatable, far-fetched or not. Whereas Korean cinema has startled to rival Hollywood for better or worse, Vietnamese cinema is made for Vietnamese people. The highest grossing Vietnamese movie to date is Bố già (2021), which is about the life of a poor urban Vietnamese family in Saigon.

I’m looking forward to living in our new apartment. I’m indifferent about the apartment itself rather I’m very interested in the overall experience. This will be the first time your mother and I have moved. I’m curious to know how we’ll adapt to the new living space because your mother has a lot of stuff. The apartment is more or less the same size but its orientation is different, the second room is smaller and there’s less storage space. I’m also curious to know whether I’d prefer relatively closed views as compared to open, unobstructed views, among other things.

Moving will be a great test to help prepare us for buying a home. Although it’s first time that I’ve downgraded my living conditions, which took me some time to accept, the risks are quite low. We’re not committed to the apartment long-term, rent is 20% lower than before and the contract terms appear to be more favorable. This is a bigger issue for me than your mother since she grew up very poor, but I tend to over-dwell on important things that give me some discomfort before they actually happen because I’m concerned about making the wrong decision. I’m not worried about the relationship between your mother and I because I believe that we love each other enough to overcome many obstacles.

We haven’t started to pack our belongings yet. I actually don’t think either of us have given it much thought, if any, in part because neither of us have a Type A personality. We certainly haven’t talked about packing and moving in detail but we’re not in a hurry and our new apartment isn’t faraway.

By the way, we haven’t ruled out buying an apartment in Vietnam as a temporary residence-to-second home – or investment property – if the right opportunity presents itself and there’s nothing wrong with Vietnamese movies. I thought Bố già was entertaining but likely for different reasons than that of locals.

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