LGBT Expat Life in Vietnam

Vietnam has become an increasingly popular destination for expats from around the world. Among them are many members of the LGBT community seeking new adventures and opportunities. spoke with several LGBT expats about their experiences living in Vietnam. Here’s what we discovered.

A Welcoming Environment, With Some Caveats

Rainbow flag waving proudly – A symbol of LGBT, pride and unity

Vietnam is a country of contrasts when it comes to LGBT acceptance. In urban centers like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, you’ll find thriving gay scenes and a generally tolerant attitude. Rainbow flags fly proudly over certain establishments. Same-sex couples walk hand-in-hand without drawing many stares in downtown districts.

However, social conservatism still reigns in the countryside and smaller towns. “I definitely feel more comfortable being out in the big cities compared to rural Vietnam,” shares Mark, a 32-year old American who has lived in Hanoi for two years. “There’s much less awareness or openness outside metropolitan bubbles.”

So while major cities offer oases of progressive values, LGBT expats in Vietnam often have to gauge their environment before fully expressing themselves. It’s a matter of reading the room – or in this case, the neighborhood.

Finding Your Tribe

What is your tribe? – Finding your community of like-minded people.

One consistent highlight cited by LGBT expats is the warmth of Vietnam’s queer community. What it may lack in numbers, it makes up for in enthusiasm and solidarity.

“The LGBT expat scene here is small but super welcoming,” says Joanne, a British national who settled in Ho Chi Minh City five years ago. “Pretty much everyone knows each other. We have regular meet-ups and events that make it easy to connect.”

Social media also plays a vital role in linking LGBT expats. Facebook groups like “Hanoi Massive LGBT” and “Saigon Queer Community” serve as digital hubs. Members share event details, ask for advice, and organize coffee dates or nights out.

For new arrivals, plugging into these online networks is often the first step to building a support system and sense of belonging. The tight-knit nature of the community means you’re never alone for long.

Navigating Dating and Relationships

person coming out to a supportive friend
Coming out to a friend – Finding acceptance and building authentic connections.

Many LGBT expats hope to find romance in Vietnam, but the dating landscape comes with its own complexities. Mobile apps like Grindr and Her are widely used, especially among foreigners and English-speaking locals.

However, expats quickly learn that discretion is often the default setting for locals. “It’s not uncommon to chat with a Vietnamese guy who is very hesitant to show his face or meet up in person,” notes David, an Australian living in Ho Chi Minh City. The specter of social stigma leads many to stay firmly in the closet.

This context makes long-term relationships tricky but not impossible. Some LGBT expats end up dating within the foreigner community, where there’s more openness. Others connect with like-minded locals through friends, events or sheer persistence.

“I met my Vietnamese partner at a work function a few years ago,” shares Sarah, an American in Hanoi. “We were both very cautious in the beginning but eventually built a strong foundation of trust. It takes effort and patience, but meaningful relationships are absolutely possible here.”

Resources and Support Services

lgbtq+ legal aid organization logo
LGBTQ+ legal aid organization logo – Finding legal assistance for discrimination cases.
HealthData CenterFree HIV and STD testing, sexual health counseling
Community CentersSputnik (HCMC), NIHO (Hanoi)LGBT-focused coffee shops/common spaces
Rights OrganizationsICS CenterAdvocates for LGBT equality under Vietnamese law
Online InfoMangton.comVietnamese LGBT portal with news, events, forums

While Vietnam has made strides in LGBT rights, full equality remains distant. Prejudice lingers beneath society’s surface. Luckily, various resources cater to the unique needs of the LGBT community.

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi both boast LGBT-friendly clinics with English-speaking staff like Data Center. Community hubs such as Sputnik and NIHO provide welcoming spaces to gather, host events and access information.

Rights groups like ICS Center are working to change hearts, minds and laws. Their efforts helped prompt Vietnam to decriminalize same-sex weddings in 2015, even if it stopped short of official recognition. Online portals like are great for brushing up on queer Vietnamese culture and current events.

An Enriching Experience Overall

For all the challenges, most LGBT expats express great affection and appreciation for their adoptive home. “Moving to Vietnam has been one of the best decisions of my life,” effuses Kim, a graphic designer from South Korea. “I love the people, the food, the energy of the cities. I feel lucky to be able to experience it as a gay man.”

There’s a sense of being part of a gradual but promising sea change in Vietnamese society. “Even in the five years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed more LGBT representation in media, more rainbow flags, more people willing to come out,” observes Joanne. “Obviously there’s still work to be done, but the trend is encouraging.”

Living in Vietnam as an LGBT expat requires adapting to the rhythms of a country that’s progressing but still holding onto traditional notions in many ways. It means celebrating little victories while keeping an eye on the horizon for bigger ones.

At the end of the day, it’s an adventure – one enriched by discovering a culture largely unfamiliar with but increasingly open to learning about LGBT identities. For those drawn to the expat experience, Vietnam has much to offer those willing to engage it on its own terms.

Integrating into Vietnamese Society as an Expat

person attending a traditional Vietnamese ceremony
Learning about Vietnamese culture – Show respect and understanding for local traditions.

Integrating into Vietnamese society as an expat involves embracing new ways of being and interacting. Language is key – even basic Vietnamese goes a long way in winning locals’ respect and affection. Having a core group of Vietnamese friends is also indispensable for cultural guidance and social support.

Most of all, expat life in Vietnam demands open-mindedness. Pre-existing notions about how things “should” work are best left at the border. The sooner one can adapt to Vietnam’s distinct rhythms and realities, the smoother the transition.

It’s not always easy, but expats who approach Vietnam with humility, flexibility and a sense of humor invariably find their grooves. Generous doses of nuoc mam (fish sauce) and bia hoi (fresh beer) – two Vietnamese staples – certainly don’t hurt either.

For more insights on expat life, read our article on Maintaining Long-Distance Relationships as an Expat has been dedicated to being the premier destination for foreigners seeking employment opportunities in Vietnam. Our extensive job board, expert career advice, and on-the-ground support have assisted countless expats in launching successful careers in Vietnam. Contact us today via Zalo or phone to learn how we can help you navigate the Vietnamese job market and find your dream position. Let our experienced team be your partner in achieving professional fulfillment abroad.

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