Bulletin

An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Ho Chi Minh City wows business intern

With just one month left in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, at business solutions company KPMG, intern Kieran Burns reflects on his time living and working in one of Asia's most dynamic cities. 

Kieran standing in front of a gate to a temple

If I had to describe life in Ho Chi Minh City in three words, it would be vibrancy, energy and excitement. It is a city constantly bustling with people, delicious street food stalls and a never ending procession of motorbikes.

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh the day before my internship started and dived in the deep end, heading straight to the infamous Ben Thanh markets.

This is the tourist centrepiece of shopping in Ho Chi Minh, with an enormous array of goods stretching as far as the eye can see.

For a jetlagged traveller, the heat, noise and number of people crammed into a small space was a fairly overwhelming experience and it was an intense introduction to life in Vietnam.

During my internship, I have been working in consulting as part of KPMG's financial management team. I have also spent some time with the Strategic Advisory Team.

The highlights of my work have been conducting market research and analysis and helping team members with their client proposals. I have also done a lot of proofreading and editing of reports. The internship has been a great opportunity to experience a corporate environment in a foreign country.

As an overseas intern, I am not expected to work outside normal business hours, but all other members of staff work very long hours as the internship occurs over ‘peak season’.

Although Vietnamese is the language of choice in the office, all staff speak a decent level of English and most work documents are also in English, so the language barrier wasn't too much of an issue.

Colleagues have been more than happy to take me out to hidden away local lunch spots, most of which I would never have found on my own.

A highlight of office life was the work Christmas party, which certainly puts any New Zealand Christmas party to shame. It was hosted in one of Ho Chi Minh’s most exclusive nightclubs, equipped with a DJ, blaring sound system and strobe lights.

There was a staff talent show and a singing performance by the CEO (who also happens to be a Kiwi). It was certainly a night I’ll never forget!

One of the best parts about life in Vietnam is simply the cost of living. I know I’m going to miss being able to go out for lunch and get a banh mi (French baguette sandwich), an iced coffee and a tray of fresh fruit for around $4NZD total.

Not only is the food here cheap, but it is delicious and there is such a wide variety of things to try. Probably the craziest things I’ve tried have been duck embryo and goat, both of which I tried on the “Foodie Tour Saigon”. This involved being whisked around on the back of a motorbike to try various street foods. You haven’t truly experienced Ho Chi Minh City until you have weaved through the crazy city traffic on the back of a motorbike at night.

Kieran standing at a desk working from a laptop

To really immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture and history, I would highly recommend making the most of cheap domestic air travel and exploring other parts of the country. 

During my time here so far, I have been lucky enough to travel to the idyllic Phu Quoc Island as well as the historical towns of Hue and Hoi An. There are plenty of fantastic day trips available from Ho Chi Minh City too, such as the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels.

Living and working in Vietnam for three months has been an amazing, eye-opening experience. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is poised to become an important trade partner to New Zealand, especially with the newly revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The internship represents an opportunity to gain invaluable business insights and connections in a dynamic and fast- growing economy, as well as provide unforgettable personal experiences.

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9 February 2018