This is part eight in my new Expat Interview Series, where I interview interesting expats around the world. I’m hoping this series of posts will provide some insight into what it is like to live overseas, and might even encourage a few people to pack their bags and make the move!
Meet Donna Wanderlust, a devoted wanderluster from the UK who has been living in Hanoi, Vietnam for over two years. Donna’s passions include exploring different cultures, countries and clothes. She finds inspiration in fashion, fabrics, costume, patterns, people and places. and shares those passions on her site. Having previously worked as a fashion and textiles lecturer for over 6 years before before quitting her job in August 2015, she now travels the world to travel and writes about her misadventures in fashion and travel on her brilliant blog Haute Culture Fashion.
What made you move abroad in the first place?
I never enjoyed my hometown. I’m from Sheffield in the UK (known as the steel city) today it is often recommended to me as a thriving university city with lots of art, culture and music, but that all seemed to happen after I left for university in Nottingham. It was there where i was selected for an internship in New York where I would live and work for 7 months. As you can imagine, absolutely loved it! I loved learning about a city and a culture from the inside, and knew I wanted to make a career for myself where I could live in any country around the world.
How long have you been living abroad?
So far about 7 months in NYC, 6 months in Shanghai and now 2 ½ years in Vietnam. I keep trying to leave Vietnam but the country is so amazing, cheap and perfect for flying to different parts of Asia.
What is the most difficult thing about living so far from home?
Hmmm, I am very thankful to skype! It might be a different story if I couldn’t actually see the people I love when I call them, but currently my major concerns are the feelings of loss I have for cheese, crumpets, real ale and salt and vinegar flavoured crisps!
How did you make friends when you first arrived?
I’m not actually that great at making friends. I spent my first 6 months in Vietnam thoroughly enjoying my own company, feeling good by myself and doing what I wanted with no compromise or distractions. I connect with people much better if I see them a few times, if I have had contact with them prior because of email or social media, or if we share a common interest like dancing, motorbiking or blogging.
What do you love the most about being an expat in Vietnam?
The lifestyle is so much better for me out here than at home. The cost of living is less than half, meaning that you have either more time or money to enjoy doing the things you want to instead of have to. And it’s sunny 80% of the year :)
Has anything funny happened to you due to cultural differences?
Oh god yes, especially staying in very remote areas when I visit hill tribes. Families trying to marry you off to their sons, drinking rice wine until you can no longer stand, toilets that are simply just a tile and a shovel on the floor etc
How do you cope when things are going badly?
I try to remember that Buddhist saying “this too shall pass”, and that all the sadness and happiness in our lives is part of the natural cycle of impermanence. I believe in fate, this helps me to consider what lessons am I meant to learn from my experiences to grow into a better person.
What are your future plans?
Well I hope to leave Vietnam at the end of January. I plan to be in a different place each month next year to write about fashion and cultural costume in each country I visit. Current plans are Laos, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Cambodia, Philippines and Indonesia and North India. But this changes every other week depending on new opportunities. I have no fixed schedule, which is just the way I like it!
If you could give one piece of advice about moving abroad what would it be?
Only look for jobs abroad, because there will always be that pay rise or that other perfect job that comes up at the same time at home. Make a vision board, collect images of where and how you want to live your life everyday and place it by your bed. That way you will remained focused and the right opportunities will be looking for you!
You can also find her on Instagram, where she shares snippets of her expat life in Vietnam and fun photos from her travels.