Vietnam is Cheap!
The first and most obvious reason for foreigners to fall in love with Vietnam is the extremely low cost of living. Of course, other countries throughout the world are also inexpensive, but not very many of them can boast also being safe, having a warm climate, or friendly people. Vietnam has all of these things and much more. I've read quite a lot of negative reviews from travelers visiting the country on vacation and their complaints are almost always related to feeling like they were overcharged for things, or that the traffic and pollution in the major cities were more than they could take. But this is more a problem with their travel planning than it is with the country itself.
The People are Friendly
Vietnam has some of the friendliest people on the planet. The problem is that a lot of travelers simply follow the well-worn paths of the all-powerful guidebooks, which invariably lead them to backpacker hotspots that are teaming with enterprising and often sheisty locals looking to make a buck off the "rich foreigners". The solution is simple if you want to avoid these issues: don't follow the guidebooks and don't spend most of your time in the major cities.
I personally love Saigon, but I've lived there, and will be moving back soon, for many years and know what areas to avoid and which ones offer a wonderful selection of entertainment, dining, and fresh air (yes, it exists even in the midst of a high-traffic smoggy city). Generally, you'll want to stick to districts 1, 2, 3, and 7. But for first-time travelers to the country, the simplest thing to do may be to avoid the major cities and either go with a tour guide package or carefully plan out your trip before you arrive.
The Food is Amazing
In addition to the very low cost of living, Vietnam has amazing food. While most people hear of Vietnam and think of nothing but phở (pronounced fuh), Vietnam has a very diverse range of food from seafood, to the gelatinous cuisine of the central Hue area to the large variety of soups, of which phở is just one, the diversity of cuisine is one of the most pleasantly surprising things we expats learn after spending some time in the country. And again, it's very inexpensive! So you can basically afford to eat anything you want, no matter what your budget, as long as you are consuming mostly local food, and especially if you are going to the local market to buy ingredients and then cooking them yourself. That being said, Saigon is rapidly becoming known as an international "foody" city with the numbers of expat restaurants increasing by the day, there is something to offer every ethnicity and background.
The Tropical Climate!
For some of us, it's reason enough to live in Vietnam because we hate winter! Originally hailing from North Idaho, which has long dark winters, often with lots of snow and dangerous icy roads, living in a country where it's hot and sunny virtually every day (yes, of course the heat can be a bit much at times, but no place is perfect!) is a godsend. At first, new expats may grow weary of the mid-day heat, but after spending some time in the country they eventually learn to do as the locals do, which is to mostly stay indoors during the hottest part of the day and spend most of your outdoor time in the morning and evenings when it's perfectly temperate...every single day. There is a reason why tropical countries have a reputation for napping after lunch, not only does it makes sense due to the heat, but it also promotes longevity, as more and more research is coming out supporting the incredible importance of getting enough sleep to your health.
Great for Teachers
Another wonderful reason to live in Vietnam is if you're a teacher. The thirst for education here, especially the desire to learn English, is seemingly unquenchable. The respect for teachers, as well as the pay, is very high compared to back home in the West, when you take the low cost of living into account (in economics-speak you have much more "purchasing power"). Whether you are an elementary, middle or high school teacher, opportunities abound. The same is true for beginning teachers, especially those that want to teach English as there is a seemingly endless number of new language centers opening at all times, with a large number of teachers continuously rotating out of the country (it's not for everyone to live here long-term after all). So for those that wish to stay and make a life here, teaching is a logical choice.
The Culture is a Nice Change from the West
Next, you have the culture in general. Currently, the average age in Vietnam is only 29 years old, which makes the energy and excitement throughout the country rather palpable. With over 100 years of war firmly behind them, the younger generation is looking to the future and is hungry for education and opportunities to make money, start businesses, and learn about the world. As an American tired of the never-ending intensity of political bickering and the endless onslaught of controversy across the airwaves in the media, living in a place with such a forward looking positive attitude is very refreshing. That isn't to say the country doesn't have it problems. Poverty is still a very real issue, and citizens have to be very careful criticizing the government in any form. But things are changing rapidly for the better as the economy continues to open up to foreign investment, and the government continues to shed it's investments in so-called State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). This all signals a new era in which the economy will continue to expand at around 6% per year, as it has been doing for the last 15 years or so, and general prosperity looks likely to continue far into the future.
That isn't to say the country doesn't have its problems. Poverty is still a very real issue, and citizens have to be very careful criticizing the government in any form. But things are changing rapidly for the better as the economy continues to open up to foreign investment, and the government continues to shed its investments in so-called State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). This all signals a new era in which the economy will continue to expand at around 6% per year, as it has been doing for the last 15 years or so, and general prosperity looks likely to continue far into the future.
So if you're considering a big change in your life, from getting ready for retirement to simply looking for a change of scenery, Vietnam just may be the place for you. I know that moving here back in 2007 was one of the best decisions of my life, and I've yet to meet an expat that regrets the choice.