Niamh McLoughlin

Late 20s / Irish / In a relationship /

Teacher at an international kindergarten

Time in Saigon: 1.5 years

Time in Phnom Penh: 2 years





I moved to Vietnam in early 2011 with no particular length of stay in mind. I had just finished a master’s degree but had no immediate plans. My sister was already living in Saigon, working in an international school so it was an easy decision to go there for a while. I did general English teaching in Saigon at first, which I found easy to get into but the hours were not great and then I ended up running a bar for a while. I was there for over a year. It was fun and I loved it but the breakup of my relationship and a visit from my best friend prompted me to go to Phnom Penh for a while. A friend already living here offered me a room and I ended up staying.




In teaching anyway, I have found it is more likely for people to land full time positions in international schools (or schools that call themselves international).
I find that generally, local Khmer people living and working in the city speak a high level of English. I have found it much easier here to mix with local people and form closer bonds than I ever did in Vietnam.


But like other places, it is what you make of it.




On the surface, my workplace environment is a happy and friendly one, but below the surface there is a general sense of unfairness. Most of my colleagues are very unhappy with their working situation and with the corruption that exists at all levels in Cambodia, but they are also quite scared to speak out in fear of losing their jobs.


Seeing the injustices that Cambodian people suffer at the hands of the authorities makes me very angry but also serves to demonstrate the strength and determination of the Khmer people. The people of Cambodia are the reason I love the country so much and have decided to make it my home. I hope to be here when change finally happens.




I miss the variety of everything in Vietnam as opposed to Cambodia, the variety of people, food, music, art. I miss the live music scene in Saigon, there is definitely not the same excitement here. I miss the bia hois of Vietnam and the outdoor, plastic chair culture that encourages interaction between local people, travellers and expats.




National GDP per capita (2013): VND21.3 million


Change in GDP per capita between 2010 and 2013: +28.74%*


*Provided by The World Bank




Darren Gall

50s / Australian / Single / Wine specialist for The Warehouse

Time in Hanoi: 6 months

Time in Phnom Penh: 5 years





I was living in Thailand when my marriage fell apart. Moving to Phnom Penh was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life.




I found the connection and the bond between expats in Cambodia to be very strong and made lifelong friends there. I would even say I found it stronger there than in other countries I have lived in.


Working in Cambodia was not a career move but a personal move, out of some necessity. In the end, I fell in love with the place, the people and the community, and rebuilt my life. I feel that I owe the country a heck of a lot actually, and I feel blessed to have found it and been lucky enough to have lived there, purely by chance.


On the business front, it is an emerging economy, growing and with enormous potential. It’s relatively easy to do business there and it can be very enjoyable to do business there.




Early on traffic was not an issue in terms of congestion, but was an issue in terms of safety — road rules are simply not understood or obeyed. In more recent years congestion has also become a problem, and injuries and deaths on the road are a national crisis in Cambodia.


Business dispute resolution is patchy to nonexistent, and the rule of law is often inconsistent. Getting into business disputes can often lead to years of stalemates and ongoing conflicts, and a general black hole for your finances and company.


Moving On


I was left with a sour taste in my mouth after a business partner behaved dishonourably and stole money from me. I was then made a very attractive offer by The Warehouse, to work in the north and centre of Vietnam. Having visited and worked in Hanoi on and off for many years, I was very familiar and comfortable with the place and the people.


But I think Phnom Penh will always be the place I identify with as home, now and forever more.




Expensive City Ranking (out of 230 cities): Not ranked


Which means: Based on the answers of 142 respondents, Phnom Penh is slightly more expensive than Hanoi. Clothes are double the price of Ho Chi Minh City, while both food and transportation are 19% and 29% cheaper respectively.**

**Provided by

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