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Book Week 18

Moving to Hanoi – Knowledge from our current parents to new families

Moving to a new country is never easy. It is a big change with many challenges to face. However, if you find the right community, you will be warmly welcomed and find it much easier to settle in. Mrs Natasha Chapman is a mother of two boys (Year 3 and F3) at BIS Hanoi. Below, she shares what she has learnt since moving to Hanoi and how BIS Hanoi have helped her and her family to integrate. All this is for the benefit of you, the new families joining us this year.

Could you share with us some information about yourself and your feelings before coming to Hanoi?

Hi, I’m Natasha. I’m a British Expat living here in Hanoi with my husband, who teaches PE at BVIS, and my two boys (Year 3 and F3) who are students at BIS Hanoi.

The day of the long flight to Hanoi, I received an E-mail from Mrs. Rebecca Carroll (Head of Primary at BIS Hanoi) and as soon as I read that e-mail, I knew we had made the right decision for our future. Rebecca’s e-mail was personal yet professional at the same time. It welcomed us to the school, the community and just generally made us feel at home before we’d even arrived.

Welcome new families

Mrs Natasha Chapman with her children at our Friends of BIS Bowling Night.

For any family coming to a new country, choosing a suitable neighbourhood and quality education for children are two of the most important factors. You chose BIS Hanoi for your children, how do you feel about our school?

BIS Hanoi has so far been incredible for us. For a start, the school itself is clean, welcoming and bright. The staff are approachable, professional and the communication between parent and teachers is certainly the best I’ve experienced from a school so far.

I have seen wonders in both of my children’s development, both on an educational basis as well as a personal one. My boys have always been very shy children but now, in a very short time, they both have created wide friendship groups, are running away from me to get to class and come out with huge smiles on their faces at the end of each day.

For my eldest son, his academic improvements have been phenomenal. It feels like I am hearing of new achievements every weekend and the praise he gets from his teachers is heart-warming.

I know I’m writing for BIS Hanoi when I say this but I genuinely have no bad word to say about the school, its staff or its surroundings. 

British International School Hanoi Primary 2018

About the neighbourhood, why did your family decide to settle down at Vinhomes Riverside?

After looking into various areas, and much discussion with my husband, we decided that the best place for our family to live was within Vinhomes Riverside. Although my husband has a fair journey to work, my children and I enjoy walking to and from BIS Hanoi every day.

Come rain or shine, you will see us walking/scooting/biking down the paths of Vinhomes!

Welcome new families

We were pleasantly surprised at the community feel around Vinhomes. Before we choose our accommodation, we were informed that the expat scene may be small but it’s actually perfect for us. In a short space of time, we’ve made some wonderful, lasting friendships with expats and locals alike.

Whether we are enjoying playdates at friends’ houses, meet-ups in the local parks/pools or dinner and drinks at the rather beautiful Almaz centre on-site, we’re never stuck on what to do with our free time in our homely area.

When you first moved here, how did you widen your circle within the school and do you have any suggestion for new families?

There have been many ways to get involved with the school and its surrounding community. Certainly, the best way for me so far was joining “Friends of BIS”.

The group focuses on Well-Being (fitness, health & well-being), Social (events for adults & families), Taking Action (Environment focus), Cultural (learning more about our host country) and welcoming new families to BIS Hanoi.

Since this group was formed, we’ve already seen a number of activities and events added to the school calendar including Vietnamese language & cultural lessons, trips into the city for parents, family social meetings, fitness classes, community litter-picks and much more.

I’ve found the group to be a fantastic way to make friends within the BIS Hanoi community and to keep myself more involved within the school. I have loved being able to join a Vietnamese language lesson, practice Yoga with other mums in the school and seeing the work that other families have been putting in around the community is incredible.  

Hanoi Old Quarter Tour 2019

Moving to a new country is a big deal and your family must have gone through many things. Do you feel happy sharing some of your experiences living in Hanoi? We are sure your knowledge will be invaluable for the new families that are starting their new life here!  

Of course, with all of this positivity, every expat will feel some form of culture shock when moving to a new country and we were not exempt from that.

As welcomed as we have been made to feel, there will always be something new to get used to in a new place regardless of how far around the world you’ve moved.

Hanoi and Vietnam in general is a beautiful place to live. You’re never stuck with nothing to do in your free time! Once you get your bearings you can easily find what needs restocking in your kitchen and when living in a community like Vinhomes, you’re never far from friends.

I think the biggest challenge for me is the language barrier. As you would expect, Vietnamese is much more widely spoken here than English. To a person who only speaks one language, Vietnamese seems very difficult to get to grips with. “Friends of BIS” and the set-up of Vietnamese lessons is helping that. Slowly but surely, I will be able to tell a taxi driver where to go without using my hand gestures and I will be able to haggle the price of fruit at the market without just shaking my head.

Traffic and pollution are a big change to what I would call, my normal. The roads are packed with bikes and cars (mainly bikes), road crossings are not really called for here and pavements are pretty much non-existent in the city. However, I have very quickly found confidence in crossing the road, know where I need to get to when I’m out and about, and my children are incredibly vigilant around the busy city and heavy traffic.

The pollution at times can be tough, especially if you are not used to it but it’s not as scary as you may think. It doesn’t stop your day, it doesn’t control your daily life. We just take it easy on the bad days, keep the window closed in the house and it’s nothing a good Air Purifier can’t deal with!

Do you have a message to all new families that will be joining BIS Hanoi community this upcoming academic year?

If you are already here with us at BIS Hanoi, come and find me and let’s explore the city together. If you’re thinking of choosing Hanoi & BIS Hanoi as your new venture, I highly recommend it all. Come and see the school, explore the Vinhomes Riverside area. I know you will love it as much as my family and I do. Mrs. Natasha Chapman, current parent

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us! May your future with BIS Hanoi community be filled with memorable stories!

We hope that this interview with Mrs. Chapman can reach new families that are joining the BIS Hanoi community this upcoming academic year. We welcome you all to our school family and we hope you have a great time with us here, at BIS Hanoi! 

For the new parents, you will be invited to join “Friends of BIS” group and there is also a Facebook Group called ‘Friends of BIS Hanoi’ where events are posted and photos shared. This group welcomes all parents in our school at any time, some people attend many events and others can only make it periodically but everyone is welcome at all times.

Once again, welcome you to our family!

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