Dodgy Expats

Mark my words you will see more dodgy expats in Vietnam in the coming years as it starts to become an even easier place to live for foreigners. Over my past 13 years as an expat and eight years in Vietnam I have met some of the best and worst of the expatriate community. Some examples of the ‘dodgy expat’ include; simultaneous multiple wives and children; abandoning long-term girlfriends who become pregnant; ripping off business partners, or plain old-fashioned dodgy drug dealing.


This month I have made an easy checklist of how to spot a dodgy expat. While there may be some exceptions to my list, in general these are the tell-tale signs of who you are dealing with. If they hit on more than three of these be warned: they are probably ‘dodgy’.


No Paperwork. We all know some expats who have lived the expatriate lifestyle but have never had the legal paperwork to do so. No work permits, no tax code, not registered where they live etc. They come up with every imaginable reason why it’s better to fly under the radar, but at the end of the day the main reason is that they are dodgy.


No Chamber Affiliation. Here is a great way to meet some quality expats. Go to a chamber event — those that are members in general are far more professional and legit than those who are not members. Auscham, BBGV, AmCham, the Singapore Business Group, Nordcham, Eurocham, InCham — all super examples of great business network chambers to join.


@gmail or @hotmail for business. This is by far one of the best ways to spot a dodgy expat. It still amazes me that there are financial services “professionals” who offer advice on investment, insurance or property and yet have no business email account. If the business card has @gmail just turn and run. If it was accurate it would say @dodgy.


Change of Companies. Many expat managers in Vietnam complain about how quickly Vietnamese change jobs and this is also a warning sign for expats. If the expat has changed companies every few months then there is a probably a problem with the person not the companies. Be warned — they could be dodgy.


Change of Social Group. I have met a few expats over my time that change social/friendship groups on a regular basis. Over time I have realized it is not them meeting new and better friends, but old ones figuring out how dodgy they are and the expat having to move on to the next bunch of suckers. If someone is best buddies with a group one week and the worst of enemies the next, there is a good chance there is something dodgy going on.


No Charity Support. If you have been an expat for any length of time in a developing market, you should get behind at least one charity organization with at least social support if not financial. Next time you meet an expat ask them what charity they support, and get the inside scoop if they might be dodgy.


Girly Bars. If the expat goes to girly bars a few nights every week, this means they need to pay people to hang out with them and pretend they are somewhat interesting while they get drunk. We all know the answer already — they’re dodgy.


So the next time someone hands you a business card and offers you some advice, make a mental check with the above list. Who knows, it just might save you a lot of hassle down the road.


Shane is an executive director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last modified onSunday, 10 April 2016 07:35
More in this category: « Don’t be so Scared in 2016


  • emma
    emma Saturday, 09 April 2016 14:31 Comment Link

    Awful, AWFUL article. How in earth did this slip through the net? Extremely ignorant, Shane Dillion. There are plenty of good reasons many of the things you mentioned, in fact there are expats here who meet your "dodgy" criteria doing far more good for the world and for Vietnam than some jumped up finance "professional" such as yourself. Oh but you do a bit of charitable work, so that's ok. This article is also ego centric and incredibly male centric, both of which go to show what a scum bag you must be. Replace dodgy expats with "expats making it on their own", maybe or "creative expats" who didn't walk into meaningless, well paid jobs which don't require a conscience? Aside from the girly bar point you just described factors which also apply to plenty of authentic and original human beings seeking more in this world than money, as you appear to be. What a hollow person you must be.

  • David Spelvin
    David Spelvin Saturday, 09 April 2016 03:34 Comment Link

    Worst article ever. That Gmail thing was true 10 years ago but nowadays companies and their reps use Gmail all the time. No chamber membership?? Gimme a break.

  • Joel
    Joel Friday, 08 April 2016 10:51 Comment Link

    A good concept for an article with a dumb self centred thumb up your own ass approach shane. Some are amusing, true and obvious the others are just hoity toityness trying to put down others who are not being paid by daddy's company for a glorified jolly to play business in an early market.

    Chambers and charities are not for everyone. Sure we should all help those less fortunate and all network but we don't need to be dodgy if we do it your way.

    Stop trying to force your boys club, sounds like people who know you seem to think your time could be better spent working properly

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