Living Conditions in Saigon and San Jose
Khanh Phan

          While I was in my country, I lived in Saigon , the capital of South Vietnam , and I often heard people describing the United States of America as a paradise on earth and a land of opportunities. Fortunately, by my brotherís-in-law sponsorship, I arrived in the USA on May 29, 2004 . Actually, I am living in San Jose , California , and I realize that San Jose is really a wonderful place to live. I feel very happy about spending the rest of my life here. San Jose differs from Saigon in terms of climate and environmental conditions, educational opportunities, and job opportunities and wages.

            First, San Jose differs from Saigon in terms of climate and environmental conditions. In Saigon , the weather is hot and humid all year round, which makes people easily tired. In addition, the fact that Saigon is very crowded with a population of 8 million people leads to the use of an enormous number of vehicles such as motorbikes and trucks moving along the narrow streets. Those vehicles produce a huge amount of smog that causes air pollution. There are so many houses that there is no space for parks, gardens, or green lawns. On the contrary, in San Jose , where I am living, the weather is pleasantly comfortable. Although San Jose is much larger than Saigon and has a population of one million, it is not as crowded as Saigon . Although there is traffic congestion during rush hours as most people drive to commute to work, itís not as bad as in Saigon because the streets are wide and have many lanes. Traffic regulations are enforced, and all of those cars have to pass a smog check. Moreover, the air is pure due to a great number of gardens, parks, trees, and lawns.

            Second, Saigon and San Jose are different in terms of educational opportunities. In Saigon , if people have no money to pay for school tuition, they cannot go to school. Many excellent students succeed in challenging exams for universities, in which each student must beat fifty other students, but they cannot attend those universities just because they are poor and cannot afford to pay the school fees. Besides, changing oneís major is impossible. Once students choose their major, they must keep studying that major even though they no longer like it, which makes them feel discouraged and leads some to drop out of school. In addition, students have to be continuously enrolled because if they take a break from school, they have no chance to return. On the other hand, in San Jose , although students are low-income, they have a chance to attend school due to the fact that they can apply for financial aid, which provides a fee waiver and a small amount of money. Besides, students can change their major anytime they want. Therefore, they feel more confident about their studies and have a better chance to succeed in their chosen careers. Furthermore, students do not feel stressed since they can drop out of school for a period of time to solve their personal or financial problems and return to school later on.

            Finally, job opportunities and wages in Saigon and San Jose are incredibly different. In Saigon , it is very hard to find a job. There are numerous students graduating from universities, but they cannot find a job and have to work in a field outside their major. Moreover, wages are very low and not enough for people to afford all their living expenses. Food and household appliances are very expensive compared to their pay. For instance, my son, Duy, is actually a doctor in Cho Ray hospital, the biggest hospital in Saigon , but his monthly salary is only about two hundred dollars. A television or a washing machine costs the same amount of money. On the other hand, in San Jose , it is easy to find a job unless people do not like to work. In addition, even if people are workers in a store, they can afford all their living expenses with their monthly salary because food, clothes, and electronic gadgets cost only a fraction of their monthly salary.

            Indeed, the wonderful weather, the opportunities to get a good education and a good job market make San Jose so greatly different from Saigon . Given the hard time I had living in muggy weather and facing numerous difficulties in Saigon , I can appreciate my life here in San Jose very much. The opportunities I have had here make me a very happy individual.