Why I left Asia only to realise I want to go back (aka your home is where your heart is)



I guess I left Asia for the same reasons I now miss that part of the world. While living in Vietnam and then Taiwan, at times I felt like I was living in a bubble – all the popularity and privileges of a blonde petite girl and the fun that came with it. I understand now what all the fuss is about, why a lot of Westerners come to Asia and never leave. The life in Asia seems a lot easier, colourful even than that in the West. However, in order to realise this, one has to leave first.  

I am now based in Toronto, Canada. They say Asians are materialistic. I say Torontonians are slaves to the rat race. It seems that Torontonians just work and when they don’t work, then they talk about work and when they don’t talk about work, they talk about their MBAs or schools they went to (and which no one else in the world has ever heard of). It’s almost like they think that work (or their degree) defines them; makes them complete, more interesting, more entertaining. I guess that if I had three cups of coffee, I’d stay awake.

I always say there isn’t much to do in Ho Chi Minh. However, Ho Chi Minh seems like such a colourful, vibrant and eventful city compared to the non-happening sleeping city of Toronto. While living in Ho Chi Minh, I’d go for an amazing cup of Vietnamese coffee or hang out at a pool party, out of boredom. Here, I spend money on clothes, shoes and nice furniture that I really don’t need, out of boredom.

Towards the end of last year, I was given the option to freelance, which would essentially give me the opportunity to continue my nomad lifestyle and travel more while having Asia as my base. In the end I decided to choose stability and routine in the city of Toronto… I thought that maybe the stability and routine would help me settle down and eventually call Toronto my home. However, when making the decision, which I thought was probably one of the hardest decisions in my life, I completely ignored what my heart was saying to me – that it has chosen Asia as its home.

I just finished a few week romance with a boy I really liked but just wasn’t into. He sensed it and I didn’t fight it. He thought I had issues and I let him believe it. I didn’t tell him that I didn’t bring my heart to Canada, I didn’t tell him that my heart stayed in Asia. He wouldn’t understand. 



Tips for Asian guys trying to match with Western girls on Tinder

I am back on Tinder. I find it is a great tool for meeting new people; people that I wouldn’t otherwise meet as they are outside of my circle of friends.
While playing the “yes or no” game, I notice a lot of Asian guys have their narratives in English. To me that’s a sign that they are interested in “matching” with a Western girl. However, their photos and the content of their narratives often suggest the opposite.

I gather that being “cute” is attractive in Asia. My Korean and Japanese female friends prefer what I would define as “feminine girly looking boys”. When I point out at a handsome muscular well-built Asian guy I like, they just turn their heads with an expression that could potentially be considered “dislike”?

The take-away message for your Asian guys who want to attract a Western girl on Tinder is this: As a rule of thumb, what an Asian girl finds attractive in a man, a Western girl finds unattractive. The following will guarantee a 100% left-swipe:

1. Photos of you cuddling with pets. If you are trying to send a message across that you like pets, then include a nice photo with one, but please don’t cuddle with it in the photo. You are not five years old.

2. Photos of your six packs, especially those taken at the gym. I understand that you are proud of your guns and other muscly parts on your body and are trying to show off. There is nothing wrong with that, but please do it in a less obvious fashion. A selfie will just lead to a left-swipe I am afraid. A photo of you and your friends at the beach or a photo of you sailing or pursuing other water-sport activities while looking super-fit and hot will definitely do you more favour. I guarantee that will be a right-swipe – at least from me.

3. Mirror and other phone selfies in general. Please don’t – they look ridiculous.

4. Photos of you eating food, especially those in which you are stuffing your face with an extra-large burger. Yeah, I really am not interested to see how big a burger you can eat or how large your mouth is. I definitely don’t want to see the food stuck between your teeth either.

5. Photos of you being completely wasted. What are you trying to achieve by this one? That you can (or rather can’t) drink? In general, Westerners are able to handle (and digest) more alcohol anyway but it’s not something we are proud of or want to boast about. By the way, drinking is not a competition.

6. Photos of your “assets”. We are living in a superficial world but most Western girls (unless they are gold diggers) are first interested in you as a person. It’s the personality, hobbies, etc. that make you desirable. If you are trying to impress us by your success or other achievements, you may include a more professional photo (not a phone selfie!) from a work function or conference.

7. Dull uninteresting photos, especially if they don’t even show your face. Once again, what’s the point of these? Instead include a photo from your travels (so that we know that you are well-travelled), with your friends (so that we know that you have friends) or doing fun activities (so that we know that you are fun).

8. Wearing sunglasses in all photos. We can’t tell how amazing your personality is through Tinder – yes, we are shallow on Tinder. We want to see your eyes and your face!

9. Photos with a female. Is she your girlfriend, wife or just a female friend? We don’t know. That’s a left-swipe – sorry!

10. Photos with kids. Unless you tell us explicitly in the narrative that that’s your nephew or niece, we will assume the kid is yours – are you married as well? Photos with kids are great – they imply that you like them and that you’ll be great dads of our halfie babies one day. Narrative is required though!

What is it like to work in Vietnam?


A lot of my friends have been asking me what it is like to work in Vietnam. The below summarises my experience and observations of the working style of the Vietnamese in Vietnam.

Hours vs. productivity

The Vietnamese love to work (read spend long hours in the office). They claim they are busy – all the time. Yet, somehow deadlines are rarely met and work hardly gets delivered to an agreed standard. At quiet times (holiday season) when there isn’t much work around, you will still find a lot of Vietnamese in the office at late hours. Such great employees: they really like their work, don’t they?

If the boss works late, the juniors work late too. Interestingly, once the boss leaves, the juniors do too, approximately one minute after their boss’ departure. What a coincidence the juniors are always as busy as their boss.

Now, as a comparison of average time spent on a piece of work in the western world vs. Vietnam, if you give the Vietnamese a task that you would expect to be finished in 30 minutes in the western world, you should allow at least two hours for a Vietnamese to handle such a task. You’d expect the final product to be of better quality or to be more innovative given the time spent on it, right? Only in your dream…

Ownership and accountability vs. the lack thereof

The Vietnamese work on a task given to them; they don’t own the task or assume accountability for such a task. If they think they can’t handle their task, they will tell you so and ask you to find another staff member who can. As mentioned above, deadlines have no meaning to the Vietnamese. Where is the rush? Nobody is dying…

Urgent task – DIY (do it yourself)

You give a Vietnamese an urgent task and that task ends at the bottom of their “to do” list. The Vietnamese don’t understand the concept of “prioritising”; when asked to prioritise a particular piece of work, they’ll tell you they are working on an extensive (usually non-urgent) project and also have other work to do and as such, they won’t be able to get to the urgent task until a couple of days later – no compromise. Result? If you want something done urgently, do it yourself.

Manners, courtesy, respect – what’s that?

Time manners are absent and so is spatial perception. You should expect a meeting scheduled for 10 am to start from 10 to 30 minutes later. You should also expect the office doors to be shut in your face when entering the office if you are behind a Vietnamese colleague. While visiting the ladies room, you may also get exposed to some interesting (read weird and loud) noises. I always thought that only animals are capable of such noises.

No skills do get you to the top

With a little skillset you can get to the top, due to the lack of competition and low expectations. I see a lot of Vietnamese at senior positions that lack most skills (people management, time management, etc.) and traits (charisma, charm, etc.) that you would normally see in a lot of senior executives in the western world.

If it’s not written, it never happened

If something has been discussed orally but has not been documented in writing, for the Vietnamese, it has never been discussed. They say one thing one day, then another thing the next day and in a few days they don’t recall any of the things they’ve said.  This can be very frustrating as you may end up repeating yourself like a parrot and may usually not get anywhere anyway. Lesson learnt? Document everything important that you discuss orally in writing.

Common sense is not so common

New shops, cafes and bars open every day in Vietnam. The same shops, cafes and bars close overnight. It seems that the “try and fail” method is used as opposed to a thorough market research or just pure common sense.

Have you ever been to any of the airports in Vietnam? It’s impressive that you can get a piece of painting there. You can also buy gifts and other unnecessary clutter at the Vietnamese airport shops. Need a toothpaste or suncream? Yeah, you will not get those at an airport in Vietnam.

It’s all about the family vs. the good and the bad are equal

True communists, the Vietnamese companies promote family atmosphere at work; they want everyone to feel good about themselves. As such, it is common practice amongst many companies in Vietnam that over-performers get the same performance review results as those who are under-performing.  In the western world, this approach would encourage under-performing employees to carry on under-performing while those who are over-performing to care less and eventually leave. I have started to see a similar pattern happening in Vietnam. Companies that promote communist equality and the “feel good about themselves” attitude are starting to end up with bad-performing employees as the good-performing ones are leaving for challenging roles.



Why I love (and care about) Asian men

Fact: I never cared about black men, I never cared about Indian or Latino men either. I didn’t care about Asian men.

I never found black men attractive. I did fancy Indian men for a while in my life but never actually dated one. I did have a Latino boyfriend a couple of years ago but he didn’t change my perception on them – I still don’t fancy Latino men, I still don’t care.

Then I got the yellow fever. I am trying to think when exactly I got infected. I think deep down I always found Asian men attractive but I didn’t care and would never approach them – you know why, you hear stories about their boring personalities, about their materialism, about their … “tools”. Finally, I also thought that they wouldn’t find white Western girls attractive or that they would be just too shy to approach me because “white girls don’t date Asian guys”.

Then I started dating them and I started to care. Now, I only like Asian guys and this is why:

  • They have hair at the right places. It’s hard to see hair at the right places on Western men. Western guys usually have hair all over their body but not where it’s supposed to be. Asian men have pretty awesome hair where it’s supposed to be and they let you touch it. Hands up – if you are a female – how many times have you heard “don’t” when trying to touch your Western boyfriend’s hair (well, if they still have any left on their heads)?
  • They have amazing smooth skin. You want to cuddle with them all the time. You want to kiss their face too. The stubble on Western men just irritates your skin.
  • They are super hot. I’ve read countless articles about how a lot of women (including Asian women living in certain Western countries) don’t find Asian guys attractive, how “ugly” they find them. I believe that these women are either blind or have been brainwashed in those countries by the “white supremacy”.
  • They don’t mind carrying your handbag. Whenever I’d ask my Western exes to carry or hold my bag for a second, the answer would be the same: “no, I am not gay”.
  • Sex is pretty awesome. Somehow, they know what to do with their “tool”.
  • They are perceived as “nerdy” or “good with computers”. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Better nerdy than stupid!
  • They all want to have children. I have a lot of female friends wanting children while their husbands or boyfriends don’t. All Asian guys I’ve met want babies.





How to impress a European lady – tips for American men (or what American men should learn from their European counterparts, to win the heart of a European girl)

I am European. As such, I have standards and am hard to impress. Most European women have standards, most European women are hard to impress. American men like European women. European women don’t like American men. In order to get a European woman interested, an American man needs to learn to be more European.

Dining manners (learn from the French)

Dining with you guys is … ehmm … quite an experience. A European woodcutter holds a spoon the way you do while a four-year old child in Europe licks their knife like you. You could definitely do with a lesson or two on a dining etiquette from the French.

Appreciation of good food and wine (learn from the Spanish)

Your favourite dishes are a double cheese burger and mac & cheese. Please don’t commit such cringe-worthy food faux pas by ordering your favourite dish for us. Instead, do yourselves a favour and find some Spanish friends that will introduce you to the world of tasty paella, delicious tapas and divine wine. If you want to impress us, take us to a fine Spanish restaurant on a date. If you want to get rid of us, take us to an American diner.

Fashion style (learn from the Italians)

It’s common knowledge amongst us, Europeans, that you have poor taste in clothes. The ill-fitted suits, the ugly shoes, the hideous caps you wear at weekends?! Walking fashion disasters! I would encourage you visit Milan and observe the stylishness and elegance of the chic Italians.

Sense of humour / banter (learn from the English)

Dear American men, being loud and in our face is in no way hilarious or entertaining for us; it’s annoying. The English would definitely have one or two things to teach you.

Efficiency (learn from the Germans)

You are known for working long hours aka office face time. The Germans are known for working less and being efficient. Dear American men: more efficiency, less face time! Ask a German how it’s done.

Charm (learn from the Scots)

Telling us that you are a hedge fund manager or investment banker and how much you “make” will not get you into our knickers. I’ll give you a tip: go on the pull with a Scot. He’ll show you how to approach and talk to a girl, without all the cheese and sleaze.

Intellectuality (learn from Scandinavians)

We know, you are American and you live in America. For girls from third-world countries, an American passport would probably be the passport into their hearts.  For us, Europeans, it’s the intellectual and stimulating conversations that will open the doors for you into ours. We want to talk about history and philosophy – go and learn some from the Scandinavians.

Global awareness & worldview (learn from all Europeans)

Dear American boys, there is an entire world outside of the United States. It’s the travel and appreciation of different cultures what makes men for us interesting; not boasting about the fact you live in the best country in the world without ever having stepped outside of America. So go travel, go explore! Just like us, Europeans…

Women of Vietnam

A lot of my friends I have spoken to have asked me to write about the kind of people I meet. My first write-up on this topic is on Vietnamese women. The below has been collated based on my observations as well as observations of my male expat friends.

The Vietnamese purpose of motorbikes mirrors

I always thought that mirrors on vehicles are there so we are able to see what’s going on behind us and to avoid any rear-enders. Not for Vietnamese women. The Vietnamese ladies have found a different use of the mirrors – they are used solely for the application of lipstick or mascara.

Warriors in the past, superwomen in the present

A large number of Vietnamese women served in the Vietnam War. They all were volunteers and true warriors, and to date the women in Vietnam are proud of this fact. I’ve been to the Vietnamese women’s museum in Hanoi that has a section dedicated to female veterans – it’s pretty impressive. The Vietnamese women nowadays resemble a modern prototype of female warriors; they are full time workers, full time mothers and full time housemaids. They are super women. Sometimes I wonder why they bother with men. The Vietnamese ladies seem to be pretty capable of looking after themselves.

Heavy weightlifters

You see tiny Vietnamese women carry enormous boxes of groceries and pull heavy carts with other clutter that they aim to sell at markets. Gotta work those muscles. I also see Vietnamese men on motorbikes on the streets taking naps all day long in the sunshine. Gotta work on the tan!

The celebration of Vietnamese women

The Vietnamese ladies have the entire three days in a year dedicated to celebrating them: the Valentine’s Day, the Women’s Day and the Mother’s Day. Lucky ladies! During these three days, women take priority over other activities of the Vietnamese men (work gets unfinished, the deadlines are not met, drinking with friends and female companions gets rescheduled, etc.). The rest of the year the ladies of Vietnam are taken for granted and are often uncared for.

The outside over the inside

The Vietnamese ladies take pride of their appearance and look after their external image accordingly. They keep slim, they moisturise, they get their nails and hair done, they wear fake eyelashes and lot of them have fake boobs (I always wondered how such tiny creatures could have such big boobs – until my male friends told me).  In fact, they spend so much time taking care of their outside that I sometimes feel they do not have any time left for taking care of their inside. The Vietnamese women somehow seem to (due to poor education) or pretend to (due to social expectations) lack personality, opinions, global awareness and general knowledge. From the conversations I’ve had with a lot of male expats, the lack of such traits seems to be desired amongst the male population of Vietnam. If a woman shows a bit of personality or has opinions, she is not attractive for Vietnamese men. I guess birds of a feather flock together.

Umbrellas are for sunny days

Just like the Japanese (or rather because of the Japanese), the Vietnamese women are obsessed with white skin. The whiter, the better. Unlike in the western world, where umbrellas are used exclusively during rainy days, umbrellas in Vietnam are used exclusively during sunny days. In my opinion, the whiter the Vietnamese ladies are, the more ghostly and unhealthy they look. The lack of sun, vitamin D deficiency and weakened immune system mean they are always sick.

Yes to marrying a foreign man

A certain category of ladies of Vietnam are crazy about marrying a foreigner as they associate “foreign” with money and the freedom to travel the world. Now, these Vietnamese females know that it is important to choose their foreign guy wisely. The more desperate, uninteresting and intellectually slow the foreign guy looks, the more chances the Vietnamese girl has to get married to them. A lot of expat men I’ve met are only interested in flings and tend to “date” a number of Vietnamese ladies simultaneously while actually looking for someone who can intellectually stimulate them. Intellectual stimulation with a Vietnamese girl will happen once in a blue moon.


Backpackers and their stereotypes

Whenever I categorise people based on their personalities, behaviours or traits, rooted from my experience in dealing with them, I get a response “omg, you are stereotyping again”. Well, the word stereotype was invented for a reason. There is also a valid reason for certain stereotypes. I agree, stereotyping makes us ignore unique differences but it also creates certain expectations and as such helps us act / prepare accordingly.

While backpacking through South East Asia last year, I had a chance to meet a lot of backpackers from different backgrounds and nationalities. Slowly, I started placing them into my small boxes:

  • I stereotyped the backpackers I met based on the type of their backpacking / travelling style and created three categories.
  • I also paid attention to similarities based on the nationality of the backpapers. I would only stereotype someone based on their nationality if I got a fit for purpose sample (i.e. if I met more than three backpackers of the same nationality non-simultaneously or a group of backpackers of the same nationality at more than one occasion).

Stereotypes based on a backpacking / travelling style

  1. Tourists
  • The backpackers I categorised as “tourists” tend to:
    • book organised tours,
    • hardly ever choose activities based on their passions or interests,
    • tend to follow guide books and do what all tourists and holidaymakers do.
  1. Travellers (including the nomads):
  • The backpackers I categorised as “travellers” tend to:
    • do most activities on their own,
    • use public transportation and hang out in local places (not just touristy areas),
    • choose activities based on their passions or interests.
  1. Drunkards
  • The backpackers I categorised as “drunkards” tend to:
    • drink all night, sleep all day,
    • not to do much apart from the above two activities.

Stereotypes based on nationality

  1. English guys
  • The better looking English gender,
  • Great sense of humour and banter.
  • Can’t handle alcohol well. 
  1. English girls
  • The worse looking English gender,
  • Can’t handle alcohol well,
  • Tendency to call you rude at 4 am when they get back to the hostel from a night out and you ask them politely to keep their voices down. Tendency to call you rude again at 10 am the following morning when you accidently drop a bottle of shampoo on the floor and wake them up. 
  1. Germans
  • Gotta love the rules!
  • There is nothing that will make the Germans change the rules – have you ever played card games with them? 
  1. Swiss
  • A stronger version of the Germans. The rules are RULES. 
  1. Asian nationalities (born, brought up and living in an Asian country)
  • Seem to have their hearing and / or speech impaired. Don’t say hi to you; don’t say hi back when you say hi first. 
  1. Americans
  • In your face all the time,
  • Very literal,
  • I also met (male) Americans who claimed they were “sarcastic”. If you are English or European, you must be thinking Americans and sarcastic? What? Well, I’ve conducted a research on this topic and there is such thing as American sarcasm. It’s just not really funny or clever the way the English or European sarcasm is. It’s more forced and “in your face”. Unless you are American, avoid at all times! 
  1. Canadians
  • Know how to get a party started,
  • Friendly and inclusive,
  • Hate when other people think they are American when they meet them for the first time. 
  1. Australians
  • Easy to impress,
  • Love making new friends. 
  1. Egyptians
  • Drink like a fish,
  • Can be a bit too serious at times. 
  1. Dutch
  • Fun,
  • Proud of the fact they get on well with the English. 
  1. French
  • Loyal backpackers; once they’ve found a travel companion, they tend to stick with them.