In my previous blog I wrote about my perspective on Vietnam. Based on the (fruitful) conversations I’ve had with some expat guys I’ve met in Ho Chi Minh over the last few months, I’d like to give an overview on how I understand their perception on life in the Nam.
The people in Vietnam are lovely, they really are. They always have smiles on their faces, unlike the miserable people you meet in London, Paris or certain Eastern European cities. I sometimes wonder what tragedy has caused their faces to turn so sour. The Vietnamese smile constantly; when they screw up on something that really matters to you and your face goes red, they smile, say “sorry” and keep smiling – “don’t lose your face, don’t lose your face…”. Such lovely smiley people, aren’t they just?!
Despite the fact that Vietnam is a communist country, you feel free. You can pretty much even piss and shit in the middle of the street in Ho Chi Minh – literally. The other day while I was on a bike, I noticed an elderly “lady” taking her pants off and squatting in a park (not sure whether she was doing number 1 or number 2).
You can smoke in most public places and while doing most activities, including driving a car or riding a motorbike. The Vietnamese lungs have an endless capacity – they are capable of hoovering the road fumes while simultaneously inhaling cigarette smoke. So efficient!
I should also mention that you can drink and eat anywhere in public places, and there is no need to take the rubbish with you afterwards.
Finally, while the Vietnamese law requires you to hold a Vietnamese driving license when riding a motorbike in Vietnam, the rental shops don’t. Not sure who is in violation of the law, the rental shops or the renters?! If you cause an accident and don’t have a driving license, well, I guess you are in trouble. So don’t ride (and make the rental shops go bust), don’t cause an accident or get yourself a Vietnamese driving license!
Ps: I believe there is a Facebook group for expats only living in Vietnam (no Vietnamese are allowed to join this group) that’s dedicated to sharing interesting (read disturbing) anecdotes and photos from a daily life in Vietnam – worth checking out.
Girls, girls, girls
From being able to get zero girls for months and sometimes years in the western world, foreign guys can have a different (Vietnamese) girl every night in Vietnam. Mr Don Juan Casanova would be proud.
Vietnamese girls, just like most Asian girls, have beautiful silky hair and amazing smooth skin (no sarcasm here). They are small, slim and petite – they are pocket-sized, and hence practical. They are usually very nice too and sit quietly and obediently in a corner at all times on a night out. No leash required.
If you are a foreign male, you are handsome
If you are an ugly or mediocre looking male in the eyes of western girls, the female Vietnamese eyes will “see” you handsome. There should be a scientific research conducted on this – I sometimes think that my eyes don’t quite see what the eyes of the Vietnamese chicks do. Or maybe just our definition of “handsome” differs. Who knows…
I’ve also heard from my male friends that the Vietnamese females have interesting synonyms for the word “good-looking”, which include white skin, colourful eyes, light hair, tall, etc.
From nobody to somebody
If you have failed in the western world, it’s very likely you’ll make it in Vietnam. If you were average or below average in the west and / or are not particularly gifted or talented, the chances are that you may become a super star in Vietnam. Have you ever heard of “FILTH” (failed in London tried Hong Kong)?
Luxurious life is affordable
You can afford a “luxurious” life on a regular “expat” salary. You can live in an apartment with an outdoor swimming pool and a gym. You can afford to drink fine liquor at fancy rooftop bars every night. You can also afford to pursue expensive hobbies, such as tennis or keeping multiple Vietnamese female gold-diggers.
If you are a proper guy (i.e. a guy that loves meat), Vietnam is the country for you. It’s almost impossible to find vegetarian dishes in local restaurants so you don’t have to worry about not getting your daily dose of protein (pork, beef, dogs).
If you are vegetarian, you can get yourself a cook for the cost of VND 2mil per month (approximately $90) + the ingredients. Just make sure that you thoroughly explain to your cook what your “western” food allergies and intolerances are; the cooks in Vietnam don’t usually speak good English and don’t understand the concept of “western” food allergies or intolerances. So good luck!
The countryside in Vietnam is beautiful; the serenity, the calmness, the honking out of the blue … the pigs and the cows on the road … the dirt and the litter everywhere…
The Vietnamese are innovative aka the multipurpose of motorbikes
The Vietnamese are super innovative, particularly when it comes to the use of motorbikes. Their bike does not provide just a means of transportation for themselves but also for their pets and oversized items of groceries. I’ve seen fifteen pigs travelling on a motorbike (read tied to a motorbike) with a Vietnamese guy. I’ve also seen a man riding their bike together with twenty 20-litre bottles of water.
A bike is big enough to transport the entire family (husband, wife and two kids) from a point A to a point B. If you want to try it, this is how it’s done: you sit one kid on a chair in front of you and your second child will sit between you and your wife. I would recommend you only try this if your wife is pocket-sized. I’ve mentioned before that Vietnamese girls are practical, remember?
The coffee culture in Vietnam is massive. I absolutely adore Vietnamese coffee and am obsessed with the combination of black coffee with condensed milk. If you haven’t tried it, you haven’t lived. I also think that’s where the Vietnamese culture starts, and also ends.
The game of haggling
While at a market, the price you are told for the item in question is usually substantially overstated. I’d say that the real price is normally half of the asking price. So you have three choices: you choose not to bargain and that way you help the sellers meet their daily earnings target faster (they are the winner) or you bargain to the point where you pay the “real price” (you are the winner) or you meet them in the middle (everyone is the winner). The Vietnamese love the haggling game – you should play too!