No one has ever said “I love living in Vietnam”. No one has ever said “I hate living in Vietnam” either. The majority of the expats who have assimilated into this country “accept” living here and those who haven’t, leave.
The cognitive process of assimilation in Vietnam could be broken down into three stages, as follows:
- “Beauty to beast stage” (0 – 6 months): From a person with a lovely soul you turn into a nasty savage. This period brings the worst in you, in fact it brings up the personality traits you never thought were part of your character.
- “Digestion stage” (6 – 12 months): You are digesting. While digesting, you are becoming more accepting and tolerating. Your expectations and standards have decreased dramatically. You have stopped caring; you have started assimilating.
- “Acceptance stage” (over 12 months): You have accepted the life in Vietnam and now believe that it is normal too. You have assimilated. Congratulations!
I have collated the following fourteen tips that should serve as a guide on how to survive the first two stages and achieve the ultimate state of acceptance of life in Vietnam. The list is not exhaustive and more tips are welcome!
- Don’t have expectations. If you don’t expect anything, no matter what you get, it will be a bonus.
- Lower your standards on everything and everyone. That way nothing and no-one will ever disappoint.
- Change your wardrobe – “the cheaper, the better”. Recommended colour – grey. Only grey can absorb the dirt and dust and yet retain its original colour.
- Keep your belongings with you at all times, or give them to the charity instead as the pickpockets will take over their ownership.
- Beat the traffic by becoming a fume hoover on a motorbike or “fail” the traffic by using taxis.
- If you are not used to smiling, learn to smile. Most of the communication with the locals is done through smiling. So keep smiling. If you are English, get yourself a good dentist first.
- Learn how not to take No for an answer or accept No as the answer you’ll get.
- Learn to be patient. An estimated time for something that takes five minutes to resolve in the western world is approximately two hours in Vietnam.
- Get an appartment with a washing machine and do your washing yourself or risk losing half of your clothes and the other half being damaged.
- Learn to haggle effectively or you’ll end up paying almost western prices for non-western quality services and goods.
- Find yourself Vietnamese friends – you will need their Vietnamese language skills at some point. On this note, if your aim is to sort out a certain problem in an efficient manner, don’t involve your Vietnamese friend in helping you do so. They have a talent to turn a small problem into a big one…sigh.
- Learn to ignore the locals on the street or practise “no, thank you” as you’ll have to say it over a hundred times a day.
- Learn to use the correct words for describing certain services. For example, the response you give when someone asks how good the massage place was, is “clean”. In Vietnam, clean means good. Learn the meanings of these words and use them accordingly.
- Teach yourself to make the “small talk” or learn to drink heavily – with most expats you either small talk or booze. If you are not a fan of either, stay at home and read books or write blogs.
Happy Vietnam living, folks!