Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in Vietnam:
I wouldn’t say I was fully prepared, because there is no way to be sure of what you will have to deal with until you actually get to a country. However, I think I was somewhat prepared, and I have an open and adventurous mind so I wasn’t too terribly concerned by things that I had never encountered before. One thing I would have changed in my preparation would be to have learned more Vietnamese before moving out here. In Saigon many people speak at least basic English so you can get by without much knowledge of the local language, but it would help immensely to be able to converse in Vietnamese.
Life in Vietnam is VERY different! Not bad, just different. Vietnam really pulls people out of their comfort zone and grabs travelers by the shoulders and throws them into an amazing experience. Rules, laws, and the simplicity of life are all major differences. Fortunately, I didn't really experience culture shock. But, I had already spent months traveling in Southeast Asia and India and lived abroad for a year in Korea so I was fairly prepared for the curve ball Vietnam threw at me! I don't want to give much away, because that is a part of the experience, but just go with the flow and try not question too much and you'll have an extremely rewarding time in Vietnam.
Having Asian look like I do, most local people think I’m Vietnamese or even Viet Kieu (refers to Vietnamese people living outside Vietnam in a diaspora. Of the about 3 million Overseas Vietnamese, a majority left Vietnam as refugees after 1975 as a result of the Fall of Saigon and the resulting takeover by the Communist regime). As a consequence, they often speak Vietnamese to me! However, if I looked back, they speak Vietnamese anyway to everyone since they don’t speak any other language.
Leave your expectations at home, particularly if you are going to be living in the big smoke. Living in Saigon is not what the tourist brochure looks like. There are no green rice paddys and young boys prodding buffalo along a deserted road. Sure, you can find those things in Vietnam but not in Saigon. It is hot, busy, noisy, chaotic and crazy. It is also AMAZING! Fabulous restaurants, friendly people, full of adventure, colour, sights and sounds. One of the things I love about living here is that it IS hot, busy, noisy, chaotic and crazy!
I think we both regret not learning Vietnamese and if we could do it all over again, we would have started lessons from the first month. At this point it would be just peachy to spout off passages from Huy Can's early poems or be able to discuss last night's episode of Vietnam Got Talent with the gal at our local sinh to stand.
Moving to Vietnam, I thought I would never drive a motorbike in this city with its insane traffic! …One week in, I bought a brand new Yamaha Cuxi, having yearned for freedom in getting around the city. I practiced on my apartment’s little alley road for a couple weeks… and finally braved the main roads. (Well, I did topple over sideways about two hours after purchasing the bike. Whoops!)
I originally moved to Vietnam after two American Vietnam War Veterans convinced me to do so. They both worked with Vietnamese Amerasians. Being a Japanese Amerasian myself, at that time I wanted to do some volunteer work here in Vietnam with this particular Amerasian group. This is what brought me to Vietnam originally though my reasons for staying have changed greatly since my first arrival.
It was winter when I moved to Hanoi and the city looked grey and grim—it felt like industrial revolution England. I cried every day for three months but was determined to stick it out. Either it grew on me, or I succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome. Hanoi’s Old Quarter is one of the most densely-populated places on earth. Coming from Canada, I found the crowds disconcerting. But as a writer, Vietnam is fascinating. Life in Vietnam is lived outdoors and there’s always something new to see.
My life in Vietnam is completely, utterly different from my life back home. I stumble through my daily routine here completely surrounded by a language I have only a rudimentary grasp of, so that’s probably the biggest difference. I’ve got very good at miming!