Kevin: Saigon Nezumi
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vietnam, etc.
My name is Kevin Miller, Jr. I am from Centralia, Washington, USA, but I now call HCMC (Saigon), Vietnam my home. I moved to Vietnam back in May 2004, and have been a temporary resident here since.
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.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I actually started blogging about my pre-trip preparations to Vietnam back in April 2003, at LiveJournal. Once I arrived, I continued to update my LJ account until March 2006, when I launched SaigonNezumi.com as my main blog for Saigon. I never had a real reason for blogging here; I just started it one day and kept at it since. I never expected it to become such a popular time over the last 7 years.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I would say my favorite blog entries were the ones that focused on the building constructions going around my house from late 2006 to Jan. 2008. My alleyway was being widened so fire trucks could get through. Many of the houses along the alleyway were demolished and rebuilt resulting in a lot of construction noise and lots of dust. Below are some of the entries the construction:
- bye-bye windows
- construction mess
- construction mess part 2
- construction mess part3
- construction mess part4
- construction woes continue
- construction woes continues part2
- construction woes almost finished
- construction woes almost finished2
- construction in the phu-nhuan district
- construction nearly ends
- construction woes the end
Tell us about the ways your new life in Vietnam differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
One of the big differences obviously is that I get to ride a motorbike every day. Some Expats may frown on this today but I still really enjoy it. For everybody, your first experience at Vietnam is the sight of the motorbikes as you are leaving Tan Son Nhat Airport for the very first time. You wonder how can drive through the mazes of cars, buses, trucks, motorbikes, etc., without getting into a serious accident. For me, this was really the only big culture shock I went through. In the end, it was also my favorite culture shock.
Language is also a big issue since this is the first country that I could not actually speak the language. Vietnamese is not an easy language for me to learn. I am still struggling. In other countries, such as Kazakhstan, I was able to learn both Kazakh and Russian relatively easy. After nearly 9 years in Vietnam, I still have problems though people can understand some of my basic Vietnamese now. For me, I feel that until I learn the Vietnamese language, I will not really get to understand the Vietnamese people and culture 100 percent. Hence, it is still a goal of mine to learn the language.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vietnam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I knew what to expect when I came to Vietnam. I was a bit apprehensive about the food since I did not care for Vietnamese cuisine in the US. Within 24 hours after arriving in Saigon, I finally got to eat real Vietnamese food. If I had known Vietnamese food was this delicious, I would have visited Vietnam earlier...
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I like to share my following quote with some people who are considering moving to Vietnam:
“Vietnam turns all adults into children, teachers into students, and people into human beings.”
Vietnam is a big learning experience for all people who visit Vietnam. This is probably one of the main reasons people always end up returning to Vietnam and one main reason why I never left in 9 years.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vietnam?
- Be patient. Without patience, you will never experience what Vietnam truly has to offer.
- Accept that the Vietnamese-way may be the right way. Vietnamese think differently than most of us Westerners, just accept it. If you can’t accept this, see Advice No. 1 above...
- Stop giving advice. We tend to do that from the West and put bluntly, nobody likes a foreigner coming to them and telling what they are doing is all wrong. We may be experts in our own country but we are not in Vietnam. See Advice No. 1 and No. 2 above if you have problems with this.
How is the expat community in Vietnam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a very active Expat community in Saigon. Many Expats like to stick within the Expat community but for me, I like to spend time with both my Vietnamese and Expat friends. If I wanted to spend a lot of time with Americans, I would move back to the US. That is my feeling. That said, I do have many Vietnamese American friends I hang out with occasionally as well. In general, when being with Expats, I prefer those who appreciate Vietnam than those who are constantly negative about the country.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vietnam in a single, catchy sentence?
The below is taken from my Twitter and Facebook profiles:
American Expat, Weightlifter, former US Marine, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Kazakhstan), and Linux Geek, residing in Saigon, Vietnam.