Nicky & Rhys: 2 Nomads 1 Narrative
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vietnam, etc.
Hi! I’m Nicky and have been traveling alongside my boyfriend Rhys for the past 3 years. I am from Maryland, USA and he is from Cardiff, Wales. Our overseas relationship had us pack and move to Asia where we have been traveling and teaching our way through. Go figure that it’s easier for us to live in Asia than either one of our actual homes! We left home in May 2009 with a one way ticket to Bangkok & traveled all over South East Asia for 3.5 months before moving to South Korea to teach English. We finished our one year contracts for public schools in Ulsan before hitting the road again through India for 9 weeks & then on to Nepal for a month. We moved to Saigon, Vietnam and started up a 'settled' lifestyle again as teachers in an international school for a year and a half. We are currently on the road again in Europe and North America, still planning where our next big adventure will be!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
After family and friends asked us to blog for months (when we first moved abroad), we finally caved and the rest is history. We both have very different writing styles I like to keep stories light-hearted and funny, while Rhys has an uncanny ability to write so passionately it draws an image in the reader’s mind. At first I thought it would be a pain to keep up with, and I didn’t want to be the traveler only looking at a country through a camera lens or from behind a keyboard, but surprisingly it is so much fun . I think we do it more for ourselves than anyone! Looking back at entries and thinking, ‘Wow, I forgot that ever happened to us!”
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
There are a few blog entries that make me laugh and shake my head when I read them. One of them is "7 Experiences that made us ask, 'Why do we travel again?'” The title is pretty self-explanatory! Another post that I really enjoyed writing was "Go East: Gibbon Sanctuary". We went camping one weekend in Vietnam and literally stumbled upon this amazing sanctuary that was doing great things for some of Vietnam's most endangered animals. I hope others traveling or living in Vietnam might read it and head to the sanctuary for a similar awe-inspiring experience.
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?
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.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vietnam? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Like I said before, we were very prepared for life in Vietnam. We had traveled fairly extensively in Asia and had an idea about the sometimes backwards way of doing things. Before moving to Saigon we knew did research and knew about the cost of living, where schools were to apply, and all about visas for working. There are certain aspects of the work force that you simply cannot prepare for. Learning how to work with other Vietnamese staff and cultural differences in the classroom are all things you learn by experience, and make life in Vietnam so exciting!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Every day is a laugh as an expat in Vietnam! I actually started writing down the daily instances of things that made me laugh and roll my eyes at life in Saigon. One experience in particular definitely comes to mind. For Christmas our school gave all staff members a present, something they thought we would all really love and make our time away from home during the holidays a little easier. You can imagine the shock on my face when I opened up my present to see a PIG'S LEG and can of intestines! I am not lying, our school gave everyone a pig's leg with the skin and dirty toenails still attached!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vietnam?
The traffic isn't as bad as it looks. Get a bike and dive into the lifestyle! Remember you can go AS SLOW AS YOU WANT. There is no law saying you must drive a certain speed, take your time, have your head on a swivel, and break anytime someone is pulling out into traffic because they will never look before pulling out! But, driving in Saigon really is a part of the experience and I highly recommend buying or renting a motorbike.
A wavy hand in the face isn't rude in Vietnam. Try to not get too discouraged and angry when you're lost and go up to a Vietnamese person asking for help and they simply wave their hand around in your face and walk away. A wavy hand means anything negative, "I don't know, go away, I don't understand English, no..." It's used all of the time, even my 5 year old students would wave their hand to tell me no. They don't mean to be rude, even though that's how it seems to most foreigners!
Take a chance on the horrible looking bars/restaurants with tiny red chairs sitting out front. What you give up in comfort you will get back in banter with the locals and price on drinks and food!
How is the expat community in Vietnam? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a HUGE expat community in Vietnam. I lived in an area called Phu My Hung and within a 5 minute walk from my front door I could eat Thai, Indian, Korean, Italian, Mexican, and other western cuisines. There are thousands of teachers and other expats working in huge international companies that are placed at Vietnamese branches. The area around the Opera House in District 1 is full of very nice expat places to eat and drink at. Meeting others similar to you is so easy, there are tons of events put on in Saigon and so many bars and restaurants that cater towards the expat community. Here's a post about some of the best places to eat and drink at that are full of other expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vietnam in a single, catchy sentence?
Eat, drink, and be merry!