I travelled Vietnam from North to South, Hanoi to Saigon, over the past three weeks. I’ve seen amazing places (e.g. Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, just to name a few), tasted the most delicious meals and met beautiful Vietnamese people.
I’m now leaving this country and heading to Cambodia, keeping in mind these five key lessons learnt from warm and welcoming Vietnam:
Smile, sing and laugh – From the ‘happy room’ (Vietnamese guides’ joke for ‘toilets’) to the random impromptu singing on the street and the genuine smile at anyone who will return the favour, Vietnamese people are kind hearted, fun, alive.
- Be shamelessly curious – I was sitting on a bench park reading a book, when two young Vietnamese guys came to ask me if they could practice their English with me. I was suspicious at first (the westernised, independent, city gal that I am hadn’t got used to the Vietnamese way of life by then…) but agreed. Five seconds later, a group of about 10 young locals were surrounding me, asking me questions and answering mine. This surprising but delightful experience happened to me again, and again. I’ve also been asked a number of times to be in a photo (I’m close to being a giant by Vietnamese standards and my freckles are a rare scene in this part of the world, so that could have impressed a few!). To them, there was nothing to be embarrassed or shy about. Refreshingly simple, straightforward.
- Be open – I’ve been able to discuss all sorts of topics from ideal characteristics to be found in a partner, marriage as well as the roles of men and women to education, career and dreams. From what I’ve experienced, taboo doesn’t seem to be a word in their vocabulary…
- Work hard – Looking at those small framed women walking around the streets with their heavy balanced baskets full of fruit or vegetables, ‘working hard’ has taken a whole different meaning… Plus, I’ve been told that most Vietnamese people have more than one job!
- Dream – Whether it be learning English, becoming a tour guide, finding a girlfriend to marry or having a less polluted Vietnam, dreams are allowed and, for what I’ve experienced, followed through.
And a last one just for fun:
- Close the sale – Street merchants and shop assistants are not afraid to ask for the sale… ‘Looking store’, ‘Buy from me’, ‘Shopping from me’ are sentences heard about a hundred times every day!
Now, onto Cambodia…