Survival Guide: Vietnam

Ever wanted to just throw yourself into a different country? I was sick of this shady sales job I was working and was finally going to send in my letter of resignation. Gosh, my heart always goes wild right before I hand one into the human resource department.

Anyways, I could have sat at home, while I searched for my next job. However, that would have been boring. I wanted to go abroad, since I never did that in college. So I bought a flight to Vietnam for 2.5 months and stayed with my grandparents, who I haven’t seen for 16 years.

Now, I grew up with Vietnamese traditions and food but living in Vietnam is different. I felt like an outsider…like somewhere in limbo. I am American but also Vietnamese, but I didn’t feel like 100% of either. I had culture shock just like any one else would.

Below are some little things you will need to know to get by in Vietnam:

  1. Just Walk Across the Street: Obviously, don’t just walk in front of a motorcycle that is a foot away from you. The driver won’t be able to avoid you in time. But, if you see a small gap start walking across the street with an even pace and don’t stop. The motorcycles will drive around you. If you stop and walk because you are a chicken, you’re only going to confuse the drivers on what you intend to do.
  2. Don’t Eat the Vegetables in the Food Stalls: I love vegetables and I pile tons of leaves into my noodles. But when I went to go grab some, my uncle told me to eat the noodles without them. You never know if the restaurant washed the vegetables. If it didn’t, then you could get a parasite. Who wants that?
  3. Bring Toilet Paper: It doesn’t matter if it is in a city or a rural area. People in Vietnam uses water to rinse their bum. If you’re used to having something to wipe after you do the deed, then you need to bring a roll. They aren’t at your local markets, you have to go to like a large supermarket for that. If you are staying at a hotel though, you don’t have to worry; the hotel will have Western amenities for you.
  4. Barter Your Ass Off: If you’re like me, you don’t look Vietnamese. People are trying to make a living, so if they spot a naiive tourist, they will give you the highest price. Most Westerners are conditioned to accept the first price. However, in Vietnamese culture, you are expected to barter for a fair price. If not, you might get ripped off.
  5. Turn on Your GPS: If your phone works internationally, turn the GPS on when in a taxi. Some cabs will drive you around the entire city before you will get to your destination just to make an extra buck. If you don’t have a phone, look ahead of your trip the rough kilometers it takes to and from your place.

Overall, just be street smart. Every country has little things to look out for. A couple of these tips can be applied to other Asian countries. But remember to have fun and appreciate the country for what it is.


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