Living in Hanoi for some reasonable number of years, I’ve been one of the refuge of all the Whys and How comes of my friends who just came in either to work or travel here. It’s quite funny for me to hear the same stories of culture differences and the likes. I’ve got used to almost all of these and so I don’t mind giving advice and sharing my own experience.

All of the things I’m about to share are based on my own experience. Some tourists and immigrants may have other opinions and I respect all of those.

I’ll only talk about Hanoi since I haven’t been to all provinces here in Vietnam.

1. VEGGIES EVERYWHERE

Every food has vegetables. Vietnamese people are health conscious individuals. It’s already part of their system to include vegetables in every meal. I don’t mind seeing pieces of green leafy somethings on my plate but there was a time when I ordered spaghetti carbonara in an Italian restaurant. I was so surprised to see cucumber slices on the pasta.

I was kind of disappointed, assuming that the taste would be different from the usual carbonara. Fortunately,  the taste was no different.

2. NO PLACE FOR TURTLES

If you are the take-your-time kind of person, you’d better not take a bus  here or you’ll end up falling from the bus before you can properly get off. The bus driver,won’t wait for you to properly get off. It’s the same thing as in getting on the bus.

3. EXCUSE ME

I was in a supermarket on a Saturday night and as expected there are a lot of weekend shoppers. As I was  deciding on what shampoo to use for my frizzy hair, I felt someone’s hand on my hip and at the same time I was shoved off from my position. Ready to punch that rude person,  I turned around and saw an elderly woman trying to reach for a shampoo on the upper shelves. Instead of getting annoyed, I took pity on the old lady and helped her get it.

The next day I related the supermarket incident to my Vietnamese colleague. She said it is normal to get shoved off in crowded places without saying excuse. They think that people in crowded places are all busy so it is expected that  you’ll get bumped or even shoved off by others. Shoving other people out your way isn’t rude at all.

We’ll, I still have to get used to that.

4. SPEAK THE LANGUAGE

It wouldn’t hurt to learn a couple of Vietnamese phrases, specially if you are planning to stay longer. I would advice to first learn how they say their numbers and the phrase how much, in their language.

No matter how long you stay here, it is inevitable that you’ll make purchases for your everyday needs. It is very helpful to learn those words and phrases as not to get ripped off which is common in local supermarkets around the globe.

5. BREAD ON THE STREETS

Don’t be surprised if you see sticks of bread or better known as Baguettes sold along the streets, despite exhaust emitted by passing vehicles. It’s probably very surprising but I’m sure you’ll get used to it.

6. I’ll HAND it to you

Not sure on what to eat for breakfast in a foreign country, I took a trip to a nearby bakeshop.

After pinpointing a pastry from the display, the shop assistant took it with his bare hands and  put it in a plastic bag.

“Oh my! Does he expect me to eat that pastry  after  grabbing it with his hands?” I thought to myself. I found out later that it’s a usual site to see sellers use their hands to pick up bread, even ice cubes.

7. FRIENDLY or NOSEY

Vietnamese people are quite friendly. Two complete strangers in a bus stop can have a long friendly conversation.

A friend of mine was in her hostel room with her door slightly open, when a lady from the the room beside her entered and iniated a friendly conversation. My friend was dumbfounded!

One time, I took a two hour bus trip to visit my friend. I prepared earphones and  reading materials to keep me busy throughout the trip. Suddenly the person beside, tapped me and started a conversation. I hoped I understood what she was saying but I got a few hints after she showed the stuffs she bought from somewhere. I wasn’t annoyed. I was amused.

8. KNOCK KNOCK

Better lock your doors, if you don’t want anyone barging in.

How do you react when school staff suddenly barged in your classroom in the middle of a class?

Answer: Smile and tell her to knock next time.

9. DOGS in the market

Like some other Asian nations, Vietnamese people eat dogs, not all though.  Some of my students say that eating dog meat is an option.

If the site of a dog carcass grosses you out then stay away from meat markets.

10. AM I IN A TOILET?

In some small eateries,it’s quite a site to see table napkins on the floor, making it look like a toilet with no bins.

Well in fact there are trash bins just below the table. You just have to pop it into the trash bin, it won’t take 2 seconds. I just don’t understand why some people  still throw it outside the bin.

These are some of the things you need to know before going around Hanoi. It’ll be fun to experience them first hand.

Other than the things above, Hanoi is a very safe place to travel. As I mentioned, the people are friendly and quite approachable, you just have to use your sign language skills if you don’t know any Vietnamese phrases.

There are a lot of places to visit, a lot of food to eat  and more things to experience

Enjoy your trip to the City of Lakes.

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