10 things you need to know before visiting hanoi vietnam

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


HANOI – A Province like city

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*everything I write here is based solely on my opinion

On my way home from school,  just finished one class in the morning…my bag on one hand and a plastic full of Chinese cabbage. 

Yes! You read it right! A plastic full of Chinese cabbage from school!! My employer gave it to me. They got a couple beds of Chinese cabbage right at their backyard.

It was just the other week when I went home with a plastic full of ‘manila’ clams, from school. Of course, clams don’t grow in the backyard, it was brought by the mother of my employer, and so she gave me some.

And not just two times but a lot of times when I go home with a plastic full of watchamacallits! There were even some days when my boss visits me with a meal for dinner or lunch, sometimes the office staff had to take care of me when I got sick and had a porridge ready. I’m totally speechless!

‘Your like a sister’, “Your family’s not here, no one will take care of you”, “It’s nothing, everyone would do the same thing’. These are some of their answers when asked ‘Why are you doing this”?

I’m very grateful for everything they have done without hesitations and a thought of something in return. Though someone is a foreigner, Vietnamese people treat you like your a local person but with a little bit of TLC [Tender Loving Care).

These instances rarely happen in the city.  Back in my country, in the provinces, people know almost everyone.  They live a simple life, where everybody cares for their neighbor. Whereas in the city, almost everyone is indifferent. All people are just so occupied of making money and living their dreams and a couple of friends is just enough to share your thoughts with.

Hence, one could say,Hanoi is a city-like-province.  They share food, clothes, and other stuffs. Individualism is a rare thing here.

But sometimes a foreigner like me would have this feeling of awkwardness.

There just too much closeness at work that there is a need to draw a borderline and it’s called professionalism.

A friend of mine who lives in a dorm at school, complains about the staff ‘s rudeness. Opening someone’s door without knocking, opening the grocery bag which you brought from the grocers, calling you at the wee hours, ..and other things that are not that big of a matter but makes you annoyed.

I know the office staff and other students don’t mean any harm to my friend because they think of her like their close friend.

However it should be understood that foreigners are FOREIGN. They are people who have different cultures and values.

What upsets others, might not upset you or what makes people happy, might just be a corny joke to you. But there is a need to respect that difference!

I’m not saying that the people here are rude. There are advantages and disadvantages to a place. I’ve meet really amazing people, my boss and my students are really nice. They’ve been very good since I came here. I love the culture and their traditions. I respect their faith and principles.

It’s just that sometimes we have to consider that we live in a vast world. We meet different people from different backgrounds and we should respect that.

..Thai Express**

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Saturday, March 17, 2012


Sunday morning, hear at Thai Express..waiting for a former colleague.

It’s my Sunday morning routine.. attend church at ten and eat somewhere with
former colleagues. Sounds fun right? Well, actually it is..hmm.. except for the fact that I have to hurry just to be at the center before one.
I would really want to enjoy my Sunday morning. The only day where I get to have a day off!
…WAIT..is it really a day off? How can a morning off be a day off, if I have a class in the afternoon.
Alright enough with that thinking..I don’t want today’s post be another rant..^^..what’s important is I’m doing great.

Now, let’s talk about this restaurant where I am in. This is one of the famous chains here in Hanoi and probably around the world coz’ it sounds so familiar..I’m pretty sure one branch of this can be found in my country.

It’s my second time here and the place is really great. They serve good food and definitely comfortable. It is located near the famous Hoan Kiem Lake.

ReALLY comfy huh,,I want to write more about it ..but I might do it later…have to start eating..before everything gets cold…forget about my former colleague, she’ll get here when everything on my plate is gone..hahaha

*this picture is from google. I didn’t take one when I was there.

** this was a posts from my Blogger(google) account.