Expat Experiences, Ho Chi Minh City, Inside My Head, Travel Advice, Vietnam

Vietnam Learnings

16 Comments 19 October 2009

I love to reflect upon my time in a place, so it’s fitting that after a year I’ve sat down and actually thought about what I’ve learned about Vietnam, Asia, and myself.  I realize that a year in Vietnam has taught me a many valuable lessons; things I will take with me for the rest of my life:

  • Patience
  • Stop lights are merely suggestions
  • How to embrace chaos and find meaning (see the motorbike diaries)
  • How to swing dance
  • How to eat healthier, smaller portions and be happy about it
  • Your type is impossible to change. My type A personality is here to stay no matter if I’m a corporate executive or an ESL teacher
  • I know what present perfect simple tense, adverbs of frequency, and superlatives are; and I know when to use them
  • Virtual relationships can be just as strong as face to face relationships
  • Traveling somewhere and living somewhere are not the same
  • I never want to be alone at Christmas again
  • I don’t melt in the rain
  • How to eat noodles with chopsticks
  • How to embrace luke-warm showers
  • How to cope with being invisible to the opposite sex
  • Sweetened condensed milk is amazing in coffee
  • How to drink and enjoy beer with ice
  • Anything is possible
  • Dessert doesn’t have to be thousands of calories
  • The end of a meal is not dessert, it’s when the toothpicks are brought to the table
  • All saran wrap in Asia sucks
  • If people around you don’t react to things such as getting cut off in traffic, then you grow up thinking that there’s nothing wrong with cutting people off
  • How to not be in a hurry
  • How to sleep through crowing roosters at 5:30AM
  • Don’t worry what’s behind you
  • Geckos are my friends
  • It’s acceptable to SMS someone at 6:30AM…on a Sunday
  • It’s worth it to talk to strangers in restaurants and coffee shops – they may become your dearest friends

Your Comments

16 Comments so far

  1. Chris says:

    Sherry, you are my travel, writing and photography inspiration! I LOVE your writings! Only now am I starting to truly understand some of them because I am now teaching and living abroad.

  2. Anil says:

    Swing dance!! I’m going to search around here to read more about it…

    Be careful with the stoplights are merely suggestions though. I tend to carry that lesson with me everywhere which I’ve found a bad adaptation in many places!

  3. mint says:

    I’m an expat living in Hanoi, i’ve been here just over 3 months now and whoa…some of your lessons strike a chord ie embrace chaos, stop lights, condense milk in coffee, not hurry, cuf off in traffic, invisible in the opposite sex … love your work and best wishes in your upcoming adventures!!

  4. Stop lights are only suggestions is what they also say about Beirut and a few other places around the world no doubt!

  5. Shannon says:

    All saran wrap in the US sucks too. Love this list!

  6. David says:

    I’m scared of that woman on the photo who’s all in colour, yet the rest of Vietnam is in black and white. Maybe she’s radioactive or something.

  7. Mark H says:

    The Christmas one is interesting. I lived in the UK for three years and Xmas was the dullest time for me as everyone else went off to families and loved ones. It makes you realise how precious family and close friends are.

  8. admin says:

    @Chris – hope you are doing well in Korea! I”m in Nepal now (actually typing this at 9000 ft in a small mountain town on the Annapurna circuit – so will get back to you when I come down to earth again!

    Everyone else – thanks for the comments!

  9. Tarrah says:

    that was a GREAT collection of lessons to have learned – and you’re right – there is something to be said about spending a good chunk of time somewhere. it allows you to become a part of a culture rather than simply looking at it. you are a great writer! here is a cool photo journey through SE Asia that i put together from one of our guest bloggers submissions – they traveled through the same part of Vietnam! http://www.beachhouse.com/blog/?p=2066

  10. Your article made me miss Vietnam SO bad! DREAM of returning w/hubby ASAP! You are SO lucky! Eat lots of wonderful food! Pho & snake wine & green mango salad & taro wine & lemongrass chicken &… :-)

  11. Will Peach says:

    Great list Sherry,

    Although our differences are quite similar some of the things you touch on are only too true.

    I’d add:

    – Learning to live with the sight of people spitting and those around not thinking anything of it
    – That negotiating a price is not an offensive act

    Love the colour corrected image as well. Photoshop?

    • admin says:

      Yup – Camera Raw – not the best – but it’s ok if I keep the image small! I”m still learning photoshop!
      Ah…the spitting…forgot about that. I actually inherited that into my routine when I run now! Yes – I actually prefer the negotiation – it just got tiring every day to negotiate a Xe Om prior to me learning how to drive myself to work!

  12. Janice says:

    Hi.. Which part of Vietnam you are living now?
    I will be one of the expat to be there soon.

    • admin says:

      Hi Janice!
      I’m actually in the US now, but I had been living in Ho Chi Minh City in 2008/2009. If you are going there, let me know as I still know many, many expats there and am happy to help in whatever way I can!

  13. Cindy C. says:

    In HCMC right now. Have been here for 3 days. Very hot, oppresive weather. Don’t think I’ll ever get used to all the scooters: they are everywhere!!! Got a taste of paying for wet nap last night. Just kinda laughed about it since it is VERY minimal. Will try to eat off food stall tonight. Good tip about tipping. Will stop tipping now, and not feel so guilty.

    • admin says:

      Cindy – have fun! Yes – make sure you plan plenty of breaks inside in AC in order to not melt! I always found Wrap and Roll as well as Juice Bar great places to stop in for cool, refreshing food if you need a break! Have fun and let me know what you think of your time there! Oh – and you will get used to the scooters…else you’ll never get across the street!

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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