30 Lessons I Learned as a Vietnam Expat

October 19, 2009 16 Comments »

Vietnam expat lessons

I love to reflect upon my time in a place, so it’s fitting that after a year as a expat in Vietnam I sat down and actually thought about what I’ve learned about Vietnam, Asia, and myself. It wasn’t an easy road, and until I met some local friends about 6 months in did things turn around and I was able to make sense of the place with their help. Yet I wouldn’t give up my year long experience in Ho Chi Minh City for anything.  It was full of laughs, tears, confusion, elation, and lessons. These are lessons I will take with me for the rest of my life.

What I Learned From Living in Vietnam as an Expat

  1. Patience…patience, patience, patience
  2. Stop lights are merely suggestions
  3. How to embrace chaos and find meaning (see how I learned to drive a motorbike in Vietnam)
  4. How to swing dance
  5. How to eat healthier, smaller portions and be happy about it
  6. 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
  7. I know what present perfect simple tense, adverbs of frequency, and superlatives are; and I know when to use them
  8. Virtual relationships can be just as strong as face to face relationships
  9. How to turn left by taking 3 rights
  10. Traveling somewhere and living somewhere are not the same
  11. How to be happy with pineapple for dessert
  12. I never want to be alone at Christmas again
  13. I don’t melt in the rain, and neither will you. Learn to embrace rainy season in Vietnam.
  14. How to eat noodles with chopsticks
  15. The best food is bought at street vendors
  16. How to embrace luke-warm showers
  17. How to cope with being invisible to the opposite sex
  18. Sweetened condensed milk is amazing in coffee
  19. How to drink and enjoy beer with ice – not to be confused with ice beer…totally different thing!
  20. Anything is possible
  21. Dessert doesn’t have to be thousands of calories
  22. The end of a meal is not dessert, it’s when the toothpicks are brought to the table. Here’s some tips on what to expect in a Vietnamese restaurant.
  23. All saran wrap in Asia sucks
  24. 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
  25. How to not be in a hurry
  26. How to sleep through crowing roosters at 5:30AM
  27. Don’t worry what’s behind you when it comes to driving…or anything in life for that matter!
  28. Geckos are my friends, ants are not
  29. It’s acceptable to text someone at 6:30AM…on a Sunday
  30. It’s worth it to talk to strangers in restaurants and coffee shops – they may become your dearest friends


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