5 Things I Learned From Three Years in Vietnam
5 THINGS I LEARNED FROM THREE YEARS IN VIETNAM
by Jasper Roe
This post is about a few of the many things I’ve learned from my three years in Vietnam. I won’t get too sentimental, but living in this country and starting a career as a TEFL teacher has taught me a lot. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up:
1. Vietnamese coffee is great, but will make you fat
There came a time when I first arrived, when I couldn’t get enough of the sticky black rocket fuel that we know as Vietnamese coffee. I used to wake up every day and down a few Nau Da before I went to work (Nau Da translates as ‘brown ice’ by the way, I never know why we call it ‘white’ coffee when it’s always brown). The issue is that having a lot of condensed milk every day, delicious though it is, quickly starts to pack in the calories. In my first year I gained almost 10 kilos! Of course, the cheapest beer in the world and £0.50 Pho was part of that, but I think the coffee definitely played a role too…now I have no sugar, no milk. Sometimes.
2. The traffic is dangerous, but it’s not as dangerous as it’s made out to be
The thing is, the traffic looks crazy and people are always terrified of it at first. Me too. I still have flashbacks of me sitting on my first motorbike, white knuckled and teeth gritted, wondering what the hell I’m doing. That feeling passed. And while it is dangerous when compared to my home country (The UK, one of the safest in the world), it’s not quite as bad as everyone says. For one thing, it’s mercifully slow. When I went to Taiwan recently, I was shocked at how fast the traffic was. Everyone just seemed to turn the accelerator to breaking point and leave it there. Most of the time, in Hanoi anyway, you’ll struggle to get past 40km/h. Realistically, if you drive sensibly, wear a good helmet, and be cautious (i.e. no wheelies or drunk-driving) then you’ll be fine. It’s also worth noting that while I’ve seen a lot of accidents, most of them are people falling off their bike, dusting themselves off, then going back about their day. When I compare the traffic in the city in Hanoi to Bangkok or Taipei, it really doesn’t feel so bad. Doing the Hanoi – HCMC trail on a 20-year old motorbike held together with glue and string however, is another story…