Quirks of Vietnam – what I noticed and learned after six weeks

It’s always interesting when you’re traveling and realise how much you’ve learnt about a culture from being in a country…whether it’s from being scammed or ripped off, having transport issues or simply just standing on a street and observing. And undoubtedly, the longer you’re in a place, the more things you notice, the more mistakes you make and the more you learn.

Why am I saying all this?

Simply because I was in Vietnam for 6 weeks, fell in love with the place and want to share the things about the culture which I either hated, loved or just noticed because it was different. I don’t know…I think it’s so beautiful and interesting that I can’t help but want to share from my personal experiences so without further ado…here are my ‘top learning experiences’ or ‘random fun facts’ in Vietnam

Culture 

  • Most hostels give free breakfast
  • There is wifi everywhere in Vietnam. Every single shop, cafe, restaurant, money exchange place.. They all have it
  • Squatting is a huge part of Vietnamese culture
  • You can’t wear your shoes on sleeper buses (the most popular mode of transport in Vietnam)
  • You usually can’t wear your shoes inside and sometimes have to take them off when walking into shopping centers
  • Married couples are loyal to their families – divorce is unlikely to happen even if cheating is involved because they prioritise the value of the family unit 
  • Vietnamese people don’t like being dark – white skin is beautiful
  • Family dinners are a big part of Vietnamese culture – you will most likely get invited to eat together with other guests and the family
  • You can smoke everywhere in Vietnam – inside, outside…it doesn’t matter. People were smoking everywhere
  • Balloons with laughing gas are a big thing in Vietnam’s party districts – tourists go a little bit crazy on it 
  • Vietnamese are CRAZY about football/soccer – if you’re lucky enough to be there during a game, you’ll see how patriotic they are when they win
dsc_0123
Da Lat locals going crazy on the streets after a win
dsc_8606

Family dinner = the best!

Fashion

  • Most Vietnamese people don’t care too much about dressing in luxurious clothes. I see their fashion as more focused on practicality than anything
  • Men like to lift up their shirts half way with their bellies hanging out
  • The Vietnamese hat is still fashionable
  • It’s wise to carry a rain coat or poncho with you during winter/the rainy season (ponchos are the more popular option)
  • Vietnamese people like to cover their motorbikes with their ponchos
  • Most drivers wear face masks and helmets
dscpdc_0000_burst20181101165739262
Vietnamese hat anyone?
dscpdc_0003_burst20181108094054252_cover

Just me casually in a poncho

Transport & Traffic

  • It takes a LONG TIME to get from the north to the south or vice versa – if you want to go by motorbike, it will take you a minimum of three weeks (if you are rushing and barely stopping in places)
  • Buses are the cheapest – I didn’t even catch a train once 
  • Vietnam has a crazy amount of motorbikes
  • Vietnamese traffic is CRAZY
  • Vietnamese people use motorbikes for everything…literally, EVERYTHING – I’ve seen dogs, furniture and all sorts of random stuff 
  • It’s normal to see 3 or 4 people on a motorbike
  • With traffic, its better to just walk instead of waiting for cars to stop for you – the cars just keep coming even if a light is red
  • You can almost always buy a bus or train ticket at the station without pre-booking
  • It’s generally very easy to hire a scooter or motorbike without a license but you might be in trouble if you get pulled over by the police
  • Police don’t usually stop tourists on motorbikes (unless it’s the Ha Giang Loop)
  • GRAB is the best transport app in the world – and GRAB BIKE is usually way cheaper
  • It’s very easy to carry two backpacks on a grab bike even if you have a really big 40 litre one like me
dsc_6903
Hanoi traffic

Places

  • The north has sweeter food than the south (which is more salty)
  • The North is prettier than the South
  • Ha Giang province is the most beautiful place
dsc_7870
Ha Giang

Cost

  • Vietnam is INCREDIBLY cheap…except for their tours which are promoted in US Dollars
  • For most tours, it’s best not to get the cheapest price because you usually get what you pay for
  • Tourists get tourist prices for everything
  • Accommodation is usually cheaper if you walk in to book a hostel room

People

  • Vietnamese people are INCREDIBLY friendly and will go out of their way to help you…even when they’ve tried to scam you and you decline
  • The language barrier is real – most Vietnamese cannot speak English
  • Vietnamese people LOVE karaoke and will almost always try to make you sing
  • Vietnamese people love to drink happy water (rice wine) and beer
  • People in smaller cities seem happier and more friendly than in major cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi
dsc_7012
Sitting and talking with friendly locals
dsc_8327
Drinking happy water with a local

General Travel stuff

  • Vietnam is an incredibly fun place with so many things to see and do
  • Now is a good time to visit – prices will go up because Vietnam’s economy is booming!
  • Cheap Vietnamese products often break easily – almost everything I’ve bought from there has broken on me very quickly
  • There are pickpockets which will snatch your phone out of your hand
  • There are A LOT of scams in Vietnam
  • It’s very easy to do visa runs in Vietnam but you usually need to bribe the customs officer
  • Vietnam has amazing bananas, tropical fruits and coffee
  • Vietnamese people don’t care about putting rubbish in the bin
  • Animal cruelty will smack you in the face – be prepared to see over caged chickens, dogs, fish etc.

There is SO much more but for the time being, that’s all I can think about (sadly…I feel like I’ve forgotten so much already)

I hope you enjoyed my list and would love to hear from you if you’ve been to Vietnam and noticed any other unique quirks in Vietnam 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s