Culture Shock in Vietnam

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Many expats will find that the attitudes they experience from Vietnamese co-workers are vastly different to those from market vendors and touts. The people that you deal with every day are warm, welcoming and helpful. However, Vietnam is a big tourist destination and so in other parts of your everyday life you may be viewed as a combination of an ATM and performing monkey. Once you get out of the tourist areas you will get a better sense of Vietnam, its people and culture.

Vietnamese people are very patriotic and it is best not to mention the Vietnam War. You may also find it helpful to learn a little about the national history and national holidays.

At first, expats may find Vietnam’s energy to be non-stop. Life among the touts, vendors, travellers and motorbikes can be noisy, but exhilarating. You will find yourself the focus of unwanted attention, be it from touts or curious bystanders.

Market vendors often increase their prices when Westerners wish to buy from them. It has also been noted that Westerners are often the target of pickpockets, especially in the Pham Ngu Lao and Hoan Kiem Lake areas of HCMC and Hanoi.

Learning Vietnamese is tricky but it will help in your every day interactions, particularly when pronouncing names and places.

Cities in Vietnam are incredibly crowded, especially on the roads during peak hour traffic. Learning how to cross a Vietnamese road crowded with motorbikes, cars, bicycles and cyclos is vital. It is best to envision the traffic as a school of fish, if you cross the road slowly and make no sudden movements, the drivers will then be able to predict your movements and alter theirs accordingly and the traffic will simply flow around you.

This calm outlook is indicative of how all transactions in Vietnam should be approached. Vietnamese people will be far more respectful of you and your space if you show interest in their culture, stay calm and treat others with respect.

Australian International School (AIS)

The American School of Vietnam

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