May I touch your nose?
Recently, I have chance to travel regularly with my Vietnamese friends. Some of them call me ‘weird’ as I am less got influences from Westerners that I have been traveling with last over 10 years. It confirms to me again that there are many big differences in the way of traveling, living and thinking between Vietnamese and other countries.
Light travel is always better?
Vietnamese prefer traveling as light as possible. They may not understand why and how come Westerners have to carry a backpack around. They are also curious of what is inside those bags. Just finished a week trip with 5 friends, I realized all they brought were 5 little bags that weighted 30kgs in total (I guess their laptops already weight half of it). Vietnamese are not great organizing travelers, it is understandable as tourism is still something new and luxurious for most of people in Vietnam. Most of Vietnamese can not afford to have a vacation, even short vacation. Don’t be surprised when you take a domestic flight and see lots of people walk out with a little suitcase.
I have heard my customer saying that she was quite scared when someone was just staring at her in public places. You will certainly get even bigger attention if you have white skin, blonde hair or larger dimensions. Why? Vietnamese are curious about what they don’t really have. Some Vietnamese even point, talk or laugh at you but trust me, most of those actions are not bad meaning. People also just wanted to grab attentions from you only. Still uncomfy, isn’t it? Just a culture gap!
Questions & … hard Answers
I used to take people on overnight or day train along Vietnam. Day train is a trip of fun as you may meet lots of locals. Travel with hard seat is even funnier as this is where poorer Vietnamese people gather. Nothing happened in first couple of hours, but when everyone seemed to be ‘friend’ with eye contact, local started walking pass us (no talk yet as they might have been still shy) and after few times, they talked to me first. The first person made ‘ice break’ then others followed him. Party started!
Many of them thought this was the best and maybe only chance that they could talk and see the Westerners in real!
Many questions were out. Beginning with ‘basic’ ones like: where is your hometown? (where are you from in English), what you do to live?, how old of your parents?, How much you earn? Marriage yet? (for couple), How your children are? Where are they (children) now? Who take care of them when you are here?etc.
When the atmosphere got more friendly, they went to quite more personal questions. ‘Why don’t you let your children/parents travel with you?….’ Someone even asked if they could touch Westerner’s nose as they wondered how comes Westerner’s nose was so straight and high or was there any bone on top of it? (I think this is good question as I have the same concern :))
Culture differences made some uncomfortable situations occasionally, Vietnamese also remain heaps of bad habits, it takes time to change actually but trust me, most of Vietnamese has warm hospitality to tourists which is a big part in Vietnamese culture. However, they just may present their welcome in different ways that sometimes not the way you expected.