So there are some things you expect when you move to a developing country, and some things that take a little more adjustment. After six months on placement here, here are some of the things I’ve had to get used to since moving to Vietnam.
1. You’re going to be sweaty. A lot. Like 95% of the time.
Now I knew it would be hot, especially coming from the UK, but summer in Asia is another level. I’ve now embraced the fact that living in a hot country means my sweat glands will be working overtime. When January lows don’t go below 25 there is no getting around it.
2. Your new fragrance is Eu Du Deet
In the west we are endlessly warned of the dangers of Malaria in hot countries, so when visiting or moving to Asia, it’s likely you aren’t going to be stingy with the insect repellent, and that stuff isn’t fragrance free. Although it isn’t a bad smell, it takes a little acquainting to the fact that that is what you will always smell like.
3. Ever wondered what it is like to be famous? Now I know!
I stick out in Da Nang. It may be different in places more popular with tourists, but my pasty skin means I get noticed. I’m now so used to being stared at that it no longer registers. I do still find it weird when people ask for pictures with me though. Paparazzi Please.
4. The sound of car horns
I thought the noise adjustment I made when I moved from the countryside to Birmingham was big, but nothing could have prepared me for the commotion that was an Asian city. The Vietnamese, it would appear, are very fond of their car and bike horns. I’m so used to it by now that I have no problem falling asleep to it, which is just as well.
5. You question whether rats or cockroaches are really that big a deal
Seeing a rat in a restaurant in the UK may mark its closure, but I’ve seen rats and roaches in almost every eatery I’ve dined in. It freaked me out at first, but I’ve not been sick yet so… Plus we’ve all seen Ratatouille.
6. Searching Out Home comforts can be tricky
Living in a big city, I had assumed that it would be fairly easy to locate a few western comforts. I was wrong. Every few weeks we engage in a city-wide treasure hunt that involves advice from colleagues, Google Translate, some bad miming and compromise, all for a good cup of tea, or spinach, or even a bit of fast food. Challenge accepted.
7. Everyone who speaks English is a person of interest
English is not as common in Asia as we’re led to believe, so meeting someone who speaks English as a first language is a rare treat. You begin to lose any inhibitions you had about talking to strangers (sorry mum!) and strike up a conversation with anyone who’ll tolerate you. Having said that, you do quickly work out which ex-pats to avoid.
8. Your students have no issues calling you fat
It does not take long to notice that the Vietnamese have a very different filter than we do in the UK, well they don’t really have one. They don’t see any problem in calling you fat because they see it as just another adjective, they are just describing you. I had a haircut a few months ago and asked one of my students if she liked it, her response: “No, I think it’s ugly”
Thanks for the ego boost guys.
9. Beer is often cheaper than water
You’ll often find that when eating out, a bottle of water is just as expensive as a bottle of the local beer. Well when in Asia…
10. Breaking my binge-watching habits
You know how your parents always tell you about when there were only four channels to choose from? That is my life. I get to pick and choose from four whole options of English speaking TV.
If you think you can escape this with the sweet relief of Netflix… think again. The wifi is a new level of slow – and that’s even after living in both a village and student halls. Grim.
On the plus side you break some bad habits and find some other things to do with your time – so maybe it’s a good thing.
So there it is, as well as the obvious, there are little things to adapt to, that may seem insignificant, but for some reason stick out like a sore thumb when you’re faced with them daily.
Despite all of this I do really enjoy living in Asia. At the halfway point now, I can really appreciate what this placement has brought me, even if, among other things, that’s a real appreciation for home.
And if things get too crazy there’s always the beach…