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Friday, July 3, 2009

One Month in Vietnam

I arrived in Vietnam one month ago today.

This is my first experience living outside of the US as an adult. I've certainly done my share of traveling within the US & beyond, but my trips never lasted more than a few weeks at a time, & I was always on the tourist track. Living in a place changes everything.

Bien Hoa is a very urban place, but still lacks any real appeal. I'm finding it very difficult to make friends in Vietnam, but not for lack of trying. I go out every day in search of things to do & people to meet without success. The Vietnamese people are quick to say hello to me as I pass them on the street or in the coffee shops that I visit. I smile & wave, but as soon as I try to extend the conversation, they giggle & walk away. My housemate Harley has had a completely different experience. He says he meets people everywhere he goes, & they seem to be eager to speak English with him. Maybe it's because I'm a woman. Maybe my height intimidates them. I'm still trying to figure this one out.

Still, it's an interesting experience living here. It's definitely something different.


tapnlindy2 said...

Happy July 4th! You can play your tin whistle to celebrate!
One month already and you survived, pretty much unscathed, yes? I'm proud of you!
Thinking of you and enjoying your blog. Take care! Regina

scott said...

Hi Nancy. This does sound difficult. I'm trying to imagine how it would be if i moved to a new city just here in the U.S. I can't picture myself meeting people on the streets or coffee shops, though i suppose some may do it. Bars maybe. But probably, i'd look for groups doing things i like to do: spanish, biking, climbing, dancing (not!), etc. Yeah, i don't suppose they have groups like that there? Even if they did probably not ones that cater to non-vietnamese speaking girafitas..? :) I think you are doing great with the effort. But you say Harley has no issue? Weird. Yeah, maybe there is some cultural/gender thing?? Hmm.

The said...

It is their loss not to know you! But I have no doubt that you will make many friends before leaving. Perhaps there are other americans there finding the same difficulties. Maybe they have started some sort of group? If not, why not start your own group? I've joined many groups on Not sure if it extends to Vietnam, but I'm sure you'll find a way. Anyway, Happy 4th!

Nancy Lewis said...

I looked for a Meetup group before I moved here. There is one expat networking Meetup, but they meet in Saigon, & only once a month. I haven't found anything like that here in Bien Hoa yet.

Chris said...

Yeah... this seems to be a common problem for expats outside of "major" cities in Asia. If you're not 100% committed to learning the language, there will be real difficulties, especially for women. You may, indeed, intimidate a lot of people, but I can assure you that as your language skills grow you'll meet some people you can rely upon. Sometimes it can help to visit college campus areas. Otherwise, it might help to move to a trendier city. :( It's a tough decision -- most expat women I've known in China bail out to Hong Kong or Singapore (or bail out altogether) within the first year. I guess it's a great pointer to finding yourself -- where's your balance between foreign culture and "home" culture? I'm still searchin for it myself!