I am in Vietnam. I have arrived three weeks ago to live and work as volunteer in Hanoi. And to live in a place is really different from being a tourist. So I want to give some of my impressions about this country and city. They might be superficial and not reflect the whole country or people, but they are based on my experience here, at this moment.
The more places I travel, the more I observe how experiences and opinions about places are unique, depending on the people you meet along the way and relationships one establishes. A given city can be experienced in a totally different way by each person. So, here is a little of my Vietnam and Hanoi.
Yeah! Smile! You are in Vietnam!
I am in love with Vietnamese people. They seem to be chaotic and loud, but they are so lovely, gentle and hospitable. I think that the word that better describe them is gentle. Our communication is not so good, as few can understand or speak some English, but they are always keen to help (or at least try to) with a smile on their face.
Here, I walk through a lot of non-touristic places, where they rarely see o foreigner. So they often wave to me, say “hello”, smile, invite me to sit with them, have some green tea, some people have offered a ride when I was walking in an island (I accepted twice and twice and they didn’t try to charge anything for that), someone even stopped me in the street to take a selfie (yeah, that was funny!). Once I was crossing some small villages from one buddhist temple to another and I have to wave all my way through the city, I felt like a celebrity!! The kids all staring, pointing out… this one kind of experience that I was not expecting but I felt welcomed.
Before I arrive in Vietnam, I read many people alerting for scams on tourists. However, I have never experienced something close to that. People here were always honest with me; they give me back money that I pay more, they even charge me less for coffee sometimes. I have never felt that someone was willing to take some advantage in any way, they don’t even try to round up the price of something, even when the amount is really small, on the contrary.
I have to say that I feel really safe here. As a woman, travelling alone, I am always aware of some dangers of the road, but here I felt none. And I must say that I go place that I would never go in Brazil, for example, like dark and small alleys in some strange neighbourhood. I have never felt harassed in a bad way. What happens is that they look t me differently because I look different from them and they are not used to people like me in these places, but I never felt in danger or trapped.