What’s it like residing in Vietnam? A foreigner’s first month in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis

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Right here I’m, right here I’m. 

Ever since arriving in Saigon a few month in the past, I discover myself repeating these phrases.

Right here I’m, right here I’m.

I wished to maneuver to Vietnam ever since graduating from college three years in the past. One thing a few totally different expertise as I’d grown bored with Tokyo, town I name dwelling and town I grew up in. I had a job lined up as an English instructor and all appeared to be going as deliberate till Covid hit.

I’d waited so lengthy to be in Vietnam that I suppose I anticipated all the pieces to be straightforward

My plans, and in some methods, my dream, was placed on maintain till a month in the past once I arrived in Tan Son Nhat Airport and people phrases first got here to me:

Right here I’m, right here I’m.

In Vietnam. 

In Saigon.

I stayed at a lodge in Go Vap for the primary week. The receptionist, who seemed like he may very well be a boy of 13, spoke little English, however he was accommodating and tried his greatest to grasp my questions. 

The place can I get some meals?

Is there something to do round right here?

He smiled, a form smile that confirmed he had no clue what I used to be speaking about. He’d nod, repeating what I mentioned and we’d do just a few rounds of that earlier than I gave up and thanked him.

It wasn’t his fault, anyhow – how might it ever be his fault? I used to be the clueless foreigner, the one who was misplaced, bumbling English whereas all the opposite friends chatted away, out the doorways and off to a model new day. All I might say was Howdy and even then I used to be nonetheless embarrassed about my pronunciation.

I’d waited so lengthy to be in Vietnam that I suppose I anticipated all the pieces to be straightforward as soon as I’d landed however, after all, issues had been by no means going to be that easy.

So, what to do, what to do?

I figured I could as nicely simply stroll.

Photograph by Hiep Nguyen on Unsplash

These walks round Go Vap didn’t quantity to a lot, the language barrier proving extra of a problem than I’d thought it might. For no matter motive, I had some notion that I’d be capable to get round with simply English, however I discovered sign-language and pointing received me additional. 

Vietnam, Vietnam, right here I used to be, however how unusual all of it nonetheless felt.

Would I ever determine it out? And if that’s the case, when?

I used to be impatient and keen to flee from the sense of separation trailing me like a shadow. I walked with my fingers behind my again whereas the folks of their outlets and behind their stalls gave me pleasant however distant seems to be.

All of the whereas, the bikes rumbled and the solar drummed a livid beat within the sky, making me sweat, making me stoop, making my head spin and I wanted some water, I wanted some –

Right here I’m, right here I’m…

Quick ahead to the top of my first month and I’m now residing in an residence in District 1. Getting it was a little bit of a problem, taking me to again alley home viewings on the finish of damaged gravel roads all the best way to fifth-floor studio flats with balconies letting in all of the noise of rush-hour in Saigon.

However I’m right here now, I’m right here.

In a room on a quiet street with home windows searching onto a home surrounded by crops. An outdated girl lives there and every time I cross she smiles and says, Xin-chào, and I smile and return the greeting. 

I’ve additionally received my very own bike, and that modified quite a bit.

Photograph by zibik on Unsplash

I bear in mind my first time using on the again of a Seize bike, that pure sense of nerve and pleasure as the driving force sped off to hitch the haphazard stream of visitors. Horns honked as if maintaining time with a damaged report, everybody veering off this fashion and that, however I quickly seen an order in all of the chaos, a sure methodology to the insanity. Any nerves disappeared and a marvel like that of being a child in a sweet retailer took over.

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From the again of a motorcycle, you see all the pieces. All of the pockets of Saigonese life you in any other case by no means would’ve seen seem in slow-motion: a face, a scent, a dialog, a color, every revealed in all their all the pieces earlier than vanishing, solely to be instantly changed by one thing else. I cherished each second of my Seize rides, however these seconds won’t ever evaluate to the sensation of full immersion I received once I hopped onto the entrance seat. 

I began with a cute 50cc referred to as Sweet, however I’ve moved as much as 125 and it’s with my trusty Honda I now get across the metropolis.

Saigon, Saigon, out of your bumpy roads to your streets that flood after rain, out of your outdated people on bicycles to your big buses blocking the lane.

Saigon, Saigon, I now really feel like I’m considerably a component, whether or not I’m rushing alongside or caught in visitors, the sense that you’re dwelling now slowly enters my coronary heart. 

However then it occurs all once more. 

I depart my home to solar and some minutes later it rains.

I enter a retailer and really feel all of the eyes shift my manner, a waiter approaches and asks what I would like, or, at the very least, that’s what I assume they’re asking. I mumble, pointing at another person’s order – Give me that – then sit down with some disgrace.

When the bowl or plate of no matter arrives, I wolf it down earlier than leaning in opposition to the wall to observe all the pieces round. 

Bikes rumble on the road exterior, passing by in flashes. Incense wafts from a Buddhist altar on the ground, and there are some choices of food and drinks. The warmth slaps and sweat trickles down my again, I’ve a sip of the complimentary iced tea and shut my eyes. The language, to me, a group of incomprehensible sounds, centres at a single level in my head, rising louder – GROWING – and perhaps sometime I’ll determine it out. 

However for now? For no –

Right here I’m. Right here I’m. 


Liam Langan is 24 years outdated with English and Japanese heritage and was raised in Tokyo. He likes to jot down, learn, cook dinner, field, and has not too long ago taken up jiu jitsu.

Should you’re a author or aspiring to be one, get in contact so we will characteristic you. We desire items about Vietnam and Southeast Asia associated to meals, journey and life-style.

Contact matt@thebureauasia.com


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