What’s it like dwelling in Vietnam? A foreigner’s first month in Ho Chi Minh City

What’s it like dwelling in Vietnam? A foreigner’s first month in Ho Chi Minh City

Here I’m, right here I’m. 

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

Here I’m, right here I’m.

I needed to maneuver to Vietnam ever since graduating from college three years in the past. Something a couple of totally different expertise as I’d grown bored with Tokyo, town I name residence 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 every part to be simple

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

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. 

Where can I get some meals?

Is there something to do round right here?

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

It wasn’t his fault, anyhow – how may 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 may say was Hello 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 every part to be simple as soon as I’d landed however, in fact, 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.

Photo by Hiep Nguyen on Unsplash

Those walks round Go Vap didn’t quantity to a lot, the language barrier proving extra of a difficulty than I’d thought it could. For no matter purpose, I had some notion that I’d be capable of get round with simply English, however I discovered sign-language and pointing bought 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 arms behind my again whereas the individuals of their outlets and behind their stalls gave me pleasant however distant appears to be like.

All 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 –

Here I’m, right here I’m…

Fast ahead to the top of my first month and I’m now dwelling in an residence in District 1. Getting it was a little bit of a trouble, 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.

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

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

I’ve additionally bought my very own bike, and that modified so much.

Photo by zibik on Unsplash

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

See Also

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

I began with a cute 50cc known as Candy, 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 previous folks 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 site visitors, the sense that you’re residence now slowly enters my coronary heart. 

But then it occurs all once more. 

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

I enter a retailer and really feel all of the eyes shift my means, a waiter approaches and asks what I need, or, no less than, 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 look at every part round. 

Motorcycles rumble on the road outdoors, 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 set of incomprehensible sounds, centres at a single level in my head, rising louder – GROWING – and perhaps sometime I’ll determine it out. 

But for now? For no –

Here I’m. Here I’m. 


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

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

Contact matt@thebureauasia.com


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here