This is how it works in Vietnam

21 Aug

THIS IS HOW IT WORKS IN VIETNAM  Experiences are very different when living rather than travelling in a country. Outlook, attitude, understanding, curiosity and patience vary. Culture shock can even be more extreme as people moving to a country realise they need to deal with different issues for a long time, while visitors only ever manage difficulties for a few days.

The best advantage of living in a country however, such as Vietnam, is the opportunity to learn how everything works. I heard many stories and advice from friends that have travelled in Vietnam, but my experiences have been quite different.

Catching taxis. Most travellers claim taxis in Vietnam rip off westerners, charging astronomical prices unless a set price is negotiated at the very start of the journey. The fact is there are many fake taxis around which use fake meters, and genuine taxis will refuse to negotiate a rate. You should always take a taxi from one of the reliable companies, such as Vinasun or MaiLinh, and look for a sticker on the dash that says around 12,000VND per kilometre. There should also be plastic tags on each side of the meter box which means it is locked and cannot be tampered with. Of course there are still a few fake versions of the Vinasun and MaiLinh taxis in operation, but a keen eye on the meter helps to avoid tricky situations. Don’t be afraid to ask the driver to pull over if you suspect something dodgy.

Bargaining at markets. I was warned that shop owners often ask for three times the actual price of items. Therefore, a rule has been promoted that your first asking price should be one third of the sellers asking price and negotiating begins from there. In my experience (and remember I scream tourist, with blonde hair and pale skin), more often than not, shop owners only ask for a few extra dollars. A good way to get an idea of the real price is to browse a fixed price shop and then ask the price at a number of market stalls until you find one you are happy with. Shop owners love to bargain and negotiate, so if you find a shop owner disengaged from the game, you have obviously suggested a price that is way too low. But nevermind, there’s always a similar stall just a few meters away where you can start the game all over again. Learn a few local phrases, including “how much is this?”, “too expensive” and numbers and you will find the experience a lot more rewarding.

Explore Vietnam closely and you will see Government posters about future planning

Communism. Most people ask if communism is obvious in the streets of Vietnam and a common response is, you will see it if you’re looking for it. There are grand military and government buildings, signs that promote future planning and I’ve seen a couple of vans from the soviet era. However, my favourite example of communism is simply the attitude of Vietnamese people. Emphasis lies on families and communities rather than individuals, which is even obvious in the way Vietnamese people address others: as if they are part of their family. For example, “chi” means older sister and is how you refer to any woman who is older than you. Similarly “anh” means older brother.

I’m still uncovering many tips and tricks in Vietnam so stay tuned as I reveal more over the next five months.

By Marissa Toohey

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7 Responses to “This is how it works in Vietnam”

  1. Thu August 21, 2010 at 7:26 PM #

    Marissa, great post!!! I totally agree with you. The experiences you gain when you live in a country will be very different from traveling experiences. Interesting comment regarding communism 😉 But apart from posters on the street I don’t think you will find our ‘communism’ any else where 😛 I usually joke with an Australian friend of mine that OZ is actually much more communist when it comes to public health, education and the like. Also it is strange that people advocate for diversity and difference appreciation in human beings but some cannot stand difference in political systems. I think as long as the system is functioning well, no corruption then it is good and should be accepted as ‘normal’. Well, having said that I don’t deny our ‘issues’…just don’t think communism is to blame…

    • Bob September 4, 2010 at 7:14 AM #

      I think it becomes hard to pinpoint the reason for many of the problems in that part of the world, at the very least, it’s hard for me to put a finger on it, but I think Communism is at least partially to blame. If you compare the countries that are communist to those that are not, the median standard of living is much lower in communist countries.
      I believe that feeds into the unwillingness for travelers to be open to communism in the way they might be open to different religions. People who travel generally have a great appreciated for humanity and the human condition, so it’s hard to see people struggling and not try and change that.

  2. John1306 August 28, 2010 at 7:08 PM #

    Very nice site!

  3. Bob September 4, 2010 at 7:07 AM #

    Never thought about shopping first at a fixed price shop…good tip. Thanks for the travel tips, I really want to visit Vietnam.

    • theBubbleBuster September 12, 2010 at 10:43 PM #

      Hi Bob,
      Vietnam is a fascinating place. It certainly opens up the mind and heart. I think you will have a wonderful time when you visit.

  4. Connie September 10, 2010 at 2:15 AM #

    Fantastic! I’m heading to Vietnam soon and this advice will definitely come in handy!

    • theBubbleBuster September 12, 2010 at 10:45 PM #

      Hi Connie, I’m really glad my advice is useful for you. Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns 🙂

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