Leaving behind the easy life

22 Mar

I freaked out when I landed on Vietnamese soil eight months ago. It was dirty, overwhelmingly busy and there were no familiarities – not even a 7Eleven. But the things which challenged me at the beginning are now my greatest comforts. I cherish moments lost in twisted networks of old alleys, thrive when negotiating for fresh fruits at the local market and I prefer to enjoy a warm beer with ice on the sidewalk than to sit in an elaborate hotel bar.

The thing is, I’m now more afraid of returning home to Australia than I was of settling into Vietnam. Once I overcame the culture shock, life in Ho Chi Minh City was a breeze, and this is why:

  • I haven’t prepared a single meal in eight months. It’s difficult to justify the efforts of cooking when it’s usually more affordable to eat out in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • The weather is warm all year round! The sun isn’t always shining but the temperature varies from just around 30-35 degrees.
  • Where else can you catch taxis regularly, effortlessly and affordably? It sure beats overcrowded trains and buses of Australia.
  • There isn’t a day that passes without someone telling me I’m beautiful! Seriously, blondes do have more fun in Vietnam because they’re still a novelty for the locals.
  • My HCMC home has a rooftop terrace with amazing views of the city. I finish most nights relaxing on the roof with friends, drinking Ba Ba Ba beer.
  • I have been able to travel (often internationally) every second weekend, literally. Budget travelling is so easy to do spontaneously around Vietnam and South East Asia, and you can reach many more places during a weekend than you can from anywhere in Australia.
  • Meals cost as little as $1, DVDs just 50 cents, t-shirts $3 and rent around $200 per month. Vietnam is one of the cheapest countries in South East Asia.
  • The greatest thing about living in HCMC, though, is the supportive, enthusiastic and warm-hearted network of expatriates. I’m going to miss my friends – who I have grown to know very well over shared meals and beers almost every day – immensely.

You know the feeling when you walk through your own front door after weeks away on holidays? Instant relaxation, comfort, ease of mind, bliss even. That’s how I feel when I return to Vietnam after weekends travelling. I hope that feeling gets me through the first tough weeks of reverse culture shock in Australia too.

By Marissa Toohey

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