A FEW WORDS OF WISDOM FOR THE VISITOR TO VIET NAM
Living in Viet Nam waters my seeds of Happiness every day. This has been my experience for the past 10 years. Whether in Hanoi, Dalat, Saigon, or Hoi An, or the nearby city of Da Nang, my daily experience is of people who are good humored, incredibly generous, open and friendly, and hard working. There is also a kind of sweetness present in about 99% of everyone with whom I interact. I fell in love with this country, with these people, in the first days of my initial trip, back in January 2005. The love affair has only deepened with the passing years.
Of course, the casual tourist misses much of what is wonderful here. This is a developing country, with many people who live on the edge of economic survival. Those who spend a significant amount of their holiday time wandering the markets, shopping for a bargain, tend to encounter their counterpart, the vendor or the shopkeeper who is also eager to make a good deal for him or herself (usually “her,” since men don’t sell in the market).
I sometimes hear visitors complain about this system. My advice is to lighten up; maintain a sense of humor, smile! Allow your experience to be an opportunity to have some fun. Remember, the shops and markets in Viet Nam operate on exactly the model used by businesses in the West. These women are pros at price segmentation. Their prices are based on how much the buyer is willing to pay. Now, isn’t that fair? If you are a foreigner who has bought an international plane ticket and is staying in a hotel, eating all your meals in restaurants, enjoying the occasional smoothie or café, you are already “rich” compared to the person who’s trying to sell you something. AND, they know your country is rich, so why get upset? Choose to appreciate the savvy that’s required to survive in a country where the average monthly salary of a worker is 145 USD.
Remember, too, you can always choose to walk away, good-humoredly, of course.
Give yourself the gift of falling in love. Isn’t that what we all want?