Things I have learned during my time in Ha Noi

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Here is a collection of things that I think about a lot that I have learned during my time in this country. Some are just simple and funny, some get a little more deep. Enjoy!

1) You drive a motorbike with your hips and stomach, not with your arms and hands.
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– This is handy knowledge and a handy skill in this country – where you are constantly swerving and ducking and diving between traffic to avoid cars, taxi’s, other motorbikes, cyclists, potholes, lumps of road on top of the road, bags of rubbish, and pedestrians all in the one strip. Whether traveling fast or slow!

1.5) Don’t get on the motorbike to drive when you need the bathroom.
-There’s nothing worse than driving down bumpy, bumpy roads on a motorbike when you really really need to pee. Believe me.

2) Life is precious – and it can be taken away in a second.
-I am lucky that the stories I can tell you about death in this country aren’t nearly as graphic as the stories some of my friends could tell you. I have seen people very injured, called ambulances for drunk motorists at stupid times of the morning, and I have seen people near death. I have seen people looking at the dead, but avoided it with my own eyes. My housemate saw a helmet roll along the road with a head inside it. My boyfriend has nearly stepped in someone else’s brains.
I myself have had a few close calls on these roads, maybe not to death, but certainly to a very bad place. And as much as it is a terrifying thought that our lives can be taken away any moment, I believe that my time is not near, but that I should take every second in this life as a gift, and I truly do treasure every day as if it was my last.

3) People are always temporary.
– This is one I have been struggling with for longer than my time in Hanoi its self. The thought that every single person in our lives, no matter how important they are to us or how strong our relationships are, is temporary. It’s a scary thought. But it’s another thought that helps me to not take people for granted. To tell the people I love that I love them every day, and to cherish every moment you have with people – or alone because you never know when it could be your last.

4) You can be happy with less.
-In fact, I would go as far as to say you can actually be happier with less. I see people on the street with nothing but their family and love in their hearts, selling what they can do with a few ingredients or materials to the people who walk buy. And they are happy. The average wage for an adult here is $150USD a MONTH. With many more earning a hell of a lot less, especially UNI students. But do any of them complain? No they don’t. No one is missing meals, most have their family to live with and feed them, they still catch up with their friends, they truly enjoy their lives as they are, they don’t cry when they don’t get expensive gifts, or when something doesn’t go their way. It’s truly inspiring.

5) Road rage doesn’t have to be a thing.
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-I don’t know what it is, or how it works here but the traffic really is something else. Cars and motorbikes ducking and diving between each other, often cutting off other motorists or getting too close for comfort – yet no one seems to be phased. Very rarely do I see a display of rage on these roads. I wish more places were like this.

5.5) Always leave early. Because you will get stuck in traffic.
-I live less than 10km away from where I work. Same distance as I was used to in Australia. Time of travel in Australia – 10-15 minutes. Time of travel in Ha Noi – 20-90 minutes. Depending on what time you leave, and what exact route you take, travel times can change immeasurably. Always leave early, and always expect to get lost or stuck in traffic and you should have no problem!

6) Things will get done in their own time.
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-Here is a photo of me doing my dishes. In the shower. One of the great things about Hanoi life is people never really expect you to do things on time. This is a great thing to remember when there is something wrong with your apartment. No matter how many times you tell your landlady or landlord that, for instance, your kitchen tap wont let out any water, they keep saying ‘yes today or tomorrow someone will come to fix it’. Well, after several ‘today or tomorrow’s’ I decided enough was enough and my dishes needed to be cleaned somehow!

6.5) Sometimes you will have to compromise
-This goes with number 7 also. Sometimes things just wont go the way they’re supposed to. This used to make me angry, upset, and emotional. But I’ve learned to go with the flow and that there is always an alternate way to do things.

7) Don’t buy animals from the side of the road.
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-This should go without saying, and even still I was warned about this. But did I listen? Definitely not. Because I wanted a rabbit and I wanted fish. I was told that they would be sick and would die within a week. I did not listen. It was an emotional day the day I had to say goodbye to my poor bunny :(.

8) When meeting with Vietnamese friends never turn up on time.

-As I am writing this point, I am sitting on the side of the road listening to terrible street music out the front of the restaurant I was meant to meet my friends at 15 mins ago. I can’t do anything but wait because I can’t explain to anyone that I’m waiting for a friend. This is not a rare occurrence and has actually happened every single time I have made plans with my Vietnamese friends. Countless times I have been alone in clubs, bars, coffee shops, restaurants etc waiting for my friends because they are LATE. Yet I still don’t learn my lesson to turn up late.

9)Lastly, beauty is in everything.

-You all know the saying, about stopping to smell the roses. We’ve heard it a million times, people all too often go through life without noticing anything. Without stopping and breathing in the beauty of where they are. Without exploring and admiring. I’ve learned in Vietnam that amazing things can come from bad situations, strong people are built from weakness, community was built here from the war, and there is always a place for beauty. War torn streets are filled with flowers and laughs, children play under the supervision of their all loving parents, happy to be living in peace, education is at it’s height with so many opportunities in sight for young people still learning. Beauty is everywhere, you don’t even need to look hard to find it.



11 thoughts on “Things I have learned during my time in Ha Noi

  1. I’ve spent 5+ minutes to read and comment your post. It’s a lovely post, really love it. Life is short and people almost forget peaceful, beautiful things around them, not hard to find it.


  2. its great to know ur feeling toward my hometown, and thank you for the aspect that u’ve shared. Life’s full of emotions from the bottom of hell to the sky, and we’re like hanging on the cliff, not sure when will we fall down…


  3. Nice article. I have experienced and observed all, from 1 to 10, several instances of our things being stolen at our own home and vendors trying to rip us off. I also saw more people not giving priority to old people or people with kids, even cutting in line and shoving these people. It is rare to see people who give way for them. At first it shocked me and thought of them as inconsiderate and thoughtless people. But as you said, the offended does not seem to mind it so I just learned to get used to it and accept it just like they do.


  4. “Road rage doesn’t have to be a thing”. Haha, YES! How bizarre is the level of utter calm that blankets the roads here during the worst rush hour? I was once in a massive traffic jam in Ho Chi Minh City where cars and motorbikes were at a total stand still (for three hours, I might add). After about 20 minutes, the entire crowd simultaneously shut off their bikes, leaned on the kickstands and lounged back. Meanwhile, I woman started weaving through the crowd selling banh gio. No one seemed too fussed. Utterly bizarre.


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