Travel Asia

7 Culture Shocks To Expect in Vietnam

7 Culture Shocks to Expect in Vietnam

Beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, cheap alcohol, a colourful history, wonderful and inspiring landscapes and Vietnam has probably got you hooked. This awesome part of the world though is not without its bumps and general day to day activities that make you stare blankly into the distance and wonder “what just happened?”.  Read on and hopefully you can be a little prepared.

#1 Road rules:

This was the biggest culture shock in my own experience. While travelling to Vietnam our guide told us, “There are only two road rules in Vietnam; don’t get hit and don’t hit anyone else”. He was right there were literally no other “rules” and this applies to pedestrians too.

With such a massive population in most Asian countries and especially in urban areas people ride on motorised scooters and Vespa’s for efficiency and space saving. Trust me when I say no one cares how you get there, just so long as you get there without hurting yourself or someone else.

#2 Language barriers:

Don’t assume that everyone knows English. In poor and rural areas English is generally not spoken. Be patient and understanding as it gets frustrating, for both you and for them, remember you are a visitor and even learning the very basic’s of their language can make a big difference to the people around you.

#3 Poverty:

I write and say this whole heartedly because if there is one thing on this list that will definitely shock you when you travel to a second or third world country and it is experiencing poverty first hand, my gosh how it will make you appreciate what you have. The saddest part will be realising you won’t be able to fix it but one thing I can say is be prepared to see it. Stay polite and accept that unfortunately not everyone is born in the same circumstances and it is something you should experience so you can learn more about the world you are living in.

#4 Money handling:

Each Asian country has a different currency which for an Australian is hard to get used to. Personally when I see the number 15,000 in any form I perceive myself as handling a lot of money. But 15,000 VND (Vietnamese currency) equates to roughly 70c.  Beggars and sellers on the street know that you don’t understand the currency difference and will try to get as much as possible from you. My advice would be to understand what a dollar in your home currency equates to in Vietnam and go from there.

#5 Access to clean water:

Not being able to access clean water whenever you want is a scary experience, especially if you don’t know how, when or where you’ll obtain water that’s clean and won’t make you sick. While travelling I had to calculate how much I would drink and how much I need in the future. For example, if we were staying in a hotel for one night would be at least 1 litre of water then we would need to know when we would be accessing cleaning water again. Just remember don’t drink the running water from taps i.e. showers, cleaning your teeth, ask for no ice in all of your drinks and if you are eating a soup or broth like food that is mostly made of water make sure its boiling hot especially, especially when its street food.

#6 Stray animals:

Like poverty this is another point that hits the heart. You mustn’t touch any stray animals or feed them. This sounds cruel but the might become aggressive and dependant on the food you are feeding, let them be. Most of the stray dogs I saw were just as happy to leave me alone as I was them. Unfortunately, the upkeep of having an animal is so expensive and de-sexing them costs too much that’s why there are so many. If it comforts you to know, the locals usually take good care of the strays and won’t let them starve or dehydrate.

#7 Bathroom and toilet facilities:  

Don’t go to Southeast Asia and expect well maintained bathrooms if you are not staying in hotels. Don’t even expect a toilet. Just expect a hole in the ground. And whatever you do, don’t flush the toilet paper down the toilet. Their septic systems cant handle it. Just put it in the basket thats provided (sometimes) and move on with your life.

Try to embrace all that a country has to offer, even the not so great culture shocks that basically slap you in the face and give you a memory and story to hold onto and tell for the rest of your life.  

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