Bizarro world is in Vietnam

It’s amazing how much opposites I have noticed when comparing Canada and Vietnam – and  I’m not talking about the weather.

Opposites in life, in way of thinking, in how to deal with problems, in teaching, in every single aspect of life. I keep realising it when I talk about Canadian culture to my students. I should really start to write some of it down.

Well, let’s try to shoot a few off my mind this morning, while drinking my coffee and listening to Mad Caddies.

First of all, the dating. Dear heavens, the dating. I guess it’s pretty simple, if you’re looking for a wife and consider a relationship to be pretty serious the first day you meet, and don’t mind having the time and place of the meeting changed 5 minutes after the actual time you were supposed to meet.

Also, be prepared to text constantly.

Sometimes however, I feel like we’re the weird ones in this love game, where we prefer to let someone in our bedrooms before we let them in our hearts.

I work with a girl who dresses pretty sexy (short skirt, cleavage) every day and she’s got the body to back it up. I asked her if she tried dating a foreigner. She said yeah, in the past, a German guy. Dumped him because after 2 months he would constantly ask about “when are we gonna have sex?”

It can be pretty rude, and I don’t know if she’s a virgin or not (they all say they are here), but I sympathised with the guy a little bit. After all, in our culture, if a young couple isn’t porking for or after 2 months, something’s wrong with their relationship – amirite?

I also told her that she dresses pretty sexy and that can drive a guy nuts. She said why? It’s just for fun! Because in the word sexy, is sex. Guys will think about that a lot more if you show off your thighs or milk bags. She seemed to understand – that she’s better off dating a Vietnamese guy who doesn’t mind waiting for *gasp* a year or two.

Such a shame. Young people are built for sex, with their muscles and energy and free time and passion and hope for the future.

I’ve realised that around 25, their dating world – for the most part – is the equivalent of our high-school dating, complete with the teasing, drama, logic and time frame of when to hold hands, kiss, do the oulala. With a touch of Facebook public laundry washing for good measure.

What else is completely different… Oh. Since people seldom tip here and the hourly wage is dirt cheap, every single restaurant and coffee shop seems over-staffed. “The Vietnamese work hard” my students will tell me. From what I’ve seen, you work long hours yeah, but being sprawled out lazily on a couch reserved for customers while zombie-staring at Facebook is not working, sorry. It’s okay to do that here in Vietnam. You get fired on the spot back home.

I’ve literally walked into a coffee shop with 5 staff behind the counter, all heads down, all on their phone. I actually stood at the counter and counted to 10 before saying “Hello”, and had to repeat 2 times in Vietnamese before someone actually lifted their heads. No “sorry” or “Xin Loi”, no smile, she just pointed at the menu and went back to her phone. I ordered, she nodded and told someone else to make my Mocha, only releasing her stare from her phone to count my money.

If anything,Vietnam as taught me to relax a lot, especially when at work or a restaurant.

Back home you’re short-staffed so you get a higher tip.

There’s a sort of double-standard here where the foreigners are expected to be super professional and sort of teach their ways but the Vietnamese stuff is kind of exempt from those standards and learn from it only if it suits them. As expat teachers, when you get hired by some schools, on the contract is stated that if you arrive late for class twice in the month you get a salary penalty, and the third time you get fired on the spot and don’t get paid for that month. Pretty crazy, but I guess it’s a way to protect themselves from the slackers and backpacker-teachers here.

The double-standard is that – I’m not exaggerating-every single Vietnamese staff and most of the teachers will be late every day but there’s no penalty for them.

In one of my earliest contracts (I won’t name the school), I was called in the morning to replace a class at the literal last possible second. The person specifically warned me NOT to be late, it was very very important that I was on time because that class had a lot of troubles with the previous teachers and the school was losing face. I actually managed through some aggressive driving to get there 10 minutes early. The security guard is there, on his phone. I walk up the stairs to the reception. No one. I call the contact. “Yup, the staff is there, just look!” (I blame it on language difference but they can be very condescending). Glass door to the reception so I have a clear view of the empty, dark room. Also, the door: Locked.

It’s now 9:05. I think, hey, I’ll just go in the classrooms and see which one has no teacher. All the classrooms are dark and empty.

Everyone was 15 minutes late. The staff, the teachers, the students. I thought it was pretty funny. What I didn’t find funny was that when the receptionist finally showed up she had the nerve to ask me pretty rudely why I wasn’t in class yet. “Uh because you guys haven’t told me where to go?” “Oh LOLZ let me check that for you”. Oh… it’s our fault? Let me laugh it off then.

The reverse racism. Back home a lot of people don’t like immigrants, thinking they’re here to steal our jobs or change our ways. Here, I’m welcomed with open arms pretty much everywhere I go. It’s pretty cool, sometimes embarrassing, for the most part entertaining.

Not convinced it’s Bizarro’s world yet? How about this: the way they drive.

When driving, a lot of people start to turn, and then look to see if the way is clear. Yup. So you constantly have to be on the watch-out for people who will run into you without a warning. I was driving on a pretty busy, straight road (maybe a little bit too fast for the area, 40 km/h) when suddenly two guys from a side street just cut me off without ever looking. I almost hit the second one and drove slowly all the way back home shaking my head in disbelief.

I know it was stupid of them because I heard the people on the street scream.

If you’re driving and you want to turn left, you slow down and go in the right lane, then wait for a hole in the traffic – or don’t and just start turning whenever you feel like it.

I had another pretty close call last week. There’s a route I like to take in the evening, following a canal, and it’s usually quieter. Two guys were talking while riding side by side in the right lane. Just, I mean juuuuuust as I was passing them, the left rider decided he needed to turn left on the street he was just passing – making an extremely sharp left turn without looking. My tires actually slid I braked so hard, but I’m used to the way my bike slides now (and I think living in a country with snow helped) so I was able to avoid him while yelling profanities.

You can turn right on a red light so it keeps the traffic moving – except of course if and when somebody decided they needed to start talking on the phone, at which point they will usually park riiiiight in the way. Riiiiiiight in the way, in the right lane under the light, and ignore the beepings of frustrated motorists stuck behind them, who will resort to driving on the sidewalk or go to the left lane and then cut everyone off to turn right as the light turns green.

There’s a lot of cutting.

When you’re eating at a restaurant (and I actually LOVE this), you sort of have to grab a waitress or yell “EM OI!” at her to get her attention. No visit every 2 minutes to refill your glass, you get to eat in peace. But then when it’s time to pay it can take up to 20 minutes before you get to leave.

A man picking up his girlfriend every day after work, dropping her off every morning, handing his paycheck to his wife without questions and preparing all the shrimps for her to eat at the restaurant is not considered a pussy-whipped man.

It’s considered romantic.

Hella romantic.

I may sound frustrated a bit in this post, and yes sometimes I do get annoyed by these things. But before you think I’m a miserable asshole, remember that almost every single of my blog posts for the past 3 years has been positive. There’s two sides to every coin.

Hope you enjoyed!

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