As you may have guessed, Vietnamese culture is quite different from American culture. I kept track of some notable differences and listed them below!
Napkins- They barely exist. They are not served with your food or offered at station with condiments and straws. Even if you ask the waiter/cashier, chances are slim that they have them. This is quiteee an adjustment for me bc I tend to make a mess
Lines- Also do not exist. From street lines to bathroom lines, the Vietnamese don’t use this system of order. On bigger roads there are street lines, but they are pretty much negligible. In bathrooms instead of waiting in line for your turn, you have to stake out a stall and hope you get there first when it becomes vacant. When you’re at a restaurant in which you order at the counter, the same rules as the bathroom apply.
Honking- If you think NYC has a lot of honking, come visit a Vietnamese city. Honking here is used for pretty much any circumstance. It can mean a variety of things like get out of the way, hurry up, I’m passing you, turn signal, hello, I see you, and I’m here. By American standards, the majority of the honking has no use, but in Vietnam it is common practice.
Toilet paper- not very existent. Higher end places may have rolls in the stalls, but most have one communal roll or, most often, none at all. Some places sell toilet paper outside of the bathroom if you really want it.
Cups in bags- if you order any type of cold beverage to-go, you will receive it in a plastic cup holder. My guess is that this is to combat the sweating effects of Vietnam’s relentless humidity. I wish Western societies would adopt this method because it is very convenient
Bucket laundry/showers- say goodbye to your high-power shower heads and efficient washing machines! The most common shower in Vietnam is the bucket shower. It is exactly what is sounds like. You fill a bucket up with a spiget and use a smaller one to rinse off. Not very efficient, but it gets the job done. It definitely gets easier with time. Bucket laundry is a whole other story. My roommate and I didn’t master this until the last day of camp. It is a fine art determining the detergent to laundry to number of rinse ratio. Predicting the weather conditions for optimal drying is also a struggle. If you falter in any of these aspects, expect crunchy, smelly, half-dry clothing. I’ve never appreciated my high-efficiency washer and dryer so much
Soccer uniforms- the kids loveee wearing soccer uniforms. Not just the jersey, but the shorts and socks too! The knockoff uniforms sell as a complete set for about 100,000 VND (about $5) so they are a hot commodity. You can even get your name on the back for an extra $0.50! Teams were represented from all over the world (Clubs like FC Barcelona, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and national teams like Germany, Brazil, and England)
Nam squat- the name we gave to the way in which many vietnamese “kneel”. Instead of getting down on one knee or sitting criss-cross applesauce, many vietnamese assume a low squating position which they can hold for a surprisingly long period of time. The nam squat is utilized during all aspects of life (preparing food, harvesting, doing laundry in the canal, casually chilling). Us American coaches have tried to nam squat time and time again, but rarely with much success. We’ve concluded that its an acquired skill.
Being halfway across the world from America, it was no surprise to me all of the cultural differences I’ve encountered here. Some were no doubt harder to adapt to than others, but they all added to my Vietnam experience.