It is Christmas day and it has me thinking of friends and family, but also, is there really a Christmas or Christmas spirit in Vietnam? I wonder….. Most days are like another and life goes on as usual. There is a large Christian presence in Vietnam, however, it seems still small by comparison to Buddhists. There will be Christmas celebrations in the tourist areas, and the Christian communities, but the rest of Vietnam will be business as usual. Their big Day will be Tet that falls on January 31 this year. Anyway…. This blog is still about retiring in Vietnam as many look here as one of their options for a retirement destination.
Many people look to retire in Vietnam because of the low cost of living, warm climate, and a culture that respects and wishes to learn from older people. In our society (or mine anyway) It seems that once you reach a certain age, you become unemployable unless working in an environment made especially for active retirees. It seems almost as if life is over and it is time to wait for your turn and pass. Of course there are ways to keep active and working, but it is becomes an effort to find
something and fit in. I am experiencing a second revitalized life after I was able to shed all of the baggage that tied me down. This was my retirement destination but I had no idea that moving here would kick start a new career and adventurous life. The older I get, the more acceptance and respect I seem to receive. Those of you, who are nervously looking to Vietnam as a retirement destination, look no further. This is statistically one of the safer places to live and a great place to retire but there are things you have to be wary of or learn to live with. This place at first can be a major culture shock…. Even to other Asians.
The first thing a person notices is the noise. It is almost impossible to find a place that does have multiple sources of loud volume. It can be traffic, dogs, roosters, TV, store front speakers, people on cell phones, public announcements in any combination all the time. In the 15 years I have been coming and living here, I cannot yet sleep without
earplugs lest be woken at 5 am by something. Often I find I have to control a boiling rage with the desire to beat a person badly for using a 180 decimal horn for no reason other than to say “I am here” The second thing is that most foreigners get overwhelmed with the confusing signage. Signs are everywhere…. Some neon, some LED but most words on plastic boards written in an alphabet you recognize but in unpronounceable words you cannot understand. Time has eased the signage issue but at times the noise still gets to me. The third and most bothersome thing for me is the people who are present when you first encounter this mass chaos and are quick to prey on your confusion for a profit whether it be dishonest taxi and cyclo drivers, or street vendors. Tour best course of action when arriving in Vietnam for the first time is to simply stand in place and not be in a hurry to get anywhere. After 5 or 10 minutes, you will start to adjust and be able to think more clearly.
Once the warmth, friendly people, and inexpensive lifestyle have you here on more permanent bases, here are a few adjustments you will have
to make. Businesses in Vietnam often only stock products they think you need and not what the consumer wants. Almost all the stores sell all the same products, so do not expect to find the many items you want to purchase that are available in your country. The same rings true for vehicles, furniture, and toys. There are millions of Bicycles in Vietnam but only 3 different kinds for the most part.
Probably for historic reason, people mostly think the same and live only in the present. At 11:30, most business and restaurants close and the whole country lives off of “Com Dia” which is basically rice with a meat of
some kind. After a while a person starves for an alternative without going to a tourist area. Doing any kind of business before 1:30 or 2 pm is almost pointless. Most people eat the same thing every day, go the same places, and offer the same services. It is not unusual to see 20 stalls where the same items are sold side by side without any other
products available. These same stores will not have change 80% of the time if you make a purchase. There is very little imagination. I just had an issue with a carpenter who told me that a tiltable floor mirror was a stupid idea and it was better just to screw a mirror into a concrete wall. He reluctantly built it muttering how stupid foreigners are. Well….. After it was completed, he marveled at it and how all the Vietnamese who saw it was impressed. He has now built another for his wife and is displaying one in his shop. This happens with almost everything a foreigner wants built. There is no such thing as doing it our way. You will get agreement and then they will just do it the way that is easiest for them. It can be frustrating especially when you design a house to live in just to see the contractor throw your blueprints in the trash.
There is so much more I could go on for 1000 pages. I guess the last thing I will add on this post is how long it takes to do even the simplest of tasks. Vietnam is slowly becoming computerized, however, it is still currently a mass of bureaucracy all armed with rubber stamps. Expect big delays to do any kind of paperwork here
I am not complaining even though I am many times frustrated, as it is simply part of life here. The Vietnamese live with it and so I have to also if I want to be here.
Merry Christmas everybody!!! Hopefully I will be able to upload this post. I will have to go through a proxy as the deep sea internet line was severed and I have lost internet access to many servers worldwide including my email and, blog, and Guesthouse.
I cannot upload pictures at this time