Adjusting to Life in Hanoi Vietnam

July 19, 2019 | Darian, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Uniterra, Vietnam, Bac Thang Long Economic Technical College (BTL) - Employability Skills Development Officer

If I could sum up my experience in Vietnam so far in one word it would have to be life-changing. The country is absolutely incredible from its beautiful tropical landscapes, to its rich cultural traditions and contentious colonial history.

Hanoi, the city I have been living in, is the capital of Vietnam and the second largest city in the nation with a population of almost eight million people in a condescended area. Most of my time is spent in three main districts including Cau Giay (a district in the suburbs of Hanoi where I am currently living with a local Vietnamese host family), Old Quarter (the best place for traditional food and drinks), and Ba Dinh (where my work is located and the most famous cultural heritage sites of Hanoi). Overall, I had experienced a major adjustment period getting acclimatized to a totally different way of life in Vietnam. All of the social norms and cultural rules I learned growing up in Canada have been pretty much thrown out the door as I began to adapt to Vietnamese living.

Funny enough one of the biggest challenges was learning how to properly cross the street and overcome the fear of getting hit. In Hanoi there are practically no traffic laws. I was shocked to learn that cars will not stop for you crossing the street, there are almost no traffic lights and that it is normal for vehicles to drive on the sidewalks. As a result I was forced to weave my way through the extremely busy streets with cars and bikes driving at different speeds. Even when I was coming home from work one day a motor bike nearly collided with me on the sidewalk hitting my gym bag that I had on my side over my shoulder.

The language barrier and unrealistic work expectations have also been quite the challenges to overcome. Most of the people at our local partners did not really speak much English and the school that I am teaching at did not even know I would be working there until the day before I arrived in Hanoi. There was a lot of miscommunication once I started working as well since the school thought we were fully certified English teachers and wanted us to teach fourteen different English classes a week. However, after multiple meetings with Uniterra representatives and my local partner we were able to make it clear that work expectations were unreasonably high and that my role was to be a facilitator to help college students improve their soft skills for employability and not to be a full time English grammar teacher. Since the first couple weeks which were a difficult transition period, I have gotten comfortable with my new life in Hanoi and cannot wait to see what else Vietnam has to offer!

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