Go Native or Go Home

Foreigners living in Vietnam do more than just adapt. Many of them go native. Have you? Here are 20 ways of telling

1) When driving a motorbike you accelerate through amber lights, drive the wrong way down one-way streets, don’t give way and overtake other vehicles on the outside, even when they’re indicating that they’re turning left.


2) Taking the rubber bands off plastic bags filled with takeaway noodle soup has become easy — you can now do it without spilling any liquid on yourself. You are even able to put on the rubber bands faster than the lady in the soup shop.


3) You have stopped trying to eat a bowl of rice with chopsticks.


4) Time takes on a totally new meaning. A 2.30, afternoon meeting means 2.45 or even 3pm. And hitting deadlines and getting everything ready in time becomes the exception rather than the norm.


5) Picking your nose in public, spitting on the sidewalk or squeezing your spots with the reflective aid of your wing mirror are no longer repulsive. They are things you do, too. You even let your partner dispense of those gruesome blackheads over your morning, on-the-street cafe da.


6) You start wearing long trousers and shirts out of work and during the day in heat so intense that even sunbathing on the beach would be too much. And if the temperature goes below 25°C you start complaining that it’s cold.


7) You spend half your time raving on about how amazing your home country is but then claim conversely that you would never live there again. You spend the rest of your time telling other foreigners how dire ‘home’ really is and trying to justify in some roundabout way why you’re living in Vietnam.


8) You complain about the lack of music or culture in this town and yet when it comes to spending VND500,000 or even VND200,000 to go to a gig, a Cham event or a cultural party, you don’t go. And yet you’re more than happy to spend double that on a night out on the town and quadruple on impressing the latest girlfriend.


9) It no longer seems odd to be giving, erm, your girlfriend or boyfriend a monthly salary for erm, being your boyfriend or girlfriend.


10) The music you hear in the nightclubs has stopped feeling dated, crass and mainstream.


11) You cross the road in the middle of busy junctions, roundabouts, highways and when the lights are green.


12) Even though teaching is a noble, vital profession, you start looking down on all English teachers and begin treating them like they are the scum of the earth. Because after all, you’re the one with the real job.


13) Heading down to The Pham only happens on those rare occasions when you end up at Go2 or Long Phi at 3am. Otherwise you avoid the area like a plague. The idea of having crass conversations with backpackers or being treated like just another tourist is demeaning. You live here.


14) Left-wing, political correctness, indignance at all the unfairness in the world and an unquestioning belief in the moral and intellectual superiority of the west no longer rule the way you look at and behave towards Vietnam.


15) The majority of travel and news features published about Vietnam overseas make you froth at the mouth due to their lack of accuracy and their lack of fairness towards your adopted home.


16) No longer do you try to be ‘green’ and environmentally friendly by sleeping at night with only a fan. You have long since switched over to an air-conditioner.


17) Telling your staff “this is the way it’s done in the west” is no longer part of your vocabulary. You have instead adopted a pragmatic approach to dealing with problems, getting things done and motivating the people you work with.


18) You start telling people that although you don’t speak great Vietnamese, you understand what people are saying. Until of course it comes to the moment you are surrounded by Vietnamese and are completely lost.


19) Sentence constructions such as “yesterday I go to shop” and “we eat finish, we go home” become regular, subconscious features of your vocabulary.


20) You’ve given up learning Vietnamese.


So how well have you acclimatized and how much have you been influenced by life in Vietnam? Have you gone native or have you merely adapted?


If you have checked 10 or more boxes, then the answer is that you’ve probably gone native and if these assessments disturb you at all, don’t let them. After all, who wants to live in those dull, failing democracies overseas anyway?