Viet Nam Debrief

It’s been difficult to see the forest for the trees because these trees have been enormous rotting things, liable to topple over and crush me at any moment.

Viet Nam, for me, has been the place where good things only happen with equal measures of bad – unblemished moments being few and far between. (Of course in the grand scheme of the world at the moment, that’s not so terrible a thing.)

Things I will miss

  • xe om rides
  • garlic rice
  • that com suon place
  • that com ga place
  • flowers for ~$3
  • happy hours
  • my close friends

Things I have gained

  • a short temper (and the ability to deal with it)
  • a distrustful mindset
  • probably diabetes

Things I happily leave behind

  • the male-female dynamic, specifically between expat men and Vietnamese women
  • the entitled behaviour and inevitable seediness that befalls expat men
  • hipster travellers

The worst thing to happen to me in Saigon wasn’t when my taxi driver attempted to drag me – albeit with too little strength to make a difference – back to his cab because he thought I was skipping out on the bill. It wasn’t when a boss forced me to pay $300 for an error in a map we were designing. It wasn’t even when I was held up at knife-point by ~8 young guys wanting my friend’s backpack of camera equipment – which I happened to be wearing.

The worst thing was the millions of opportunities that in the end never amounted to anything – just time lost, trust lost. Case and point: I signed a work contract and spent five months preparing a million work permit documents, while rejecting potential work because the permit “could come through at any moment“, only to be told on the second day of work that they had nothing for me to do and couldn’t hire me. All that time and money wasted, all the potential work lost. Not to mention the general feeling of helpless dejection, and distrust for locals and expats alike.

I learned to always expect things in Viet Nam to fall through, to take too long to be useful, or to happen in no way that is beneficial.

The best thing? I’m not sure just yet, but I’m hoping that – when the forest is back in focus – my time here will have defined in me a greater amount of empathy and some ability to worry less about whether or not things will go to plan.

Alternatively, you have been the greatest thing about Viet Nam. The you’s who were there for me when I was in need; the you’s who let me be there for them in a similar capacity. You brought me through the other end. I won’t say we’ll ever see each other again, but I will always wish I could bring you – and every you from every country I’ve lived in – to an island just for us.

Sartorial Perspective

At the end of her shift, our 50-something-year-old cleaner comes out of the bathroom with a huge grin on her face and says to me, “I go to church now. Do you like my shirt?” Being a bright and bubbly woman, she was near to bouncing around the kitchen, proud to be wearing a shirt her now-deceased, and well-loved, sister used to own.

She’s sporting a new blouse, patterned in reds and browns, a waved collar adorning her neck – not nearly as gruesome as most fashion here, and obviously a blouse for special occasions. That said, this particular top is transparent enough to showcase her black bra beneath it.

Entirely reflective of the constant paradox that is Vietnam: the current 30-40ish generation is devoutly abstinent and yet the women will wear what I can only call club attire to work, church, the grocery store, everywhere..

I’d have said this was only to be seductive, but it seems more of a commonplace absent-minded decision than the former. This, especially if my genuinely sweet, and rather religious, cleaner will wear a transparent top to church. Surely she isn’t trying to be seductive.

..Unless she’s planning on seducing her Pastor/Priest/Whatever.


The Employee has the following obligations:

Not to publish any articles, commentary, views or opinions regarding Vietnamese government or politics on or via any social or other media channels in Vietnam or elsewhere during the term of this labour contract.

Laws are funny things. Fyi, I do not work in anything remotely government related, so I’m not in a position to be giving away secrets. This is just general commentary they’re frowning upon.


Began work with AsiaLIFE magazine in October and have been a part of many, thoroughly entertaining, random happenings. To see proper, full fledged documentation of these happenings, definitely take a peak at our ever-growing collection of Instagram photos.

VN vs CA

Pop-up ads

  • It has just dawned on me that back in Canada about 80%* of the pop-ups advertise porn, dating sites, porn, penis enlargements and porn.
  • Here, in Vietnam, 80%* of the ads are for online gaming.

I’d love to say that’s a comment on their society, but – seeing the enormous sexpat community, the abundance of sexified East Asian girlies and the dreadful lack of sex (and sex-positive) education – I’d hazard a guess it has a lot more to do with government regulated internet, media and education (hello communism).

If only I could recount all the questions I’ve had from female Vietnamese friends, because – since I’m Western – it obviously means I’ve waxed every inch of my skin, am dating 10 guys at once and have done everything under the sun involving our bodacious bodies. *Insert deep eye-roll here* It really is no wonder abortions are essentially the method of birth control here.


*These stats are based entirely on my spotty recollection of having to close annoying little windows and are in no way representative of actual statistics.