I expect things to be different in other countries, and these differences are often staples of their unique culture of each place. But in Vietnam I noticed some weird things – consistently weird things – that I've only encountered in Vietnam yet they do not seem uniquely Vietnamese. They are neither purposeful enough to be considered “cultural differences” nor are they thoughtless enough to be anomalies.
These are my curious observations after a month in Vietnam:
- Many restaurants don’t have napkins on the table – instead they use square pieces of paper. It took me a while to figure out these were supposed to be the napkins.
- It takes an inordinate amount of time to receive food at restaurants. Whether you are eating street food or in a fine dining establishment, whether you ordered a sandwich or a steak, whether the restaurant is packed or empty, it takes at least 30 minutes for the food to be brought to you.
- Everyone smokes like it’s the 80s. Really, like the 90s never happened in Vietnam. Smoking in restaurants, smoking in bathrooms, smoking in stairwells. Almost every man on a moped is dual wielding a cellphone and a cigarette when he drives. In a traditional Vietnamese café, well, that’s smoker’s heaven right there.
- I can’t find magazines anywhere. Bookstores just don't sell them.
- Almost every café’s wifi password is 12345678
- Vietnamese women seem to be a lot more comfortable with nudity in the female locker room at my gym. I hardly see anyone in a towel and no one bothers to hide themselves while changing. Also, most of the women have incredible tattoos. At my gym in Saigon, I am often the only female in the locker room without full sleeves or a back piece. Nice.