TWO FULL WEEKS ARE OVER NOW

Two weeks full of tiny adventures, new insights and surprises. And I still learn something new every day. And above all, notice how difficult it is to communicate with the locals. People here do not speak English well enough, not even the younger generation.

And actually, this time has not gone, it is rather sprinted. Personally, I count the days and wait until the “familiar” feeling occurs. Until the home is also feels like a home. Until the way to the office without navigation and without fear happens. Until I finally found a favorite place where I like to eat and drink.

But until that happens, a multitude of daily challenges must be overcome. In this post I would like to talk about four of them and how to prepare for it.

SHOPPING

Before I left for Vietnam, I was aware that I had to buy everything for the everyday. But I did not realize how quickly this idea had to be turn over into reality. The apartment offered unfortunately no dishes, no cleaning stuff, no spices. Actually quite banal things in every household, but now and here my kitchen consisted of only a stove and empty cupboards.

And so I went to the mega-market on the first weekend. Bulk purchase in Vietnamese. The shopping list was long: crockery and cutlery, spices and something fresh to eat for the fridge, washing-up liquid and soap, but also a toilet brush has made it to the list.

Arrived at the mega-market, I was overtaken by the reality. Here is really, really everything written in Vietnamese. Some of the famous brands in Europe can also be found in Vietnam. But most of the products are new territory for me. Where is the salt? Where the good old wholegrain bread? And most of all, what the hell is in there?

I still remember too much the search for a suitable laundry detergent. An absolutely everyday situation in Germany, which I never had to worry about. But here in Vietnam the search became a final boss quest. Armed with smartphone, internet and google translator, I was like a little greenhorn running through the market with the naive thought of being able to solve the quest quickly. The variety here is just as huge as at home. The product illustrations just as meaningless. And the marketing texts on the packaging tell you all sorts of things, just not that it’s a laundry detergent. I could translate as much as I wanted. A hopeless situation. And so the quest was not resolved until the second try. At first try, it has become a fabric softener.

But somehow I did it. Somehow you always manage it when you have to and have no choice. At the end of the shopping the bags were full, the account was a few million Dong lighter and I prepared myself for the coming weeks.

COMMUTE

After the one challenge was mastered, the next one came into the house. As I have already reported in an older story, my apartment is in Bình Khánh in District 2. The area here is very quiet, not so busy, and offers fantastic air quality. But how do I manage the daily 6.3 km to the office?

Admittedly, I do not dare to use public transport. The language barrier is “too high” and I do not want to deal with a Vietnamese roadmap yet. So all I can do is choose a taxi or one of the transport services, like Grab or Go-Viet. And because taxi is too expensive in the long run, the choice fell quickly on Grab.

The next days always followed a similar pattern. In the morning and in the evening start the app and try to find a Grab driver. The destination is noticed in the app and the price is set by Grab. This process is a tremendous simplification and, in my opinion, the argument that helps to make these services a success. Because the conditions are clear from the beginning, theoretically I would not even have to talk to the driver, and yet he knows exactly where to go and how much money will bring him the ride.

But there is always a catch, and in this case even two. Due to the distant location of my apartment, I can not be as spontaneous as I would like. My plan to get to work at 7am led me to wait 40 minutes for finding a driver for me. And then Grab put on prices so strong to popular times that a ride quickly costs three times more than at usual times. I realize quickly, there is still much potential for optimization.

TIP: At rush hour avoid the transport services such as Grab. Sometimes even a taxi is the cheaper alternative. And if you have time, have a coffee and start an hour later. At the end the total costs to reach your target comes much cheaper inclusive the coffee.

MEDICINAL CHEST

Another first aid measure for the first weeks in Vietnam is a personal first aid kit. As so often heard, the tropical climate is bothering us Europeans. And so the circumstances have led to this very climate in combination with the cold air of the air conditioners bothering me in the first week. A nasty cold and dry cough have caused some sleepless nights.

In moments like this one is really glad to have taken precautions. In my case, my hypochondriac girlfriend brought a whole bag full of medicine from Germany. Smiled at her that time, I thank her for it today. Did not this bag provide some relief and accompanied me through the sick days?

TIP: Take some medicine on your trip. Aspirin Complex, paracetamol and something for sore throat belongs in my opinion in every travel pharmacy.

EAT OUTDOORS

As already mentioned several times, the language barrier in Vietnam is very high. This is also reflected when ordering food. Most restaurant staff do not speak English and even the menu, if any exists, is written in Vietnamese only. And so it is quite normal for me at the beginning to I visit the larger and more modern restaurants. There I find with a very high probability an English-speaking service, but also a menu with pictures and English subtitles.

In the course of time you will also want to try something of the so-called street food. These are small shops or just simple stalls along the streets and you will find them numerous and everywhere in the city. Most offer only one dish and work well without a menu.

I am lucky and work in an office together with locals. Here in Vietnam you usually eat in larger groups and so you are automatically invited. Together, we’ll explore the surrounding area, try out things that are already known or recommended by someone in the office.

TIP: Spot the places in Google Maps and take photos of things you’ve eaten. The next time you come back and order with your photo.

GOODBYE HOLIDAY FEELING

Hello new home. That’s what I wish for the next month.

Be yourself the change that you desire for this world.

Mahatma Gandhi

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