Like most expats I have been under the weather for the last week with all the air pollution.
After living the best part of my adult life thus far on a remote Scottish island my lungs are not used to this level of muck.
It is enough to consider moving out of Ha Noi for the fresh air of the countryside. But how long would you last without the buzzing metropolis that is Ha Noi?
Certainly, as far as jobs go, it is largely a choice between here and Saigon. There are other places, of course, but for the most part they have difficulty attracting foreigners for any length of time. The main problem in many out of the way places is what do you do for nightlife?
It might be interesting living for a while off the beaten track, but one suspects that being the only Tay in the village might lose its appeal eventually.
And for some expats being stared at constantly can be unnerving. What I do is stare back then wave. Immediately the face staring at you breaks into a dazzling main beam smile and a shy wave. People are just curious.
A Vietnamese friend from the countryside near the Chinese border told me that she hadn’t spoken English to a foreigner until she was 18 when she came to Ha Noi to go to university. Where she was brought up was off the tourist radar.
She has promised to take me to her home town some weekend. My lungs and sinuses could do with it.
Pretty much the same sentiment has been voiced by an expat friend who is considering making Ha Noi his home in the long term. One concern, though, is that with pollution in the capital at record levels staying here five years, he jokes, may well knock ten years off his lifespan.
He could be right. I don’t smoke but this last week or so it feels like I am on 20 cigarettes a day. Most likely Capstan Full Strength or unfiltered Camels.
The advice then is get a tight fitting face mask. Preferably one with a filter rather than a cheap cloth or disposal one. Okay, you may look like a twat. But five minutes and you are so over that. Believe me if your lungs could talk they would thank you.