Travel & Living in Hanoi, Vietnam
How long does it take to become blasé about living in Vietnam?
Good question. Four years in (on and off) and occasionally I am walking along the street and still get struck by the thought, “Holy crap! I live in Hanoi…”
Conversely, some things that used to stop me in my tracks now barely register. Four people on a motorbike without helmets? Meh.
Of bigger concern, though, is the thought that some day living the dream could come to an abrupt end due to circumstances outwith my control. Meantime, life in the bend of the river proceeds in a comfortable trajectory that’s punctuated by the realisation that we live in a country where women in military uniforms read the news and there’s a TV game show in which the top prize is a cow.
Still, with the UK heading to an uncertain future post-Brexit, life in Vietnam is vastly preferable. The weather is decent and the food is good. It’s an easy place to live, for sure.
True, you miss things. Family for starters, but also small things like mashed potatoes, and other food. But these are no brainers. If you wanted everything to be exactly the same as home, stay at home. Don’t come to Vietnam and moan about the burgers and a trillion other minutiae.
Just because things are different does not mean they are any less valid. Embrace change as it is the only constant in life. If opportunities come along, take them. You may not get the same offer again, and it’s always good to try new things at least once. This open-mindedness helps you grow as a person. At the very least it will be an experience, regardless of whether it is ultimately good or bad.
Be aware, too, that the biggest regrets in life are generally the things you didn’t do. Sure, there are plenty of times you do stuff which you later regret. But it’s part of life’s rich tapestry; by far what will bother you most after the event are the things you could have done but didn’t. ‘What ifs’ are the regrets that burrow into your brain as you play out an alternative scenario and the various further options that might have sprung up as a result.
Not doing stuff, then, is clearly the number one activity guaranteed to do your head in at a later stage. However, do not confuse this with procrastination. Procrastination, on the other hand, is acknowledging that ‘X’ needs to get done but astutely avoiding doing it.
You will eventually get around to it at some stage; the real issue is the timing, not the execution. I read recently that procrastination is the brain’s way of telling you to do things you don’t realise take priority. In my case, it is quite often lying on the couch watching TV. Or sleeping.
If that’s what your body is telling you to do then maybe you should listen. The laundry can wait another day. The number one thing on your to-do list turns out to be chilling out. Acknowledging this also saves a lot of guilt. Nine times out of ten, unless it is a matter of life or death, procrastination is okay. It’s your brain telling you to take time out and recharge your batteries.
In Vietnam, much of this procrastination plays out in coffee shops. Ironic, is it not, that people won’t wait five seconds at traffic lights but will happily while away an hour or more over a single cà phê sữa đá?