Continuing my “Impressions” series, here are eight more general observations of Hanoi, Vietnam.
- Mostly cash based society
Some places allow you to pay with credit card, but cash is the dominant form of exchange.
- You have to ask for things
Sometimes shopkeepers and restaurant servers fail to “adequately” acknowledge your presence. Or even anticipate such obvious needs as ordering food. This means that you have to be proactive in asking for things like the check. I have gotten used to this, but at first it felt like I was being ignored. In a restaurant setting, I’d say that I usually prefer the Vietnamese way of “benign neglect” compared to the American standard of servers asking you every 10 minutes how your meal is.
- Not a lot of garbage cans
There are noticeably less trash receptacles compared to the states, both in public areas and private shops. Still not really sure where to put that receipt the cashier just handed me.
- No tipping
Pretty much wherever you go, tipping is unnecessary or even expressly forbidden forbidden. (I saw signs warning against tipping masseuses at the Yakushi Center.) I have, however, noticed some tip jars at coffee shops.
To quote Rudyard Kipling, “The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” A few times I have smelled something completely new here. It’s usually mildly unpleasant or just unique.
- No resentment of Americans detected
Although there was a war here less than 40 years ago, I haven’t sensed any negative sentiments directed towards me as an American. Maybe the Vietnamese are just good at masking their animosity toward their former enemy, but I strongly doubt it. Or maybe they are just trying not to gloat about their victory. But I also doubt that. I guess that whole military conflict is water under the bridge at this point.
- Really good coffee
The longer I stay here, the more I appreciate the coffee culture. There are so many delicious coffee concoctions to try including egg coffee, yogurt coffee (with and without sticky rice), frozen yogurt coffee, coconut milk coffee, and coconut coffee smoothies. Those are all in addition to Vietnamese coffee (which is strong and a little sweet) as well as espresso drinks like lattes, Americanos, etc.
- Relaxed city
According to this article, Hanoi is a city best suited for taking it easy. This rings true to me as the pace of life here sometimes feels busy but never rushed.