Hanoi fishermen

Fishermen by the lake

Before coming to Hanoi, I had heard cautionary tales of foreigners getting ripped off or even worse. After all, Vietnam is a “third world” country. So it’s supposed to be scary and dangerous here, right?

I admit that when I stepped off the plane at Noi Bai International Airport, my guard was up. I was keeping an eye out for scammers and thieves. And, beaven forbid, I did not intend to become the victim of an overpriced taxi ride.

In short time, however, these vague suspicions were replaced by the realities of my surroundings.

One of the first things that struck me upon arriving in Vietnam was the laid back demeanor of the people. The fact that I arrived at the tail end of New Year’s holiday probably had something to do with this, but people just seemed really easy going. This first impression has held true until now.

I can’t think of a time where I’ve seen someone overly stressed or in a rush. I also can’t recall anyone getting really angry. People here smile in a natural, not forced, way. Nobody appears to have an agenda or exhibit any passive-aggressive behavior. (Perhaps this would be different if I worked in an office?)

Even the security guards don’t take themselves too seriously. There were a couple of times were I thought I was in “trouble” for parking my motorbike in the wrong place, but the parking attendants showed no sign of irritation. They just pointed to where I should park and resumed their standing around.

The lack of uptightness here has been quite refreshing, particularly because it tends to rub off on you. It has the effect of lowering your overall stress level, which otherwise could easily be higher due to navigating a foreign city, culture, and language.