I have lived Ho Chi Minh city for almost 8 years then came back to Japan.
I now realized that there are few things I miss about life in Vietnam.
No. 1 Foods in Vietnam:
I like most of Vietnamese foods, including some exotic ones.
For foreigners and tourists, street foods are the popular ones. Street foods in Vietnam is usually not heavy and we can eat as light snack when we get hungry. People drop by street stands on the way home. Kids buy some snacks right after school. This must be the reason street foods are popular even now. But I see now many convenient stores have rapidly popped up near schools and are becoming popular.
Banh Mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) is the first one I miss. Banh Mi must be one of the most popular street foods for Vietnamese and other foreigners. There are many stalls all over the city. Most of them are cheap and not heavy.
Bánh mì – Wikipedia
Most of stands offer standard ingredients but some of them offer their specialties, like meat ball sandwich. There is one stall offer meat balls in separate plate.
Bánh Tráng Nướng is rather new as street food. Bánh Tráng is rice paper that is mainly used wraps all kinds of foods and eat it. Gỏi cuốn – Wikipedia is probably the most famous one using Bánh Tráng. Nướng means “baked”. So Bánh Tráng Nướng is “baked rice paper”. Vietnamese people sometimes start calling Bánh Tráng Nướng as Vietnamese pizza. There seems that there are many different kind of Bánh Tráng Nướng being created by some of the specialized shops or food stands. I wish I have tried different Bánh Tráng Nướng during my stay in Ho Chi Minh.
There are more street foods I miss but when I think back my life in Vietnam, fruit stand is the one that I cannot experience in Japan. Because of the tropical climate there are many different kind of fruits we can get in Vietnam.
I liked Xoài xanh, or green mangoes, especially. Most of fruit stands offer this. We can generally enjoy sweet fruit in the hot tropical climate. But eating with salt and hot chilly is somewhat energizing and refreshing.
There are more. I like most of the dishes served at cơm bình dân. They are similar ones what we eat at home every day in Japan and I enjoyed to go and eat at different cơm bình dân at Vietnam.
No.2 Climate of Vietnam:
Ho Chi Minh city is very hot through a year. Average temperature is 28 degree Celsius.
What I found after I get back to Japan is that the difference between the highest and lowest temperature in a day in Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh city has big difference.
I realized the temperature difference in a day sometime gets more than 10 degree in Tokyo. On the other hand, Ho Chi Minh gets less than 5 degree throughout a year. So, Ho Chi Minh city is always very hot even in the night. Once you get used to live in very hot city, it gets easy to spend whole year. There is less stress to the body in Vietnam than in Japan.
There are four seasons in Japan. Temperature gets more than 30 Celsius in summer and gets almost 0 Celsius in winter. You have to have clothes for four seasons in Japan. Half sleeve shirt is normal to wear in summer and you need thick and heavy coat in winter. We have even quite different bedclothes for summer and winter in Japan.
The bedclothes in Ho Chi Minh city or southern Vietnam are very simple throughout a year because it is always very hot. I have realized clothes and bedclothes get much lighter and simpler in Vietnam.
They have floods and typhoons in Vietnam but those are mainly central and norther Vietnam.
No.3 People in Vietnam:
I generally like people in Vietnam. I feel like they are like people in Japan 40 years ago.
We, Japanese, used to have more strong family tie before but it is different nowadays. People in Vietnam seem to have stronger family ties than Japan or other Western countries. This may be the same in some of Southeastern Asian countries. Many people I met in Vietnam seems to care for others and families more. So I feel people in Vietnam is generally friendly and kind.
Of course, we have to be careful many things as foreigner to live in Vietnam. But even considering those, Vietnamese people generally have much of the heart in them.
People live in large city in Vietnam might have changed a little and gotten more materialistic. But people in country side may be more family-oriented. This is what many Japanese may have been losing and what I miss after I left Vietnam.
Author: Hiko Nakamura