Hanoi in the eyes of foreign friends

Eating outside, loving outside; Hanoians go to bed ealier and frequently be curious about age, income, but will quickly come to give you a hand if you fall. They are opinions of foreign friends living here.

Allister Esguerra, 25, The Philippines: Hanoi is like a village.

Leaving HCMC, the man is fed up of current situation of robbery here. Leaving Hoian because there is not many jobs to choose. In the eyes of a backpacker, 9pm in Hoian is exactly like in 12pm in Hanoi, and 12pm in HCMC is like 7pm in Hanoi.

“Hanoi is like Hoian, but larger with population of 8 million. That is a reason why. I love this place.

In Hanoi, it’s much better if you have more relationships. If you’re closed, life becomes very hard, especially to find a job. It is not easy to be a friend. In Saigon, you only need a day. But in Hanoi, you will need time to get Hanoian friend’s trust.

For me, Hanoi is like a village. Everybody knows each other. So gossips are fastly spreading out. But I admire the bravery of Hanoians, they don’t afraid of something out of their comfort zone. They tend to be risky. You can see Hanoians come to HCMC to settle down than HCMC people come to Hanoi and do the same thing”.

I remember a saying of my friend’s grandfather: ‘If you can live in Hanoi, you can live in anywhere else in the world’.

Allister took a photo with Ha Giang children in a backpacking trip. (Given by Allister)
Allister took a photo with Ha Giang children in a backpacking trip. (Given by Allister)

Allister took a photo with Ha Giang children in a backpacking trip. (Given by Allister)

Julie Vola, 31, France: Hanoians are sentimental

Julie Vola. Taken by VA.
Julie Vola. Taken by VA.

“In the implementation of photobook ‘Recalling Hanoi’, I met 100 persons and found out that everybody here are so interesting, they were willing to tell me about their personal memories in the city.

At any age, Hanoians are polite, modest, willing to share their stories and sentimental. When I made a talk with an old lady, she invited me to visit her house, bring snacks and continuously urge me to eat tenderly.

My father was born here, and then the family came back France. I feel regret that I didn’t talk much with him about his time here. Now he had already gone, I decided to come here to know about Hanoi people and life. Hanoians are truly liberal, lovely. They still keep their traditional lifestyle, gathering together in family and proud of their history.

The first time I came here, I couldn’t understand why people beeped on the street so noisy. They are so aggressive to me. But I only realized that is for the sake of road users when I started to use motorbike. The sound is to inform others avoid us while driving.

Sometimes, people do not care about others in public place. For example, a woman tried to cross me at the supermarket cashier while I was waiting there. I also held door for people but they came across without noticing that I stood there for such a long time.

Going to Ngoc Ha is my favorite, my grandmas, sisters taught me tell the food’s name in Vietnamese. If I know somebody offers high prices, I bargain aggressively. If I went through them, they called me back:”Hey, come back here, please”. So lovely!

Martin Rama, 57, Uruguay: Hanoians eat, love outside.

“I can see many people would like to live out on streets, in parks, from eating to loving, it couldn’t be changed. The way I see the lifestyle here, is being modern, not being happier, but it is different. For example, when I just came to Hanoi 16 years ago, nobody got divorced, but it’s more popular now. Hanoians have a westernized lifestyle in this aspect” – Martin used to live in Hanoi 8 years, was a chief economist of World Bank in Vietnam.

Mr. Martin Rama and the book "Hanoi, a place to rove" (Given by Martin).
Mr. Martin Rama and the book “Hanoi, a place to rove” (Given by Martin).

“Only watch the way a woman seating behind a man, people can guess to what extend their relationship reaches to”. He wrote about couples on motorbike in Hanoi.

“If she carefully sits, try to avoid touching to the person before her, the man certainly has to try his best for many times. If she leans back and texts to somebody else and doesn’t let him know, the man surely gets a very big trouble. However, she sometimes leans forward, rests on his shoulder, whispers something to him, it is certainly that we should pray for accident will never happen on streets!
The way Hanoians care about each other is similar to our Latin Americans: warm, passion, friendship respect in relationships”

Ms. Nandini Oomman, Indian: Hanoian is full of energy.

Ms. Nandini Oomman. Taken by VA.
Ms. Nandini Oomman. Taken by VA.

“Living in Hanoi for more than three years, I am surprised when many people work out in early morning. In parks, on sidewalks, they work out at all ages. That makes me full of energy, too.

So I decided to cycle, thing that I would never do during 12 years in America. Cycling around West Lake, I could stop anywhere to have breakfast, visit Nghi Tam flower market or wardering along streets.

Hanoians are warm and friendly. I and my husband visited our Vietnamese colleague. They invited us in occasion of Tet. We gathered around on the ground as we are all Asians, similar customs, every family members shared their stories together and grew up there.

The most amazing thing is about women on the streets, they work so hard. They are preoccupied with their flower bikes on the street, with their carriers collecting garbages.

The was a time that a vendor shouted at me asking for money while walking and photographing on Old Quarters. I didn’t take it serious because It was normal in developing countries. I also went by Xe Om, but I hesitate a little bit because people fastly come and go. Some people don’t wear helmet.

For me, Hanoi is so interesting. It is not like in America where I just go to work and come back home.”.

Paul Brown, British, Adviser at Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF): Hanoians are incoherent in their behaviours.

Mr. Paul Brown. Given by Paul.
Mr. Paul Brown. Given by Paul.

“More than 3 years living in Hanoi, I often come back here as soon as possible after every business trips. I love the feelings of freedom and relaxation here. Hanoians have a free lifestyle, they also pay attention to their works, make money but are not too busy as Singaporeans or Hong Kong people. Unlike Saigonan, Hanoian leads a very regular life. Hanoian’s life style is as leisure as fish, they swim in the pool.

They also own a dynamic life on sidewalks, public places. In North Europe, we live in our house because of cold and wet climate. Conversely, there are many outdoor activities, food vendors on sidewalk, pedlars, “xe om” here. People even dance in park at night.

Eating on street or shopping, I am warmly welcomed. The feelings of being welcomed by strangers are so excited”. Some persons said to me that they did it for money. However, many waiters and waitresses even refuse my tips in restaurants – the bonus that many others from Western restaurants waiting for.

Hanoians are friendly. They, however, don’t work well together. They don’t acquire enough social skills to communicate to others while teamwork. They tend to their personal life. Some leaders even tend to command than create convenient environment for their followers to work easily.

For me, it is easy to make friends in Hanoi. I have a group of friend in which we often meet and chat together. I am going to live in Hanoi for few years.

Zuhal Saturn, 34, journalist, Afghanistan: Hanoian is very curious but very kind.

Zuhal Saturn with her students. Given by Zuhal.
Zuhal Saturn with her students. Given by Zuhal.

“Hanoi makes me love, but it also makes my heart broken. Hanoi is the city that you can fall in love today, but you might hate it like your enemy tomorrow. Because Hanoi is a hard place to live in”. Zuhal has been living in Hanoi for a year as an English teacher. She spent 15 years in Hamburg, Germany and 18 years in Toronto, Canada.

“The first time I came here was in a tour around Asian, through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia. Right after the moment I left the train station in Hanoi, I knew that I already fell in love with this city. The reason was that it was not only like Hamburg in Europe, but also it’s chaotic and warm – a prominent feature in Asia.

Hanoians are quiet inquisitive, from my neighbours to a Pho owner where I often come to eat. They’re curious about my salary. In my culture, in Afghanistan, in Canada, in Germany, it is very impolite to ask somebody about their incomes. The first three questions that any Vietnamese want me to answer are: Where are you from? How old are you? Have you got married?

However, Hanoians are really helpful and careful. In the west, if you fall on street, you must be very lucky to get somebody’s help. I know many people will argue about this problem, but it’s true. In hanoi, if you fall, your motorbike is upon your body, there will be two persons come to help. It’s really a beauty of the city. I love this city.”

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