5/7 First Day in Ho Chi Minh City

Today we completed our first full day in Ho Chi Minh City. We spent the morning at the University of Economics and Finance (UEF). First, there was a welcome ceremony full of dances and singing. I was impressed by how outgoing and kind all the students were. It was the first time we had met them, but they were all super friendly and even sang karaoke with us. Next we took a Vietnamese language class and had pho for lunch. During the afternoon, we took a bus tour of the city and one thing that stuck out to me was all of the construction. Whether it was new buildings, or the city’s new metro system, it seemed like there was lots of construction throughout the city. Signs of globalization were also very common. International brands, including American ones, had stores in the city.  In particular, we saw many American fast food chains and clothing stores. Another example of globalization was the new metro system. It is a project that is being completed by Japanese companies. At the welcome dinner, we got to take a boat ride on the Saigon river and signs of development were seen here as well. Many barges made their way along river and there were various loading docks located on the banks of the river. The most surprising part of the dinner for me was the full shrimp, eyes, antennae, and all, that was cooked in the hot pot. I was originally reluctant to try it, but I watched the Vietnamese students to figure out how to eat it and decided to give it a try.


One of the cultural differences that I don’t remember reading about in the culture smart book was the importance of age in the Vietnamese culture. It is common to be asked for your exact age so that other people know the proper way to address you, and this was something that I found interesting. Especially considering that even an age difference of a week can matter. During the language class, Alice, the Vietnamese student that was helping me, was only a week older than me, but this small age difference still matters and affects how we would address each other. 

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