The first day in Vietnam was a whirlwind to say the least. While there was an official city tour from 2-4, it felt like the entire day was a city tour. There was so much to take in. Something I find really interesting about Ho Chi Minh is the contrast between the upper-class establishments and the lower-class ones. In most cities, there are “nicer” areas and those are clearly different from stores that are more run down. In Ho Chi Minh, it feels as if all of these different stores and people that shop at them have been shuffled up and placed in this city. This seems to be a sign of development to me, there are probably nicer stores and name brand stores buying out older ones since the market of people buying more expensive things is growing bigger. It was wild to see a store selling fruit in cardboard boxes directly next to a fancy dress store with plate glass windows. It would be interesting to see a picture of the streets we went down 50 years ago and see how new the nice stores are.
There were also signs of globalization. One thing I noticed and talked about with my peers is the use of English. There were a lot of billboards that would have some words in English, this means more people in Vietnam are learning English. This is most likely because they are consuming more and more American products and entertainment as Vietnam becomes more globalized.
The Welcome Dinner was so yummy. I was surprised at how much food there was and how it was eaten. When we first looked at the menu we thought we got to choose from the three entrees and we would all be getting our own. Then a huge salad came out and we realized we were going to be eating 6 courses and sharing all of it. It was fun to try and figure out each new thing that came our way. The craziest thing was probably the huge raw shrimp, with the heads still on, that we cooked in a pot on our table. At first, our whole table was terrified of trying one, but after a while almost everyone did. This was a new experience and I wouldn’t have expected myself to take the head off of a shrimp before eating it but it happened!
Culture smart said that it is custom to leave a little bit of food left to indicate that you are finished, and you don’t need more. We did this with the spring rolls and then the chef asked us to take the last one if we were still hungry. I also think Culture Smart made is seem like there would be a lot of really awkward times when we were eating that we would be doing small things that offended them. It may be because they are students and they know we are foreign but the students were very laid-back and were nice about helping us when we had questions about eating things.