I have been biking Vietnam for the past two weeks and I bumped into different Vietnamese people experiencing both- bad hospitality and genuine friendliness, depending on situation. Based on my experience interacting with Vietnamese people I can divide them into three groups:
1. Rip-off locals
These are the worst ones. They only want to rip you off and get the last dollar out of you. They don’t like you, they only like your money. They will make you pay up to 10 times more than you should, telling you it is a great deal and you will not get the better one. These locals look rude, never smile back to you and they are so mean. We met those many times in Hanoi. They mostly sell fruits and vegetables at the market, have small take-away restaurants or private hotels. They are way too pushy (sometimes even aggressive) and don’t want to bargain. If you don’t want to make a deal with them, they will tell you go to hell! Surprisingly, most of them are women aged 40-60.
People for the photo above have been selected randomly and they do not represent the first group of rip-off locals.
2. Mercenary locals
All they want to do is to make a good business with you. They seem to be very nice and friendly calling you a friend and saying you are very handsome (for men) and beautiful (for women), then slowly, but surely go to the point- selling you something- the more, the better. They have a fake smile, but they are extremely nice, way too nice and you can obviously see something is wrong. This mostly happened when we stopped to have a coffee or lunch/ dinner break. Suddenly, we were surrounded by a group of Vietnamese being very nice to us, inviting us to their shops or houses. Then we had a nice chat, then they offered us some nice pineapples, some drinks and at the end give you way too high bill still smiling and being nice. Fake people who are trying to find naive and stupid tourists. They also try to sell you fake Lonely Planet books for a very high price saying they are original from America.
3. Genuine friendly locals
Thanks God, these people we meet most of the time in Vietnam. They are truly generous and extremely friendly, very interested in your travel and stories they make you tell them. It is always nice to have a pint with them, feel like home and be a part of their family just for one afternoon or a day. The most friendly people we have met so far are Khoa and Thoa, their two kids (a little baby boy and a little girl), their parents, brothers and sisters (look at photo below).
We accidently met them when we stopped for a coffee break. It was way too hot to carry on cycling so we decided to have a break. We stopped at the small shop and ordered some cold drinks. Everything started with a nice chat with Thoa (the housewife) who was very interested in our cycling and travels. We were talking for hours, then her husband and sister got involved. These people were so warmly welcoming us to their home. We had a lunch, then dinner together. They even wanted us to stay overnight but we refused- we wanted to carry on cycling as it was getting dark.
Me and Khoa became like sisters within a few hours. This is so amazing how you can feel close to someone who does not speak much English and you don’t speak Vietnamese plus there are so many cultural differences between you, and you have known this person for such a short time. Friendship has no language or culture barriers!
I spent a whole afternoon playing with kids, looking through Khoa and Thoa’s wedding album and learning some Vietnamese phrases. It was so cool!
While Cez was working very hard helping the family deliver some water gallons and…
having a motorbike ride with Khoa. Awesome!
We also tried out some (new to us) tropical fruits such as jackfruit (quả mít). Once you open it (it has a pear shape and it is very heavy), you need to get some golden yellow pulps out and wash them to eat them next. They are very tasty and super sweet! (see photos above). We also had some fried fish, chicken legs and a vegetable baked with rice for our dinner.
What really blew me away was the fact they didn’t even want a dong (Vietnamese money) from us. They gave us a lot instead- top up our water bottles, didn’t want the money back for sweets, drinks and food we had and they gave us some batteries for free for our torches. I was speechless…
The family lives in a very nice area surrounded by the lake, fields and forest. It was nice to breath some fresh air, have a few cocktails and chill out.
There are good locals and bad ones everywhere. Sometimes you can feel like home when interacting with warm-hearted people, but you can also meet nasty and mercenary people. Sometimes locals want to give you more than they have to welcome you to their country or home, and sometimes they want to take everything from you. Therefore, I am always trying to be super careful when getting to know someone.
We are planning to meet our Vietnamese family again very soon. They are coming to Ha Long! Can’t wait!