What strikes me the most about Vietnam isn’t the physical beauty of the country nor the chaotic traffic in the city; it is the humility of the people. When I first arrived in Vietnam, I did not know what to expect. None of my immediate family had ever returned to Vietnam since leaving in 1992, and whenever I asked about life in Vietnam, my family always focused on the negative aspects of the country. They talked about the poverty, the crime, and the people who seemed to be ready to take advantage of a foreigner at any given moment. These thoughts manifested in my nervousness as I left the plane in Saigon, but what I quickly discovered in Vietnam was overwhelming hospitality.
Sure, Vietnam has all of the obstacles my parents had mentioned, but the presence of these aspects paled in comparison to that of the rich culture that the Vietnamese people offered. In Saigon, we could easily be identified as foreigners; we trekked awkwardly across the street and adhered closely to the inside of the sidewalk. Furthermore, whenever we saw a restaurant that we were interested in, we would wait for abnormally long periods of time just right outside of the restaurant to see what dishes were being served. However, our announcement as foreigners never deterred the Vietnamese people from welcoming us into the seats of their restaurants. While we were ordering our drinks and dishes, we were never met with frustration, but with smiles as we pointed our way across the menu. Whenever a waiter couldn’t understand what we were saying, he made sure he grabbed someone who could bridge the language barrier to aid in accurately recording our order. Even as we were leaving a restaurant, some owners even informed us of the dishes served for lunch in case we wanted to return back for those dishes.
It is these little instances that demonstrate the Vietnamese people’s willingness to serve those around them, and I am grateful that I have the chance to witness this hospitality for the next two months.