The Art of Being Vietnamese

In a short while, we will be subjected to 2012 “lists”.  Top Ten Celebrity Gossip of the Year.  Most Popular Boy’s Name.  Worst Dressed Politician.

All of the above, and more.

Inspired by a meeting with an elderly Vietnamese monk last month, here, in the spirit of such things (ie for fun, rather than for anything more meaningful) are my “Top Things Learnt about the Vietnamese in 2012”.

Anyone is welcome to add more to these or, indeed, share with me their own SE Asian (or elsewhere…who cares!) versions – I expect to add to this myself in the future, however I only had a short window at Singapore airport earlier to reel these off…

1. Face protection – “one life, one face” is up there as a life motto for most Vietnamese.  No matter what the scenario, saving face in all situations is paramount.

Granted, face saving is not specific to Vietnam, however they do it so well over here! Continue reading

The Art of Smiling

Late to the party, as usual, I’ve been enjoying the work of Yang Liu – a Chinese-German artist whose interpretations of the differences between these two cultures is captured in her East vs West series.

Interpretations which make for some fun talking points for a Brit like me, who has now been living in Vietnam for a year or so.  Take a look at your leisure…

Continue reading

The Art of Inner Voice

The folks from WordPress encourage their blogging disciples to use different “categories” for our posts, so I have reverted to incorporating “The Art Of…” as one of these.

I would, however, caveat that I am not proffering any form of artistic advice or guidance in the words to follow, themselves arguably a bi-product of my own ‘Inner Voice’ and stream of consciousness. In fact, it was Florence, our 3 year old, who first put the idea in my head to write about this subject, earlier today, whilst playing in her bedroom.

Not for the first time in recent months I found myself propped up on Flo’s beanbag at 6.30am this morning, clutching the day’s first cup of tea, and attempting to follow the non-stop chatter she was managing to keep up for a good twenty minutes, breathlessly switching topics, from barbie dolls to doctors and nurses, to renaming her plastic farm animals to listing out options of what her best friend, Velvet, would be wearing later when she comes over for dinner. Continue reading

The Art of sweating

With each week seems to come a new tweak or ache somewhere up and down my body. 

Ankles and heels are the target areas at the moment, and I cut a pathetic figure at 5:30am each morning as I limp across the kitchen, hand flailing out to switch on the kettle, as Florence is pulling at my leg and demanding a DVD be fired up.  

Despite our attempts at negotiating with Flo about the somewhat unruly hour at which she springs into life each day – which on some mornings simply involves the inevitably futile command of: “It’s still dark, it’s not time to wake up, go back to sleep!” – she often, literally, jumps out of bed with energy levels pulsating through her to the extent that walking is enthusiastically replaced by a combination of breathless skipping, pirouetting and running. Continue reading

The Art of conversation

For the past 3 months there has been an overall sense of inevitably about the outcome of many of my daily one-to-one conversations with local Vietnamese here in Saigon.

Communicating with taxi drivers, supermarket check-out staff, waiters, security guards, and the like, more than often becomes a slow, truncated, and unsatisfactory exchange where both parties appear genial and responsive, but neither is really grasping what the other is talking about.

Despite embarking on a short course of Vietnamese, and initially buoyed by some of its relatively simple grammatical rules, the very unfamiliar tonal aspects of Vietnamese remain a point of departure for me – as they do, I have heard, for many others who have come here with European trained diction, and tried and failed to master the (somewhat disputed) number of tones which make up the language. Continue reading