A Foreigner in Vietnam During Tet

Submitted by tomo on February 1, 2013 - 1:52pm

A Quiet American in a Quiet Vietnam

About two weeks after I first arrived in Saigon, it began: Tet. What a horrible mistake, being in Vietnam right at that time! Tet, being the single Vietnamese holiday that is equivalent to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year in one long week that often stretches to a month for many students as well as laborours. While pre-Tet is a time of high commercial activity, it all comes to a full stop at midnight of the Lunar New Year. Vietnamese people go home. And for Saigon's 10 million or so population, this mostly means going back to places far from metropolitan Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnamese cities are full of economic migrants, young people coming as students or looking for jobs so they can earn money to send home. And Tet is the time of the year, for most economic migrants it's the one and only time of the year, when they return home to their families.

As a company or factory, you don't expect anyone to work during the days of Tet. It doesn't matter if you're a foreign company with orders from foreign countries that need to be filled, by customers that neither know nor care that a "Tet" is happening. If you're lucky, your employees will come back to work after a week, after you've paid them a "13th month" Tet bonus, often equivalent to one month's salary.

And so there's nobody to run the stores or restaurants. Sole restaurateurs either don't feel like working or go back to their home towns, their "countryside", or "que".

What this means for you: There's nobody to make and sell you food or drinks or even coffee. And you can't even go to the supermarket to buy some ingredients to cook at home. Even the local wetmarkets, not that you would shop there.

As you walk around post-apocalyptic Saigon, occasionally sighting other (white) zombies, strolling past pulled down shop front doors, experiencing the rare spectacle of traffic-less Saigon streets, you'll eventually find someplace that's open. You'll, of course, pay for the privilege of being a Tet-time consumer. Price gouging? Just unfettered capitalism!

Of course KFC and some other Western fast food chains will be open. Anyplace that's open during Tet will make a point of being open during Tet.

So what's a foreigner to do in Vietnam during Tet? You have a few options:

  1. Leave. Go to Cambodia or somewhere nearby which doesn't celebrate the Chinese New Year (so avoid places like China, Singapore, Hong Kong, but Cambodia is safe). Be warned: Flights back to Vietnam right before Tet and flights out of Vietnam at the end of Tet will be expensive.
  2. Stay, go home with a friend. If you have Vietnamese friends, they will invite you to their home towns. If you go with them, you'll probably stay at their home although hotels will be open, and you'll get to eat traditional Vietnamese Tet dishes like pickled garlic/leeks, Vietnamese ham (cha lua), banh tet (not the same as Tet), reddened watermelon seeds,
  3. Stay in the city and just relax. Enjoy the quiet, empty streets. Catch up on things.
  4. Travel within Vietnam. Unfortunately, you'll be competing with the entire country's population for transportation. And since people have many days off work some of them will, after spending time with their families, go to a holiday spot with friends.

After living through many Tets and trying each of the above I now prefer the third option, to just stay home and enjoy some down time. And that's why I now look forward to the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.

Read the rest of this article...
weitai

Not the worst blog ever at all. It's very interesting to read about the experience of an American living in Vietnam! Thanks for posting tomo! Looking forward to more posts and information about the music scene there.

Warm Regards,
Wei Tai

Anonymous (not verified)

Hello Sir/madam
My name is Anna From Pacific Cross Health Insurance Viet Nam.
Have you ever considered how to get the BEST health care insurance to protect YOU and your family in Vietnam?
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Pacific Cross Vietnam’s health insurance plans with the following widely used benefits:
1. Worldwide cover: we offer you a local competitive premium with international coverage
2. Preventative Health Benefit: you can use this benefit for routine check-up, vaccinations, appliances or vitamins.
3. Free new born cover: we include Maternity Benefit and Free New Born Cover into your insurance package. That means, your child is eligible for the same medical plan as the Insured Person. When both parents are insured, the limit shall be increased by 50%.
4. Guaranteed renew ability: regardless of age, medical condition or location.
5. For people over 65 & a child under 1 year old: we are the only company that provide health insurance in Vietnam.
6. Direct billing service: we have the wide range of Direct billing providers around Vietnam (detailed list).
7. Claim: Blue Cross Vietnam claims processing time is in 5 working days
It’s time to talk
As we have many plans and optional benefits that fit your health insurance needs and budget, you can browse them at Foundation Series; Master Series. To get a free quote, simply reply to me with you and your family member’s date of birth.
I do hope that our qualifications meet your criteria and would look forward to serving you.
Your sincerely,
Anna Nguyen
email: [email protected]
Mobile: (+84) 9 871 72 347 |Skype: dungnguyen5591

Vape Nation (not verified)

I am in fact happy to read this weblog posts which carries lots of useful facts, thanks
for providing these kinds of statistics.

Anonymous (not verified)

Worst blog ever...would rather sniff a durian than re read this pointless garbage

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <h2> <h3> <h4> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <div> <pre>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You can enable syntax highlighting of source code with the following tags: <code>, <blockcode>, <c>, <cpp>, <drupal5>, <drupal6>, <java>, <javascript>, <php>, <python>, <ruby>. The supported tag styles are: <foo>, [foo].
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
© 2010-2014 Saigonist.