Last Week: Too Soon to Say Goodbye

Last you heard from me, I had just completed my “Vietnam is 10-days” crash course Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) travels. Since then, I have really been able to settle in at my company and in my new home. Thus, realising that I will have to leave Vietnam has been a very rude awakening.

Seven weeks in, I feel really settled in to my daily work schedule (just in time to leave). The pace of life in Vietnam is incredible – fast and energetic. The city comes alive at night, and there’s always something new to do or see. As a consequence, last minute plans and change of plans are both common and frequent. For someone who’s usually quite type A, this has meant a lot of adjusting and being comfortable with more flexibility. It’s also meant that last minute trips, spontaneous lunch dates and new experiences are always right at your door. It’s been both stressful and given me a lot of opportunity at the same time.

I’ve also had the opportunity to opt into Vietnamese classes at work. These require an early start to the day, but have been well worth it. I’m coming to the point where I can read (semi) properly, order the food that I want, and interact with people around me (a little bit) in Vietnamese. Learning about the language has also put many things from the workplace into perspective. For example, something that is quite blunt sounding when translated to English (like “Give me some icecream”) can be a perfectly polite thing to say in Vietnamese. And, depending on how you address people, things that sound quite nonchalant in English sound very formal and distant in Vietnamese when talking amongst people you want to create a rapport with.

There is no denying that this experience has been challenging on both the mind and body. For me, COVID sparked an unwelcome set of colds, infections and tiredness. Not to mention the occasional food poisoning. Navigating the work environment in particular has been interesting, as well as getting accustomed to a completely new pace of life. When immersing yourself in a new country and new work environment being lost in translation means so many things. It encompasses everything from literally being unable to order off a menu (although, thanks to Vietnamese lessons, I get what I intended about 80% of the time) to interpreting tasks a completely different way to your colleagues.

However, overwhelmingly, I am sad to be leaving my company. My team has been incredible, and experiencing a start-up growing into global tech firm has been an incredible learning opportunity. NFQ ASIA is young and energetic, and the start-up community it sits in is nothing like I’ve experienced in Aotearoa. Prior to coming to Vietnam, I read online that Ho Chi Minh City is the countries hub for business and entrepreneurship, and it has truly hit me how accurate that was.

Every weekend I spend at least two nights on a sleeper bus in an attempt to see as much of this beautiful country as possible. In the last two weeks I’ve been able to travel to Mũi Né, the Me Kong Delta and Da Lat. Three very different and unique places.

Mũi Né is a beach/fishing town, but it’s most lucrative attraction are massive sand dunes! They’re incredible, and all my photos from Mũi Né look like they could’ve been taken in Morocco instead. We got to relax on the beach, sandboard down the dunes and explore Fairy Stream.

By contrast, life in the Me Kong Delta is entirely water-based. The Me Kong Delta flows down from China, through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, finally branching out into many deltas, rivers and canals in Viet Nam. The region is famous for it’s delicious herbs and fruits, floating markets and houses, and many winding canals. On Sunday we woke up at 4AM in order to get to the early-morning markets and my highlight was definitely enjoying noodles and fresh fruits served to me from a boat.

Da Lat is very picturesque. It’s full of french-style houses set against the backdrop of smokey mountains and beautiful scenery. We went on a tour around the surrounding areas – including the areas where ethnic minorities live, beautiful cascading waterfalls, Buddhist temples and scenic mountain routes.

All in all, I cannot deny that I’ve had the most incredible summer. I’m so grateful to be here and for the opportunity to really dig my feet into local working life. Going to work on a grab scooter, trying local street foods, exploring the many districts of Ho Chi Minh City and my new friendships are all things I’ll miss dearly. I have absolutely loved my time here, and feel confident that I will be looking for work in Vietnam in the future.

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