Tourists and expats living in Vietnam are typically awed by the overwhelming kindness of the Vietnamese people.
These comments were submitted in response to a Vietnamese News request for submissions about positive experiences in Vietnam on the occasion of New Year, a time to reflect on the past year and expectations for the upcoming Lunar New Year in the Southeast Asian country.
The spirit of kindness in Vietnam
The spirit of a Western Christmas comes from the teachings of religion in that we are taught to give rather than receive and to be kind to our fellow countrymen. Over the past five years in Vietnam, however, I’ve realized that you don’t need Christmas to teach kindness. Vietnam is one of the kindest countries in the world.
I met a girl prior to moving to Vietnam in 2013. We became great friends, and still are today. When I moved to Vietnam she invited me to her home to meet her family. I didn’t expect to meet such wonderful people and it is her mother that I now hold as an icon of love and kindness in Vietnam.
This woman, Than Thi Chat, welcomed me into her home and showed kindness that was so unexpected. I recall the first time she hugged me. By that time I had been living here for about six months. It was around Tet holiday and she was having a party at her home. It was time to go and as I did, I said “Bye Mum!” With a smile in her eyes, she turned to me and put her arms around me and said, “Happy New Year! Bye son!”
For me, that hug was more than just a hug. This was being accepted into a Vietnamese family. Also, at that moment, I understood the wonderment of Vietnamese culture. It’s about acceptance. This feeling continued to grow over the years. Every time I visited there was food for me. I was welcomed with a cake on my birthday. I was one of the first people to hold her new granddaughter. And every time life got a little lonely she seemed to have this ability to lift my spirits with food and a smile.
There was no reason for them to accept me. I was a foreigner in a family where only one person spoke English. It was the greatest act of unconditional human kindness that I had ever experienced in my life and it became simple for what I have experienced all over this country – a sense of kindness towards everyone.
What did this act of kindness do? It created, in my mind, a positive view of Vietnam. It allowed me to trust people all around the country. Because of the kindness shown to me by Miss Chat I was able to meet and interact with so many people because I understood the culture of kindness. I was able to be part of the community and not just a foreign observer. I owe this lady so much for giving me the opportunity to see the heart of Vietnam through the kindness of so many people, from Sa Pa to Vung Tau.
Whilst kindness fills the culture of Vietnam, unfortunately many foreigners visiting have mixed feelings about the honesty of some locals. This stems from dishonest dealings by the people that most often come into contact with tourists – taxi drivers, bar staff, tour operators and many others. Because of the criminal actions of a minority of these operators, the feeling that many tourists have is that Vietnam is a harsh society with no consideration for others, even though that is not true.
In the heart of Vietnam is this amazing sense of togetherness that I have not seen anywhere else in the world. People give you food, they look in your eyes, they stop and speak, and they connect. This is something that still amazes me about this country. This remains something I cherish and admire every day. I am privileged to be able to call this beautiful country my second home.
Ray Kuschert from Australia
‘It melted my heart’
Last year, when cycling from the north to the south of Vietnam, I received many selfless acts of kindness from Vietnamese people. It began when my tire tubes needed to be patched and replaced by someone because I didn’t know how to do it myself and continued being invited to join meals with my helper’s families and being offered a new bicycle from a complete stranger when mine was stolen.
The story I really want to share is very simple and humble. It happened in the north of Vietnam. My tire went flat in a small city less than 100 km from Ha Giang and I couldn’t find a new one at any nearby shops. I had no other option but to take the bus to a bigger city.
Once I got there, I pushed my bike as I tried to find a bike shop to buy a new tire. It was cloudy and a little rainy. Since the rain wasn’t too strong I decided to continue my search but was unsuccessful. At one point a young Vietnamese girl driving a motorbike on her way to work stopped and asked me if I needed any help. I told her my story and what I was looking for and she insisted on helping me. She told me to sit on her bike and hold my bike while she chauffeured me to several places. After trying a few shops with no luck, we said goodbye and she continued on her way to work. Ten or 15 minutes later, she turned around and found me again and took me to a shop that she managed to find and the shop owner was able to provide me with a new tire tube.
Honestly, I don’t think I would ever have found this place on my own. After leaving me for the second time the girl came back with a plastic rain cover for me. She was already late for work but she wanted to make sure I didn’t get wet on my way back to the guest house. It literally melted my heart. Such a small thing perfectly describes how genuine, caring and welcoming Vietnamese people are towards others.
I don’t think I will ever forget that story. It makes me smile every time I think about it. Kind people are one of the biggest reasons I have fallen in love with Vietnam!
Rita Rasimaite from Lithuania