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They say that the best way to appreciate any place is to live like a local. It’s more immersive and educational, it’s friendlier to your pockets, and it’s a great way to make new friends. It’s not exactly easy, especially in a country with a multi-faceted character, but it’s most likely not that complicated, either. In countries like Vietnam, for example, you simply have to be mindful of the unique mix of culture, history, and religion present in the country. From there, it becomes easier. If you’re planning to visit Vietnam soon and want to live like a local, here are a few tips to help you along.
Stay at a Homestay
Homestays and hostels are not only budget-friendly. They’re also one of the best ways to live like a local in almost any place around the world, Vietnam included. With homestays, in particular, you’ll have better access to neighborhood secrets. If there’s a festival happening, you’ll be able to better appreciate how the locals celebrate it. (Hotel celebrations tend to be more commercialized for tourists.) Of course, staying with or near locals also allows you to appreciate the beauty of their daily lives.
You can find homestays and hostels when you book Vietnam travel packages from Traveloka. You may also want to stay in communities like those near the Mekong River if you want to experience a truly Vietnamese way of life.
Eat in Groups
Most Asian nations have plenty of traditions surrounding food and Vietnam is no different. In fact, food is a huge part of Vietnamese culture and family life. In particular, no matter how simple the meal is, there should always be three things that can be eaten with rice. A meal is usually composed of fish or meat for protein, a soup, and some vegetables. There should also always be a sauce for dipping or for enhancing a dish’s flavor. Finally, no one eats alone in Vietnam. You’ll often see friends or colleagues sitting together to enjoy a meal. You may also find locals encouraging you to try new kinds of food. Be polite and try some of what they offer.
Ride a Motorbike
Large cities in Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Da Nang will always have various types of transportation like buses, trains, taxis, and xe om or motorbike taxis. In some areas, especially in the countryside, however, you may find only buses plying some fixed routes. In this case, you’ll be better off renting a motorbike. Vietnam loves its motorcycles, with more than 12 million of them in Ho Chi Minh City alone. Just remember to beep your horn when needed and always be careful since you’re going to be sharing the road with much larger vehicles. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask the locals for directions. The phrase for “where is…?” in Vietnamese is “… o dau?”
Be Kind and Respectful
Vietnamese people are, by nature, very caring and polite. If you need help, no matter how small the “trouble” you may be in, you’ll receive it from almost anyone. Make sure to reciprocate or, as they say, pay it forward if you receive help. Respect is also huge in Vietnamese culture and society. There are terms for used for both older (chi oi) and younger members (anh oi) of the family or society. Bowing to officials, monks, and even travelers is also common. Do some research and brush up on Vietnamese etiquette. For example, some gestures like pointing with your index finger is considered rude, so it’s best to use your pinky when pointing at something. A more formal way is to point with your entire hand, with your palm facing down although this can be considered “overkill” in most casual situations.
Be a Wise Shopper
Haggling is highly encouraged in Vietnam. It’s a practice not just of tourists who want to buy more souvenirs, but also of locals who want more value for their money. If you want to live like a local, learn how to haggle like a pro. Some useful sentences or phrases you can use are “Bao nhieu tien?” or “How much?” and “Bot duoc khong?” or “Can you give a discount?” There’s also “Mac qua” or “That’s too expensive.” A key thing to remember is that there’s a difference between haggling and being a wise shopper and being a scrooge. Be a reasonable haggler!
“Live like a local” is not a fad. It’s a refreshing, wonderful way of appreciating a country’s culture and history. These few tips are just some of the ways you can have a more engaging experience when you visit Vietnam.