Thursday, March 2, 2017

13 Lessons I Have Learned in Hanoi

From motorbike riding, to customs, to families, friends, liars, and thieves, here is a collection of things that I have learned during my time in this country.

1) You drive a motorbike with your hips and stomach, not with your arms and hands.

    When you are constantly swerving in traffic to avoid cars, taxi's, other motorbikes, cyclists, potholes, lumps of road on top of the road, bags of rubbish, and pedestrians all in the one strip, it's great to know how to handle a motorbike. It took me a while to learn that the hands are there less to steer, and more for balance, which is something I am getting very good at!
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2) Don't get on the motorbike to drive when you need the bathroom.

    There's nothing worse than driving down bumpy, bumpy roads on a motorbike when you really really need to pee. Believe me.

3) Life is precious - and it can be taken away in a second.

    I am lucky that the stories I can tell you about death in this country aren't nearly as graphic as the stories some of my friends could tell you. I have seen people very injured, called ambulances for drunk motorists at stupid times of the morning, and I have seen people near death. I have seen people looking at the dead, but avoided it with my own eyes.

    I myself have had a few close calls on these roads, maybe not to death, but certainly to a very bad place. And as much as it is a terrifying thought that our lives can be taken away any moment, I believe that my time is not near, but that I should take every second in this life as a gift, and I truly do treasure every day as if it was my last.

4) People are always temporary.

    This is one I have been struggling with for longer than my time in Hanoi its self. The thought that every single person in our lives, no matter how important they are to us or how strong our relationships are, is temporary. It's a scary thought. But it's another thought that helps me to not take people for granted. To tell the people I love that I love them every day, and to cherish every moment you have with people - or alone because you never know when it could be your last.

5) You can be happy with less.

    In fact, I would go as far as to say you can actually be happier with less. I see people on the street with nothing but their family and love in their hearts. I see them selling their creations, made with a few ingredients or materials, to the people who walk buy. And they are happy. The average wage for an adult here is $150USD a MONTH. With many more earning a lot less, especially UNI students. But do any of them complain? No they don't. No one is missing meals, most have their family to live with and feed them, they still catch up with their friends, they truly enjoy their lives as they are, they don't cry when they don't get expensive gifts, or when something doesn't go their way. It's truly inspiring.

6) Road rage doesn't have to be a thing.

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    I don't know what it is, or how it works here but the traffic really is something else. Cars and motorbikes ducking and diving between each other, often cutting off other motorists or getting too close for comfort - yet no one seems to be phased. Very rarely do I see a display of rage on these roads. I wish more places were like this.

7) Always leave early. Because you will get stuck in traffic.

    I live less than 10km away from where I work. Same distance as I was used to in Australia. Time of travel in Australia - 10-15 minutes. Time of travel in Ha Noi - 20-90 minutes. Depending on what time you leave, and what exact route you take, travel times can change immeasurably. Always leave early, and always expect to get lost or stuck in traffic and you should have no problem!

8) Things will get done in their own time.

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    Here is a photo of me doing my dishes. In the shower. One of the great things about Hanoi life is people never really expect you to do things on time. This is a great thing to remember when there is something wrong with your apartment. No matter how many times you tell your landlady or landlord that, for instance, your kitchen tap wont let out any water, they keep saying 'yes today or tomorrow someone will come to fix it'. Well, after several 'today or tomorrow's' I decided enough was enough and my dishes needed to be cleaned somehow!

9) Sometimes you will have to compromise

    This goes with number 7 also. Sometimes things just wont go the way they're supposed to. This used to make me angry, upset, and emotional. But I've learned to go with the flow and that there is always an alternate way to do things.

10) Don't buy animals from the side of the road.

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    This should go without saying, and even still I was warned about this. But did I listen? Definitely not. Because I wanted a rabbit and I wanted fish. I was told that they would be sick and would die within a week. I did not listen. It was an emotional day the day I had to say goodbye to my poor bunny :(

11) When meeting with Vietnamese friends never turn up on time.

12)Lastly, beauty is in everything.


  1. Great job Millie! I could learn some lessons myself :)
    Your writing is lovely to read. Keep up the great work XXX