We just recently moved to Da Nang where we get to experience the Vietnamese beach lifestyle. It’s also the opportunity to explore two other aspects of the life in Vietnam: their cult of white skin and the street food culture.
When you travel to Vietnam, be prepared to experience a much different way of life than what you were used to, especially if you come from a Western country. Nothing awful I can reassure you! However, you might be surprised from time to time. You will think “Hmm! Interesting!” or “Oh! Why [not]?”.
1. Cool Peace Love – The Vietnamese beach lifestyle
After having been in HCMC for the past 4 months, we are enjoying the cooler and calmer lifestyle in Da Nang. This beachside city is located in the South Central Coast region of Vietnam. The 3rd largest city is currently booming and new buildings are being built at every corner.
We are discovering now the Vietnamese way of the beach lifestyle. After having lived in a beachside city in Brazil – Ilhéus – and in Australia – Glenelg – I find that the beach culture is pretty similar everywhere, to be honest. People exercise to show off some nice-looking bodies on the beach. They are chilled out. They enjoy eating fresh seafood and drinking “ngon” cocktails.
Locals truly enjoy and make the most of having the ocean nearby. They are even proud of it when one cafe owner told me how cool it is to be able to have the fresh air from the nearby ocean. The beaches are usually empty during the day but turn into an attraction as soon as the sun goes down. People go there for a healthy walk, to play soccer, take a few selfies or meet up with their lover.
I found locals in Da Nang to be a bit more in shape than in HCMC. They seem to be more concerned about their appearance. They exercise more and show off their bodies way more. Probably the beach effect!
2. Yum Ngon Yum – Street food culture and carts in Vietnam
Vietnamese lifestyle can seem minimalistic, but it’s all about making life simply enjoyable. No need for fancy interior design when you can just set up a pop-up restaurant on the sidewalk with plastic chairs and tables. Vietnam supports small family businesses and gives everyone the opportunity to develop in the hospitality area.
At night, the city comes to life as the weather allows people to spend time outside without fearing to get sunburn. It is easy to find street food in Vietnam. Some would be traveling around the city on their bike or bicycle playing a recording of their items for sale. Others would have a cart set up on the sidewalk. Not one of the big food trucks you can see in NYC but a small silver or wood cart with all their equipment organized in a few meters square. Finally, the bravest ones would carry a bamboo stick with two compartments filled up with the necessary ingredients.
If you need a snack, you do not need to walk too far until you will bump into one of these street food carts/shops/people. This job would either be their full-time position if they ride around the city, or it would be their night shift putting plastic tables and chairs in a spot that used to be empty during the day.
Many types of street food snacks can be found in Vietnam: from some of the pork and sausage skewers or the dried banana pancakes to the fried chili corn or the famous flat pancake “banh trang nuong” from Da Lat. If you have a bigger hunger, you should be able to find a banh mi cart or hit the nearest burger spot.
See some of the most recommended street food snacks by BackOfTheBikeTours.com.
3. White is the new black! – The strict sun avoidance in Vietnam
In most Asian countries, people prefer to have a white skin. It is not only a matter of beauty but it is also due to skin issues. Its is especially true in Japan, but it is also part of the Vietnamese culture.
White is beautiful in Vietnam! So much that locals try their best to cover themselves from the sun. Gloves, masks, socks, hats are not only worn to keep them protected against the bright sunlight. But this equipment is also keeping them away from pollution. Some others would put on some whitening sunblock. The whiter you are the more beautiful you look into most locals’ eyes.
My friend Thu would not be so happy with me when I would leave the house “without any protection”. As a habit in France or in Australia, I would at least put some sunblock on sensitive and exposed skin areas, wear a hat and sunglasses. However, Vietnamese do not really believe in cream to protect you from the sun.
Wearing more clothes to keep their skin away from the light is part of their education. However, it is also in their genes since they can handle the heat better than us. Even though they are fully covered, they barely sweat under their hoodie, gloves, socks and masks.
No matter where they are going and for how long, they would try to find a way to create a real shield from the sun. See some hilarious photos of only-in-Vietnam sun protection techniques.
Online discoveries of the week
- NOTEWORTHY – A bilingual webcomic to deal with a major current issue, the immigration. This is the great project of 3 artists who want to talk about the story of a Honduran immigrant trying to reach the U.S. in both languages, English and Spanish. Here bilingualism encourages the young ones and adults to stay informed about the current social and political issues in the world.
- CULTURE – FLIM or the Youtube channel that decrypts the art of audiovisual. Not sure how all the videos you watch every day are made? Dim will explain all the techniques of video-making. (All videos in French).
- JOB – Find or become a private tutor or teacher in Vietnam has never been so easy with Teachme.vn. This great online community and website provide services to both teachers and students to find each other. Offer and demand in many different languages and in a few big cities in Vietnam: HCMC, Hanoi, Da Nang and Hai Phong. Don’t wait any longer to start teaching or learning!
- TRAVEL – Not sure where to go, what to do in Da Nang? Vietnam Pocket Guide’s website has all the answers for you! From tourist attractions and other activities to coffee shops, spas and events, you won’t be able to relax for a second during your stay in Da Nang. Don’t miss out on the practical information section to stay out of trouble in Vietnam.