Here, put my glasses on for a second. We’re just going to chit chat about an aspect of Vietnamese culture that you may not be aware of.
It’s hot in Viet Nam right? Yep, it’s an inescapable heat that makes even your elbows sweat. Your natural tendency is to wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. It’s your holiday, so you may even tend to choose clothes that you wouldn’t normally wear, perhaps even throw away at the end of your trip, so that you can make room in your luggage for all of your shopping.
I’m talking about shorts, singlet tops (hello tattoos!), and I hate to say it, harem pants. Argh! Fashion crime right there. Just saying.
But on a more serious note, and look through my glasses again while we chat about this.. Display of too much skin in Viet Nam makes Vietnamese people feel uncomfortable, form negative impressions about foreigners, and can plain just piss them off, particularly when you’re visiting sacred sites, like temples.
Quietly observe them for a moment. What are they wearing? They’re melting inside from the heat too, but you’ll notice that they’re pretty well covered up, smartly dressed pending financial means, and take pride in what they’re wearing.
Ever seen a tattoo? Think about that one. They’re not a positive form of self expression in Viet Nam. Tattoos are often associated with criminals and prison life.
Living a respectable life is important to Vietnamese. So much depends on keeping good relationships – simple things like access to government services, a good education, finding a spouse, having career prospects.
I’m not an expert on Vietnamese culture, but I do think that dressing in long pants and shirts with sleeves in Viet Nam will have a positive effect on your experience and that of your hosts, the locals. I’d love to know what you think about this somewhat sensitive topic. Let me know.
Oh, and with regards to coping with the heat, I only have one awesome tip for cooling down. Seek shelter, obviously, but down a smoothie – quick as you can, and you’ll feel a lovely coolness seep through your body. Works everytime!