Friday, June 12, 2009


I wouldn't call myself a friendly person. And I know most people think it's a good thing to be very friendly. But I'm just naturally not that way.

However, people who get to know me well usually say I'm friendly. I suppose what they mean is that I'm friendly in the sense that I'm congenial and chatty, at least with my friends. But my definition of friendly includes a dimension of outgoingness, and being so comfortable around other people that you can greet and talk to people you don't even know as if it's the most natural thing in the world. I'm not like this, and in fact very few people in Connecticut seem this way, but it is a very common trait among the Vietnamese.

If I walk into any store or restaurant where the manager speaks some English, he will not hesitate to start asking me questions and learning about me. It always starts with something like "where are you from?" rather than "what's your name?" or even "hello, i'm __, what's your name?". Then they want to know everything about me, and I realize only after several minutes that I don't know their name. I've met several people around the city this way, and they're so chatty and free with their questioning that they act like we're old friends. I don't mind, but it's certainly not something that I would do, and I have to get used to the fact that when I come home, I'll be the same as everyone else again, so when I go to buy a book or a coffee, they won't ask me where I'm from or how long I've been there, they'll just hand me my bill with a bored expression. Everyone here keeps a smile on their faces, and the waiters are especially polite. If I've finished my coffee, they don't just take it, they quietly ask "excuse me, may I take your coffee?".

I've even had people introduce themselves to me at the gym, asking me what I'm doing in Vietnam, how long I've been here, etc. Sometimes they also walk up to me and randomly give me advice, like where to position my hands when I'm lifting weights. I'm innately very cautious of new people, careful not to trust them if they're looking for a way to take advantage of me. But so far everyone who has introduced themselves to me has had no ulterior motives than to meet a new person and use english. when i was driving home from work one day and stopped at a light, i was startled when the man on the bike next to me said something to me, "money about you", and pointed to my pocket. i didn't know what he wanted, until I saw that there was money hanging out of my pocket. so, people are always trying to help. even those that don't know english well. on my street, i pass by a family who hangs out at the entrance to their alley, who sell cigarettes and repair motorbikes during the day. they're always out there in the evening, eating their dinner or relaxing, several members of the family spanning all ages. the matriarch is an older woman reclining on a hammock, there's a middle-aged guy who fixed my bike a couple times, and there's a young guy with a haircut like a japanese pop star who gave me motorbike rides a couple times. everytime i pass by, they yell "hello" at me. i say hello or wave back in return. then i drive by the small cafe and nod at the employee who sits on the chair at the entrance watching the traffic go by, and sometimes little kids are playing soccer in the sidestreet and say hello to me.

i dont really know any of my neighbors. but when i was walking past a new house being constructed, this woman called at me to have a look around. it's a 4-story house and she's hoping to rent out rooms. it was almost finished and looked really nice. the workers have been laboring away there constantly for a few months and soon all that dedication will pay off. from the top floor balcony, you can look down on my roof, as my house is only 3 floors. it would be nice to see the house when it's completely finished.


SaigonNezumi(Kevin) said...

I meant to ask you, you rent a room in the house where you live or rent the whole house? I rent a 5 story house but my lease ended and I just have not moved :-)

Petros said...

i rent the whole house, but i have two roommates who pay me part of the rent. the whole house is $425/month, so i pay $155 a month.

SaigonNezumi(Kevin) said...

Wow, that is a good rate for a house. Mine is higher but I share it with one roommate.

I plan to get a smaller house soon.