I Guess We Grew Up Differently?

By: Zoe Osborne

When you are dating or married to someone from another culture, it is inevitable that your habits will butt heads at some point. But over time you learn to accept these clashes, and though they can sometimes be unfortunate they are often hilarious. As veterans of the Vietnamese-Western relationship, David Perry, creator of “The Vietnamese Wife, Western Husband Club” and I both know this very well! So we put our heads together to come up with a few hilarious examples. Do any of these apply to you?


Example 1: The question of “free stuff”

Let’s say you and your partner go out and try a new high-rated restaurant, and next to that incredible “something” is a whole load of free stuff. For David and his wife Jenny, this is best explained with napkins and condiments, but for my boyfriend Nguyen and I this applies mainly to tissues and lemons. If we go out to eat, the meal is improved tenfold with the presence of free face wipes and lemon quarters, and we invariably return home with our pockets stuffed.


Example 2: The question of meds

Got a headache? Ok, take something that is tried and tested, or… visit your local dusty drug house for something you’ve never heard of. It seems illogical to distrust an internationally recognized pill of choice and opt for a bag of random chemicals instead, but to Nguyen it is always safer to stick with what he knows. Fair enough right?


Example 3: The question of clutter

Cardboard boxes, beautifully designed or not, are for one purpose only: to package things, right? As it turns out they can be very well utilised as household furnishings. In my house this concept applies to yogurt containers and empty egg cartons - if I am not diligent, my table slowly fills up with towers of carefully rinsed plastic containers. When I ask Nguyen he tells me, very mysteriously, that he wants to use them for “something”. But the fact remains that, though the towers of plastic are always rising, they are never used for anything except the collection of dust.

At the end of the day our culture clashes play a big part in binding us with our partners. I think it’s cute when my partner does something totally illogical, and for me, the key is to laugh. But it’s easier for me, as I’m the stranger in a strange country. Back in New York, it can be less funny for David, especially as his partner’s cultural idiosyncrasies affect his entire world. So for therapy, he makes cartoons and laughs it off with others.

Saigon’s Secret Love Hotels

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnamese lovers have a problem. Convention dictates that public shows of real affection are taboo. We’re not talking about doing the “thing” here, merely kissing and cuddling is frowned upon by one of the most conservative societies on earth. So young lovers are forced into standing on the Thu Tiem Bridge gazing at the night city skyline or congregating on Mai Chi Tho to sit on a motorbike and fly a kite. There is an innocence about Vietnamese society that is actually quite charming. Young couples actually enjoy the simply things in life, in a way that is lost to most in the West.


“The charming innocence is really endearing”


But surely young lovers have needs and urges the same as anyone else. Well, this is where the Nha Nghi, or “Love Hotels”, come in. To the initiated this remains a hidden part of Saigon life. Whether you know it or not, the chances are you drive past love hotels every single day. These pleasure palaces can be rented by the hour and have become a regular haunt for young couples, cheating partners, married couples in search of some privacy and Saigon’s famous “butterfly girls” with their clients.

A great strength of Vietnamese life is the strong family bond. However when you are sharing a small house or even a single room with mum and dad, amorous advances don’t, well, advance very far to be honest. “We’re close, but not that close!” So when the birds and the bees start to get restless, it’s time to pop down to the Nha Nghi and take advantage of the opening rate, which is between VND60,000 and VND100,000 for the first three hours.


“When the birds and the bees start to get restless, it’s time to pop down to the Nha Nghi”


There is one street in District 7 that has about a dozen of these establishments. It really is quite a sight in the early morning as children stroll past on their way to their local international school and at the same time, dozens of young couples emerge looking bleary eyed and rather pleased with themselves. Each couple discreetly jumps onto two different motorbikes and heads off back to their normal lives.

As with everything there is a certain ambiguity about it all. The term Nha Nghi simply means guest house and there are many of these all over the city that are nothing more than that. The love hotels are normally spotted by the signs outside advertising the rates. If the prices are by the hour then there is every chance that the stair carpets will be more worn that most. It’s the same with the infamous Hot Tocs in Saigon. Hot Toc merely means a hairdresser, though some are more blow job than blow dry. A guy could come to town for a haircut and a room for the night, and find himself involved in a whole different ball game.


“A guy could come to town for a haircut... and find himself involved in a whole different ball game.”


Sex it seems is still the big taboo here. Everyone does it, nobody admits it and nobody talks about it. Vietnamese society is incredibly conservative and seemingly naive, but take a look at the sex chat sites and you get a real sense of where Saigon is. Online, everyone appears to be at it.


So just where do the love hotels fit in on Valentine’s Day? Well, each year, they report great business with many saying that they get fully booked on February 14th. Some have three hour slots booked right through the afternoon, evening and night. My, if the walls could talk. Maybe that’s why they call it a headboard!

There is a riskier side to this risqué business. Some partners, finding out about infidelities, have been known to have done deals in the past with hotel owners. They installed cameras and caught their loved ones loving other lovers. The resulting grainy videos hit the social media sites and caused quite a stir.

However, Saigon’s infamous love hotels show no sign of losing their appeal anytime soon.

Meet The Saigonese: Roger Ferrell

By: City Pass Guide

Roger Ferrell is the President of Kid’s First Enterprise, a social enterprise company that donates all profits to support disadvantaged children, focusing on kids with disabilities and those suffering from cancer. They run two large events each year in HCMC and use the money to buy wheelchairs. They buy in excess of 100 wheelchairs annually. The next one is The Bourbon Street Jazz Festival, on the last Saturday in May at Cargo in District 4.

Can you suggest a hidden gem or little-known Saigon Attraction?

I think that most of the venues are pretty well known these days, but really I like the idea of Street Foodie Saigon. They organise tours around various street food vendors in the city. It’s a great way to find the good ones.

As we approach Tet, what are you wishes for the New Year?

I think my wish for the new year is to continue supporting the children that we do. I hope our business continues to be successful enough to support more disadvantaged people in Vietnam.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you in Vietnam?

I was robbed by two motorbike bandits and it happened with such efficiency that it completely took me by surprise. I was at a bus stop, with my briefcase containing my laptop. It was gone before I even knew what was happening.

What is one thing about life in Saigon that pisses you off the most?

I would have to say that business banking is the biggest pain in the ass, in my life. I worked in banking in the States and it is seriously bad here. It should not take 15 minutes to make a simple withdrawal. Another thing is that I shouldn’t have to be scared for my life on a footpath because of the motorbikes.

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