Reflections on Vietnam

Vietnam is an amazing country. I never really knew this as an American/Canadian until I spent a good amount of time here. When you’re raised in the western world, you generally don’t hear much about Vietnam unless it’s regarding the war – and that story is a little biased, to be honest. 🙂

Now that I’m wrapping up a ~7-month stint here, it’s time for some reflections. I’ll do it by describing the people of Vietnam, as they represent the values and character of the country well. They also form the vast majority of my fond memories here. These may seem like generalizations (and they are), but obviously the people are incredibly diverse as well – personalities, style, and quirks vary just as much as they do in any other country. I’m just using these as a proxy for takeaways about my experience as a whole.

So without further ado, I’m reporting that the Vietnamese are…


From what I could tell, the number of people in Vietnam with their own individual businesses was quite high. Whether it was a tech startup, a restaurant operated out of their own home, or a simple street cart full of fruit, the Vietnamese seemed to have that spirit of doing whatever it took to build their own financial independence. And of course, they love selling to expats…

Targeted #advertising

A photo posted by Simon Tan (@simtanx) on


It is one of the best kept secrets of Southeast Asia – Vietnam has some of the most diverse, creative, and flavorful cuisines around. And with the fierce competition that comes with a country of 90+ million people, locals and expats alike are spoiled for choice. But you don’t have to ask me or check out my Foursquare list of favorites in Saigon. You can also watch Anthony Bourdain describe it.

Food of Vietnam


From cooking chickens in soda cans to fitting a mattress on a motorbike, you can count on the Vietnamese to come up with creative solutions to life’s problems. And to have a bit of fun as well 🙂


It’s kind of stunning when you realize it, but there is an absolutely huge number of young people here – probably more than any other country I’ve been to. Almost 70% of the population is working age, and the government likes to point out that it’s the backbone of their robust economy. In addition to making malls and nightclubs extremely lively (read: crowded), it also means you see lots of beer everywhere. 🙂

"Một hai ba… yo!" Also known as #cheers or #ganbei – learn something new every day 🙂

A photo posted by Simon Tan (@simtanx) on


Vietnam is a fiercely independent country. They have fought to win their country back time after time – from the Chinese, French, Americans… Their spirit is really quite remarkable, and it carries into how they live their lives day-to-day as well. The culture of motorbikes and entrepreneurship are quite possibly a natural effect of this as well.

Suffice it to say that I’ve had an amazing time in Vietnam. I’ve met people I’ll never forget, I’ve had food that I will miss for the rest of my life, and I’ve experienced so many new things that I could just die now and feel satisfied knowing I’ve really lived, if you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, I’ve run out of time here and it is time for me to head back to (relatively boring :P) North America. I don’t know when I’ll be back in Vietnam, but I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t thought of it as a destination before. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m eternally thankful to everyone who played a part in it.

Cám ơn mọi người!

Also published on Medium.

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