I am a Vietnamese from the Northern part of Vietnam and if compared with Southern people Northerners are considered quite conservative, even today. Thus, in the frame of this blog I would not say generally “Vietnamese people” but I will talk particularly about the travel habit of Northern Vietnamese of which I am one..
We all know that before the Doi moi (1986) Northern part of Vietnam was totally “blocked” from the Western world. The only connection we had was just the communist fellows such as China, Cuba and Eastern Europe. So people from Northern Vietnam at that time just moved from Vietnam to those countries to study and work with the only passion – coming back to help build up a strong communist society in their motherland (!).
But since the Doi moi (or no, later! From my limited knowledge then I would count from 1994 when my youngest uncle went for his master in Australia) let’s see how the situation has changed! We started to go to Western Europe, Northern America and Australia! And we began to enjoy going to those countries, and actutally we “enjoyed” going to the developed countries so much that for now whenever someone say “I’m going abroad” then the expected destinations would always be somewhere in the US or Europe (Western part preferred!) Many people nowadays (even the youngsters at my age) have summed up the meaning of the word “abroad” into 1/3 of the world with such way of thinking. Well, the world is not big but it’s not that small either.
I first traveled outside of Vietnam last year. Now you would ask me why? Probably it’s another habit of Northerners. We don’t like moving and traveling that much, and even when traveling we would rather go to the South of Vietnam than go to Thailand or Malaysia although it is obviously cheaper, probably one big reason is because a lot of people still haven’t even got a passport.. My mom has not got a passport yet. Every year she would spend money for her summer vacation in the South of Vietnam, she wanted to go outside of the country as well but whenever I mentioned about getting a passport she always hesitated “I don’t have time..” A lot of my friends have the same problem – having no passport but having no time to get one. Regarding this issue then I have to agree. I got my passport two years ago and in order to get it, I had to wake up at 5am going for a queue and when I arrived at the immigration department at 6, I was already the 39th person in the queue (!) Lucky me, I ONLY had to wait till 2pm and got my passport 2 weeks after..
Well, let’s now come back to my first trip abroad. I went to Poland. Not bad! Because Poland is still in Europe so it is acceptable as “abroad” although it’s not as fancy as Germany, the Netherlands or the UK. But I still had a small problem. Normally people only go “abroad” to study or to work but I didn’t. I went for a volunteer program with no salary and to many people that sounds weird. But it was still ok, because I just went for 3 months and then I would go back and already had a job waiting so there should be no problem.
But now, I’m going to India. My uncle asked “What are you going to India for?!”, my aunt added “How much are they gonna pay you?” and my friend “C’mon stay at home, find a stable job or get married, stop wandering around with no purpose” (!) and many others would make fun of me for going to India to do.. internship, especially with such a low amount of salary (so low that it’s not enough to make any travel or party at all if I don’t spend money from my own pocket). Anyway, I think they would be laughing even harder if one day I decided to move to.. Africa (who knows?!)
However, besides my not-so-pleasant experience with “public” reaction then I can tell that there have been some remarkable changes in the traveling habit of Northerners today. Still most of them would prefer a package tour (me as well! I am actually planning to take some package tours to China next year..) either because of the language barrier (the biggest issue of elderly people) or because of the convenience and economy, but also quite a lot of young people start to do back-pack travel and plan a travel routine on their own. However, for this part we still have to learn a lot from Westerners and Japanese people..
So, all the above are just some thoughts based on my experience and the reality that happens around me, among my family and friends. If anyone has any disagreement or want to add anything or share your own opinions please feel free to jump into a discussion with me. Topic: “Vietnam Northerners and traveling abroad”