Over the past month we’ve been having some pretty freaky weather, here in Vietnam. One day it will be swelteringly hot, the next day there will be a storm so bad that all the trees on your road fall down (literally). Yet, most locals do not seem to consider this to be ‘freak weather’. However, as someone who has grown up in a country where it rains pathetically for about 360 days of the year, I think this weather is pretty crazy. Here’s how to deal with it casually, like a local…
Ignore the Power Cuts
I was teaching when we last had a power cut. First there was a huge rumble of thunder, then there sparks appeared outside the window and then the electricity cut. All the kids screamed (and the teachers did a little bit too). I thought, ‘there’s no way we’ll carry on now’, I was all set to hide in some kind of underground bunker! But no, we just finished screaming and then carried on as normal.
Take Things into Your Own Hands
During the last big storm we had, I drove down a road where a huge tree had fallen on top of a car. No one had been hurt, fortunately, but someone was still stuck inside. I had no idea what to do and settled with ‘staring blankly at the scene with my bottom lip wobbling’. However, the locals weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. About ten people hopped off their bikes, walked under the tree and started trying to lift it off the car! I’m not sure whether it was the most sensible idea (as there was no chance the tree was budging just with man power) but it was certainly the most heroic option.
Don’t Stop Driving
Even if it’s so hot that the tyres on your motorbike appear to be melting, or it’s so windy that your bike seems to be choosing directions of its own… Don’t stop! This also goes for anything that might be blocking the road (flood, ginormous holes in the ground, fallen trees, etc) there is always a way round! However, it usually involves driving onto a raised pavement, which us newbie drivers find very difficult.
Use the Aircon to Make Hints
I’ve mentioned before that Vietnamese people just don’t sweat in the way that foreigners do. In other words, they don’t sweat at all and we drip like dish cloths. Every time I enter a room during really hot weather, someone will slyly pump the air con up or switch the fan on. I think it’s their way of subtly saying; ‘wow, you are really sweaty, we need to fix that’.
Hide in the Shade… No Matter Who or What You’re Blocking
When the weather starting heating up, last month, I saw loads of pictures going around the Internet of people parking in the shade. Then, I started noticing it when I was driving too. People would stop in all sorts of awkward places in the road, or drive next to busses, just to get some shade. As a foreigner, I found this hilarious because I’d never seen anything like it before. Then, one day, when my body was close to spontaneously combusting due to the heat, I decided to try it… Hallelujah! It worked! It’s so bloody nice and cold just sitting in the shade. Needless to say, I do it all the time now.
Always Mention the Weather, No Matter How Obvious
Now, this is one thing that us Brits are pros at. We love mentioning how bad the weather is, even if it’s been exactly the same, every day, for the past two months. So, when I realised they have a similar tradition in Vietnam, I was quite pleased. However, in Vietnam, they’re much less interested in moaning about the weather, and much more interested in stating the obvious. For example, if I walk into the office, drenched by rain, I can guarantee at least five people will say; ‘it’s rainy today, isn’t it?’
Assume Raincoats Protect You From All Natural Disasters
There seems to be this assumption that raincoats protect you from everything. Even if lightening is literally electrocuting entire buildings, people will still head home, saying; ‘oh, I’ll be fine, I’ve got my raincoat.’
Wear A Disguise
I have been brought so that the hotter it gets, the more clothes I take off. That makes sense right? Layers trap heat so the more you wear, the warmer you get. However, here, the hotter it gets, the more layers you will see. Obviously it makes sense in some ways because you are avoiding sunburn. On the other hand, it is incredibly uncomfortable and you smell like a worn sock at the end of your journey. Or, I do, at least.
Don’t Get Sick
In the same way that people colder climates believe you can catch a cold from cold weather, many of the Vietnamese people you can get sick from the sun. I asked my friends, ‘do you mean heatstroke, or dehydration?’ They didn’t though, they meant good, old-fashioned flu. I still haven’t wrapped my head around that one.