Photo: Praphakorn Limrat/Shutterstock

10 Embarrassing Questions I Could Not Stop Asking Myself When I Lived in Vietnam

Vietnam Student Work
by Jacqueline Kehoe Aug 31, 2015

Why am I so American?

Back in America I could happily ignore my monolingualism and the fact that I look like every other Midwestern girl around, but in Vietnam? Here I’m surrounded with 12-year-olds who have better English than I do, who also speak Vietnamese natively, and are studying Japanese or French on the side. Fml. That’s not even to mention all the beautiful French, Russian, and Italian chicks I have to compete against for a potential mate. Bested by 12-year-olds and exotic women. Greaaaat. My favorite.

Why am I so fat?

One time in my house in Vietnam, my bra scared a group of kids I was tutoring. That was the last time I ever left my laundry out, that’s for sure. Shopping was sad enough as it is, the massage parlor wondered why I didn’t wear the Barbie-size panties they gave me, and now my home has been compromised, too? I can’t escape it. No one who weighs over 80 pounds can escape it.

“It” being the size medium in America, of course.

Why don’t I have the balls to tell this creeper to stop staring at me?

I guess that’s only halfway true. After a year and a half or so of just accepting it, I started staring back. It’s a small compromise, but it felt like a big win. Like a big-hug-of-self-love-wrapped-in-a-death-glare kind of win.

Why did I even bother putting make up on?

Monsoon season, meet me trying to be cute. Every day, Mother Nature would soak me to the bone, send my mascara fleeing down my cheeks, and make me resent not having naturally beautiful everything. I guess not wearing makeup is good for your skin and I always liked the idea of a society that didn’t seem to require it, but this isn’t exactly the scenario I had imagined.

Why do I know fuck all about world history?

I feel proud of myself for knowing that the 22nd and 24th presidents were both Grover Cleveland, but when it comes to thousands of years of history east of the Roman Empire, I draw mostly a blank, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Right? Right?! I mean, I’m decent when it comes to WWII, but other than that, my guesses are pretty much shots in the dark.

Sigh. What a vicious cycle. See the point about being American above.

Why can’t I get away with wearing bows and giggling?

All these dark, silky-haired girls flashing peace signs, wearing bows and heels (and still being 5’2”), giggling as they take selfies of each other – I could never get away with that. Do I want to get away with that? I kind of want to get away with that. Do I? No, that’s gross. Or do I? God. Who am I? What is this struggle?

Why am I shelling out 6 dollars for imported yogurt?

I lasted a long, long time just living off of street-side markets and vendors, but eventually, the call of the imported goods store was just too strong to resist. You don’t know what lengths you’ll go to to make a good ol’ fashioned pie (or cookies or cake or anything that resembles dessert) until you live somewhere in Asia; four trips to four different shops and $40 later, you don’t have enough energy to even turn the oven on. If you even have an oven. You probably have one of those small convection ovens, but that’s fine, it’ll work, TRUST ME. Then again, nothing is wrong with a giant bowl of raw cookie dough.

Why did I just let that person cut me in line?

The kind, English-speaking woman next to you sees it and says, “Don’t mind her, she’s just Vietnamese.” To which in your head you think, “THAT’S NOT AN EXCUSE.” But you let it happen anyway. When it happens the next time, you have no excuse. But the third time, that’s when you’re so inappropriately in the bubble of the person in front of you that you could swear potential cutters are giving you the evil eye. Let them.

But for those first couple of times, the self-loathing is rough.

Why am I turning into such a bitch?

Eventually, you turn. You’re not letting people cut you, you’re staring back at the men staring at you, you’re cutting off other motorbikes who’ve already cut you off in the street, and whenever someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes while they’re smiling, you tell them you know a way to wipe that silly, conniving smile right off their pretty little face.

No? Just me?

Why can’t this be real life?

A legit French meal for $7? Doing voiceovers and commercials and modeling simply because I’m white? Having people ask me for my photo because they think I’m awesome and/or famous? Giving my autograph because my name is just that amazing to look at?

Why did I have to come from an alternate universe that I know exists and will likely eventually have to go back to?

Discover Matador