1. There’s a bus smack in the middle of a six-way controlled intersection.
You’ve been trying to turn left onto Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh for about 15 minutes. It’s one of those six-way intersections, and there’s a giant green bus that thought he could turn left on red. As a result, you and about 200 other motorbikes all believe that it’s your turn, too, and you’re all within a few inches of each other, facing about 200 different directions. Ahh, pure chaos. Nowadays, you know nothing but. The question you face that happens every time is: do you ride along under the protection of the bus’s exhaust pipe or do you try to forge your own path through the face masks and helmets and chickens and goldfish bags and let go of being able to describe yourself as punctual? At least you have an internal debate to help the time fly by.
2. The electricity just went off at 12 AM and its 95°outside.
Rolling brown outs, meet the sweat on every expat’s brow. The room falls silent as the A/C goes off, and the rest is just a waiting game. If you were on the verge of going to sleep, give it up. Throw off that blanket with the cute little animals your landlord gave you and tear off those pj’s. Next time you go to the Big C or, heck, even Ben Thanh, make a note to see if you can find one of those battery-powered fans and a spray bottle.
3. There’s cockroaches in the shower. Again.
You can’t even remember the last time you showered alone, much less not on tiptoe. You’re getting kind of used to it, though. That one in the corner is Jimmy, and the one that’s eerily on the move toward your left foot is Sam. But hey, it helps save water since you’ve got it down to about 37 seconds and the calf workout is unparalleled.
4. You left out that jar of Nutella for 30 seconds and now it’s ant dinner.
Seriously, if you are not on your game, your food is good as gone. Anything remotely sweet has a kitchen-counter life around a minute before it’s public insect domain. If you ever get the need for a taste of home and it’s time to bake a true Western dessert, best plot out your plan beforehand. Who’s going to guard the mixing bowl while you put the sugar back in the fridge? Who’s going to wipe up the inevitable floury, sugary, buttery mess as you stir? Might want to call a few friends before you start, or it’s ant duty for days.
5. The karaoke outside your bedroom window never, ever, ever ceases.
And you don’t even live near a karaoke business. For some reason your neighbors don’t own a computer, but they do have access to several microphones, an amp, and some sort of digital sound system to blast their favorite K-pop and V-pop tunes until the wee hours of the morning. Once in a while you recognize something like Iggy Azalea, but that’s really not that much better, or at least their version isn’t.
6. One word = durian.
Hello, nose. Wish I didn’t have you sometimes.
7. Shopping for bras and underwear.
Nothing bigger than a 32AAA, huh? Dang. I guess I could try to shove it all in…but as for those undies you’re holding, Mrs. Pushy Saigon Square vendor lady, I could buy them to wear as a headband, I suppose. It’s hot enough out that I need my hair out of my face and I want to go commando anyway, really.
8. That second visit to the toilet.
Uh oh. You got the stomach gurgles. You knew that hot dog and those nachos off of Bui Vien weren’t a good idea. Heck, you couldn’t even call them legitimate nachos, but you shoved down that questionable pork and those lukewarm tortilla chips covered in bits of tomato like it was your job and now? Well, now you’re paying for it. But hey, at least you’re getting your biyearly bout of food poisoning over with. Hello, porcelain temple. Hello, six more months of freedom!
9. You got another Vietnamese kiss.
When will you ever learn?! When motorbikes turn off, their exhaust pipes are hot. Scaldingly so, and when you lean up against one, it won’t be pretty. In fact, it won’t be pretty for years. It might not be pretty for the rest of your life. It seems like a lesson you learned when you were five, sure, but inevitably there’s always that one moment where if you just reach a little further and…mwah. Love you, too, Vietnam. Just not in that way.