What to Expect When Visiting Singapore

Mind you, this is by no means an extensive list. Also, due to our location and living in a rather high-end part of town, my life in Singapore is quite skewed. But, for the most part, these are some of the things you can expect upon a visit to Singapore:

1. If there is an item left on a table in a hawker center that is signifying the table is taken and it’s called “chope.” A packet of tissues is usually the item used to designate a taken table but other items can be used as well. Since the country is so safe, leaving a valuable like a purse or phone wouldn’t be completely out of the question though I haven’t tried it yet because I am not that trusting. You can take the girl out of the U.S. but you can’t take the U.S. out of the girl.

2. Speaking of a packet of tissues, I recommend you always have some with you because napkins are not freely given out in restaurants, especially hawker centers. There have been plenty of moments where I’ve forgotten, and we’ve ordered the messiest thing you can think of. That said, you can usually find a hand washing sink nearby.

3. You have to wave-down your desired bus because otherwise it will continue on. I’m not a city girl so this may be true all over the world.

4. People walk and look at their phones everywhere. This one is a bit much. I can’t tell you how many times someone has just come to an abrupt stop in the walkway because they’re looking at their phone. Or my personal favorite is while they’re playing a game, they’re also weaving making it impossible to get around them. Be prepared to be annoyed especially if you’re coming from any other part of the world where this would A. Be dangerous, and B. Is more fast-paced.

5. Stand on the left of the escalator to allow people to pass on your right.

6. Walk on the left as well. Not everybody does this. Some people have an uncanny ability to take-up an entire sidewalk with their body. It’s truly baffling and definitely has something to do with number four, above.

7. Smoking is really only allowed in designated areas. I mean, it’s not uncommon to come across someone smoking in a non-designated area but it’s rare.

8. At restaurants you have to ask for the bill. Plus, the servers aren’t coming up every five minutes to ask how things are going. If you need something, you need to hail them down. Tipping is only necessary if the service was above and beyond.

9. When getting on a subway car there are lines indicating that passengers boarding should do so from the side and allow alighting passengers to leave through the middle. I mean, it shouldn’t have to be said but it’s genius that they literally lay it out for us plebians.

10. On the subway and bus, there is absolutely no eating or drinking. Don’t even try it. You will get called out for such rude manners or, worse, you’ll find yourself on a tattler Facebook page.

11. There also isn’t really even talking on the subway or bus. I’ve grown so used to how quiet it is that when I do hear someone talking loudly on their phone, I can feel the annoyance of everyone around me. Also, I’m not totally mad about this unwritten rule.

12. Just about everyone speaks English. The only thing that is a little complicated is their accent can be hard to understand but, after a year and a half, I feel quite confident in my abilities to decipher. Unless it’s an uncle wearing a mask. They are notoriously our taxi drivers, and I frequently cannot understand what they’re saying and eventually give up and just try and keep-up the semblance of a conversation by nodding and saying “ohh.” Pro tip: If you’re asked where you’re from and you’re American, say you’re from Canada. That way you won’t have to explain why Americans are so obsessed with guns.

A Visit to Phra Nang Cave

I recently went on a fabulous girl’s weekend to Krabi, Thailand. Before you ask, no, I don’t know whose life I am living. No, I do not want to give this up. Yes, I could stay here forever.

Krabi is home to the Phra Nang Princess Cave which is a must-see if you are planning a visit. It’s a quick, 15-minute boat ride from Ao Nang to Railay Beach. From there, you take a very easy trail to Phra Nang Beach on which the cave is situated. When you arrive on Phra Nang Beach you can take a dip in the water, rock climb, or check out the Phra Nang Princess Cave which is filled with phallic offerings as far as the eye can see.

I have found Southeast Asia to be an interesting mix of conservative yet so much more open about sex than you would find in the U.S. In the U.S., we’d rather expose our children to gun violence than have conversations about what a penis is. The Phra Nang Cave is a fantastic representation of the culture of conservative values mingled with a more openness about sex.

(A word of caution before we continue: There will be pictures of the Phra Nang Cave and most definitely pictures of phallic symbols so, if you think that might offend you, clutch your pearls and consider moving to Florida. I hear they’re big on cancelling thousands of years of culture.)

Bedazzled boner

As is the case with trying to understand many things in a new country, the story of Phra Nang Cave is a bit complicated. One story states that a princess goddess, Phra Nang, was killed in a shipwreck near the island. Since that time, fisherman have left phallic shrines as an offering to her to keep them safe at sea. A second story is about a fisherman who drowned at sea and his wife chose the cave to wait for him for all eternity. There is a third story that states the cave is dedicated to a fertility goddess and the offerings are left for the blessing of fertility.

I get the part about using phallic shrines as offerings for a fertility goddess. What I don’t quite understand is how we went from a dead princess or fisherman’s wife to offering phallic symbols. To be honest, I don’t know any woman who would appreciate the gesture; A simple bouquet of flowers would do.

This was just the tip of the phallic offerings.

Another interesting aspect of this particular peninsula are the naturally formed phallic stalagmites and stalactites or, phallictites, if you will (very smug look of satisfaction at that one). Of course, this could be the reason for why the locals chose this area for their offerings to the fertility goddess.

Stalagmite thrust from the ground, along the path to Phra Nang Cave.

If I said this was the first time I saw such suggestive rock formations, I’d be lying. In Sung Sot Cave, Halong Bay, Vietnam, there is a truly impressive cave in which a truly impressive stalactite points the way out. It is all incredibly suggestive and while our tour guide claimed it was a pointing finger…I’ll just leave you with a picture and you can make the decision for yourself.

Sung Sot Cave in Halong Bay, Vietnam. It’s a terrible quality picture so I felt it necessary to circle the rock formation in question.

So, now, my question to you is this: What happens when six, middle-aged women have a girl’s weekend in Thailand? They seek out the Phra Nang Princess Cave. And then they giggle about it. And exclaim over the bedazzled penises (peni?). And marvel at the sheer number of penises. And walk away hoping they didn’t accidentally ask for the blessing of fertility.

Parenting Singaporean Style

What I’m about to say, please don’t take as a blanket statement for all Singaporeans. Just like Americans don’t want to all be labeled as gun-toting child killers, I’m sure Singaporeans don’t all want to be labeled as blasé parents. But recently, a real-life Singaporean (I point this out only to say these were his words, not mine) said that Singaporean parents never own-up to their children being in the wrong.

I know, to some extent, that all of us parents can be that way. For instance, this school year we have run the gamut with 4th grade mean girl behavior. Without a doubt, my child is no saint, but I don’t know how I would react if someone showed me physical proof of her meanness (not that I need any physical proof, I live with said child after all). I’d like to think that if I catch my children being little shits, I’d be all over it. But I’m not so sure my initial reaction wouldn’t be to clutch my pearls and proclaim, “Not my little angel!”

About a month ago I got to witness the “not my little angel” behavior in action and it. was. amazing. I can’t remember the last time I saw an actual fight break-out amongst grown adults. I mean, it’s possible I’ve never seen adults fighting which is crazy because the States is the Wild West. But, here I am, 42 years old and I do not have a recent memory of witnessing a fight.

Anyway, I took the girls to one of those tree-top obstacle courses and was minding my own business with a book and a snack, having parked my butt at a shady picnic table next to a large group of people. Now, what happened next, I regret not stopping but I was, A. Afraid of any confrontation, and B. I had one of those, “not my monkeys, not my circus” kind of mentality.

So, as I read my book and did my best to mind my own business I watched as a group of three older children (like 8 to 10-years-old) began chucking rocks at each other. They were scooping handfuls from the rocky ground cover and just pelting each other. It was definitely a moment of “is this really happening” because these kids were way too old for this nonsense and a moment of “where the hell are the parents?!” I watched as they moved their incredibly stupid game closer to my and my neighbor’s tables and that’s when the inevitable happened.

As one of the three ran through the group next to me, one of the others hurled a handful of rocks directly into my neighbors, hitting a few innocent bystanders. Understandably, my neighbors were pissed. They chastised the children who quickly ran away and, I figured it was all under the table. I was wrong.

Eventually, one of the members of the group next to me figured out who the parents were and went over to have a talk. It seemed to go well. Also, note, I am fully invested by this point. There was a polite conversation and the guilty children were summoned and the parents seemed to be concerned about the allegations and were questioning them. However, this was not to the liking of one of the other members of the group.

I’m not sure if she was annoyed by the parents’ lack of response, like, the children weren’t immediately instructed to apologize (which, would have been the correct response) or if she was still just fuming from the fact she had been hit by a rock. Both scenarios are valid. Whatever it was, she walked over there and within seconds (seconds!) things got heated.

I watched in disbelief as the women got in each other’s faces. Hats were swung and chests were pressed against each other. Insults, like the rocks, were hurled. Insults like, “You are a bad parent!” and “Shame on you! Shame on YOU!,” and other things in Singlish that I couldn’t quite catch but I can only imagine were just as cruel and devastatingly low. It was truly hard to listen to but mostly because it was like listening to children be mean…but grown adults…who I would assume had a more extensive vocabulary. And, let’s be honest, this is when the ever so versatile “fuck (a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, article/determiner, and interjection)” really comes in handy.

Meanwhile, chaos ensued as children began crying, and the mass of angry parents moved closer and closer to my table. Gone was my investment into how the scenario would play-out and now it was about self-preservation. I realized that the entire group of people who had paid money to play in the tree-top obstacle course were now filming as angry Singaporean parents fought. I, being the only white lady around, realized if I continued to sit there like a dummy, I was going to find myself either on a tattle-tale Singaporean website (of which there are a few) or be an unwitting participant in a Singapore Gone Wild video.

Once one woman was pushed to the ground and started wailing, I decided it was time to casually get-up and find my children. I found them, completely agog at the whole thing, high in the trees and getting a literal birds-eye view of the entire spectacle. We three just looked at each other and shook our heads because even my 10 and 12-year-old knew that this was absolutely insane.

Eventually, things calmed down enough though by this point the police had been called. The employees of the tree-top place had only enough patience for the back and forth “shame on you’s” before they grew tired and turned their attention back to their job. At one point, the husband of one of the women finally descended from the trees and found-out what happened which resulted in a second round of puffed chests and “Coward!” but that, too, died down.

It was once the police arrived and a third round of vague insults were being shouted that the girls and I decided it was time to leave. We made our way to a nearby cafe, and I had a beer while the girls had an ice cream float and we discussed, mostly in disbelief, at what had transpired. I considered for a second to give a report to the police but that whole “not my monkeys, not my circus” mind-set kicked-in and I decided to not get involved.

So, this is all to say that I believe my friend from the first paragraph of this post. I believe whole-heartedly that Singaporean parents may not always admit to their children’s wrongdoing. I have witnessed more than a handful of times of parents not being totally aware of their little shitheads doing shithead stuff. Only just today I was on a walk and observed children chasing a family of otters which is incredibly stupid and will result in an attack and Lord, Jesus, if I get bit by an otter because of some stupid little shit…*deep breath*. It was only because another adult chastised them that they stopped and the mothers then got involved.

Believe me when I say nobody is perfect. I know I’m not perfect. I curse, I lose my temper, and I’m sure I’ve said and done things that will have a lasting impact on my children. But I can say this with certainty, A. If my kids would ever be accused of throwing rocks and hitting someone it would definitely be an “apologize immediately, ask questions last” kind of moment, and B. If I ever get a fight with someone, I will have way more mean shit to say.

Owning a Pet in Singapore

Have I mentioned that Singapore is a country full of rules and regulations? And have I also mentioned that making heads or tails (no pun intended for this particular animal post) can be exasperating? In case I haven’t, the answer to both questions is, “it is.”

Owning a pet in Singapore is full of rules and regulations though I’m sadly not affected by them. The girls and I are huge animal lovers and I am definitely the friend you go on a walk with who has to point out every dog we see. Heaven forbid I see a cat being walked which I’ve seen more times here than I have anywhere else in the world because I definitely will stop and either A. gawk at the cat, B. pet the cat, C. take a picture of the cat, D. take a picture with the cat, or E. all of the above.

This is the face of woman who will pay all of the money to spend time with other people’s pets.

So, because we don’t own a pet and because we love animals, I recently shelled out way more money than acceptable for the girls and I to go to “What the Pug,” a cafe with only pugs (it exists and it is delightful). First and foremost, I’d like to state that this is a genius business plan; adopt all of the dogs and then charge an exorbitant fee to pet and play with said dogs. It’s a win=win. Also, quick sidenote, I need everyone back home to start collecting animals so we can eventually start an animal cafe business venture. My mom’s already started (love you, mom!).

I spy with my little eye, 7 little puggies.

Anyway, the pugs at “What the Pug” are all owned by the same gentleman who also runs the cafe along with a few trusted helpers. He’s wonderfully chatty and clearly loves his fur babies. It was through him that I learned how strict pet ownership is in Singapore, especially if you own more than three. Once we got home after loving on all the pugs, I decided to do a little research to see just what it takes to own a pet in Singapore. As is much of my research, it was brief and limited, but the following is what I discovered.

If you live in a Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat, which 80% of Singaporeans do and which is a fascinating topic in itself, you can only own one dog from an approved list of 62 breeds. Cats are not allowed as pets in public housing. From what I gather, cats are not allowed because they are hard to keep contained and there was mention of “caterwauling” which I find hilarious as a reason for feline discrimination.

If you do not live in public housing, the restrictions on pet ownership are a little less strict. You are allowed to own more than one dog though there are still restricted breeds and, if you happen to own a restricted breed, there are many rules and regulations that come with that. Also, you can only own three dogs without having the consent of the Director General. If you want to own more than three you have to get permission. Honestly, there’s a 22-page document that comes with owning a dog in Singapore so check it out if you’re super bored interested. It says nothing about cats and private housing.

One thing I found interesting that I was told but can find no supporting documentation for, is that people with more than three pets have to keep a record of their pet’s daily food consumption, veterinarian records, etc. with the government. I kind of like the idea as it surely helps keep the animals safe along with preventing puppy mills and other inhumane situations. And let’s be honest. Pets are 100% better than people so why not protect them as best we can?

Look at that face! I think his tongue somehow unattached and now dangles with a mind of its own.

What It’s Like Living in Singapore

Riddle me this: At every ATM you can make a withdrawal but not at every ATM can you make a deposit. And not every deposit can be made with commemorative notes and how to tell the difference between a regular note and a commemorative note has yet to be discovered. What am I? (Answer: Extremely frustrated).

Now, this is not to say that I don’t absolutely love living in Singapore. It’s just that sometimes, trying to figure out how to accomplish something, can be very frustrating. Take for example trying to get our oldest vaccinated with the Covid vaccine. We are not anti-vaxxers in the slightest. However, we are also not gluttons for punishment and considering that whenever a needle comes anywhere close to our now 12-year-old she musters the strength of 10,000 men we weren’t too keen on getting her vaccinated. However, in Singapore, children 12 and up must be vaccinated. At least, that was the case a month ago. Since then, Singapore has completely dropped all of its Covid related mandates and, honestly, I don’t even know why we bothered in the end.

Needless to say, before all Covid mandates had been dropped, I scheduled for the oldest to get her vaccine and, because I feel as if I’ve paid my dues a million times over bringing children to get shots, I volun-told Marcus to take her. They went and were back in record time because she apparently took it like a champ. Her second dose was then scheduled for 4 March, five days after her 12th birthday which, for the purposes of this story, is very important.

As luck would have it, Marcus was on travel 4 March, so it was up to me to take her for her second vaccine. We got up early and made our way, in the rain, to the Heartlands (meaning outside city central). Upon our arrival I was told she no longer qualified for the 12 and under vaccine because she had turned 12 FIVE DAYS AGO. Despite this, and the fact that she weighs as much as a third-grade girl, they refused to give her the second child’s dose and instead, we needed to find another clinic that gave the adult vaccine (because unfortunately, they only carried the children’s vaccine).

Needless to say, I was frustrated by the whole thing and called Marcus to vent. Have you ever witnessed an angry white woman whisper-cursing into her phone amongst a crowd of Singaporeans? Someone has.

The ensuing days were spent in conversation with our local healthcare provider about the best course of action. I was mainly concerned about how small she is and what side effects an adult dose of the vaccine could cause. But we also knew there was the potential for her not being able to travel if she weren’t fully vaccinated, so we had to forge on. Ultimately, I took her to a government run vaccination center mainly because the private clinics were charging $148 SGD for what was once a free vaccine. I guess after nearly 17 years of being together, Marcus’s cheapness is rubbing off on me. Sort of. I still like my Lululemon.

So, for the second time, I found myself bringing a very nervous 12-year-old for a shot. When we arrived, we were asked an extremely vital question that, if it had been asked back in January, would have solved this entire thing. Had she had Covid before? The answer to that was, “yes.” Because of that fact, and the fact that she had one dose of the children’s vaccine, she was now considered to be fully vaccinated in the eyes of Singapore.

I couldn’t believe it. Once again, a trip to the Heartlands resulted in being turned away. Only this time, I wasn’t mad about it, and the relief the oldest felt was palpable as even the uncle checking us in noticed and commented on her changed demeanor.

What is the moral to this story? Honestly, I’m not even sure anymore. Singapore is made up of many rules and regulations and different departments to enact those rules and regulations. However, that doesn’t mean that the various departments work together or that they know how each other operates. So, if you pose a question outside of their wheelhouse, you probably won’t get far. And that’s fine. It’s just something to learn and grow with while living here; I’ll take these little frustrations any day.

Sheer Brilliance

Marcus called me the other day (he’s away on travel) and said, “I was thinking, what if, when we travel, we do things that involve animals? I think that would get the kids more excited about going places.”

“That’s such a great idea! I never thought of that,” I replied.

For your viewing pleasure, all of the many animal related adventures I planned over the past year of our travels in Southeast Asia (not including anything in the water). PS: He knew I was sarcastic before we married.

Concerts in Singapore

I am going to say this in the politest way I can conceivably think of: Live concerts in Singapore are weird. Now, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt because I’ve only been to one concert since living here. But, the one concert I went to was Red Hot Chili Peppers and they aren’t exactly the kind of band that you just politely sit and watch. At least, I didn’t think so.

I had been warned. I had heard tales of other Americans going to their first concert in Singapore and being surprised at how polite it all was. I even put said stories into consideration as I purchased seats rather than general standing room. I assumed that it would be similar to the states and, even if you had a seat, you would be standing because you would be rocking out because it’s the Red Hot Fucking Chili Peppers. Also, I’m old now so I’d like to be able to sit when I want and stand when I want.

By the time we made it to the stadium RHCP had already started. We broke away from our friends and found our seats which were about seven rows back, center stage, and an easy 100 yards away from the stage. To make matters worse, every single person was sitting. Not one soul was standing, rocking out to the music. Instead, they were all sitting, tapping their feet, some recording on their phones, but all being very, very polite. The standing crowd wasn’t much better. I couldn’t see one person with a “Rock on” hand in the air or a mass of people jamming to their favorite RHCP song. Instead, all I could see was a mass of people standing still and recording on their phones. It was surreally calm.

It was so calm that I swear, you could have taken an hour and half nap while the RHCP serenaded you to sleep. This is less of a statement on the RHCP and more on the vibe from the audience. I cannot imagine being a U.S. rock star and finding yourself in Singapore and wondering what you’re doing wrong. Here’s where I could use some cultural insight. Is this a Singaporean phenomenon? Are concerts in Singapore just generally more subdued? Or was it the band that they weren’t into (because I recently heard that Backstreet Boys rocked the house)?

Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson. The standing room tickets are worth the price, especially if the concert will only last for an hour and half. Also, unless it’s a band that I just know will sell out, I’m not going to break the bank to buy tickets right away; it seemed like RHCP tickets were a dime a dozen by the day of the show.

Honestly, the most fun part about seeing the RHCP was going down the rabbit hole that is YouTube, and showing the girls old RHCP music videos, which apparently are totally incomprehensible because the band is shirtless the majority of the time. Never mind the totally psychedelic videos themselves, it’s the shirt-lessness that blows their mind. I don’t know what’s so hard to understand. Handsome(ish) men in amazing physical shape and they’re shirtless. They’ll get it in a few years, once they get over all boys having cooties.

How to Get Out of Uncomfortable Conversations

Actually, don’t ask me because as you will soon find out, I have no idea how to get out of conversations I don’t want to be in.

I’ve had my fair share of weird, completely one-sided conversations. I used to sell jewelry in a mall and then, leased apartments which, for whatever reason, lends itself to a colorful assortment of characters. I guess I was blessed cursed given a face that is far too kind and screams “Please, tell me about X, Y, and Z and then, when you’re done, tell me more.”

Though nothing could have prepared me for the conversation I had with a young Singaporean man. It was a split-second decision, to purchase wine from a wine retailer rather than the grocery store, that set me on my path. The conversation started harmlessly enough. I’m looking for wine, the employee is making recommendations of various whites even though I said I was looking for red. He then offers up a tasting which, I now realize, is my kryptonite and what led to my ultimate demise.

I don’t remember how he segued from ringing-up my purchase to telling me about conspiracy theories, but it happened and seamlessly. He’d done this before. He started relatively small, with George W. Bush orchestrating 9/11. Still reeling from the speed of how quickly the conversation changed, I quickly became annoyed because I felt a sense of ownership over the Bush-9/11 conspiracy theory. Is it cultural appropriation to believe in another country’s conspiracies?

Nevertheless, I couldn’t dwell for long because he moved on to COVID. This one truly confuses me, and call me naive, but an international conspiracy on the scale that is COVID is just insane. And then, naturally, he followed that up with the COVID vaccine also being a conspiracy though to what end I’m still not entirely sure. He had a very thick Singaporean accent and spoke very low.

It was at about this point that I really could not figure out how I was going to escape. It’s sad to say, but not one person walked into that store for a full 45 minutes while I stood there, politely listening. I’m beginning to suspect the joke’s on me and everyone else had been in the same position once before. And yes, I said 45 minutes. That is how insanely polite I am and how interested in the conversation my face must have conveyed. Meanwhile, internally, I am screaming, crying, and laughing.

Okay, so as not to bore you much more with the details I’ll just run through the rest of the list: aliens exist though they do not reveal themselves to us because our brains would essentially melt with the knowledge; Biden is a Reptilian which if you haven’t heard that one, it’s super fun; and beekeepers are intentionally killing bees. That one was not familiar to me and honestly, I really stopped believing what he was saying at this point. Finally, the only thing that saved me was the beginning of a Lion Dance somewhere in the mall.

There you have it. I could really use some advice on how to get out of weird conversations I don’t want to be part of. As long as there isn’t the allure of a free wine tasting then it’s possible I can always escape them. But, if the alluring, siren song that is a 5-milliliter sip of wine is thrown out there, I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist.

Tips for Traveling in Vietnam

I have a few tips for traveling in Vietnam. This may pertain to other countries but for this particular write-up it only applies to Vietnam. Also, as with much of what I write, this is neither thorough nor comprehensive and in no way researched and verified. If you find yourself buying a bunch of crap from aunties on the beach (see tip #1) that’s on you.

1. Do not look like you have just been shopping which implies you have money. You will be accosted by every auntie trying to sell her tchotchkes. The auntie’s also have eagle eyes and when you try to discreetly see how much cash you have, she will have counted it before you do and point out (in a very polite manner) that you have more cash than you’re implying. She’ll even personally walk you to the nearest ATM if you feign being broke. To be honest, you’ll be accosted no matter what.

She wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

2. The following was advice given directly from a Vietnamese man. When crossing the street, take it slow and do not stop or dart. The scooters know how to gauge how fast you are going and whether they need to go behind you or in front of you. To be clear, I’m not sure if this applies to cars so let’s just assume it only applies to scooters. Don’t go walking out into traffic with a row of cars. That might not end up the way you want it to. Also, please don’t get hit and then blame it on me.

Crossing the street in Ho Chi Minh City is like Live Action Role Play Frogger.

3. Speaking of people selling things, don’t be a schmuck and get lured-in by a gimmick and then get stuck paying for something you never wanted in the first place. We were those schmucks (though apparently Marcus saw through the guy from the beginning). There was a man carrying a pole laden with a cooler and fresh coconuts. He pointed to Marcus and implied how tall he was and that he must be strong. Did he want to try and carry the pole? Marcus declined but the girls and I, intrigued by the idea of Marcus carrying the pole, urged him on.

After a short walk and a few pictures, the guy takes back the pole and immediately whips out coconuts, cuts the top off, sticks a straw in, and asks for 200000 Vietnamese Dong ($8.52 USD). Marcus was pissed. He haggled with the guy for a bit, growing more irritated that we were being forced to buy something we didn’t want. I, on the other hand, grew more uncomfortable of the situation and insisted we give coconut guy all that he asked for. It was a learning lesson. Mostly for the girls and me.

We always knew Marcus was tall but this really highlights the height difference.

4. Be prepared for your children to be petted if they have unusual hair. In our case, both of our girls are very blonde. We had heard that moving to Asia this might be a common occurrence, but this was actually our first experience with complete strangers coming up and touching the girls’ hair. To be clear, while this isn’t something we would do in the United States, our girls understand that cultures vary wildly, and some people do not perceive it as a violation of personal space. With that said, this is definitely not the cultural norm in Singapore.

Anyway, our oldest eventually grew annoyed with the attention and put her hoodie up. I believe our youngest secretly enjoyed the attention and just accepted it. It wasn’t a constant petting, but it happened frequently enough. I also noticed a few times during our adventure in Vietnam that I would be walking very intimately with a person I had just met. I was even politely moved aside by a restaurant worker. Like, physically touched in a motion that meant “step-aside.” It was a bit startling but again, cultural differences.

Two blondies walking down the street of Hoi An.

5. Finally, for my last little bit of knowledge, using the car horn is part of driving. Like, if Vietnam released a “Sounds of Vietnam” album it should be of vehicles honking. It’s used in a much more friendly way than in the U.S. though could certainly be misinterpreted as angry. It’s used as a “I’m coming around you” for those on bikes or, serves as a warning going around a corner. It also serves as a “You pulled out in front of me” honk, a “You’re drifting into my lane” honk, a “Pick a lane” honk, and I’m guessing is morse code for a myriad of other things. In other words, the honking is no joke.

So, there you have it. A non-extensive list of tips for traveling in Vietnam.

Has anyone ever been surprised that they haven’t been arrested because you’re carrying a child through the streets and she’s screaming “Let me go!”? No? Just us?