I’ve never had a lot of money, so it’s really strange to suddenly find my self in a pretty extravagant lifestyle. I’ve gone from working two part time jobs at uni to save money, to suddenly being a person who has two maids to do my laundry and clean my room. I’d never had a manicure or pedicure before coming here, now I have one a week as well as a weekly massage. I also discovered that the average Vietnamese monthly salary is about 10% of what I get paid. This all makes me feel pretty guilty. I try to be generous with my money, I always tip a lot and I support the local businesses around me. As well as this I’m paying quite a lot of tax!
Anyway, the point of this minor self-loathing is to highlight three funny things.
Firstly, I have joined a very posh and expensive gym. Not expensive by Western standards, but for here, it’s all very upmarket. It’s American owned and lots of big, beefy American guys work there as personal trainers. It’s pretty hilarious because they actually talk like this. They speak as if they’re constantly being filmed for a workout advert on a shopping channel. The thing is, no matter how much you exercise, you are never going to be as thin as the tiny Vietnamese women and every one will always stare at you like you’re some fat, aryan giant.
Humourous observation number two: There is a ‘Gourmet Supermarket’ here which stocks lots of very overpriced imported goods you’d find in European supermarkets. It’s the place all the very, very wealthy western expatriates shop. There is ‘motorbike pooling’ so you don’t have to face the hassle of parking your own bike, there’s a bell boy to open that extremely heavy door for you and lots of very expensive shelving and decor. Interestingly the shop is called ‘Annam’ which was the name for Vietnam when it was a French protectorate. So, just in case building an exclusive Western supermarket that’s unattainable for any normal local person wasn’t enough, they had to name it something that would really enforce that lovely colonial superiority feel! They had Boursin cheese for £10 and kellogs cereal for £7 a box. I bypassed the rows of expensive wine and purchased a can of Irn-Bru and some Horlicks.
Expat hilarity number three: There is no free healthcare here, you pay for everything. As such, the expensive private hospitals have to advertise for clients in the same way a restaurant or shop would. They have adverts in the English language magazines for ‘Western Hospitals’ that are along the lines of “Hey, look at this good looking white doctor and attractive nurse, if you really love your family you’ll come to us, don’t worry, there are no local people here!” For $200 a night for just a bed and no treatment, you’ve got to reallllllly love your family!