Photo from left to right: Angela Johnson, Daniel Paul, Nghia Hoang, Tracey Keogh and David O Reilly taken at a recent culture night.

I first met Nghia on my second day in Hanoi. He arrived at our house to give us language lessons and taught myself and Katherine, another volunteer, a great deal to help us on our journey.

Nghia also brings new volunteers on tours of the city and is so passionate about Hanoi, his culture and most of all the local food! He kindly offered to show us around and we jumped at the chance.

As we walked around the city, I was amazed at his love and knowledge of his culture. We had the pleasure of dining in the finest street food vendures as he explained dish after dish and helped us to discover the beauty of Vietnamese food.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nghia. He has always been so accommodating to us new volunteers in Vietnam. Nghia described the Vietnamese people as being pretty laid back and after my time here I would have to agree.

I have the honour of calling Nghia a friend. He has not only taught me about his culture, I have come away wanting to be as knowledgeable and passionate for my own culture, as he is for his.

These are the notes from an interview I held with Nghia, who is a vietnamese volunteer and brings us on city tours. I have never met anyone more passionate and informed on their culture.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself.

Hello, my name’s Nghia. I’ve been volunteering for International Department of VPV for 9 months. My main responsibilities are to support and help international volunteers by assisting in their works at schools or hospitals, teaching some basic Vietnamese, showing them around the town and exchanging culture. Therefore, I have chances to meet and collaborate with loads of cool and awesome volunteers from all over the world. They’ve given me such a sense of motivation and aspiration that I decided to embark on a trip to Taiwan doing volunteer for 1 month.

2. Describe your education.

I’m going to be a junior at National Economics University, major in Auditing. But actually I’m more interested in social works rather than numbers at the moment. I just feel bored and tired at the university.

3. Is the English language important to you and if so why?

Yes of course it is. In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, English is the most spoken official language. A good command of English could not only make it a lot easier to acquire more knowledge from a wide range of sources all over the world but also provide a boost to my future career prospects.

4. What, if any, hardships do you face?

Well I have several problems with my pronunciation and intonation that it has taken me years to fix. In the first attempt to communicate with foreigners, I could almost understand what they told me, but when I spoke, they barely understood. Then I figured out that proper pronunciation was the first and foremost element to improve my speaking skill.

5. Tell me something about Vietnam and the Vietnamese culture.

“Crazy and chaotic” might be your first impression when arriving in Vietnam (in big cities). But actually when having enough time to observe and experience the life here, you’ll see that it isn’t as crazy and chaotic as it looks. I’d say Vietnamese people are pretty laid back, so the pace of life is quite slow. In the early morning, it’s common to see groups of people doing exercises outside: walking, running, bicycling, Tai chi…then they might stop by a food stall to have a bowl of Pho or buying some sticky rice/bread back home for their families before going to work. During worktime, it isn’t surprising when seeing some officers enjoying a cup of coffee at the corner of the street. The pace is much slower in the hottest period of day, noontime, when almost people have a habit to take a siesta or just a short nap so that they won’t be sleepy for the rest of day.

6. What is one thing you would like people to kmow about Vietnam

I’d like people to know more about Vietnamese food, which is one of the most varied and seductive on the planet, reflects its geography and history. But unfortunately, it seems that whenever mentioning Asian food, people just talk about Chinese, Thai or Indian food, which are quite popular all around the world. And for those who know about Vietnamese food, “Pho” is the only thing that pops up in their mind.


Best wishes