One of our expat friends invited us to a Sunday brunch at her and her husband’s home in Hoi An to celebrate her birthday. The brunch was dessert themed and was attended by people from all over the world: America, Australia, Canada, Vietnam, The Netherlands, South Africa, the UK…
One of the coolest parts about living in Da Nang is meeting people from different backgrounds and swapping stories. In addition to the nationalities represented at the brunch, I've met and spent time with folks from New Zealand, France, Spain, Poland, Italy, Russia, Ireland, Korea, Japan, and I'm probably forgetting more. Vietnam is at least somewhat new to most expats, so we’re all discovering it as we go, and our points of reference—home—vary, too.
At the dessert brunch I learned about fairy cake, or white bread with butter and sprinkles on top, which is commonly served for birthdays in Australia (our hostess is Australian). A British woman brought a pancake tower with bananas between each layer. There was no maple syrup in sight. Apparently, that’s a North American thing.
A few weeks back, a big group of us went out to a new restaurant along the river in Da Nang that was serving Pasteur Street beer. (Pasteur is a craft brewery based in Ho Chi Minh City that was started by Americans with experience in the U.S. craft beer industry.) Of course, taste and smell are two of the senses most strongly tied to memory. Sniffing and then sipping the beer got the group all talking about beer at home, as well as foods and other things missed.
On another evening, once again over beers, Phil and I got talking politics with a couple of Danish interns from the international school. A conversation that would have been taboo—or a nonstarter—in many of my social circles back in the States was both enjoyable and educational. I’ve been devouring news since I’ve been here (and unemployed), so I was able to hold my own. Though the Danish knew much more about American current affairs than I knew about the happenings in Dana, I mean Denmark.
I’m not only learning about Vietnamese culture while living here. I’m learning about the world. We’re all global citizens in a “world soup”, where I represent the U.S., and to my fellow Americans, the Midwest. I can see why some people get sucked into the expat life—there just isn’t anything quite like it, and certainly not in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Don’t worry, Mom and Dad. I’m still planning on coming home. But I am deeply grateful for this experience. It can’t be replicated.
I quit a job I enjoyed at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and left my family, friends, and beloved dog to join my boyfriend in moving across the world, in search of adventure and new experiences. I arrived in August 2015.