HCMC Dining Guide

Monday, August 27, 2012

In A Funk

I'm about a week away from hitting my two-years-in-Saigon mark, and it's safe to say that I'm in a bit of a funk regarding the place. I've grown weary of the social scene. I haven't recovered from three of my closest friends leaving over the past two months (with more to come). Things that filled me with wonder when I moved here are now just annoying. Vietnamese culture isn't one I'll ever fall in love with. The exotic has become the standard.

Two weeks ago I actually interviewed for a business job that would've had me working 9-5 Monday-Friday until October of next year, at the earliest. After the interview, the more I thought about that prospect the less appealing it seemed. One of the reasons I came to Asia was to avoid a job like that. I also decided that I don't want to be here another 14 months, so the other day I emailed the company and told them to take me out of consideration for the position. With that done I can now definitively say that I will be leaving either next June or July.

Two things are anchoring me here until then: 1) the fact that I enjoy the work I'm doing, and 2) I am organizing and leading the next H2H charity ride, which will take place next April. The weird thing is that I still really like Vietnam as a whole, and there are places I still want to see, but Saigon has gotten under my skin a bit. I can't wait to cycle the length of the country again, and once that's over with I'll feel like my work here is complete. It will be time to move on and start a new chapter somewhere else.

I do have three college friends coming to visit next week and we're going to Da Lat and Mui Ne, so that will be a nice break from the routine. I haven't traveled at all since returning from India in early June, and I don't have anything planned until I visit home for Christmas. For me that's a long time to go without visiting a new place. Maybe a few days away from the city will refresh things. Of course my thoughts this week will be elsewhere anyway: my family is evacuating from New Orleans ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac, so I'll be focusing on 9,000 miles away from here. Hopefully the impact won't be too dramatic.

I expect to come back around to Saigon at some point in the next few months, but this is the least content I've felt since moving here. I'm not saying I don't like it anymore, but the shine has come off. Here's hoping for a brighter next few months.


  1. Ironically, right around the time I hit my two year mark in China (about the same time I met up with you in Saigon), I started to get really cynical and sick of China. Pretty much all of the emotions you feel towards Vietnam right now are exactly how I felt towards China at the time. I had a lot of bad experiences, and I was really tired of Chinese society. Scandal after scandal started to really make me question if I wanted to be in China long term.

    I remember my first year in China being so frustrating, yet so stimulating and interesting. By the second year, I had a pretty firm understanding of Chinese culture and could even speak some Mandarin. The second year wasn't as exciting as the first year, but it was just as good in many ways. By the end of the second year, I started to have really negative opinions of Chinese society, and there were certain things I just couldn't put up with for any longer. I planned to be somewhere outside of China by the end of my third year there, but that came a little sooner than I had expected.

    While I was in China, I was working at a 9 to 6 office job, but I eventually started to realize how much I hated it and how much I hated working in a business office. I found a new job at a school, but I learned I wouldn't be able to work there without getting a new visa first. In order to get a new visa, I would have had to go back to the USA and get a new visa, which would have cost me a lot of money. I wasn't willing to do that, nor could I go back to my old job, so it became my perfect chance to move to another country. I lived in China a total of two and a half years.

    Now I've been in Bangkok for about half a year, and I'm glad to be here. I have to be honest though, there's so much I miss about living in China. But sometimes I'll stop and think about all the things that pissed me off about China, and I'll feel happy again that I moved.

    I know exactly the feelings you are going through. I've been to Saigon twice now, and I have to say it seems a lot like China. Vietnam seems more like China than any of the other Asian countries I've been too. And so many of the things you write on this blog about Vietnam are a perfect reflection of China.

    I'm sure wherever you move to next, you will immediately feel satisfaction about not being in Vietnam any more. You will compare daily life in the new country to daily life back in Vietnam. However, I'm sure you'll eventually start to remember all the good times you had in Vietnam and even start to miss Vietnam a little. Vietnam is the first country you lived in outside of the United States, so I'm sure it'll always be special to you. And wherever you wind up moving to, I hope you can continue to write, because the internet certainly needs more good writers.

    My best wishes to you.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment Jared. In talking with you when you visited it did seem that China and Vietnam have many similarities, as loathe as they probably would be to admit it. It's comforting to know that other expats go through the same phases.

      In a way you can compare a relationship with a place to a relationship with a person - the first year can be a lot of fun and games, but by your second year things are probably 'getting serious', and that's where I'm at with Vietnam - I'm able to look more deeply at what's going on, and I don't like a lot of it. I know how these generalizations will sound but so many people here are willing to cheat to get ahead, and deceit and corruption are so rife at every level of society it can be nauseating. Are other countries like that too? Yes, but this is the one I'm living in. I just can't picture myself fitting in here long-term.

      That being said I have no doubt that, as you say, once I leave I will miss it. I could make a pretty long list of things I'll miss, and the opportunities I've had, both professional and recreational, have been unbeatable. Obviously my feelings are mixed at the moment.

      Finally, I certainly plan to continue writing wherever I go next, glad you enjoy it. Hope things are going well in Bangkok.

    2. "So many people here are willing to cheat to get ahead, and deceit and corruption are so rife at every level of society.." I'm living and working in East Africa and these words ring true. I've hit my one year mark but it's obvious the honeymoon is over!

  2. Hang in there, Mike. You'll find what's right for you. And.. you better believe I'm going to try to convince you to move to Korea when you are visiting Seoul! :)