Observation 2 – Surgical Masks
We’ve all seen pictures of people around the world wearing these masks when we had the Swine Flu outbreak (even though these masks were more effective at making you look like a fucking basket case than they were at providing tangible protection).
In Vietnam every day is “Swine Flu” day. Especially Vietnamese women have an eerie fondness of masks that cover the lower part of their face. You see them everywhere, from markets to public transport to cafes. These masks are also sold numerous places and can be bought in a variety of shapes and colours. Some creative ones have smiley faces drawn on them. Regardless of the colour of your motorbike helmet, you can always find a matching mask:
However, at least the Vietnamese have a pretty solid excuse for this behaviour – dangerously high levels of pollution in Vietnam’s cities. And so, while I can fully understand the need for masks in Vietnam, this picture from the Swine Flu days will forever remain a mystery to me:
Observation 3 – Allergy to long words
I haven’t seen a single written Vietnamese word with multiple syllables. As soon as more than one syllable is involved – poof, you’ve got yourself an extra word. So you end up with a bunch of words where only one should have been. Common words like “Cafe” will be turned into “Ca Phe” or, at best, a hyphenated “Ca-Phe”. We walked past a Lenin Park in Hanoi and his name was spelt “Lê-Nín”:
Notice how his other names are just initials, because imagine the clusterfuck that writing them out in full would have created. Of course, as this damn boring Wiki link will tell you, the words I’m referring to are not always strictly “words”, but in some cases “morphemes” (that sure makes things easier to understand). To that I say: “Whât Év Èr”!
More general observations are found right here in Part II. Also, feel free to visit Katka’s Flickr page to see her awesome pictures from the trip. For the sake of newcomers to the blog, I’ll be sharing this link at the end of every Vietnam post. You’ve been warned!