January 7, 2006
The combination of jet lag and culture shock made for a stressful arrival in Vietnam.
While I knew the culture shock would set in eventually, I didn't quite expect it to happen in the Saigon airport. One of my first observations was that Vietnamese airport administration is just slightly different from the US, to say the least. Baggage claim was an absolute free-for-all. As the luggage came around the turnbelt, Vietnamese baggage handlers pulled the luggage into the middle of the floor and left everyone to rifle through the luggage on the ground while attempting to keep an eye on the turnbelt for other pieces. Being that an entire airplane full of people were doing this at the same time, I got pretty knocked around in the process. My duffel bag was also damaged, which left me a little aggravated and wondering if I was already in over my head. I was more nervous about the trip than I expected to be and my first experience in Vietnam only added fuel to the fire.
Once we got through security, we gathered outside to rest and wait for our flight to Hanoi. Watching people's reactions to us made me both nervous and feel like a celebrity.
Many waved at as and said, 'Hello!" But they also pointed at us and talked to each other, making me wonder what they were saying. Were they happy to have us in their country or was it the opposite?