There’s nothing worse than a smug so-and-so telling me jokes about how cold it is. I hope they get murdered by a snowman.
I hate it when foreigners say, ‘Oh, I’m used to it! I’m from (somewhere unspeakably cold and remote).’ Well! Good for you! Go stand up outside for an hour or so and let me know when to put the snow chains on the motorbike.
Among my Western friends in Hoi An, the Irish think this is as cold as back home. The Canadians can’t see what all the fuss is about. The Australians are shocked twice over; once because they can’t get home and twice because they believe they are freezing to death as well. The Europeans are laughing and calling us all snowflakes and wimps.
While the weather lately hasn’t been quite like that of Siberia, it has been chilly enough to break local weather records going back nearly forty years here in Vietnam. Sure, it’s winter and all but this is supposed to be the tropics.
Fashionwise, natives have reacted by dressing for tea parties at the North Pole, just two eyes staring out of parkas, scarves, and beanies but that can be misleading. It scares the heck out of me when I’m on the road. Even in the summertime, a street vendor or local housewife will wear a hoodie when it’s thirty degrees Celsius so it becomes rather hard to judge the personal discomfort they might be feeling during this remarkable cold snap.
Other deceptively dressed folks, generally the blokes, wear Arctic jackets and shorts with flip-flops; again, it’s hard to tell if they are genuinely freezing or can’t afford trousers. Hanoi residents seem to be well-padded for the conditions, which makes it hard to tell if they are harder, tough citizens during the harsh northern wintry months. My coffee shop manager wears a business jacket but his staff are festooned for the winter Olympics; a very odd sight as they pass me my morning cappuccino.
The real indication that it’s colder than the devils’ beer fridge are the expats and visiting foreigners, most of us being furbished in expensive clothes but still shivering more than the locals. The tell-tale presence of really warm gloves gives the game away that you are not local. Not that many Vietnamese do gloves either; I don’t know why, maybe it looks ugly on a motorbike?
The one common dominator in all this is the hoodies; where are all the sparkly ones? The dullest colors I’ve ever encountered and I’m not better attired myself! I went around the place searching for another hoodie as the big freeze started but it seems fashion here only consists of black, red, gray and green. Come to think of it, have you ever noticed how the locals never really wear clothes that stand out? In Ho Chi Minh City maybe, but that’s the trendy university crowd or local schoolchildren wearing unrepeatable slogans on their rigs.
Mind you, I’m a fine one to talk. I’m bundled up in two jackets (and that’s inside the house), and all the other paraphernalia. Fortunately, I have big boots and lovely warm long outdoor socks for these ridiculous occasions. But I have figured out the lack of sock wearing around the place – it’s because the darn things get stretched out every time you take off the shoes to enter a house. I just guess floppy socks are a social no-no in Vietnam.
As much as I’m enjoying moaning about all this while sipping an ice-cold beer, this really does have a sad downside for the locals. There are still thousands trying to recover from the damage of our record-breaking storm season during last November and it’s still bitterly inhospitable chilly north of Hoi An. With smashed crops, houses still awaiting repairs, people living with just a tarpaulin, and warm clothing a scarcity, the tragedy of it is nothing will ever be fixed fast enough. So please, if you’re feeling generous, donate some dough to an organization that’s working on this.
The strangest thing will be forgetting about this lousy climate by March or May. Everything will be swapped for summer togs and sunglasses and complaining that the beer is not cold enough. But in the meantime, me and the dogs are huddled around the electric heater with a nice blanket to avoid the frigid floor tiles. Yeah, great, I live in a country where houses are built for summer.
Still, the trade-off is easy enough to accept; three months of winter and then nine months of summer. And the best part for us in Vietnam is COVID-19 is not locking us down. You can still shake to death at a local bar, munch though chattering teeth at the pizza joint and shudder while shopping in the open markets.
Yeah…why would you want to live anywhere else, hey?