Being a vegan in Hanoi with Veronika Vas from Hungary
I can’t find the right title for this episode on my talk with Veronika. We talked about her decision to move to Vietnam, about teaching English in Vietnam and advices for international vegan in Hanoi.
I also have many things to talk with and ask Veronika about. She is a non-native English speaker and English teach in Hanoi at the same time, she is a vegan, she runs a youtube channel and part of it is about living in Vietnam where she shares her experiences, furthermore, she has a Vietnamese boyfriend. However, in this episode I could make it to her own experiences when settling down in Hanoi and how she enjoy being vegan in Vietnam.
TBE: Hi Veronika, thank you so much for being on TBE podcast today and Happy New Year. And before we start our interview please introduce shortly about yourself and what are you doing in Vietnam?
Veronika: My name is Veronika as you said before. I am 25 years old and I am from Hungary. And I came to Vietnam originally just with my boyfriend but right now I am teaching English which wasn’t the plan originally but opportunity came up so I ended up teaching kids.
TBE: But you are living mainly in Vietnam or half the time you spend in Hungary and half in Hanoi?
Veronika: No, only in Vietnam so I haven’t been back to Hungary actually since I moved here.
TBE: So how long was it?
Veronika: 11 months. Close to a year.
TBE: And 11 months ago you came to Vietnam. Can you tell a little bit the reason why you decided to come to Vietnam?
Veronika: Originally we didn’t want to stay in Vietnam for this long. We planed to come back for last Tet holiday to visit my boyfriend’s family to visit for 3 weeks and then go back to Hungary. But then he had some problem with the visa in Hungary and also some family’s issues came up. So we decided randomly like 1 month before the trip, ok, we quit our jobs and we all just move to Vietnam for a year. So the reason is just to come and support his family and find something to do here. I was in Vietnam for 2 months before that when I first met him and I really like Vietnam so I also want to come back to travel more, just to get to know his background and Vietnam more.
TBE: But how do you feel about it so far?
Veronika: It was very beneficial for me cause I’ve learned so much about myself and about Vietnam too. You know, at the end of the day, I live outside the city and I don’t have so many foreigners surround me. I left my family and friends behind. So for quite long time I felt isolated and far from my culture.
I was in cultural shock here, everything is so different, the language I don’t understand…
It was challenging but it is also very good. I could travel to so many places because travelling in Vietnam is very cheap. You know if you teach here you definitely have a chance to see so many beautiful places. I just can be thankful that I decided to come here.
TBE: As you said that you are teaching kids English. I can see now there are many foreigners coming to Vietnam to teach English. And you said before to travel in Vietnam is pretty cheap so for them it’s a great experience to find something so different especially the West and East differences. That is the reason why the community of people who teach English in Vietnam is crowded. Do you think the same? and do you think it is still a potential opportunity to people to come to Vietnam to travel and work at the same time?
Veronika: Yes, I think for this time definitely, I don’t know hong long Vietnam will be so welcoming with us. I feel right now they are really working on educating in English and try to create ground for Vietnamese children to learn English from foreigners which I think is great.
I am Hungarian and I learned the most when I am abroad and I could talk to other people.
So I think for now is a great opportunities for foreigners to come here to teach English for kids. Because when they talk to us they can’t use their mother tongue to talk with us, their brain is forced to communicate in English so it is good for them.
Mostly the people I met here they are here for short period of time, they either want to travel or they have some sort of financial problem they have to solve at home like i.e. student loans. The best way to them to save up money is to stay here because the life is so cheap, traveling is cheap so they can have a relatively good life. They have beautiful apartment those are built lately around Tay Ho, you know all expats’ area and they have their motorbike which is so convenient to travel with. They can also travel around the country or if they want they can travel to surrounding countries and explore Asia in general and they can save up money next to that.
I met many people, around 20-25% of the people I met here they want to settle in Vietnam. Other teachers I met they even stayed 5 to 10 years and want to stay here for good. I think I meet all kind of people here but mainly I met young people.
TBE: But the job that you have now, you got it once you arrived in Vietnam, right?
Veronika: I did all different kind of job and first when I came here I was lucky enough that my boyfriend’s mom is a friend with the principal of a primary school. They were looking for a teacher from the New Year and I asked them. They allow me to observe classes and substitute some science, actually I teach science in school. I started doing that just a substitute in the school for 3 months. And for the summer I work for an agency and I taught in center and kindergarten. Only since August I teach full-time in this private school and teaching science and next to that teaching in center.
I see teachers do all kind of jobs, they tend to work extra hours in the evening so they use that money for travelling or something else if they stay for a short time like a year or so they work from morning till the evening.
TBE: So regarding your experience so far I can see you really like teaching now
Veronika: Yes, I do. I love kids. I didn’t imagine myself as a teacher, my mom is a English teacher and I’m always like I will never go that way. Once you get to know your students, it’s like a social experience and how good to see how they improve. I love teaching science than English to do experiences with them.
TBE: But your background is not in teaching right? And I also know that you are a film maker
Veronika: Wow, I’m a video vlogger we can see that. I like to make film and participate in film making. I like to write story if I have the opportunity. My boyfriend and me we are creative people, he wants to be a director, I like to be an actress so we just put things together. When we have an opportunity to make film for a festival or when we have an idea or time we just pursuit it.
TBE: Besides you teaching and Vlog on youtube, do you have any other project with film-making in Hanoi this time?
Veronika: Actually I am going to leave Hanoi in a month. I want to go back to school because I didn’t finish university. I started learning Hospitality and I didn’t like it. I moved abroad and started to work and now I am in Vietnam. Since I am in love with film making and I really love acting so I want to go back to school to follow it.
TBE: But you will do it in Vietnam or you will go back in Hungary
Veronika: I will do it in London actually.
TBE: So in the end of this month you will go to London and pursuit your actress career
Veronika: Yes, hopefully I can.
TBE: We should go back to the topic of today which is to be a vegan in Vietnam. When did you convert to be a vegan?
Veronika: It was more than a year ago and I just found veganism by accident and I felt great. And I think other people they also feel good with this life-style.
TBE: And how do you feel about being vegan in Vietnam? Do you have any difficulty to find the food or to eat out?
Veronika: No, not at all. I think it’s very easy to eat vegan. That part of the life-style of eating vegan is not difficult at all not in anywhere in the world, not in Hanoi especially or Vietnam in general. Because of Buddhism you have many vegetarian restaurants here that are made for vegan too.
So going out to eat is very easy and finding food is easy and cheap as well.
You know all the tropical fruits and vegetable here they make our life so much easier than in Hungary. Over winter you have lots of fruits and vegetable when they are still so nice and fresh. In Hungary when the weather is so cold, we mainly survive on frozen food or expensive imported products. In Vietnam is a joy to look for new vegan treat or restaurant.
TBE: But mainly you prepare your food at home or you eat out?
Veronika: mainly I eat at home because it’s so hard to deal with the traffic.
TBE: When you say to people here that you are vegan do you think they understand you or you have to say that you are vegetarian?
Veronika: Well, in Vietnamese they say “ăn chay” which I understand is vegan and vegetarian as well so you have to clarify you don’t eat egg and drink milk. Maybe people don’t understand the reason I think. In Vietnam you still eat meat in the meal and they can not understand that it’s a healthy diet and you still have enough all nutritions even you don’t eat meat any more. When I go to restaurant I pick vegan ones so I don’t have any problem at all.
TBE: Do you have any problem when having family meeting to explain that you are vegan? Because in Vietnam families like to have meal together.
Veronika: They understand my veganism but they think I am sick. They are very polite and they give me different kind of vegetable and I can’t even eat that much. But I think they don’t understand my reason. My boyfriend’s mom still thinks if I don’t eat meat my be I will die. I have to explain it’s my ethical decision but she still thinks I am very weak. Until my mom came and she can see that it’s the gene that I am so skinny.
I think people don’t have this information yet. I teach science and teach nutritions to kids too. In the books not just in Vietnam but also in Europe, the vegan is still a new movement and there are still researches in them it so there is not included in the school-books. Therefore, people still think they need to eat meat to get protein and have balance diet. I think once the research go further then it’s more a common knowledge that it is not necessary to eat meat and we can substitute with other plan-based options then people won’t be worried.
TBE: And which kind of traditional Vietnamese dishes that you really like that you want to recommend?
Veronika: Oh there so many dishes I don’t know if they are traditional but my favourite one is Xoi Xeo.
TBE: Xôi xéo?
Veronika: yes, you can ask without the sadist pork. When you get to vegan restaurant you can order any kind of Vietnamese traditional dishes they create without meat or with mock meat. I also like the summer roll which you have to roll your own. And ‘Banh My’ of course, I love bread, the baguette here is amazing and it’s vegan too.
TBE: Yes, since milk in Vietnam is expensive so people don’t use a lot. I think for vegetarian to eat in Vietnam is easy since there are many vegetarian dishes we have in Vietnam. And do you have any vegan friend here?
Veronika: Yes, I have a friend and he is actually in one of my video (you can check it here)
And he also can speak Vietnamese as well and he tells how to order.
TBE: I see that you can say some words in Vietnamese and you can understand it, you also stay close to your boyfriend’s family so did you learn any Vietnamese to communicate with them?
Veronika: Yes, I learned a little bit and I am very shy to use it. The intonation I don’t get them right and I’m scared I won’t get them right but I can understand it.
TBE: What do you think about Vietnamese language? Since I know Hungarian is ranked as one of the most difficult language to learn, so is Vietnamese easy to you?
Veronika: Yes, Vietnamese is not that difficult at least the grammar. The pronunciation is the challenging. If you can not hear the different tone it’s really hard to recreate and say the right word. So I think for people who learn music it’s easier since they can hear the differences. I am lucky enough that I learned piano for 6 years so I can hear the differences but I still cannot create it in my voice. My boyfriend said it’s a ‘cave-men’ language because you don’t have many rules to put the word together and even if you change the order people still can understand.
TBE: I think I will not take more time of you today – the first day of the year so you can spend time with your boyfriend’s family and with him. Thank you for being on TBE podcast. Actually I have many things to talk with you about since you have a lot of experience here. Happy New Year and I wish to know you as an actress in the future.
Veronika: Thank you, so nice of you inviting me and I am very happy to be here, I hope to hear from you again.
TBE: Goodbye and have a nice day!