When it comes to holiday, expats can experience different culture and customs. At the same time celebrating our own holidays and observing our tradition while living abroad bring unique stories. Tet: the official New Year holiday in Vietnam, is coming. If you are an expat living in VN, how do you spend this holiday? how do you feel about it and think about the way people celebrate it? I was so excited when I spent Christmas, New Year, Easter or any holiday and events of adopted countries when I was abroad. And today I invited here an expat who had spent 5 years working in Hanoi and she is the Ambassador of Hanoi internations community, Ms Franziska Schubert. She is director of TRABI: a German language teaching center in Hanoi. If you are an expat I think you have heard about internations: a network where expats can share interests, do meeting and make friends, the community is also very helpful when it comes to advice and local information and you also can ask questions. In this episode I asked her how does she feel about the way Vietnamese people celebrate the international events such as Christmas and New Year Eve and how did she spend her Tet holidays.
TBE: Hi Franziska, welcome to The Blue Expat podcast and thank you for being here, to begin, could you please introduce yourself to everyone?
Franziska: Hello, I am Franziska Schubert. I am from Germany and I have been living in Hanoi for the past 5 years. I run a German language centre. In my free time I organise internations which is an international networking community.
TBE: So you have spent 5 years in Vietnam, normally do you spend your New Year holiday in Vietnam or you go back to Germany in that time?
Franziska: I usually stay in Vietnam
TBE: What do you normally in Vietnam at that time?
Franziska: I think it’s very similar to Germany. I meet friends and we sometimes go to popular expat spots in Xuan Dieu and Tay Ho. Or I travel, I have one very nice new year in Hoi An, actually it was my favourite memory. This year I went downtown and participated at the old quarter New Year celebration. It is very different and all very fun.
TBE: Can you tell more about the best New Year Eve that you had in Hoi An?
Franziska: Well first, it’s a bit warmer than in Hanoi. Hoi An is a very beautiful town in Vietnam with the lights and special atmosphere. I heard that many tourists came especially for the New Year celebration in Hoi An. The bars and caffe opened. It was music on the street so you could dance on the streets, you could do bar-hoping and the lanterns. It was very romantic and beautiful atmosphere.
TBE: You already stayed in Vietnam for 5 years, so do you speak any Vietnamese?
Franziska: (laugh) I understand a little bit and I can describe where I want to go, I speak what I need to survive.
TBE: Do you know Vietnamese people call the New Year and Christmas as ‘Tet Tay’?
Franziska: Tet Tay, yes, I know that.
TBE: What do you think about the way Vietnamese people celebrate Tet Tay?
Franziska: Honestly I like it. My students told me that in Vietnam young people celebrate Christmas a little bit like Valentine’s Day. I like the idea. I understand we are here in the country where there is no Christian religious root, so it makes sense that people see how other countries celebrate and
understand it’s about love. So they find their own way to celebrate, it’s different and it’s very nice.
It feels festive in its own way, same as New Year.
TBE: You feel the way people celebrate New Year is similar to German?
Franziska: People gather and count down till New Year starts, that is the core of New Year celebration. It’s all about meeting and celebrating the end of something and the beginning of something new together and it’s a worldwide phenomenon.
TBE: Do you feel somethings missing like fireworks or German traditional drink? Can you prepare them here?
Franziska: Of course, I can cook and you can find all the ingredients here so when you need it you cook it yourself. Most of the expats’ restaurant or even Vietnamese restaurants they offer that. There is broad offer on food and drinks for the westerners and it’s accepted by Vietnamese and foreigners. I think we are very well-taking care of. And fireworks, usually we have fireworks, this year it was no, but the celebration in the city centre was really massive. There were so many people on the street so it was very exciting.
TBE: I know that you are Ambassador of Internations community in Hanoi. Could you please share some information about the community event for the New Year and how much people enjoy it?
Franziska: Internations is growing in Hanoi. It has been active for the past 8 years. Sometimes more attendees, sometimes less. Ever since I started I think we have 100 people growth. And right now there are about 100 people coming to each meeting. Our meeting are usually on the second Friday of the month. We choose different places all around Hanoi. The idea of internations is to provide a platform for expats and locals to meet, to exchange, to make new friendship. In general, it is very well-accepted. We have not just one event, we have several activities groups focusing on special interests like doing outdoor activities, meeting for dinner, or meeting to discuss books or sports. There are options for all tastes and interests.
TBE: For the New Year and Christmas party, do you arrange any party for those day or just only the official meeting monthly?
Franziska: Ya, we only have the official meetings. The Hanoi expats community is very well-organised and we have to acknowledge that most of the internationals will travel home to celebrate the holiday there. So there is not so many attendees to have the New Year event. We hope in future we will have Christmas event but for the New Year there are so many options here so it does not make much sense to offer another one for internations. So we focus on the time when there is less activities for the expats.
TBE: So they have more options. Vietnamese people Celebrate their New Year: Tet holiday which bases on Lunar calendar and can be in January or mid February. How do you spend those days since you also will have day off.
Franziska: Yes we are off. It’s the best time to rest. I know many internationals travel but there is a growing group staying here. it’s nice to enjoy quiet Hanoi with no traffic. I don’t have to cook for family and friends so it’s nice time to stay in, to relax and recharge for the new year.
TBE: Have you ever tried to spend your holiday with local people’? How do you feel with the customs
Franziska: Yes, I have local friends and one day of the Tet holiday they usually invite us to their home and we eat the traditional dishes.
TBE: You really enjoyed it.
Franziska: Yes, I do.
TBE: How do you feel about the custom and did you try some special food? Can you share how did you spend the time with the local people?
Franziska: I think it’s about spending time together. I tried the dishes, the mother of the family explained she did it by herself and tried some kind of special rice cake. It’s very delicious.
TBE: The green one right? It’s Banh Chung
Franziska: Exactly! We eat our way through it (laugh). It’s always nice to be in a group where you feel family and you feel home and share this experience together.
TBE: If you don’t spend your holiday with local people then you will just spend time to rest right? Sometimes I saw travellers, foreigners walking on the street because it’s so empty the street.
Franziska: Yes, foreigners enjoy it a lot. I also think it’s a good time to go to pagoda at that time, to have some meditation maybe, so there are many things to do to recharge.
TBE: I think the pagoda is also crowded in that time also, because it’s Vietnamese people’s custom to visit pagoda at that time. So we have to choose a good one which is not so crowded.
Do you think it’s difficult for travellers to visit Hanoi at this time because it’s empty and shops are closed?
Franziska: I agree, when travellers are not used to the situation. It’s difficult to find a taxies. Shops for westerners are opened but a bit expensive but still ok. I think the most difficult is to call for a taxi. 4 years ago it was a bit different, there was less shops opened. But for the last two years there are enough options for foreigners to get around.
TBE: I think because there are more expats in Hanoi so the need for shops is higher.
TBE: Do you have any plan for this year holiday? because it’s coming soon
Franziska: I know and I am very excited. I will be on my couch with Netfix.
TBE: It sounds really relaxing (laugh)
Franziska: Ya, just a normal plan to enjoy.
TBE: And stock lots of food
Franziska: Yes, stock up on food, Netflix, walk around the lake and enjoy.
TBE: That sounds like a very good holiday. And how often do you return to Germany?
Franziska: Once a year.
TBE: I guess you return in summer
Franziska: It depends but I choose to come when there is family’s event. It can be in summer or spring.
TBE: Do you know about the Tet here they celebrate different year like the year of chicken, next year will be year of chicken. Do you have any knowledge about it?
Franziska: They say the chicken is very diligent so it will be a year of a lot of work. So we have to be prepared to work. Monkey is smart and it’s a year to learn, so now we have to work. We have learned a lot so now we have to focus on working.
TBE: Do you know which sign of animal you have according to the calendar?
Franziska: I’m a snake.
TBE: So have a nice chicken year and I do not think you have to work a lot in chicken year and as a German I believe you already work hard enough.
Franziska: Let’s hope that.
TBE: I wish you Happy New year, Chuc mung nam moi in Vietnamese
Franziska: Chuc mung nam moi.
TBE: And thank you a lot for being on TBE podcast today and I hope I can see you in the future in Hanoi
Franziska: I look forward to. Thanks you a lot, it was so lovely talking to you too.