Cultural Blends & Homesickness – Hanoi, Vietnam

I apologize in advance for this not being a humorous post. As I wrote a while ago, I moved away from my home country to pursue a fantastic career opportunity. I haven’t written about life as an expat because I’m not entirely certain if my readers would find it interesting & because mostly, everyday life isn’t entertaining or amusing. Having said that, I wrote this because this is how I felt while I was in Hanoi.

Hanoi is the capital & second largest city in Vietnam. The city is an incredible blend of east & west. While there are many cities with unusual & fascinating blends, Hanoi seemed to have caught me off guard. The old French architecture is fused perfectly with Vietnamese culture & way of life. I absolutely loved sitting at a street side restaurant, sipping a Saigon beer & watching the world go by.

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Saigon Special Beer

As interesting & unique as I found Hanoi to be, Hanoi made me feel like such a foreigner. It made me realize that when I left to go ‘home’, I wouldn’t be going home at all – I would be going to a flat thousands of kilometres away from the life I was so used to & to face the everyday problems every other expat faces.

I felt lost & not because I didn’t know my geographical location, but rather I felt a general feeling of not belonging. I began to have very negative thoughts about the decision I made to leave South Africa a few months ago. For the first time in this terrifying, crazy, exciting adventure, I felt homesick. I felt extremely guilty for putting my parents in a position to worry about & miss me the way they do. I felt so upset that I missed my sister’s wedding. I got sad at thinking of how much my nieces will grow & change while I am not there. I missed the comfort of being a local. I could go on for ages with the negative things I thought about.

Once you are in that state of mind, it is so easy to continue feeding that negativity. I think it is important to acknowledge those emotions & allow yourself to feel that way for a while, but then you have to move on with life. I have two things that I live by when it comes to missing home & homesickness: First, if you hadn’t been given an opportunity great enough to leave home, you wouldn’t have. Second, if you weren’t blessed with an exceptional life at home, you wouldn’t miss it.

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Sun starting to set in the city

This crazy adventure has already had so many surprises & twists along the way… one of them finding myself in Hanoi watching the sun set over the congested streets while locals beep their way around on scooters. Life is an adventure – an adventure with highs & lows &, well, I wouldn’t be me if I had said no to this adventure.

Keep traveling, keep safe.

DanVenture Travels.

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43 thoughts on “Cultural Blends & Homesickness – Hanoi, Vietnam

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  1. I stayed there for 3 months straight on two occasions and in those times I had hit some of the lowest and a few highest times of my life. I didn’t really feel like belonging although there is so much to see compared to HCM.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Dan I too use to feel very much home sick when I moved to college.
    Later slowly I got adjusted to hostel life. Then later I got married now it’s my house. Missing parents, hometown I can understand a lot.
    But these are part of life, stay strong.
    Hope you will get adjusted soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ah. Being an Expat can be difficult especially if you moved “permanently.” I got homesick once or twice while an expat in England but it was mostly a crazy long holiday because we knew it would end after 2 or 3 years. I hope you will soon feel at home there. We started to feel at home when it was time to pack up and leave.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Being homesick is a natural feeling to experience. As a fellow expat, there are times when I feel the pain and loneliness of living far from home, family, and familiarity. It will get better and your new surroundings will become familiar, but you will always miss home…as one always does. Use it as strength!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dan The Man. I can totally relate to this. As you know I did not see you, or any of my family for 15 years. Although I already had my own family when I left Zimbabwe, your parents, sibling and their children are an important part of your life. Not only do you miss seeing the children grow up, but you miss seeing your parents getting old, your siblings getting old(er), you also miss them not seeing you own family growing up, cousins not knowing each other except for Facebook. 22 years down the track I still miss ‘home’ but have been lucky enough to return 4 times in the last 7 years, and getting ready for another visit in March. I will be stopping over with your family on the way and it will not be the same without you there, but I’m sure it won’t be long before we cross paths.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dave, I’m sorry for reply so late – my schedule has been quite busy lately.

      I feel like you must be such an expert at experiencing homesickness & that what I experience can’t even be compared. I do feel things are very different now because of the way technology has advanced.

      Thanks for reading & understanding. As it stands, I hope to be home in March for 2 weeks so hopefully I will be able to see you then.

      Like

  6. Hi Dan, I’ve found that the homesickness you get from being an expat is totally different to when you are just travelling. And, I think that as an experienced traveller it actually hits you harder; it did for me anyway. I remember thinking, “I’ve travelled heaps, this will be easy!” So I was totally thrown when it wasn’t. (Whereas someone who hasn’t travelled a lot expects it to be hard and is prepared.)
    I really like your two points about having the opportunity to go abroad and being blessed with a home life worth missing. I think that had I thought those when the homesickness hit me, it would have made it a bit easier.
    It does get better though! One day you’ll turn around and realise you feel like a local and you won’t even know when it happened!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This was such a great comment to read. I was completely thrown off when it hit me so I’m glad to hear other people experience it as well. I do enjoy this life, but every now & then the homesickness creeps in & it isn’t pleasant. Hopefully, it will happen less & less.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m in the same boat, I moved to Nanjing alone!

    It feels even more isolating sometimes, to be in the middle of a bustling, fast-paced city, like Hanoi. I certainly had some lonely days there, but after about five months, I loved it! Reading this post has reminded me of how much I miss that charming French architecture…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Dan,
    It is hard missing home when you are an expat but the way you look at it is really cool! Living in Japan, I know that feeling of never feeling like a local and even after 4 years I still don’t and that can be hard. I know that I don’t plan on staying here forever so I have taken to treating it like an extended holiday and I don’t get offended when people think I am tourist. I am also really lucky that I love my work here so that makes it easier.
    One thing that does hang around in the back of mind during my time here, is that I am a strong believer in things happening for a reason! I am slowly started to realise mine. Hopefully the reason you moved away will come apparent to you some day… Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for leaving this comforting comment. I appreciate that you took time to read & comment.

      I can imagine how tough it must be to feel like an outsider in Japan. You are right, everything does happen for a reason.

      Like

  9. I decided after graduating college to WWOOF around France for a few months. The whole experience has been a shocker– much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Even if France is where my mother is from! It is easy to start letting the negative thoughts surround you. Before you know it, you might become convinced you have failed in some way– that someone else, someone stronger, more social, more adaptable, would not have the same struggles as you. But like you said, there’s a reason you left and a reason you are staying. To travel alone is very difficult, but it’s brave. It’s something a lot of people will never try. And let’s say you stay where you are for a bit of time, and after a bit you decide the misery isn’t worth it– it’s not a failure. It was an adventure! And you learned something.

    I have a blog a bit similar to yours. I just started a few months ago. I’m trying to build travel and life stories that are entertaining and relatable to others, while also inspiring people (and mainly myself) to keep creating, keep trying, even when I fall on my face. check it out if you have time!! NO worries if you don’t want to. I enjoy looking to your blog for guidance on how to make a successful blog.

    Best of luck!
    lilchapstick.com

    Liked by 1 person

  10. nicely written about missing ‘home’ and feeling ‘homesick’. i just have to say one thing. one always misses ‘home’ when away from it. the feeling of ‘home’ is what makes travelling more interesting. Like
    George A. Moore has said ‘A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.’. same way I believe, “you travel to explore world but then you always come back to ‘home”.

    Like

  11. Thanks for sharing your vulnerability and bits of what you call negativity. Blogger try generally to highlight the positive, enlightening and encouraging it seems, though hearing of other’s angst is edifying as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That feeling of homesickness doesn’t fade away so easily but like you wrote if you have a positive mindset everything falls beautifully into place. And aren’t you already enjoying the sunset in congested streets and marvelling at the French architecture 🙂 It is a continuous process, to find a home away from home. Looking forward to read more of your adventures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dear Dan, nice writing. I’m a Hanoian myself, also far away from home now and missed my sister’s wedding. I also think if I hadn’t had the opportunity to leave Hanoi, I’d never love it like I do now. Home never leaves your heart, it’s a part of your soul, it’s normal to miss it awfully. I like Germany a great deal but hardly felt I belong here, or anywhere other than Hanoi. Just keep pushing on, carrying home at heart and believing in an eventual union 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Dan, really like your honest, real approach. Sometimes I think the point of travel (vs a holiday ) is to be wrong-footed, to realign your thinking and look at things with a different perspective. Keep up your blog, I really enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

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