The feeling of going back home after immersing yourself in a different environment is always a story that I have in my head and it urges me to express my own journey of feeling like I have been too distanced from where I was born.
Vietnam, a beautiful country which lies in the heart of South East Asia, is well-known for its capital city – Hanoi which is a gem, a crucial historical piece and a city that is filled with traditions and cultures that are so unique that its reputation is recognizable. As I write this article, I am sitting in this city, trying to relive the feelings and experiences of trying to find myself as a Vietnamese born in Hanoi after not being back in my homeland for quite some time now.
The one thing that has always surprised me is that I have been reverse cultural-shocked when I was basically trying to cross the streets. The streets are crowded and chaotic with bikes speeding, one after the other, filled with loud honking sounds from cars stuck in traffic. In fact, not only was I shocked, but I also felt afraid of the possibility of getting injured. However, I took a second to ask myself, why do I have to be scared, after all, I am Vietnamese, and I should be used to the hurried environment of my country.
The feeling that comes with being abroad for too long and unexpectedly feeling a bit unfamiliar when you are back home is a common phenomenon among international students. This becomes especially prominent when I converse with my Vietnamese friends about our experiences back home and how we expect it to feel like we’re “getting back to being our old selves” but the reality often hits us with a different narrative.
This entire experience, I believe, stems from the fact that Rotterdam is very different from Hanoi. Rotterdam has cleaner streets, better public transport, and fresher air, but Hanoi is also a beautiful city with great food, the kind that makes you want to keep going back for more. It’s not just the food, Hanoi also has a serene, historical vibe that holds the essence of Vietnam. I can go on talking about how much I love it and also about finding it hard for me to re-adapt to my city again, especially since my considerably conservative relatives describe my personality as more “Westernized” now that I have spent time in Europe but I must stop for this might turn into a never-ending ramble.
At the moment, I have spent 3 weeks feeling the joyfulness and bitterness of becoming a “Hanoian” once again. There are moments when I do feel excluded but there are moments when I feel welcomed and connected again. No matter what the future holds, Hanoi will forever stay in my heart and I can fall in love with it again and again.
Written by: Lam Ngoc Do
Editor: Nimrat Kaur
Visuals: Lam Ngoc Do