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Little Stools and Other Situations Close to the Earth

Here are three differences between American culture and Vietnamese culture that have to do with being closer, physically, to the Earth.

1. Feet. I went to college with a fellow who never wore shoes, even in winter. He also walked around frequently with a giant live boa constrictor around his neck, and was generally considered to be an eccentric (though likable) hippie freak.

It is seen as rather odd in our urban American culture to be barefoot for extended time.

However, this Vietnamese man, pictured, left, in Hanoi, would disagree. All right– so the man’s knock-off Chaco sandals are sitting in a heap below his cozied form, but the bottom line is that Vietnam is far more tolerant of the bottom of feet than is America .

2. Squatting Stools. We have delicate backs, us Westerners. Above the age of ten, we gripe and moan like infants if forced into small, backless chairs. It’s just not adult, is it? It does not support the lumbar region.

Now for something completely different…

Check out these photos of Hanoi, Vietnam. Throughout this entire country, every block sports eateries that spill onto the sidewalk like those shown in the photos. Squatting happily on one-foot-high red and blue plastic stools outside these food stalls are hoards of Vietnamese folks, slurping on Pho or chomping down Com (steamed rice with hot meat and vegetable side dishes).

These same baby plastic stools are utilized in the aisles of buses when plush seat capacity fills.

I’ve also seen students biking to school, clutching the stools precariously in their arms as they ride, so they will have a place to sit to learn.

Who started this trend in Vietnam, I wonder? One thing is for sure: Whoever manufactures these stools is now very rich!

3. Flopping down at work. A final cultural difference, this time in the workplace: the Mid-Work-Shift Snooze of Vietnam. Note the tranquil nap of the Hanoi Hoa Lo Prison Museum guard, left.

This restful tactic is also displayed by taxi drivers, napping while parked on a curb, with their seat reclined and their feet on the windshield, and by hotel clerks, sprawled in repose on a lobby bench or hammock.

You, blog reader– Are you at work right now? Look at your luscious expanse of desk… Yawn a bit and consider taking a few Zzz’s, protesting when your boss wakes you up, “I am cosmopolitan-ly exploring world cultures!”

While you’re at it, take off your shoes.


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Thursday 23rd of June 2011

Vietnam kind of sound like where i live. People are always playing in the streets like that, and i wouldn't mind having some "Zzz's" like that during school.


Wednesday 25th of May 2011

Speaking of the flopping down at work...I found it unusual that many people actually sleep the night on the floor of their business. Several times when we got home later to our hotel, we found that we had to tip toe over and around several bodies sleeping on the floor of the lobby. That was quite unusual to me!

Xiu Na

Monday 25th of April 2011

Life in Vietnam seems different from in America since this article states that many people walk around barefooted even during the winter! I can't imagine living through winter and walking around the streets barefooted on the freezing cold ground!


Monday 25th of April 2011

True that life is different, but keep in mind the seasons are different, too, as most of Vietnam is warm all winter long!!

Imported Blogger Comments

Wednesday 26th of May 2010

Mary R said... I love the guy riding the motorcycle... I've seen so many similar scenes including dogs and standing children on motorbikes around the world! looking for some good ideas for when I visit Hanoi

October 29, 2009 2:31 AM

saveoursmile said... Hey, found you on travelblogexchange. I definitely love your last paragraph about "taking a few Zzz's"... things we should consider sometimes :-) Anyway, I just didn't really realized how strange those dwarf-chairs/tables in Hanoï was until I read it from someone who has a different culture. Maybe Malagasy (from Madagascar) has a bit-close culture to those vietnamese, though I didn't really find it weird ... however, I don't know if you experienced it, but I remember trying hard to order a soup in one of those stands, and got something that did not really correspond to what I consider as a soup (it was kind of boiled leaf in a water) ... And gosh, scooters/motos are everywhere in this city, it's really amazing ...

October 29, 2009 4:06 PM

Louisa said... Haha I DO take off my shoes at work! Usually just if they're slip-ons, but they often are. And I sometimes close the door and rest my head too - shhh don't tell!

October 30, 2009 1:53 PM

Luddy Sr. said... I've had dozens of jobs and not a one I didn't nap at regularly! Under the desk, back seats, back rooms, anywhere I can. Usually not right out in the open though! I'm down with Vietnam on this one for sure.

December 17, 2009 10:26 AM

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