Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Culture Shock at the Disco

Last night my cousin Hoa invited me to go Nhau.

Nhau is where you gather with your friends to drink beer (bia) and talk. Often you are eating random foods until early in the morning. Men are the one's who usually nhau while their wives are at home.

What they took me to was a Disco. A night club called Now, this is where I experienced the biggest culture shock ever! No pictures were allowed in the club, so we took some pictures outside. I've noticed that Vietnamese people, maybe Asian people like to include feet in their pictures. When we left, I took pictures with the cute doorman.

Inside there were about 30 waiters and waitresses eager to serve you in the impressively upscale nightclub. Maybe too eager. You are assigned a tall table and asked to order. Actually you were required to order. I just went with the flow and Hoa and his friends ordered 10 bottles of heiniken to split amoung four... because you get two free.. and it was actually the cheapest thing on the menu. OR we could buy a $60 bottle of something and split it. WTF! How can you afford this!?!

5 glasses were placed on the table with ice. I was confused and soon realized that the fifth glass was for the waiter. Apparently you invite your waiter friend to drink with you. This waiter was all up in our space as if we were best friends. We order a large fruit dish to eat with chili salt and Heineken and I must say, it was a brilliant combination. The waiter would take tooth picks and hand them to us. He might as well have feed them to me. Every time I took a sip from my iced beer, the waiter would refill it. If there was room, he would add more ice. I began to realize that he was our servant waiter. Unlike the US, customer service is a part of their job, not influenced by tips. Not tipping won't get you angry looks, but it seems like tipping, like expensive alcohol, are customs that are becoming norms in a country that's way ahead of itself.

I noticed the place start to get crowded around 10pm and a lot of people smoke inside. Large groups of youth popped in and started to dance to the international house music. I wasn't there to complain about the music, but I enjoyed it. The DJ was pretty good actually. At random moments the group of waiters would yell. "HEY!" to the beat of the song. It was ugly and amusing

My cousin Huy informed me that girls at a bar or night club would approach guys and talk to them.. dance with them, whatever. At the end of the night, the guys would give them money. They were paying for a good time. According to Huy, this is better than in the states because girls in the states take advantage of you, get a drink from you and then bounce. In Vietnam, it's systematic, you know what you're getting, there is no confusion, heart break... pride lost.

One of the waiters asked me if I was gay. Great. Can I not be in another country and be straight for once? I don't get it. Even in Vietnam they can smell me out. What is it!? But I think because my cousin probably is gay and the waiter thought I was gay with him. If homosexuality is genetic... I've learned that it runs down my mom's side. My cousin is into fashion.

According to Huy, gay people are aggressive. In fact, straight guys are scared of them. My cousin, who is tall and has a korean movie star look always gets hit on while he dances or walks at any bar. He thinks it's the most annoying thing ever. Heh, I guess I am no longer an aggressive manhunter in this country. Guys dance and touch each other because they are good friends... so it's really hard to tell gay people a part. Until they whisper naughty shit into your ear.

I danced with one of my cousin's girl friends between the tall tables in our section of the room and she got low. I was impressed. Vietnam learns quick... freaking is not a strange custom. I taught them how to get hyphy... now that was strange to them. I was checking out the boys. Some were cute, but then their teeth looked like a crooked fence that's about to fall down. I realized that I once was annoyed by "FOBBY People," but not so much in Vietnam because the roles have switched. Fobby people are now just people and I am now the FOB, the stranger from a different shore butchering a language. People can hear it when I talk.. immediately, I wonder if they find me annoying.

After finishing 12 bottles of bia and a fruit place, we bounced to go nhau for real. We had hot pot by the nasty river and I realized that my family isn't really low class. They are low middle class... with expensive phones and the occassional going out. But you can never tell with the living conditions.

This place was full of youth. Eating and talking. Drunk and sober. It was like a Vietnamese Denny's and HOTPOT with noodles and quail eggs was on the menu! We bounced around midnight, but it was apparent that this place runs into the morning!

Last night, I used the bathroom at my aunt's house. In the dark I did my number two. There was no toliet paper so I used this stray thing... ... ... and shot the ceiling and walls. Dang, I guess it has to be powerful to be able to clean you. I felt very unsanitary so I walked two feet to the shower head and just rinsed my body. I used the shower to brush my teeth and spit my toothpaste into the toilet. By the time I was done the whole room was wet. I almost got electrocuted because the light bulb was close to the shower head.

I will never get used to this restroom, but at least it's a western toilet. No way can I squat!

And when I was done with the bathroom, I hopped on my cousin's new HP laptop to use their high speed internet. WTF?!?!?


I am thinking about writing an anthropological paper on youth consumers in Vietnam. Essentially rewriting my thesis with first account examples. I still haven't covered shopping, working and food yet.


mich said...

the vietnamese restaurants i went to always had really bad service actually.

letopho said...

Ii think the more expensive resaurants have a better service because they are paid better.

Good point. Vietnamese people have a staring problem.