Saigon Stories – Fun in Saigon

I couldn’t think of a better title for this post. But a couple of funny instances recently that made me laugh and I thought I should write about. It’s moments like these that make me really love the Vietnamese people.

1. I was speaking with one of our staff members about how the salutation to put on a letter we were going to send to about 200 executives in Saigon. We wanted to make it a personal letter but not spend the mass amount of time writing each persons name on every e-mail.
Me – “How about,,,,, ‘Dear Members, or Dear Esteemed Guests’.”

She thought about it for a minute or two and said, “Deeeaaaarrrr……………….Monkeys.”

It kept the office laughing for about 10 minutes.

2. I was working on my laptop in the formal dining area. One of the new young female staff member came over and delicately poured me a glass of water after which she said,
“Please enjoy your water.”

It was really cute and made me smile. As every language learner knows, you learn specific phrases to say in certain situations and therefore anywhere you go, the Vietnamese will always tell you to Enjoy your something or other. Apparently she was not taught that you don’t have to say that when it comes to water.

3. We spent a day doing a lot calling to invite about 200 prospects to one of the clubs events. That means we spoke to a lot of secretaries who had limited English ability.
Most of the recordings would tell you to push the extention number of the person you were trying to reach or press either 1 or 0. 

One recording told me to please press the number 10………

It’s understandable that these things happen in English because it’s not their native language. But some funny instances also happen in Vietnamese. My Vietnamese co-worker was asked by a secretary the following. 

“Do you have a reservation for your telephone call?”

I could see the confused look on his face and when he told the other staff members everyone just burst out laughing.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/


  1. Just curious, you live in Vietnam, yet you study the Japanese language. You say you cannot even contact the police due to your limited Vietnamese. Surely learning to communicate with the local Vietnamese people would enable you to immerse yourself deeper into the culture and therefore spice up your life in Saigon?? Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of your website and simply love reading all of your posts. I am planning a trip to Vietnam later in the year and I can say that I have learnt a great number of things that would otherwise be unbeknownst to me had I not stumbled upon your website. I wish you would post more regularly!!

  2. Thanks for your comment. And I must say that you are entirely right. I have always been an advocate of learning about a culture and their language instead of simply living in their country. I should have learned some Vietnamese but unfortunately became lazy and obeyed some stupid reasoning on my part.
    The first reason I didn’t learn Vietnamese is that I’m still stuck in Japanese mode. It’s my third language and I’m so concerned with the upkeep of the languages I currently have that I thought I didn’t have enough room in my brain for Vietnamese. Also, living here and due to the history of Vietnam, learning the language isn’t necessary like in other places. Due to the “American War” most people here in the south can speak English and some older people can speak French.
    The second reason I didn’t learn Vietnamese is that I just don’t like the sound which is an extremely stupid reason, but got the best of me. I also think that should I take the immense amount of time to learn another language, it will be Mandarin, Chinese since it will be more useful simply due to the rise of China. When I learn a language I do so seriously and take the time to speak it well,, not just a couple of phrases here and there.
    It’s true that I cannot speak with the police, but I have friends who can and should I ever be in trouble, they can help me out.
    But in the end, you are absolutely right. Learning the Vietnamese language would definately spice up my life here and I have been a “bad foreigner” for not attempting to learn the language. For anyone living in another country and not learning the language, their experience will be very limited and shallow. Thank heavens the Vietnamese people are wonderful and accepting of turds like me who have not taken the time to learn their language.
    I’m happy for you that you will come here and I’m sure you will have a wonderful time. If you get the chance, be sure to visit Nha Trang since the beach is wonderful and hasn’t been tainted by too many “touristy” businesses.

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