Traveling to so many different countries has taught me that often in another country you have to let go of some of the rules or norms from your home country. I ignored my mother’s rule of always eating with silverware in India and following the norms on the country by eating with my hands at a fancy restaurant. In Vietnam I had to ignore one rule that was ingrained in me since I was young: look both ways before you cross the street, and wait until there are no cars in sight or the cars have come to a stop. In Vietnam the rule is to look down when you cross the street and keep walking.
The most shocking thing to me was the notion of not looking at cars when crossing the street. A cab driver filled us in, that they suggest tourists not to look up while crossing, because they might get scared and stop walking. If one were to look up in the middle of the street they might feel the same fear that a squirrel does, and everyone knows how good squirrels are at crossing the street.
I wondered why it would be such a bad thing if I became a deer in the headlights and stopped walking. As it turns out the motorbikes, and cars will work their way around you, and they are anticipating that you will continue walking – so it is imperative you do just that! If you do stop in the middle, you could cause a car accident or even become a dead deer.
The first time I crossed the street following “the rules” my heart raced. I was on the corner of the fancy Rex Hotel, and I was trying to get to a little restaurant called Pho 24. The street was littered with motorbikes spewing black fumes as they buzzed by. There were of course some cars and an occasional city bus. I stepped off the curb and took a deep breath, and fifteen seconds later it was all over. I had successfully crossed the street; I had let go of the rules from my culture and adapted to the ways of the Vietnamese people. By the end of my five-day visit I was crossing the street like the Beatles on Abbey Road.