When traveling it's good to know the local customs and if there are any quirks you should pay heed to when visiting. Vietnam has been unified for over two decades, but there is still differing customs and culture from north to south, and in many regions in between. Following are a few tips to help you make your visit to Hanoi more interesting and entertaining.
People in Northern of Vietnam don't speak English as fluently as people in Southern Vietnam:
Northern Vietnam is only really beginning to open up to the rest of the world. Due to economic growth and globalisation, people in Northern Vietnam are desperate to learn English fast. Surprisingly, the younger generations of Northerners love Western culture, and aspire to go to school overseas, to English- speaking countries. However, the older generations are still very traditional and you will see interesting and different ways of living than people in the South of Vietnam.
* When you are travelling in the North, try to speak some simple Vietnamese phrases. This will help people warm up to you.
People in Northern Vietnam aren't as demonstrative as the Southerners:
Don't feel put off if people don't smile as much, or say please or thank you. This is the way most people are in Northern Vietnam. I used to think that it was because I was a foreigner; but actually they are like that with each other. This is one of the things that makes Northern Vietnam still so traditional. Even if people can speak English, they don't necessarily want to adopt a Western approach to life, in terms of communication and lifestyle.
Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Hanoi, Vietnam
Get out of Hanoi and see the country-side:
Don't just stay in the city. As usual, if you stay in a touristy area, you won't get to interact with the locals in an authentic way. Many people want to travel to Halong Bay. I recommend just the day trip for Halong Bay (unless you have time to kill); because the waters are quite polluted and it's a conveyor belt type of feel... being a tourist pushed on and off the boats. Also, the boats can be quite dangerous, so do your research and book with a safe company. Sometimes in developing countries, news of accidents are deliberately censored by the media. I have heard numerous tales of boats being damaged or sinking; as well as bus drivers having accidents due to things like bad road conditions, not maintaining the buses properly and not driving safely.
* Try to go and see other countryside places such as Tam Dao, Ninh Binh, Sapa and Mai Chau. Any tour company will be able to help you book these destinations.
Road safety is different:
Don't be surprised if cars and motorbikes in Northern Vietnam don't seem to stop for you when you are walking as a pedestrian. And certainly NEVER walk out in front of a bus, even if it seems far away, because they are notorious for not stopping.
The key to crossing the roads safely in Vietnam, is to walk at a continual slow pace and don't stop or back-step. Keep going and the motorbikes and cars will swerve around you. Even if it seems like they are going to hit you, don't worry, start to walk when there's a gap and when there aren't so many cars coming... and just keep going!
The roads in Northern Vietnam are much narrower than the roads in the South. So take care and watch out for pot holes both on the footpaths and on the roads. When you are on the footpaths, don't think that you are free from motorbikes. They will drive on the footpaths as well. Also at pedestrian crossings, make sure you look both ways even if there is a green light to walk- this is because people do drive through red lights on a regular basis.
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Article Source: EzineArticles.com & Leisha K Henry