At 11:30, I headed out to try and purchase some plants for my new home. As I crossed the bridge into town, I noticed gates closing, feet up, and streets emptying.
As I reached the garden shop, I asked the man what time he was closing to eat lunch. “Noon” was his reply, and the store would be re-opening at 3pm. Not wanting to hold up his lunch, I left and headed out for another shop. I soon found that most of the stores I needed to go to at this time were closed for their midday ‘siesta’.
Having recently switched over from tourist to resident, this day-break was a new concept to me. My western mind was still wrapped up in getting where I want, when I want, regardless of the time of day.
I headed back home, somewhat aggravated, that my midday errands might not happen after all. But after some reflection, I had to smile knowing that this noontime rest, though an inconvenience for me, meant for others a chance to return home, relax, eat a good meal, and spend more time with their family- something that occurs less and less in the western world.
It is just these simple daily changes that attract so many tourists from other parts of the world. They experience a whole different lifestyle, sense of family and friends, and there is an atmosphere of tranquility and happiness. This is perhaps one of the many reasons that the Vietnamese people appear so friendly and cordial to tourists. Everyone is not so wrapped up in a 9-5 daily crunch, with little conversation and no familial interaction.
Instead, their day is broken up with either a rest at work, or a return home where they spend their time with their family and loved ones. Even though some stores or services might not be available at all times of the day, it enables the morning and afternoon shifts to be employed with well rested smiles and sincerity, instead of fatigue and disinterest.
When I rented my first home in Vietnam, there was a speaker system right on the corner. Every morning it sounded off at 5 am and got everyone up bright and early to exercise. Before moving in, I asked my neighbor how loudly it sounded, and whether or not you could sleep through the announcements and music. He just laughed and said to me that it would help me to get up earlier in the morning, and perhaps do something constructive.
Since moving in, I have gotten up every morning at 5 am, watered and weeded the garden, and done early morning exercises all before what used to be my waking time. Now when noontime rolls around in Hoi An, you won’t find me out on my bicycle trying to run errands, shopping through the markets or trying to fill the middle of my day with activity. Instead I can be found indoors, eating a slow lunch and preparing myself for a rejuvenating midday rest./.