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Postcards from Vietnam

Earlier this year, our dedicated Water Engineer Martin Roushani left the Brisbane office to take on new challenges with our Vietnamese team based in Hanoi.

We caught up with Martin to hear about his experiences living and working abroad:

1. How has your daily routine changed in Hanoi?

“While I’ve established my own routine in Hanoi, there are some major contrasts to life in Australia,” Martin said, explaining that transport, food and language differences have presented some unique challenges.

“I haven’t quite embraced the use of a motorcycle, which is how most locals get about, but thankfully short trips with Grab* are usually cheaper than public transport.”

“The general approach to driving on the road in Vietnam is, if you can get into that space first, you have right of way!”

Martin says that technology and smartphone applications have made adjusting to life in Vietnam more straightforward.

“Apps like Google Translate make daily tasks surprisingly easy, even with speaking minimal Vietnamese,” Martin said.

“Although challenges can arise when these technologies crash – then the natural human instincts of pointing, signing and using non-verbal communication lead the way.”

2. How have cultural differences shaped your experience in Hanoi?

“The working culture in Hanoi is quite different, as Vietnamese people are generally not early-birds, and have a midday rest similar to Middle Eastern or European siestas.”

“However, this balanced by the fact that Vietnamese workers are also night owls,” Martin said.

Martin says that whist he is easily identified as a foreigner, and therefore treated differently by the locals, most of these interactions are positive and friendly.

“Having children frantically shout hello does brighten up your morning,” he said.

When it comes to food, Martin says he has embraced the local cuisine slowly, taking his time to sample a wide variety of both Western and Vietnamese flavours.

“There are many competitively priced food vendors to choose from here, with a much wider variety of rice, noodle and soup dishes available,” Martin said.

Whilst Martin says he sometimes doesn’t know what ingredients might be in a given dish, he believes that’s half the fun of being abroad!

3. Have you encountered any challenges during your time in Hanoi?

“A usual day in Hanoi has an Air Quality Index of 150 on average, which can be problematic for sensitive groups like allergy sufferers, children or the elderly.”

Martin says he has gained a new appreciation of air quality in Australia, as his routine now involves hourly checks of the surrounding pollution levels.

“To combat air quality issues within the office, I have installed an air purifier system, and am looking to provide more greenery in the office.”

4. How have you fitted in with the Vietnamese team?

“It has been an easy transition personally, having managed the team remotely with our other Water engineers on a daily basis,” said Martin.

“Working beside the Vietnamese team is much easier face-to-face, and more rewarding than using modern technologies like Skype.”

“From a cross-cultural aspect, the Hanoi team has provided me with an insight into Vietnamese lifestyle and culture, which focuses heavily on family.”

“I have also started to pass on Australian culture to them – and so far it’s proving to be an interesting cross-cultural exchange,” Martin added.

5. What’s the most exciting part of working abroad?

“Working abroad offers a change of scenery and new perspectives every day – especially as Hanoi is quite a diverse city,” Martin said.

“Whilst not being familiar with the environment can sometimes be daunting, this pushes you to adapt to new circumstances, and challenges your individual perceptions.”

“Vietnam is also one of the most rapidly growing countries globally, which can be seen with considerable construction and major investments by Japanese and South Korean companies.”

“It is very exciting being amongst this developing landscape,” Martin said.

6. Can you share a memorable anecdote with us?

“In Vietnam, there is no black and white line, and so adapting to grey-area processes is something that most Westerners may find challenging.”

“Last week I tried to order computer parts on four separate occasions, and even though stock was listed online, my order was repeatedly cancelled.”

“I also received multiple phone calls from the computer parts company, only for the callers to hang-up on me when they realised I speak English.”

It’s all part of the adventure!


*Grab is the South East Asian equivalent to ride-sharing service, Uber.