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​Happy New Year from Vietnam!  

Monday, January 01, 2018, 09:04 GMT+7

They say that ‘change is as good as a holiday,’ that if we do something different or change our work or environment, it’s as good as having a rest. Well, here’s our chance to leave the weird old 2017 and start afresh, full of hopes, dreams, ambitions and new things to look forward to.

On New Year’s Day, I’m sure it’s a madhouse in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and a lot of the other big cities. For others who prefer to stay at home and quietly reflect on the past year (or ignore it completely); they’ll still feel the change, too.

The more traditional Vietnamese will not take much notice of our Western calendar and make their own plans for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, in February 2018. Meanwhile the local youth celebrate in the style of the West, dancing the night into the wee small hours of the morning. I’ll be taking up a vantage point somewhere upstairs in a bar where I can gaze over the madness without getting too involved. That’s me, Mr Non-Involvement.

Most expats will join in celebrations somewhere, too. It’s the time for noise, letting go of stress and having fun – whatever the future holds will still be in the future!

Of course there’ll be those who poo-poo New Year the same as they whinge about Christmas but they can go drown themselves in a gluten-free bowl of soup – the rest of us are still smiling on!

Now I don’t blame the elderly or those who simply can’t stand large crowds or try to get to a party in the insanity of Vietnam’s traffic on nights like this – some years, I’m in the same mood and other years I just want to get my fat, old, ugly body down and boogie!

What was intriguing coming right up to the end of 2017, for me, was the constant reminder that life goes on. Quite a few people dear to myself and others died this year yet at least two babies were born to expats friends living not far from my house in Hoi An and others in Da Nang had babies too! I’m sure it’s the water we drink in central coastal Vietnam.

We’re pretty lucky to be living in Vietnam at this time in the world. No terrorist attacks here, no mass shootings, no economic nightmares such as Brexit and mostly, people are quite cheerful. Not bad, hey?

People film a fireworks display to ring in New Year on January 1, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
People film a fireworks display to ring in New Year on January 1, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

And people celebrated New Year with fireworks in Ho Chi Minh City. That’s great!

I didn’t accomplish that much in the past year as I took a lot of time off just to smell the roses and look at the sky while many of my Vietnamese friends rushed around in that bizarre combination of chaos and getting things done quickly. So there are times when I’m fine with the idea of not being young and ambitious anymore.

Towards the end of 2017 many expats and locals I know of started new businesses or dumped old ones. I like that. I think it’s a tremendously brave thing to embark on new projects; it takes time, effort and a lot of luck too, so I do admire ambition when it might make things better in the world. And let’s not forget all those grand New Year resolutions we foolishly promise ourselves around now. My plans in 2018 include: I might lose some weight…maybe, I’m thinking about cutting down on beer…that will need careful consideration, I could possibly find a new girlfriend…nah, I like not getting nagged about haircuts, dirty dishes and my choices of clothes! 

How about you? Young Vietnamese and expats seem to be traveling more these days and it’s so handy to have so many places to fly to from Da Nang. I’d like to visit my brother in America (he’s the rich one in our family) and since I have to leave the country so much, it’s becoming kinda fun to pick a new place to explore. I’ve always believed travel resolutions expand my mind and I encourage the Vietnamese around me to travel (even if it’s only up the road!) whenever they can.

So that’s it. We managed the amazing achievement of staying alive for another year, ow-who! We also managed to make some money in the past year; we thankfully stayed out of jail, and didn’t die in the traffic! How good is that?

We all worry about the future but as one of those ‘older’ people now, I can tell you with some confidence that things work out well enough in the end, so just enjoy life as much as you can. Don’t think about money too much – it comes and goes – and your family will be your strength. And forget about what other people think about your ideas, opinions and love-life – they are only things to truly belong to you.

And as Doc Brown says in Back to the Future (part 3); ‘It means your future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one…!’

So why are you still reading this? Get out there and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Stivi Cooke


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