Beer Culture ,vietnam
At five o’clock or sometimes earlier, the streets of Saigon begin to fill with folding tables occupied by bottles of beer and plastic chairs occupied mostly by men. Large restaurants known for their drinking atmostphere are full with the hum of boisterous customers and the occasional “1, 2, 3, do!” punctuates the evening air.
As the end of the workday rolls around, the men in town like to go out with their colleagues and friends for a couple cold ones. Occasionally, these forays last for more than a few beers. In Saigon and throughout the nation, guys enjoy blowing off steam and sharing a few laughs with their buddies, and sometimes I’m one of them.
Let’s get some facts straight first: Regular heavy drinking, and the smoking that often accompanies it, is very detrimental to a person’s health, and this is universally acknowledged. However, I have the Vietnamese tradition of nhau-ing to thank for learning a great deal about Vietnamese culture and even more about the Vietnamese language. Even greater than this knowledge are the many priceless friendships that I have forged while at quan nhaus.
Most of the time that I’ve lived in Vietnam, I didn’t live in Saigon , but in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang. Going out with colleagues was a way for me to build friendships with them, as well as gain some knowledge of the Vietnamese language. When there was a little beer or rice wine involved, my colleagues’ shyness of speaking the English language faded and my own confidence with the Vietnamese language increased, adding up to a wealth of cultural and linguistic exchanges for all parties involved.
An aspect of Mekong Delta drinking culture that seems to have faded in the big city is this: People that I didn’t know would come over to my table and raise a glass with me. After this one simple act, I often had a new contact listed in my cell phone and a new drinking buddy to say hi to.
Although nhau-ing helped ease my cultural integration to Vietnam, drinking is something that can easily get out of hand. I’ve known a few men who have forsaken their duties as fathers and husbands just to spend their evenings their friends and booze. Furthermore, alcoholism can be a difficult cycle of addiction to escape from. And there is the ever-present danger of drunk driving.
However, I still enjoy a good “nhau-ing” session in Saigon with my buddies a couple times a month as they are a fun way to hang out and catch up.
Like it or not, the consumption of beer, rice wine and other types of alcohol is part of Vietnamese culture. Events like Tet, wedding parties and even the celebration of a newborn baby’s one-month birthday are all occasions to raise a glass, smile, gulp down some beer or wine and share a laugh with all of those around you.
Whether the occasion is your close friend’s wedding or just a couple beers on a Saturday night with some friends, these are times to sit down, relax and let your cares dissipate. As I mentioned before, I would not have my current friends or knowledge of the Vietnamese language and culture if not for uniqueness of nhau-ing.
.i nh.u không. (Shall we go drinking.)
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