After surviving 2020, foreigners hope for end of Covid-19, family reunion

By Viet Anh   January 13, 2021 | 08:01 pm PT
After surviving 2020, foreigners hope for end of Covid-19, family reunion
A police officer in Quang Nam Province checks the body temperature of a foreign man coming from neighboring Da Nang, then a Covid-19 hotspot, July 29, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh.
An early end to the pandemic, meeting their loved ones soon, and an economic revival are among the desires of foreigners living in Vietnam for 2021.

"2020 was not an easy year," Léna Lalila, 34, a Frenchwoman living in HCMC, says.

She came to Vietnam in 2014 as an international volunteer. She then did various jobs before teaching French and English in state schools.

She lost her job as a teacher when Covid-19 broke out and schools closed, moved in with her boyfriend and cut expenses as much as she could. She found a lot of teaching jobs on Facebook and earned enough to "survive."

When the pandemic faded, she found a job in an international preschool.

Seeing what is going on elsewhere in the world, she says people in Vietnam are fortunate to be safe from Covid-19. Her sister lives in Canada and has been locked in her house for a year, unable to go out.

Having more time for herself during the social distancing, she did more yoga and meditation and some cycling.

"I felt healthier and I had a more balanced life in 2020."

Many foreigners in Vietnam also saw 2020 as a year of big spiritual values, with nothing much achieved materialistically.

Adam Marshall, 45, from Oxfordshire, England, returned to Vietnam in early February 2020 when the first infections were appearing. Soon enough he began to face financial difficulties but was helped out by Vietnamese friends.

His positive from last year was that it made him reflect on life. Living day to day without thinking too far ahead "was liberating, funnily enough," he said.

In 2020 Kareem Lucilian, 32, an Egyptian teacher and psychotherapist, had a chance to try a new job: making spray paintings and selling them on pavements.

This was what he learned from a Mongolian friend when schools closed during the lockdown and he lost his job. He also did some volunteering in the central Quang Nam Province, which helped somewhat console him after his breakup with his Vietnamese fiancée.

He moved to HCMC from Hanoi, and realized gradually that the losses in 2020 were all material. He had time to introspect and decided he had gained a lot in terms of experience and become more patient.

Eli Kwon, 33, a Korean-American coffee shop owner in Hanoi, says 2020 was "dynamic" and unforgettable. In January he had moved into a bigger house to start a business, but the global pandemic started soon afterward and he had to change or postpone many plans.

He is thankful when Vietnam controlled the situation quickly and efficiently since his business was able to resume sooner than he expected. The biggest gain for him in 2020 was learning to be more patient and positive, and he also gained interesting experiences from starting a business during a pandemic.

Julien Le Bouter, 28, a Frenchman living in Hanoi, came to Vietnam in early March 2020 as part of a world trip that started in November 2019, and he had to stay because of the pandemic.

He sees last year as enriching because at its beginning he traveled to several Asian countries and learned a lot about their people, way of life and culture and the importance of religion. He met kind and welcoming people and saw a large diversity of landscapes.

"I expected to see life on the other side of the earth by spending time with local people. It's done."

He considered himself lucky to be able to celebrate Christmas and the New Year normally with friends in Vietnam. But it was also a time he would have liked to spend with his family.

"Basically I was supposed to be in France this time," he says.

Wishes and plans for the new year

Homesickness was one thing no one can hide when they speak about their wishes for 2021. Without exception, everyone wants to see the pandemic end soon so that they can return home to their families.

Lalila wants to see her father in Montpellier in France and visit her sister in Canada this year. She hopes to start a cosmetics business because she does not want to work as a teacher for too long. She is also considering moving back to Australia to expand her business in the next two years.

Lucilian came to Vietnam looking for a place he can call home and maintain a comfortable and balanced lifestyle. But he hasn't found what he expected and might be looking for a new country to move to.

Isak Nygren, 30, a Swede, hopes his family is safe from Covid-19 and it will go away this year so that people can return to their normal lives again.

He came to Vietnam from Japan at the beginning of March 2020 to meet friends, and was stuck because of the pandemic.

He found a job as an English teacher in Vietnam, where "many people are friendly," but said if he gets a good job offer in another country he will leave.

Bouter wants to see people traveling safely again, though he thinks it will no longer be as easy as before due to Covid prevention measures. He says he will enjoy life in Vietnam until the pandemic is contained globally but traveling is his biggest desire for this year.

Marshall also wants to be able to travel more freely, but said he will make the most of his time in Vietnam first, going deeper into its culture before returning to the U.K.

He shares many others’ concern about traffic in Vietnam, and wants the number of motorbikes on the roads to be reduced.

In 2021 Kwon hopes to see his family and friends in Korea and the U.S. He hopes everything will go back to normal for everyone.

"Also, I expect to see growth in my business this year as well as the economy of Vietnam."

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