Saigoneer

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The Saigonese

When it comes to the city’s moniker, the people here prefer ‘Saigon’ to ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ since ‘Saigon’ evokes greater emotion and connection to the city’s history. As an introduction, may I take the liberty of quoting researcher and Professor Nguyen Dinh Dau’s statement that if there were no Saigon, the innovative and integrated Vietnam we know today wouldn’t exist.

Indeed, Saigon is a diversified and multinational region with ample opportunity. Here, you can drown in the noisy and gaudy urban areas with luxury shops and high-class restaurants. Yet, at the same time, you can find yourself in unobtrusive and calm spots for sweet-smelling cheap coffee and brilliant street food. These contrasting images can be easily found anytime and anywhere around Vietnam’s most dynamic city.

Saigon life is divided into three different classes - upper, middle and lower. This is why you’ll see a 60s Honda Supper Cub parked next to a 2013 Lamborghini Murcielago, a mixed girdle-cake stall next to a five-star restaurant or a ‘bệt’ coffee (sit down on the ground) in the park opposite an air-conditioned coffee shop. Saigonese, from locals to foreigners, participate in the continuous developing of the city by working thousands of different jobs.

I often wonder how long Saigon has been a land for ‘đất lành chim đậu’ – which means ‘birds perch on the good land,’ in order to indicate the huge tide of immigration from the countryside to the city.

In general, we (to borrow a term from this website) Saigoneers are not as profound as the Hue-ers and we’re not as serious as the Hanoi-ers. Here in Saigon, a broad-minded and free style culture is woven into every step you take and in every little thing you do. In order words, over its 300 year history, Saigon has never been ‘old’ but has stayed young with regular doses of enthusiasm and inspiration.

Thanks to an open mind, Saigonese adopt new and extraordinary cultures and thoughts without difficulty. For those who have immigrated to Saigon to live and work, they are automatically labeled as ‘Saigonese,’ since Saigon is generous enough to create opportunities for all. Therefore, with regards to the masses, Saigon is a mixed-culture mosaic of cuisine, personality, lifestyle, language and religion, incorporating elements of the Chinese, local ethnic groups and foreigners.

Am I too young to talk about Saigon? Have I experienced enough to perceive Saigon for what it is? I’m not sure, but as a Saigon-addict, I do understand one basic thing: Saigonese do not rest on their laurels, living as they once lived - they live as they have never lived before.

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