A Frenchman's Tet in Vietnam

Despite his French nationality, Luc Mandret identifies himself as a Vietnamese. He feels excited about the holiday and the atmosphere of the last days of the year.
February 19, 2024 | 08:28

In Luc Mandret's apartment in Binh Thanh District (Ho Chi Minh city), flowers have begun to bloom on the peach branches. Before that, Luc also asked a friend to order a small pot of kumquats from Hanoi to be delivered to Ho Chi Minh City. Now, if a stranger steps into your house, they probably won't think the homeowner is a foreigner. The Tet atmosphere is seen with the appearance of peaches, kumquats, or snow apricot branches.

"I bought peach blossoms for VND 140.000, aren't they beautiful?", Luc's eyes were full of excitement when mentioning Lunar New Year.

Came to Vietnam since November 2018, more than 5 years of living and working here, has brought Luc Mandret an unforgettable experience.

A Frenchman's Tet in Vietnam
Luc Mandret enjoys Tet and spring atmosphere in Vietnam.

He said, in France, the New Year's holiday is only 1 day. French people often meet friends, have family gatherings, or go out to the Champs-Élysées Avenue (Paris) to enjoy the New Year's atmosphere. In Vietnam, the Lunar New Year holiday lasts for about 10 days, before and after Tet. At this time, all work seems not important anymore, people want to rest and spend all their time with family.

The first year Luc came to Vietnam was also near the end of the year. He thought the Lunar New Year holiday is only about 2-3 days, after that, the work cycle would be as usual. However, Luc began to notice abnormalities when he saw the long vacation schedule of his colleagues in the company. At that time, the Vietnamese boss explained to him that the Lunar New Year break is an important traditional holiday. During the long holiday, most businesses will not operate, except for some specific fields.

“Before that, no one told me about this. In France, long vacations are usually in the summer, around July and August. So every Lunar New Year, I spend time traveling and experiencing culture in Vietnam," Luc shared.

Last year's Tet he was in Nha Trang, the year before that it was Da Nang. For some years, Luc spent all his time staying in Ho Chi Minh City, enjoying the Tet atmosphere. He is interested in the flower market at Binh Dong Wharf (District 8). This is where flower boats from the provinces gather at the wharf to sell flowers and ornamental plants for people to celebrate Tet.

A Frenchman's Tet in Vietnam
A vase of peach blossom in Luc's house.

Working in the field of marketing and communications helps Luc have an interesting perspective on the taste of Vietnamese Tet. He paid attention to people taking care of their homes, cleaning them, and buying decorations for the New Year. Along with that, Tet cuisine also impresses him. Luc especially likes fried spring rolls and he enjoys the bean and meat filling inside traditional Banh Chung. “It's delicious.”

Talking about Tet shopping, Luc considers himself a local resident. If he knew Vietnamese better, the market would be his favorite place. He said that he is a person who does not like to bargain on prices. He believes that buying products at a slightly higher price is also a way to support sellers to have some extra income during Tet.

For example, if some shops and restaurants are open during Tet to serve customers, it is reasonable for consumers to accept paying higher service fees. Because, while others are resting, they have to work.

In addition, the secret to not being "badly" bought by this foreign guy is to become a loyal customer. Luc always buys at familiar places, businessmen remember his face and they are very comfortable selling to Luc.

Luc has traveled to about 20 provinces and cities in Vietnam throughout all regions.

In his journey to explore culture and cuisine, Luc crushed vermicelli noodle soup (Hai Phong), bun bo Hue (Thua Thien Hue). He also knows corn wine (Ha Giang) or Mai Chau wine (Hoa Binh). Sitting in a stilt house and drinking wine with local residents was the moment that made Luc feel connected to the S-shaped land.

Even during the Covid-19 epidemic, Luc still chose to stay in Vietnam. According to him, the epidemic event also shows many good aspects of humans. Sympathy, sharing, and community solidarity are the most obvious things seen in Vietnamese society.

“For the past 5 years, I have enjoyed every day in your country. I have many things to do, and many lands to explore. I love the food here and I already feel like a Vietnamese. Peach blossoms bloom beautifully, signaling the arrival of another Tet. I can't say anything about the future, but I will stay in Vietnam as long as Vietnam still wants me to stay," Luc smiled.

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