Location: Saigon, Vietnam
Moment: Being accepted by this family and presented with a Li Xi (Money) from the New Year Tree just like the other family members.
You never know where a conversation with go as long as you keep an open mind and are genuinely trying to understand the other culture. So here I am in Saigon, Vietnam having my breakfast in a little restaurant as the tourists and locals zip by. This is a very special day in Vietnamese and Chinese cultures as it was the first day of the New Year! I see a surge of excitement happen at one corner as family members from this small restaurant would approach the New Year Tree (Cay Mai), cut a little envelop (Li Xi) and yelp with excitement to discover the money that is inside. It was really a sight to see.
I was very curious and struck a great conversation with the family members who were super excited to explain the full process, it’s importance in the Vietnamese culture and the occasional humorous comment for the member who got the least amount of money. They then asked me to cut my own which is incredible! It’s a very special thing in the culture and I was honored to be accepted in the event. Interestingly, the amount of money I got from my present (Li Xi) was equivalent to the meal I just had! In a place where tourists complain of getting charged to much, I was being paid to have the meal :).
Message is to really keep an open mind and heart and you never know where the conversation will go.