Mobility restrictions in Vietnam have been extended multiple times since June as the fourth outbreak of COVID-19 in the country remains a challenge for health authorities. While the imposition of restrictions — a cornerstone of policy responses to the pandemic — has resulted in a more controlled spread of community infections, it has also taken a toll on people’s mental and physical health.
For Vietnam’s large expat community, the long lockdown has not just affected their sources of income, it has also created anxiety and doubts on their status in what they now consider their second home. Questions like “Should I still stay here?”, “Will I be included in the government’s free vaccination campaign?”, and “How can I cope with this?” have been keeping everyone awake at night, uncertain of what’s going to happen next. Not having their families and loved ones with them in this trying time makes the fears even harder to ignore and control.
To help relieve stress and fear, and to promote happiness and peace of mind, some expat groups found ways to gather everyone virtually, and create a space where they can express themselves freely, get entertained, learn new things and build positive connections.
Filipinos are known for their incredible singing prowess. In fact, many Pinoys (slang term for Filipino citizens) work as singers and performers in resto bars and hotels across Vietnam. But because of the temporary closures of bars and hospitality establishments, many Filipino performers lost their jobs.
To give them a safe platform to showcase their talents, gain exposure and promote their other online gigs, Claude Diaz, a Filipino teacher and an active leader of the Filipino community here, initiated a weekly talent show — Spotlight.
“With the depression and anxiety many Filipinos are feeling given the current situation, I thought of doing something that would make people smile and get entertained, and also to promote Filipino talent.”
Starting Thursday, the weekly Spotlight will feature Filipino artists, have them perform via Facebook Live. The 45-minute online show will also have a brief Q&A portion with the featured artist as well as games the virtual audiences can participate in.
“We’re actually targeting three goals for this show: to help Filipino talents gain exposure, give sponsoring Filipino-owned enterprises a chance to promote their products and services, and to give out some gifts to the audience. This is really just a way to spread positivity and laughter within the Filipino community in Vietnam.”
Yoga and Zumba Classes
Now more than ever, people are discovering the importance of mindfulness. With all the uncertainties we’re feeling and the fears that hinder us from seeing the silver lining of the pandemic, we’ve finally come to realize how a few minutes of meditation can reshape our mindset.
This is the reason a number of expats are joining free online yoga and meditation classes. Krizia Clemente of Ashtanga Yoga Thao Dien, for one, holds a weekly hour-long yoga session to help participants “practice mental and physical strength, and the ability to breathe through the difficulties”.
“For this current lockdown, I wanted to create a change in routine, to do something different. I know a lot of people (including myself) have been feeling stuck with the tight restrictions and also running out of ideas to keep busy. I also wanted to have interactions with a different crowd every now and then. It's the least I can do to share a part of myself to people.”
Krizia’s free classes are intended for beginners, but it is open to anyone regardless of their level of practice or age.
Another expat, Shettigar Naveen, also decided to take his zumba classes online. He welcomes everyone who “wants to burn calories and loves to get fit” to his regular sessions - on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Though the zumba sessions come with a price (from 240,000 VND to 820,000 VND), Shettigar gives out some free classes to regular members.
“Don’t let the scale define you. Be active, be healthy, be happy. Sweat is fat crying,” wrote Shettigar on his social media page, inviting everyone to get ready for a fitness challenge.
A quick stroll through the Learn Vietnamese free Facebook page, you’d easily spot foreigners who are so eager to learn the Vietnamese language. Learning the local language can be tricky and challenging, so many expats think that the time afforded to them by the extended lockdowns can be a good opportunity to learn beyond xin chào and cảm ơn.
“Hello members, can you help me learn Vietnamese for specific industries like IT, Banking & understanding policies,” one member wrote. He’s an Indian national and aims to improve his Vietnamese speaking skills to advance his career.
Locals, in return, ask for help in learning foreign languages, especially English.
While there are several credible schools and organizations that conduct hours-long language lessons that non-Vietnamese speakers can enrol in, many expats think that a light, no-pressure conversation with a native Vietnamese on a one-on-one (virtual) session makes learning the language more fun.
Most of the language lessons are done for free, but members are encouraged to take one-on-one or group classes seriously, and commit to learning the language with passion and sincerity.
Some members are also offering Korean and Chinese language lessons.
Interactive Workshop on Deeper Connections
InterNations Ho Chi Minh City, a local chapter of the international community of expatriates, holds regular virtual events exclusively for its members. Before the social distancing measures were imposed, members of InterNations HCMC used to gather for some casual talks over good food and wine. But with everyone encouraged to stay safe in their homes, the community has now brought activities on online platforms, on Zoom for example.
This Saturday (August 14th), the organization invites its members to an interactive workshop centered on creating deep connections and relationships. Titled “Uncover Your Blocks to Love”, the workshop is led by love coach and motivational speaker Lotus Nguyen, who has been teaching mindfulness for over 10 years now.
The activity is designed to help people “search deeper inside themselves to uncover what it is that stops them from getting where they want to be so they can start to let go of the blockages and unleash their power to feel confident and attract the relationship they dream of”.
As it’s an interactive workshop, participants must come with a pen and paper and with the camera on so they can meet fellow participants as if they meet them in person.
And of course, “come with an open heart-mind and an attitude of cooperation, lightness, and fun.”
Find more information about this workshop and InterNations HCMC here.