But after arriving, I quickly realized two things. First, there is a thing called humidity, and it is the worst. Also, I had much to learn.
To my horror, I realized that despite its insufferable temperatures, Vietnam has an alarmingly blasé attitude towards hot weather. This extends to the country’s events, which are routinely held outside in arrogant disregard for the elements.
So, begrudgingly, I have attended several outdoor events in Vietnam despite intermittent bouts of confusion*, heart palpitations* and dizziness*. Meanwhile, I have closely observed the clever tactics of other attendees, and I’ve picked up a few tricks for enjoying oneself despite the circumstances.
*Signs of heat stroke that, to my knowledge, are completely ignored by anyone who wants a social life
1. Do As the Locals Do
Apart from stepping outside in the first place, the absolute worst thing to do in the heat is to wear clothes. Problem is, nudity is generally frowned upon in Vietnam, and those that embrace clothing-optional existences are considered either insane or tourists.
But I’ve learned a very important lesson from many local men, who have found a clever solution to this pesky problem. By pulling otherwise ‘socially acceptable’ shirts over their stomachs and up under their armpits, these men have fashioned something of a summer clothing miracle. Not only are they quickly adjustable for moments that require you to be taken seriously, they have the added benefit of showcasing these men’s chiseled physiques.
2. Know your Surroundings
Most outdoor venues know just how important it is to use every opportunity to help guests stay comfortable. This is why when an event attracts upwards of 400 guests in the sweltering heat, they provide no more than two industrial fans to cool the entire crowd.
And at these events, I’ve learned an important trick from savvy individuals who’ve capitalized on situations such as these: to position oneself directly in front of one of these fans, blocking all airflow to other patrons. Since most fans are set to oscillate so as to provide maximum airflow to as great an area as possible, these clever folk also move with the fan’s oscillation so that no breeze is wasted on other people.
3. Share the Love (and Sweat)
One of the best things about attending Vietnam’s outdoor events is the chance to hang out with good friends in an unbearably hot environment. And, as I’ve learned from many of my friends who are especially prone to sweating, the truest sign of friendship is a big, moist bear hug.
Not only will this unwelcome show of affection be an awkward over-stepping of personal boundaries, but an impressive amount of another person’s sweat will also be deposited directly onto your clothes. This ensures that for the rest of the day you carry with you the lovely scent of body odour to fend off any prospective dating options.
4. Focus on What’s Important
On the good chance that you’ll be forced to strike up conversation with random people during your search for shade, sweating profusely at an outdoor event is a surprisingly effective icebreaker. This is a useful tip I learned at the recent ASEAN Pride Festival in Hanoi after having five identical conversations with total strangers while in line for the bathroom.
By seizing the opportunity to exclaim how hot and miserable you are with every awkward silence, you’re virtually guaranteed to have something in common with everyone you meet. Plus, this is a great alternative to the usual awkward conversational fallback that usually begins with, "how about this weather, eh?"
5. Drink to Your Heart’s Content (But Just Not Water)
According to medical research, a person requires double their usual intake of water when they’re outside and in the heat. But because water is boring and alcohol is simultaneously more fun and more delicious, I’ve learned from patrons at Vietnam’s outdoor events that water runs a distant second to beer.
Additionally, those that purchase water should be careful to use it in a manner appropriate for the occasion. From my observation, an ice cold bottle of La Vie is best used when poured over your head or held to the back of your neck to cool down, and not when actually ingested.