cảm ơn

Sleep deprived, queued up for immigrations, holding a cup of iced espresso and filling out my form… *clang*… someone dropped their metal water bottle and it rolled to my feet.
I pick it up in my daze and look for its owner. In under a minute a middle-aged woman walks up to me and asks for her bottle. Even before I knew what was happening, she had bowed down with the most genuine of smiles and whispered “cảm ơn“.

It was a day later that I got to know that she had said Thank You!

It wasn’t something new to hear from someone or a stranger for that matter. Like, on offering my seat to an elderly gentleman on the bus, on sharing my pineapple plate while hiking up a hill under the sun, helping with the directions to a place I’d just visited, allowing a toddler to mess with the travel tag on my bag or just hiring a taxi service to go from one town to the next.
But somehow, the expression felt far more humbling and heartfelt this time.

My trip to Vietnam gave me a perspective that I’d taken for granted for all these years. Its not about the words that we speak, its about the way we speak them that makes the difference.
To say something as simple and common as ‘thank you’ but with a smile, some respect and a little bow- it hit a home run every single time!

Some facts about Vietnamese that could interest you:

  • It has five dialects- Northern, North-Central, Mid-Central, South-Central and Southern Vietnamese. They are mutually intelligible
  • It has three different accents and the tone can change the meaning of a word
  • Modified Latin script is used to write Vietnamese
  • An estimated 90 million people speak it, making it a great foreign language option to study

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