More from the dust filled archives


About four or five years ago a local magazine approached us to ask us to do an advice column for confused, bemused and troubled expats. It didn’t matter what your question was, we’d answer it…

I promptly collected a few questions from friends and colleagues to get the ball rolling and submitted the below for the column’s debut. I’m guessing the editor didn’t like the humour — her question is number two —  as she never ran the column, replied, or brought the matter up again, even though I worked five feet away from her desk.

For the sake of dredging it back from oblivion… here it is:

Introducing the encyclopedic and referential Dr Ngo

–  He answers your questions on life in Vietnam with verve –

Question: when is the Soprano’s fifth season going to be available in Vietnam?

Let me just say you live in Vietnam. Years from now you will return to your homeland. You will bump into old acquaintances on the street corner and they will inquire as to how all those years you spent in the tropics were, imagining that you were deep in the boonies in mosquito infested swampy jungles in search of the elusive grey-shanked douc (Pygathrix nemaeus cinereus) monkey. But in your mind you hark back and picture nothing but pepperoni pizzas, Mafioso Italiano, women with squeaky New Jersey accents and Lycra leggings, the time you fell out with uncle Joey – and you will flick your fingers off your chin at your old chum and bellow “get oudda here!” much to your friend’s befuddlement. May the doctor suggest getting out of the house a bit more?

Of course, while you’re out of the house you might as well scoot past Fox CD/ DVD store on Bao Khanh street and see if it’s arrived.

Q – Where can I find size 41 shoes for a woman?

Jumping Jupiter! Reminds me of the old joke – how do you tell if an elephant has been in your fridge? Answer: Footprints in your butter. My advice is to find a Russian woman with a similar predicament and ask her. Also take comfort that you are not alone. William Rossi, of the trade journal Footwear News, has written a number of books on the subject, including the informative Sex Life of the Foot and Shoe. He’s unquestionably the dean of shoe scholars and the greatest ally a pair of big feet could have. “The foot is a sexual organ,” says Rossi. “When women are forced to wear shoes that don’t fit, it’s a form of pedic rape.”

Q – Where are the Russians?

Well, I can hardly start handing out addresses, can I? As they say on Russian soil – “One fisherman sees another from afar.” Buy a T-shirt with CCCP on the front, or just stand around cafes reciting Pushkin and tucking into salty-black-bread sandwiches, and you would be amazed how many will approach you with a knowing Ruski-nod. If you’re in doubt as to their ethnicity have a peek at their feet.

Q –How many Vietnamese builders does it take to change a light bulb?

Well, how long is a piece of string? I suppose, giving the matter no thought whatsoever, a minimum of seventeen: three to drive the truck, four to snooze on a canopy, one to stand precariously on top of a ladder with the light bulb and a glass of water, five to hold and swivel the ladder while smoking cigarettes and one to look in the neighbour’s window and smile.


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