We arrived late in Hanoi. Waiting for our taxi driver to pick up the car, it was only a 5 minute standing in the dense air filled with cars honking, people waiving name cards and the smell of…, well Asia I guess. ‘When Schiphol airport and the Pasar Malam had a love child,’ Junior aptly described. Mini is still having fun being swinged around on the trolley, sitting on our bags. The taxi arrives, a brand new Toyota SUV with tinted windows and plastic on the white ceiling. Mini enjoys crossing the bridge with the changing color spotlights: ‘It’s blue! Oh, now it’s green! And purple!’ As it has been a 19 hour flight, but we left our house at 4pm on Saturday to arrive at our hotel at 11pm on Sunday. The kids are doing fine, but I’m exhausted.
The next day, Mini is picky at breakfast. His go-to breakfast is a sandwich with chocolate sprinkles (don’t judge me, it’s a Dutch thing) and a glass of milk. But of course, there’s no sandwich and definitely no chocolate sprinkles. The free breakfast offers orange juice and toast, but according to Mini the juice tastes funny and pushes it away. We order pancakes with chocolate for him instead. ‘Why are these pancakes so thick?’ Mini trods his finger into the fluffy American-style pancakes. Dutch pancakes are more like French crepes, as thin as a tortilla. And the chocolate sauce that has been served with the pancakes isn’t the same as the Nutella he normally eats his pancake with. He points at my toast. ‘I want a sandwich.’ But when we make him toast, he only eats a few bites.
Junior ordered Pho Bo, the traditional beef noodle soup that is Vietnamese breakfast. It’s a big bowl with easily a half a liter of broth in it, filled with rice noodles, spring onions and beef. The husband is a Dutch Traditionalist when it comes to breakfast and rolls his eyes on Juniors choice. But when I take a sip of the broth and describe it as ‘Banh Mi lemongrass beef’ he and Mini are both interested. And when Junior has his fill, Mini embraces the bowl and wants to eat the Pho bo using chopsticks too.
When we hit the streets, the Hanoian air hits us. Humid, filled with honking scooters and the smell of fruit and broth simmering. We like to explore new cities on foot, but when we turn the corner Mini asked: When are we going back to the hotel? I want to go back to the hotel.’ Hanoi is not an easy-going town for kids. The pavement serves as a parking lot for scooters, or as an outdoor kitchen for shop keepers to prepare food while sitting on tiny blue plastic stools. So we walk on the street, with scooters and cars rushing by, honking. Mini doesn’t like Hanoi. He doesn’t like the noice of the scooters. He doesn’t want to taste the fried bananas street vendors offer him. He’s afraid of all the dogs in the street. He doesn’t want to eat at the dirty and old chairs. He doesn’t want to eat the weird smelling food. He wants to eat an ice cream. Luckily they offer strawberry next to red bean, rice and matcha flavors. But he only takes a few sips of his mango smoothie. It tasted funny. He wants to go back to the hotel. And he wants to go swimming.
Traveling with kids is an experience. Seeing Hanoi through Mini’s eyes is an honest eye opener.
How do survive culture shock with kids?
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