For my “Em Oi”


Expats and Viet Friends in Hai Phong having few drinks after a day of hardwork, Mot Hai Ba Yo!!!


Vietnam, August 2015


“Em Oi” is what you call to a person (younger than you) in Vietnam. I haven’t realised this since Ive had this shameful story of mine. I was living in a budget hotel in Hai Phong City (Quan Nam Hotel, I guess the only quality hotel where the staffs speak English) and there’s this young guy, a receptionist slash helper who is always present when you need him. We’re smiling when we are seeing each other and we’re always greeting “Xin Chao” and a short conversation like “how are you?” “I’m fine, thank you and you?”. He knows my name and where I am from, what am I doing in Vietnam and who my friends are. Also, he knows the time when I am back home and my morning schedules when I am going to work. I always find my room arranged to the extent that Ive had always a new set of towel, rolls of tissues and a clean, bright floor.
For two months of us chatting with each other everyday, time came that I must go. I told him three days before I plan to leave and he was undeniably sad. He did not smile at me no more, and I didn’t see him in the lobby those days. My room has the same mess when I leave it in the morning and no one welcomes me at the hotel door when I am back at night.
The day that I have to go, he was there, standing and smiling again. I told him that I must leave and maybe some day I might come back again. He sent me wishes and asked me a question that I’ll never forget all my life.
“Kate, do you remember my name?” He asked with a hopeful eyes.

“Of course I do! Your name is Em Oi”
He was shocked and almost cried!!

“I hate you!”, he said and I was extremely ashamed that I knew all along that “Em Oy” is his name! He still has forgiven me though and we said good luck to each other as he entered in the hotel laughing.

His name is Zhuong by the way.
*His picture is not posted here because of some privacy issues. I’ve written this story to sincerely apologize to all our Em Oi, in behalf of all the foreigners living in Vietnam forgetting or having a hard time pronouncing and even remembering their names. Peace all*

1 thought on “For my “Em Oi””

  1. Hi Kate

    Something similar has happened to me many years ago.

    When I used to work in Houston, TX, I have planned to meet my daughter Pia in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Pia was about to meet a girl her age, Sol (means Sun) in BA.
    Sol and I communicated by email, I addressed her “Querida Sol” ( Dear Sol).
    All the 3 of us met in BA and had great time together.

    Once back to Houston I once addressed my then secretary Cynthia, an American of Mexican origin, by greeting her Querida Cynthia…. She stepped back: What did you say? Do you know what you’re saying? …..
    Querida is how you address your mistress!

    Sorry Cynthia, I said.
    Then, lots of laughter 😊

    Cynthia and I are still good friends, met with her 3 years ago in Houston. We talked about that, still laughing!

    There are differences of meaning in what we are saying in foreign language….

    Something to learn when being abroad!

    Peter xx

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