Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 1Bui Tue Minh, a Vietnamese student majoring in Linguistics and Communications at Nottingham University in the UK,  enjoys a cup of coffee with her friend. (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - Bui Tue Minh, a Vietnamese student majoring in Linguistics and Communications at Nottingham University in the UK, is enjoying a cup of coffee with her best friend at their favourite café in Hanoi.

Such a scene was highly unlikely just a few months prior, before Tue Minh had an unforgettably rough journey returning home from the UK. Her flight took to the skies just as COVID-19 cases began to surge in the UK and Vietnam considered suspending international flights to contain the spread of the virus.

Hers was among the last commercial flights from the UK to Vietnam before the latter started limiting entries from foreign countries. Though it landed at night, Tue Minh said she and the other passengers all felt the sun in their hearts, leaving their concerns behind and returning to home, where the pandemic had been largely kept under control.

“The happiest moment on the trip back was when the plane landed safely,” she told the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) with a big smile on her face. “Everyone was so happy and so was I.”

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 2Bui Tue Minh shares with VNA reporter on her experience in a military quarantine camp. (Photo: VNA)

While being quarantined in a military camp in Ho Chi Minh City for 14 days would have unsettled many whose home was far away, Tue Minh used the time to put together a captivating vlog full of optimism and smiles.

During her time in quarantine, she took up some fun activities to improve her physical and mental well-being, such as yoga, singing, colouring sketchbooks, and making videos for her family and friends. All were carefully planned, as she didn’t want to pass the time being bored.

That was how Tue Minh and other people in quarantine kept their minds sharp amid the gloomy early days of the pandemic.

Of her secret for maintaining good vibes while isolated, Tue Minh said: “I do think it is extremely important to keep a positive mind and to support each other during that time. So what we did was talking to each other, sharing our emotions, obviously helping one another when someone is in need. Whenever we have something negative to think about, we would think of three other things to be grateful for.”

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 3Tue Minh (centre) and her friends pose for group photos after finishing their quarantine period. (Photo credit to Tue Minh)

The fun activities and friends she made gave her a host of wonderful memories. But what she remembers most from those days is the kindness and care from the officers and soldiers at the camp. For the young woman, they represent a crucial part of her journey home.

“They not only kept me healthy during the quarantine time by checking up on me and providing me with everything I need, but also it was mental health care as well. Every day the soldiers cheered up. They brought us food, always with big smiles on their face. I think that was what really helped me through the days,” Tue Minh told the VNA.

She was among Vietnamese returning home as the coronavirus raged around the world.

Motherland opens arms for Vietnamese returning home

Many have now safely returned on relief flights and been in quarantine. Despite some unavoidable issues in the early days, their period of quarantine was an unforgettable experience.

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 4Vietnamese return home on a relief flight (Photo: VNA)

During their two-week stay in military camps, they saw soldiers of the Vietnam People’s Army share every meal and even their own blankets. They took care of the returnees as if they were their own family. Seeing the soldiers’ sacrifice and warmth, most felt so grateful that, even in the darkest of times, their homeland embraced them with open arms.

When sharing his feelings with a VNA reporter about being in a quarantine camp operated by the military, Tran Son Tung, a Vietnamese citizen returning from the Republic of Korea, said he has been taken really good care of.

“I was warmly welcomed when I arrived, and I would like to express my gratitude to the officers in particular and our country Vietnam in general,” he said tearfully.

Like Tung, Nguyen Thi Nhan from Vinh Phu commune in Phu Ninh district, Phu Tho province, also wanted to thank the officers and soldiers who treated her so well during her time in quarantine.

“I’m grateful that the Party and State cared for us and brought us home,” she said. “The soldiers treated us like their own family. We all feel so grateful.”

Thanks to the prompt and decisive actions of the Government under the leadership of the Party, the silent sacrifice of doctors, nurses, and soldiers, and the unanimity of purpose among Vietnamese people in fighting the disease, Vietnam became a safe shelter amid the “coronavirus war”, which has claimed the lives of millions of people around the world and placed the well-being of many others in jeopardy.

This shelter is not only for Vietnamese people but also for foreigners already in the country.

Vietnam - Second home to foreigners

The German Ambassador to Vietnam from 2003 to 2007, Christian-Ludwig Weber-Lortsch, enjoyed a family meal in early 2021 in his cosy home in Hanoi’s Tay Ho district.

For many foreigners, Christmas and New Year is a time to return home to be with family and friends. For Christian, however, this is the fourth year he has spent the holiday season in Vietnam.

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 5German Ambassador to Vietnam from 2003 to 2007 Christian-Ludwig Weber-Lortsch (Photo: VNA)

The ingredients for the mouth-watering dishes on the table were bought from the local supermarket that very morning. Preparing a family gathering and sitting down with friends and making toasts is quite a normal part of celebrating Christmas and New Year. But this time it felt like a special privilege for foreigners living in Vietnam, given the country had not recorded any new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 while lockdown orders had been introduced elsewhere.

With the pandemic still raging, people worldwide had a New Year’s Eve they had never experienced before. Lockdowns, curfews, and other restrictions introduced to contain the pandemic forced many to stay at home and watch the fireworks on TV.

In the US, Times Square was closed. The Ball still dropped, but New Yorkers could only watch it on TV or online.

In Australia, people in Sydney were asked to stay home and not head out to watch the fireworks.

France, meanwhile, deployed 100,000 police on New Year’s Eve to break up parties and other gatherings.

In the homeland of Ambassador Weber-Lortsch, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had recently extended a national lockdown to January 31.

After sending New Year wishes to his family and friends, they were surprised to find that while they welcomed in the new year by watching TV, Christian was enjoying himself at a countdown party in Vietnam. Outdoor parties of celebrating crowds were the stuff of dreams for his family and friends.

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 6A countdown party at August Revolution Square in Hanoi, December 31, 2020. (Photo: Minh Hieu/Vietnam+)

“I sent around lots of photos from the New Year celebration at Hoan Kiem Lake. All my friends are jealous, of course. They are locked up back home in Europe or in the US. And here we are partying; we are celebrating the Western New Year,” Christian said with big laugh.

Not until the world started to face COVID-19 did he decide to stay in Vietnam. His love for the country had grown since his first diplomatic mission in 2003, and blossomed even more so when he met his beautiful and talented Vietnamese wife, Trang Pham, in 2007, and they had a son.

Recalling the life-changing moment, Christian said: “I still recall the day. It was the 13th of May 2007 when I met my future wife. It was a life changer. That is why I came back in 2011. This time it was not by instruction, but my free choice. It was our choice, and was my choice. We wanted to live here and there is not a second that we regret it.”

After finishing his term in Vietnam and taking on diplomatic missions in the Philippines and Myanmar, he and his wife decided to return and settle in Vietnam.

The ambassador said the wonderful experiences he had during his mission in Vietnam and having a family encouraged him to come back. He also voiced an expectation that his young son would possess a great love for Vietnam, just as his parents do.

He and his wife decided it was best to send him to a Vietnamese school. Explaining the decision, he said: “Though this small gentleman has a dual citizenship, we decided together that his first homeland should be Vietnam and I don’t want him to be a stranger in his own country. I want my small boy to grow up and live in a prosperous, and well respected, successful country.”

Previously, as ambassador, Christian was involved in a number of activities to promote diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries. Now retired but with a special attachment to Vietnam, he still contributes to the country’s integration into the world through advising foreign investors and helping local enterprises penetrate into Europe.

Christian is among many foreigners to settle down in Vietnam. While the world has been severely hit by COVID-19, Vietnam has been working to stabilise its economy and the well-being of its people, including foreigners living in the country. Its efforts resulted in it becoming a safe shelter for many foreigners during these turbulent times.

Indeed, according to a recent survey by Conde Nast Traveler at the end of 2020, Vietnam is among the 10 best countries for expats to live in.

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 7Foreign tourists walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi. (Photo: VNS/VNA)

Telling a VNA reporter about his feelings being in Vietnam during the turbulence of pandemic, Christian cheerily called the country a “Land of Bliss”.

Similarly, Vani Veikoso, a teacher from Fiji living in Vietnam, said she was deeply touched that Vietnam provided her with a sense of safety amid the pandemic.

“The Vietnamese leaders have put people and their safety and their well-being first. Although I am a foreigner, I feel safe here," said Vani. "I am so grateful to be in this country and this city at this time. I know the leaders are not just doing for the Vietnamese people but they are doing it for all of us and I know I always write to friends that I am grateful being in my adopted country,” she added.

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 8Vani Veikoso, teacher from Fiji living in Vietnam (Photo: VNA)

According to a report released in December by the General Statistics Office, Vietnam’s GDP grew 2.91% in 2020 compared to 2019, which put it in the group of countries with the highest growth worldwide.

The figure was attributed to the country's determination and consistency in realising the twin targets of both containing the pandemic and developing the economy. On top of that, the Government also improved the local business and investment environment.

The emerging economy is home to over 90,000 expats living in a fast-paced society with friendly people, which have long been hallmarks of Vietnam.

“As a foreigner living here, I think all the wonderful things happening in Vietnam are because of the people. Vietnamese people take pride in their culture and their country. For myself as a foreigner, it gives me hope as I know that I am in a country that loves me and takes care of me and provides everything,” said Vani.

In a survey by the UK-based New Economics Foundation, Vietnam ranked 5th in the Happy Planet Index results worldwide and 2nd in Asia-Pacific in 2021.

In the World Happiness Report launched by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in March 2021, Vietnam moved up from 83rd among 149 countries and territories in 2020 to 79th in 2021, higher than China (84th), Malaysia (81st), and Myanmar (126th).

COVID-19 has indeed been a test of solidarity, and Vietnam passed the test from the continuous efforts of its frontline doctors and nurses, who fought tooth and nail to save patients standing at death’s door, while flights rescued Vietnamese people stuck in COVID-19 hotspots around the world, with soldiers offering their homes to accommodate people needing to be quarantined and caring for them as though they were their own family. The all-round effort made Vietnam something of a sanctuary amid the fierce global fight.

The “happiness” found in Vietnam is not only recognised by reports and numbers. It is shown in the smiles and tears of joy of Vietnamese citizens when their flight touches ground, delivering them to a safe shelter amid the pandemic where they receive protection and loving care from frontline doctors, soldiers, and officers.

“I had no idea what was going to happen. All I did was following what the officers were telling me to do. It’s a long process but I was just relieved that I finally got home.” That relief feeling of Tue Minh is also shared among Vietnamese overseas managing to return home during the pandemic. It is also the feeling shared by a lot of international friends who are in Vietnam during this time.

With a thriving economy, stable political system, and rich culture, Vietnam has been a secure home for not only Vietnamese but also many international friends./.

Vietnam embraces those returning, welcomes foreign friends amid pandemic hinh anh 9With a thriving economy, stable political system, and rich culture, Vietnam has been a secure home for not only Vietnamese but also many international friends. (Photo: VNA)