Before we go much further explaining how to cross the street in Vietnam, let's start with a little video of what it actually looks/feels like to cross the street.
Now that you've seen that, we're sure you'll agree that it seems like a harrowing experience, and it's true, crossing the street can be a full contact sport if you don't follow the rules. So let's start with the rules.
- Look for your opening. At first it seems like the traffic is all rushing by so quickly that there's no way that you're going to be able to even start, let alone accomplish crossing. But it's a little like jumping rope (maybe a bit more like double dutch). Just watch for a bit, and you'll find an opening to jump in.
- Step out into the street. Once you've found your opening, you've got to do the scariest bit. Join the fray. The first few times your heart will be in your throat, and you'll be tempted to break into a run. This is the worst thing you could do, so whatever you do, don't run.
- Keep walking slowly, steadily, without going too fast, stopping in the middle of the street, or darting around. Just plod along to your destination. The analogy we use is that it's much like walking on coals--don't run, don't stop. Just keep moving, nice and slow. That first stride is the hardest.
- This next one can be kind of controversial, but I'm a firm believer that once you've started, it's best to not look at the oncoming traffic, or at the very least don't make eye contact. If you don't look at them, then they'll assume that they have to maneuver around you rather than thinking you might stop for them. The best thing to do is just keep moving, and they'll flow around you. Of course, if there is a city bus bearing down on you, you might have to stop to let it pass. If this happens, wait for another opening, and proceed as before.
- If necessary, raise one hand (keeping it below your waist) to indicate to traffic that you need them to yield to you (see above photo). This is important if you have a child with you, or if you are going to need more time or take up more space than the normal pedestrian.
It's kind of fun, once you decide you're not going to die. Just like traveling the world, or life in general. Just take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you'll reach your goal.
So now you're ready to cross the street in Vietnam. It's a LOT easier on foot than in any kind of wheeled vehicle, but that's a story for another post.