I spent just over a month living in Hanoi, Vietnam a few years ago. Wearing a hijab and being so ‘visibly’ Muslim, I had wondered about the way people would look at me and how comfortable I would feel walking around on my own. In the end, I found that the people I encountered had one of two reactions: either they didn’t notice me/ couldn’t care less about my hijab, or they wanted to know where I was from and genuinely wanted to know more about why I was dressed the way that I was. I was approached by a number of women purely to tell me they loved the way I was dressed! I was taken aback by the kindness of strangers, who went out of their way to make me feel welcome in their country, including an old woman who came up to me one day on the street to teach me a greeting in Vietnamese, and another that helped me cross the road (Vietnamese roads are scary and hard to cross- google it!).
Travelling as a Muslim can have its drawbacks and you often find yourself in places/situations where you completely and utterly feel like ‘the other’. But through my trip to Vietnam, I found that the fearful/annoyed/angry/worried/anxious looks that can so often follow us around, have not penetrated every part of the world- I don’t remember feeling uncomfortable even once during my trip… which funnily enough, is more than I can say for a number of Muslim countries I’ve travelled to :/