As expats, most of us at some point have experienced interactions with our hosts that are hard to understand. At times our worldview can seem askew to that of local people.


In the middle of an ongoing quest to resolve a plumbing issue I found myself befuddled at the events taking place. When I discussed the matter with a Vietnamese friend, he said: “That’s the way things are here, they’re not going to change.”


Thought Patterns


I’ve lived in Asia for over 20 years and in this time I have experienced what appear to be ingrained patterns of behaviour, so my initial reaction was to accept my friend’s comment as truth. But on further reflection, I thought that it is a mindset that prevents change from taking place, and not social inertia. To claim that people or situations will not change is a self-fulfilling attitude that obstructs the opportunity for growth.


Admittedly, the perceived need for change is subjective in nature; thus the first step to change is the conscious awareness that change needs to take place. A recognizable need for improvement is a catalyst for change, which can result in a subtle tempering of thoughts and actions as well as major shifts. Letting go of limiting beliefs allows for tremendous expansion.


Dismissing a behaviour as endemic, without examining whether or not it is serving a greater good, only reinforces the particular behaviour pattern. Self-fulfilling attitudes inhibit change from taking place and uphold the status quo.


Choose Sides


When we become aware of how situations may or may not be promoting the highest good of all concerned, as individuals we have the choice whether or not to ameliorate the situation. As a friend recently stated, we can choose to be part of the problem or be part of the solution.


Herein lies the paradox; to see change in the world, we as individuals are the ones who must first change. Maya Angelou suggests: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”


Placing the spotlight on our thoughts and actions and recognising how they affect our well-being, and adjusting our behaviour accordingly is the first step to expanding this practice to our external environment.


There are many teachings on the power of the mind and how our thoughts greatly influence our reality. Based on this premise, if we can change our minds we can change our world. We literally have to put our minds to it.


Now if I can only get the plumbing sorted.


Karen Gay, A-Roaming Bodyworker, is a holistic health practitioner practicing in Hanoi. For information on the types of services provided, visit

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