Book Review: So Happiness to Meet You

This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

If you’re like me, you soak up books about living in other countries. That’s why, when I had the opportunity to review So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam, by Karin Esterhammer, I jumped at the chance.

So Happiness to Meet You

The name of the book, naturally, piqued my curiosity. Throughout the book, Esterhammer shares the English foibles that her neighbors and the people she meets make. She does so in a lighthearted manner, and is quick to point out that she struggled with learning Vietnamese until she left.

In a Recession, Where Do You Turn? Vietnam!

At the heart of the 2008 Recession, Esterhammer and her husband find themselves in a conundrum. His fledgling cd business has stalled out and she loses her job. They realize they can no longer afford their LA home. The couple decides to take their autistic son and move to Vietnam for a year in an effort to live cheaply and save money to return when the American economy improved.

In theory, it was a great idea. The couple had spent a “weeklong scratch-and-sniff tour” of Vietnam, so it stood to reason that they could manage there for a year, right?


Within hours of moving into their new apartment in Vietnam, Esterhammer practically has a meltdown as the neighbors stand in her doorway and gawk and her and her son while her husband is away at work. She’s desperate to feed her child, but afraid to wander outside. Fortunately, an English-speaking neighbor comes to her rescue, and a new friendship is forged.

Lessons Learned Abroad

The rest of the book regales the struggles Esterhammer and her family experience, tinged with just enough humor to keep you engaged. She becomes accustomed to the giant cockroaches, the frequent power outages and floods, and the curious but slightly invasive nature of her neighbors.

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She talks about how, for the first time in years, she has nothing to do. This frustrates her at first, being used to staying productive all the time, but eventually she learns to just sit and be. Hard lesson for many of us.

When things don’t improve back in the States, Esterhammer and her husband decide to extend their trip, first one year, then another. Over that time, they find their place in Vietnam, and adapt to the way life changes in another country.

If you love the idea of becoming an expat, even if you can’t become one yourself, this book will feed that fire. It made me yearn to move somewhere out of my comfort zone and see what life there could teach me. Pick it up (paperback or Kindle) on Amazon.

Prospect Park Books gave me this book for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.