An Albania Tik Tok star considers Vietnam her second home after just three years of living in the Southeast Asian country.
"They say home is where your heart is, and my heart is in Vietnam," Dajana Hoxhaj, a Tik Toker with more than 550,400 followers, told Tuoi Tre News .
"I call Vietnam my second home, and it will always be my second home no matter where I live," she said.
The 25-year-old Albanian currently lives in Hanoi where she works as an English teacher, does her best to adapt to Vietnamese culture, and documents her life on her Tik Tok channel @dajana_oi .
One of Hoxhaj's most popular Tik Toks shows her making the switch from wearing boots to plastic slippers, as the Vietnamese do, on rainy days.
"I get inspiration and ideas for my Tik Tok videos from my real-life experiences," Hoxhaj said.
"There was a rainy day when I rolled up my jeans and wore slippers to go to the supermarket. While walking there, I realized how different my lifestyle is now compared to when I lived in my country," she explained.
"My Tik Tok is mostly about my life in Vietnam; how I see and experience the lifestyle, culture and traditions here; how I view certain things; and how I have adapted to Vietnam," she added.
"I want to show my love for Vietnam and the life here. I want to promote it too."
Hoxhaj's love for Vietnam seems to be contagious. Many of her friends from have messaged her about their newfound desires to experience the Southeast Asian country after she posted it on Facebook and Instagram.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese Tik Tok users have praised Hoxhaj for the love for Vietnam depicted in her videos.
|Dajana Hoxhaj joins Vietnamese people to celebrate after Vietnam beat Indonesia to win a historic gold medal in men’s football at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Photo by courtesy of Dajana Hoxhaj|
Deviating from the plan
Hoxhaj's original plan was to spend just nine months in Vietnam as a way of "stepping out of her comfort zone" after graduating from university.
That nine months has now stretched into three years, and there's no end in sight.
"A friend told me about teaching opportunities in Southeast Asia, so I did some research and I found many good opportunities in Vietnam," she recalled.
The more she researched, the more she fell in love with pictures of the country's beautiful landscapes and stories of the kindness and generosity of the Vietnamese people.
"I hadn't quite made up my mind about visiting Vietnam, but one day I was scrolling Instagram and saw a picture of the Golden Bridge in Da Nang. My first thought was 'I have to go there'," she explained.
She then began applying for jobs and, two weeks later, she was employed and ready to begin a new adventure.
"I was so excited, but when I told my parents they didn't believe me and thought I was joking. It took some explaining but eventually they decided to support my decision. That's how my Vietnam adventure began," Hoxhaj shared.
|Dajana Hoxhaj wears ao dai (Vietnamese traditional costume) and poses with cherry blossoms, the flower symbolizing Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New year) in northern Vietnam. Photo by courtesy of Dajana Hoxhaj|
Despite experiencing culture shock from Vietnam's traffic, humidity, and heat, Hoxhaj said she "adapted quite fast" to the Southeast Asian country.
"My plan was to work here for nine months, until the academic year and my employment contract were over, but that nine months turned into three years pretty quickly," she said.
"I fell in love with Vietnam and Vietnamese people so much that I just cannot make myself leave. Just the thought breaks my heart. I can't say goodbye to Vietnam. Maybe, I was Vietnamese in a past life? Plans don't usually work for me, but hopefully I will be here for at least one more year."
In addition to falling in love with the culture, Hoxhaj has fallen in love with the country's traditional dress: the ao dai .
"On my third day in Vietnam I was walking around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi and saw a beautiful Vietnamese girl wearing a red ao dai . I liked it so much that I asked her for a photo," Hoxhaj recalled.
Nine months later, she got her first ao dai for a photoshoot near a lotus pond.
|Dajana Hoxhaj is seen wearing ao dai (Vietnamese traditional costume) and Vietnamese conical hat in a photo she provided Tuoi Tre News|
"The ao dai is like a royal dress. It makes those who wear it look graceful, elegant, and majestic. I have worn ao dai so many times and own two ao dai . One was a gift from a Vietnamese friend who invited me to her brother's wedding, and the other was a gift that my student's parents gave me for Tet holiday."
Though she often talks about her love for Vietnam's culture and dress, Hoxhaj is very clear that it is her students that have helped her form such a strong bond with the country.
"I don't think I could ever love someone without any a blood or family connection as much as I love my students. They're like my little kids."
"Vietnamese people always say 'thank you' to me for loving Vietnam, but I want to thank them for loving me back."
|Dajana Hoxhaj is seen wearing ao dai (Vietnamese traditional costume) in a photo she provided Tuoi Tre News|
Vietnam is the first country Hoxhaj has lived in outside of Albania, and the experience, she said, has helped her grow as a person.
"I've learned so many things and become way more independent. I'm able to do everything on my own without help from my family or relatives. Life in Vietnam has made me so much stronger and changed me in a positive way," she explained.
"I come from a completely different country with a population of just 3.5 million. My country is quite peaceful while Vietnam is very busy, but I enjoy how busy life is here.
"I enjoy the fact that people are always doing something, moving, and working. It makes me feel like I want to join."
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