So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam

A captivatingly funny travel memoir about an L.A. family that moves to Vietnam to ride out the Great Recession.
In 2008, Karin Esterhammer was jolted awake from the American Dream when she lost her job in a massive layoff. Fueled by her lifelong travel-bug delusion that things are always better someplace else, Karin arranged to sell nearly everything she and her husband owned, rent out their house, and move with their autistic 8-year-old son to Vietnam. In a country where you can get a great meal for 85 cents, she figured they could get jobs teaching English and ride out the recession. She figured they’d return in a year with cash in the bank. She figured the global economic meltdown wouldn’t touch them over in Vietnam.
She figured wrong.
“So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam” chronicles the adventures (and misadventures) of Karin and her family as they make a 9-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts feel like home—where the neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, and keep cockroaches for luck. Their new neighbors became like family, and these new friends helped Karin and her family finds joy without Western trappings. Even hot water.
In the great tradition of Bill Bryson and J. Maarten Troost, “So Happiness to Meet You” is as rich in heart as it is in vivid, hilarious observations about Karin’s life in one of the world’s most fascinating places.
Karin Esterhammer is a travel writer whose work has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and more. Her diary-style article in the Los Angeles Times about the move to Vietnam earned more letters to the editor than almost any other travel story. After their years in Vietnam, Karin and her family are now living again in Los Angeles.
“Esterhammer creates laugh-out-loud moments of at time daunting or utterly embarrassing experiences. An energetic mix of wry humor and heartwarming moments, this engaging account will appeal to armchair travelers and memoir lovers alike in its representation of the people and culture of Vietnam.” – Library Journal

“A lighthearted memoir of new friends, delicious food, and culture shock...A brisk chronicle of a family’s (mis)adventures in Vietnam.” – Kirkus Reviews