Creating friendship over food on social media

Hoàng Vân Anh

Tanya Pisarchuk, a digital marketer and amateur food reviewer, has spent more than seven years in Hà Nội. That’s also how old her Facebook group Wheretoget Hanoi is, now a community of more than 16,000 members navigating Hà Nội's nooks and crannies for necessary things.

She first moved here with her partner and her children. Pisarchuk has tried many different jobs and now sticks with digital marketing. Eating is her excuse to get her out of the house and explore more of Hà Nội on a daily basis.

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Tanya enjoying her lunch set. — Photo courtesy of Tanya Pisarchuk

Originally, it took her a while to get used to life here due to the cultural differences and the language barrier. However, by taking advantage of social media, she has made connections and friends, making it an integral part of her current social life.

It originally started with her Facebook group, Wheretoget Hanoi, when she first moved here with her partner to find things around town because it was hard to navigate a country with a completely different language. Now the group has both locals and expats who help each other by posting questions and answers sharing their knowledge.

Her food Instagram page, wtghanoi, created only a year ago has amassed more than 3,500 followers, who have made her realise how important what she’s doing is, especially for the non-Vietnamese speaking community.

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Delicious food posts from various cuisine shared on wtghanoi. — Photo Instagram wtghanoi

“At first I noticed that since it’s so hard to know and learn about Vietnamese food, foreigners tend to stick to the same place to get their food all the time. Since I’m always going out, I want to show them the wide variety of options available in town.

“I don’t consider myself a foodie, but I’m definitely a hedonist. Food is easy to get and you can experiment with what you eat. You can always find new things to eat. In Viet Nam, there’s such a big response to food. People really love and appreciate it. That’s why I start making posts on food.”

Pisarchuk believes good pictures are essential to attract people to come and try the food, so she’s been learning to improve the quality of her photos, even by watching TikTok videos for tips and tricks.

Despite her preference for Western food as she craves things from home, she’s also very passionate about learning more about Vietnamese cuisine. She has familiarised herself with new flavours and now loves shrimp paste and fish sauce, though there are still things that she misses about her home in Belarus like herring and cottage cheese.

While keeping the account active is fun, she admits it’s a lot of work. She searches in Vietnamese to find new food spots as well as reading posts on Facebook and Instagram. Some other times, she just tries things that she comes by, like how she excitedly shared about her first time trying bánh tráng nướng (Vietnamese Pizza) the other day

"It was so good that I had to have two. I can’t believe it took me this long to know about it," she said.

A major con is how time-consuming posting, editing and writing photo captions is, but she's not discouraged. A tip she shares to succeed in anything is hard work and consistency.

"My first 1,000 followers took a really long time, but ever since, the number of followers has grown dramatically," she said.

The most rewarding thing about running her Instagram, to her, is how her followers have reached out to show gratitude for her account. That’s when she realised she’s doing something important as she gets to show people the variety of the food options in Viet Nam and the beauty in trying new things.

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Goofy Tanya on vacation. — Photo courtesy of Tanya Pisarchuk

Pisarchuk's outlook on food is very positive.

“The most beautiful thing in life is that you get to eat three times a day, so you can experiment with what you eat and keep on finding new spots to eat," she said.

Her Instagram stories capture unique ingredients that she comes across like new varieties of Vietnamese cakes or pig ears and chicken cartilage while shopping. Her excitement in her food journey here only means more quality content for her followers and fellow expats in Hà Nội. VNS

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