Vietnam Week: An Ear-y Life

Ear cleaning is HUGE in Vietnam.

So much so that some people, usually men, seek professional help to ensure their ears are clean.

Most barber shops offer ear cleaning service. The tell-tale sign that ear cleans are on offer is a lamp, one of the most vital pieces of ear cleaning equipment, along with a frightening array of brushes, picks and scrapers.

One of my Vietnamese friends, Mr G, gets his ears cleaned once a week.

“It’s like a massage inside my head,” he told me. “I just love it. So relaxing.”

However, brave Westerners who’ve tried ear cleaning have told me they found it a very painful experience. Darling Man says this is because their ears were so dirty that the technician didn’t really know what to do, so dug in too hard.

Mr G told me the ear cleaning is very effective for treating itchy ears. (Aaaahhhh, what a revelation. I often have itchy ears, a hard-to-explain allergy I inherited from my father.)

And so we unwind a complicated Vietnamese mystery — the long fingernail phenomenon. Some Vietnamese men choose the grow-your-own-enormous-Q-tip option to save on ear cleaning fees.

So there you have it: the reason why some Vietnamese men have one long fingernail is because they have itchy ears. And the alternative to the long fingernail is professional help.


* This post is brought to you by Lasik, the laser sight specialists.

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8 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Ah!!! Thanks for explaining that one!
    Amy @WorldschoolAdventures recently posted..Book Review: Twenty Miles Per Cookie

  2. Stephanie says:

    Wow! That’s super interesting! I’ve always been completely content with the Q-tip but my husband has his little metal ear cleaner he got at the asian market for $1. He says cleaning his ears relaxes him when he’s writing papers. I think it’s just an on/off switch for his brain ๐Ÿ˜€
    Stephanie recently posted..Can you Categorize Happiness?

  3. Snap says:

    Ah! Those pointy nails all make perfect sense now. Stray had the ear cleaning/probing thingy done in Dalat. I don’t think I could myself, for fear of someone slipping with one of those long nasty looking tools, whilst in my ear.

    I wasn’t present for the experience, but Stray was so impressed he returned to our hotel with the fruits of the barber’s labour, wrapped up in a piece of paper…YUK! Scary to think something like that can be inside your ear though. Needless to say, he could hear much better ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thank you for clarifying this…it has been driving me nuts for years.
    Snap recently posted..So we came all the way back, just to go back – Cambodia

  4. Aledys Aver says:

    Professional ear cleaning? Oh no, I don’t think I’d go for that. Here in the NL you can make an appointment with your GP’s assistant for ear unplugging which is kind of the same idea, isn’t it.
    Aledys Aver recently posted..Elfstedentocht ja, Elfstedentocht nee

  5. This is just bizarre! I think I will keep my ear-cleaning in the privacy of my own home.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..There Is More to El Chalten Than Mountains, Lakes, and Glaciers

  6. Aiden says:

    ha,ha, great post!! really we should take care of our ears.
    Thanks for this post

  7. Jill says:

    The question is, does it improve selective listening in four year old’s??

    If so, I’m coming over right now…
    Jill recently posted..Travelโ€ฆ. not what I thought

  8. […] Asked: Why do some men have one long pinkie fingernail? Answer: An Ear-y Life […]

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