I have 3 weeks in Vietnam, part of a year long trip in Asia, and the number of horror stories about travellers getting ripped off is incredible. So, going there, I am looking to do something a bit different. I'd like to avoid the usual tourist traps, which I assume attract those looking to rip off travellers, and see a different side to Vietnam.
This is pretty open ended I know, but if anyone has any ideas as to how this could look, or has experience of doing something similar they'd like to share then I would love to hear
#1 fontbleu has been a member since 22/2/2012. Posts: 17
"avoiding nasty locals"
Wow, first thing I'd do is change the attitude.
This whole thing about being 'ripped off' needs to be taken into context. People's perception of being ripped off often just comes down to the locals running a business. They paid an extra $1 for the bus trip from Hue to Hoi An when they booked it through a hotel rather than direct with the local bus company... does that mean they got 'ripped off'? Of does it mean they paid a token amount of commission to their guesthouse for the convenience?
Yes, there are 'scams'. But do your research ahead of time, and keep your wits about you and you shouldn't have many problems. Many scams are a result of people's naivity or stupidity. But here's one tip: don't succumb to the ladies in the cone hats carrying fruit in baskets across their shoulders. When they suggest you hold the basket for a photo, they'll expect to be paid!
Having said off all of that, I did find the 'aggressiveness' of the Vietnamese wore me down in the touristy areas. The pressure to buy something was constant - especially in Hoi An and Nha Trang. But I still loved the quaintness of Hoi An. Hue was much more laid back. But for me, it wasn't until I got to Dalat that I really started to enjoy the locals more. I quite liked Dalat town itself even though many others don't. But it was here that I also decided to do a 9-day EasyRider tour. It'll blow the budget a bit, but it was an absolute highlight for me. I got taken to some very remote areas, and got to visit various families along the way, eat at very local style restaurants that I never would have been game to try otherwise - and just basically see the non-touristy Vietnam.
Generally speaking, I found the southern half of Vietnam more relaxed than the northern half. But I did love Hanoi and Hoi An.
Whatever way you decide, referring to the locals as 'nasty' isn't a good start - in any country.
I agree with Busylizzy - your attitude is completely wrong.
Sure people are always looking at making extra money. Being street smart can go a long way and overall we found our trip to Vietnam enjoyable despite being regularly approached.
My best advice is just to be polite and say no thanks. Always negotiate a price before getting in a taxi, otherwise you may get a surprise. We often had our hotel call the cab/car company to make a booking, sure it might be slightly more expensive but can save an argument.
Ah yes the fruit basket ladies in Hoi An - we saw lots of westerners having their pictures taken and then were asked for a 200,000VND payment.... Opportunities like this aren't free' aound major towns.
I did simialr thing last year - went on an easy rider tour from Nha Trang to Hoi An and absolutley loved it. Yes I agree it is more expensive BUT is definatley worthwhile. This way you get out of the tourist areas and will find the locals very friendly and curious. Well at least they were curious in me and wanted their picture taken with me as I'm 6'5. If you would like details of the guys we used from Nha Trang then let me know. Can't wait to get back there at some point and do another easy rizder tour from Nha Trang, south to Saigon if possible down to the Cambodian border.
Anyway if you would like any additional advice feel free to contact me and I wish I had the opportunity for a 12 month trip, but with my son due in 1 week I'm grounded for 12 months
#3 Jarrod32 has been a member since 28/7/2011. Posts: 6
This is no joke if you hassled by touts the Viets are scared of Russians so learn to say ,niet' with a heavy scowl on your face.They'll leave you alone then as Russians don't take B S. As far as the above advise is concerned I can't see advantage in interacting with annoying touts! Try somewhere without tourists like Danang, no touts and a lovely riverside and beach.
#4 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557
Ok, apologies my tongue in cheek reference to nasty locals was slightly too oblique for an internet forum! I was mocking the moany travellers I've met, but at the same time aware that the innumerable stories of woe mean there must be some truth to them.
Think there is some good advice above, and details of the easyrider tour would be great to receive for further investigation.
Whilst in other areas of SE Asia I have been happy to spend my time mixing the highlights of a country with less visited areas, my focus for vietnam will be on less visited areas that have very few tourists - anyone with any pointers for places such as these would be welcomed...perhaps the route of the easyrider tour if you guys remember it? sounds pretty memorable so I'm sure you do! cheers, FB
#5 fontbleu has been a member since 22/2/2012. Posts: 17
Here's the details of the guy we used firstname.lastname@example.org his name is Hai and check out his website
We had no problems using Hai at all and several of my friends have used his services too. Hai is very accommodating and will take you to other places where there are not many tourists at all - the itinerary is completely up to you. We went for three days without seeing any other Westerners and loved the trip. We should have spent more time on the bike. Let Hai know that Jarrod from Adelaide Australia suggested you contact him.
#6 Jarrod32 has been a member since 28/7/2011. Posts: 6
Sayadian you remind me of a time I was hassled by a tuk tuk driver who was trying to rip my wife and I off when we were in Bangkok and after a suitable time of being very annoyed I finally said "Get the F#$% out of here." My wife says to me "You can't say that to someone in Thailand." To which I replied "I just did. I couldn't take it anymore". This was one of only two occassions here I have lost my temper though. Usually I can play with it and have some fun.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Agreed that Da Nang is a good, smaller city that's worth a couple days. Hoi An is touristy but I found the people in central Vietnam to be relaxed and friendly overall. You have to deal with people trying to sell you stuff, but you get used to it, and a polite "kawng gam an" with a smile should suffice to make them stop. I've always found that speaking the language politely does a better job of making the touts step back than being rude or ignoring them. Even if it's just a "no thanks" in their language, if you say it correctly they generally get the idea that you know the deal and might even live there.
A few tips:
- Rent a motorbike in Hoi An and spend a few days just wandering the countryside outside of town, especially to the west. Hoi An old town is touristy but just outside is some of the most picturesque countryside and sweet, genuine locals I came across in almost 3 months in Vietnam.
- The fishing town of Tuy Hoa could be a worthy stop if you want to step completely off the tourist radar. It's a tad north of Nha Trang and the train stops right in Tuy Hoa. There's a vast beach, some good seafood, lots of fishing boats, and NO tourists to be found (be prepared to be stared at, the locals here are not used to seeing foreigners). You'll have trouble if not speaking any Vietnamese, but you could get by with a phrasebook, or even just walking around. If you go, hop in a taxi and go to "Thuon Thao". It's a big restaurant/entertainment spot... Anyway, go to the huge open air restaurant and order banh xeo. It's like 5,000 dong for a plate of 5 and they're the best banh xeo ever!
- As far as scams, it's not as bad as it sounds. As busylizzy says, some people lose their heads if being charged an extra 20 cents for something. The fact is that the majority of Vietnamese are too poor to travel, so they assume that foreigners who can afford to come to Vietnam must have a lot of money. They see it as an opportunity to make a little extra. The same thing happens in Thailand and elsewhere although no where near to the extent of in Vietnam. Personally, I just don't let 20 cents bother me anymore, and honestly, I have no problem giving a little extra to someone making $50 a month.
- With that said, do beware of more major scams, many of which involve transport. Use the reputable Mai Linh (green and white) taxis, and never get in an unmarked taxi. Make sure that as soon as you get in to the airport you have a good handle on the exchange rate. This is the time when drivers will try to take advantage by, for example, charging 600,000 dong instead of 60,000 for a trip to your hotel (make sure a meter is running and you won't have to worry about it). One place to really watch out is Lao Cai (gateway to Sapa ) - there are some very shady people running mini buses to Sapa who will try to dupe travelers into paying (a lot) extra, and generally I found at least one group to have zero respect for foreign travelers.
The best way to avoid perceptions of "nasty Vietnamese" is to meet "nice Vietnamese". The low tables that line the streets of Saigon and Hanoi serving cheap noodles and/or even cheaper beer are a good place to start.
Much of being "ripped off" is perception, and the blunter Vietnamese approach to bargaining probably leaves people with the impression they've been ripped off even when they've overpaid overfriendly Thai touts by far more. Minor cultural points can make a big difference too. Vietnam, like most Asian countries, has a complex system of honorifics for greeting people with the correct degree of respect, but it seems that they've learned the appropriate English language equivalent is "You". And people saying "You, buy book" sounds blunt and desperate, even though the person saying it is probably offering you a better deal than the Bangkok tuk tuk driver that greets you with "Hello friend!" and a witty comment on your country of origin...
The nastiest people I met in Vietnam were Filipino pokerjack scammers (apparently arrested since then, according to the Vietnamese papers) and they'd turned friendly conversation with tourists into an art form.
As suggested above, the various groups calling themselves Easy Riders (originally based in Dalat but you'll now find them in Nha Trang, Hue, Hoi An and probably quite a few other places if you look for them) are generally very friendly to tourists. For good reason too: their daily rates represent plenty of money in Vietnam - enough for it not to be worth the reputational damage of scamming someone out of a dollar, and most really enjoy their jobs.
#9 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84
You get what you deserve and what comes around goes around....this is the main rule here in Vietnam....I live here since 3 years and I would like to advice something here...especially with the "nasty locals"....with that attitute u deserve to be ripped off, stay at home....it`s more save I recon....
Furthermore, yes they are traps and ppl try to make a bug off tourist....use your commen sense to avoid this....if u are friendly and smiling with any local, they do the same with you....and no start wondering why some VN start to react more agressive or unfriendly...this is only in tourist areas, so maybe it has something to do with the behaviour of some tourist who make saving money to a sport here in asia in general, not only in Vietnam...I have ppl in my joint asking 2.000 dong discont on Saigon beer bcs then it would be the price from my neighbour....I just say please move on....I don`t even want your money...
All budget travellers, please start to act normal and don`t bargein about ever 1 cent just bcs you can`t afford monthly longs of travelling....ajust your travel time to the budget....people need to live here too, electric, gasoline are the same price then in the states but income is far lower....
Anyhow i don`t even know why i write all this....most of the budget backpackers, from my experience, bargain about everything - rooms, food - but spend 30 USD a night for drinking and partying in a club....where 45.000 vnd for a Saigon beer is not too expensive (7.000 to 12.000 on the street)....or tube in Lao where the traveling experience is the best bcs you are really in touch with locals and all of them are so friendly....or fake....
Vietnamese ppl have history and forgeiners tried to rip them off several times in the past...(btw. they always lost)...so why would a VN person believe a forgeiner....? they are a proud nation and certainly they can be.....so travel with respect and a smile and you will definatly enjoy vietnam....that`s it....
#10 oceansrepublic has been a member since 23/6/2012. Posts: 10
"Vietnam, like most Asian countries, has a complex system of honorifics for greeting people with the correct degree of respect, but it seems that they've learned the appropriate English language equivalent is "You". And people saying "You, buy book" sounds blunt and desperate."
This is actually true in Thialand too. Khun is a title sort of like Mister or Miss, but can also mean you. Most of the time Thais figure this out if they have some exposure to English, but I still hear people say "You, you" which as "Khun, khun" would be a decent way to address a stranger.
#11 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
It has nothing to do with where you go in my opinion - much of the problem is your attitude when you travel, anywhere. One of the problems with the internet is that, generally, the most emphasis is placed on the problems of travel - damn little is placed on the generosities of the local people. To be honest with you, I'm sick of my own country and it's very rude people (I'm from the USA). I travel to Vietnam and other SE Asian countries because of the kindness of the local people I am able to interact with there. Where else can you be greeted my genuinely interested and positive people when you check into a hotel (specifically the Art Hotel in Hanoi or the Bich Duyen in Saigon) - certainly not many Western countries. Far too many Westerners look down on their Asian hosts. You might not speak the same language, but the language of friendliness is universal. There are scoundrels everywhere, but they are in the great minority.
The other problem is that too many tourists are in such a rush to get on to the next attraction on their list. This is no way to travel in Vietnam or any other Asian country - slow down and learn to enjoy the local lifestyle - for me, the people are the REAL attraction.
#12 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,083
"One of the problems with the internet is that, generally, the most emphasis is placed on the problems of travel - damn little is placed on the generosities of the local people."
You think? My perception has always been the opposite. Everyone is always writing about how place "X" was "amazing" (got to be the most overused word here).
"To be honest with you, I'm sick of my own country and it's very rude people (I'm from the USA)."
Warning Will Robinson, do not move to Germany or Somalia!
"You might not speak the same language, but the language of friendliness is universal. "
Man, you got that part right. Mutual respect and a good attitude will take you a long way around here.
"The other problem is that too many tourists are in such a rush to get on to the next attraction on their list. This is no way to travel in Vietnam or any other Asian country - slow down and learn to enjoy the local lifestyle - for me, the people are the REAL attraction."
A line drive off the wall and Daawgon has ripped shots in his last two at bats!
#13 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I have just travelled and left Vietnam after wanting to do so for many years. I had read so much about the Vietnamese and their courage and love for their country and how thye withstood so much adversity.
What I was not counting on was their total lack of compassion, kindness or friendliness. Granted that most of this unfeeling behaviour was in the cities, and perhaps "I did not spend rnough time with the country folk", but it was such a relief to get over the border in Laos and have people at least respond to a greeting or even help with a simple direction with sign language. How humiliating to have people even in places like Dien Bien Phu, cut you off in queues and start forming another so you cannot buy, and the all laughing when you finally have to move off.
I have seen foriegn women sleeping on buses getting slapped awake, people shouted at, people getting kicked off a Cat Ba beach because the Vietnamese were coming, ripped off after eating street food and people being surrounded and money demanded, sent the wrong way purposely ....and more.
I have no axe to grind and so wanted to enjoy Vietnam, it is just that i wish they had told me that they did not want me there....I could have easily have gone to other friendly places in the Far East instead, but was committed to the journey once arriving.
It is strange that even a few weeks after the trip, back in Thailand and now in Malaysia, I still get surprised and delighted when locals say hello without wanting money. I am still apprehensive about asking directions... a scar from Vietnam.
I really had no idea that the people were unfriendly or nasty, and only after my experience did I Google to find out if other people had bad experiences, and was shocked to find the internet FULL of comments about the nasty Vietnamese people, even from people that have lived there for a few years.
I really do not want to dislike the Vietnamese people or generalise, but I have to be honest about me experience there, and it was not an attitude problem... the people dried up my smile after a few weeks. Looking into it further, I find the return stats for tourists tell a story. Back to Thailand and Laos...certainly. Vietnam, if I have the time and can buy a motorbike and see the country, maybe, but to see the people...never
#14 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
I understand what you think about Vietnamese people. Many friends also said that to me. They encounter bad people in Vietnam and they are angry. However, there are many generous people in Vietnam. You know there are good and bad people in each country.
#15 LaraHelen has been a member since 13/7/2012. Posts: 35
The Vietnamese have a very tough, aggressive culture. They are famous for it. Like Germans and Japanese. That doesn't mean that everyone from Vietname is tough and aggressive, it simply means that their threshold for this kind of behavior is higher than it is in much of SEA. That's why they were so feared by their neighbors. But they also have a reputation for being hard working, generous when the situation demands it, and fun when opportunity allows it. They are not the regions softest people though. These kinds of traits are, of course, cultural. In Germany people cut in line all the time if they can. They suck at lines. Lift lines at a German ski lodge are a cluster of wrestling to the front. Rude behavior is endemic - but for them it's not rude. Their norms are just different. In Thailand is you clap your hands to get a waitresses or waiters attention, that's perfectly OK. But in the US, that would be incredibly rude. But yes, the reason why Vietnam has such a low tourist return rate is at least partly due to the aggressive nature of their culture.
#16 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Thanks for the info re the Virtnamese. I wrote to their Tourism in Vietnam and they had the good grace to reply and are aware of the problem i think. Interestingly, I was chatting to a guy with a lot of knowledge about SE Asia and he said Singapore had a major problem with rudeness to Westerners until there was an education programme to help the siuation.
I do understand the cultural differences , but I think that when I was subjected to unwarranted nastiness ona few occasions, and not in the tourist area, it soured my trip. Being deliberately cut off and a new queue forming so that I cannot buy, and then laughing at me openly, is a bit off putting.
In some cases, the unpleasantness, like slapping a woman awake on a bus, directing methe wrong way intentionally etc, is bound to make a person negative. I am awaree people have great times in Vietnam, it is just that there are so many stories, and so many people have personally told me about such incidences, that there is something beyond this beinga cultural thing.
Once again, I ahve no hatred of the Vietnamese, it was sort of a situation like a small school boy at last having the chance to meet his film star herione, and when he asks for her autograph, she tells him to piss off.....just sort of disappointing
#17 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
People will disappoint you. There is good and bad everywhere. This happens in Thailand too. People come here for vacation and think the Thais are so nice and tolerant and then are shocked when they move here and find so much violence and deceit endemic to the society. Thais are tolerant and nice, but they are also human, and expecting to arrive at a place where humans are somehow better isn't going to happen.
#18 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I hear what you say and I think my comments about Vietnam will come to an end now, with this post..... it might be thought I really have it in for them.
I think by your last post you feel it is my first time in Asia. I have been here a few times andcurrently am on a 6 month trip now. It as just my first trip to Vietnam.
I have been around long enough to know you get good and bad in any country, that is a given and to be expected. It is just to the extant of the bad experiences that shocked me.
I am in Malaysia now and still get a bit of a surprise when I get a good morning before I can say it first, or bus drivers smiling and telling me where to get disembark. Of course there are the sullen ones, but as I said, it is the extent of the rudeness and not just sullen rudeness, purposeful spitefulness.
Anyway, as I said, I am not out to hate them, I have no reason to. I am moving to SE Asia for 6 months next year an will go to where I am most welcome and I hear the Philippinos are really nice and a beautiful country, so there or Thailand.
#19 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
I've heard of some expats who have learned to navigate that environment and really like it. But maybe it's just not for you. I am tempted to go, but when I am pushed to far I can fugly, so maybe I better not.
#20 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I started chatting with some Vietnamese students practising their English in Saigon and ended up with them and their friends for the next eight hours. They were concerned by Vietnam's international reputation for unfriendliness. I speculated that most of the people moaning probably spent most of their time sitting in quiet, overpriced tourist bars, yards away from the many Vietnamese sitting in the cheaper drinking haunts outside who would actually really interested in meeting them.
Expats, even those who haven't learned the little Vietnamese that goes a long way, seem to love the place.
I'm not sure where the stereotype of rude Singaporeans comes from (half the tourist-facing staff in Singapore aren't Singaporean anyway...). I lived there for three months and the rudest thing I remember was someone thinking my strawberry tan was funny. Singaporeans certainly aren't as excited by the novelty value of Western backpackers as other SE Asian countries, but that's perfectly understandable. And there's certainly nowhere else on the continent that I'd expect a complete stranger to bring back a dropped mobile phone the following day, or a meter taxi driver insist on reducing the fare by a few cents because he made a wrong turning.
Now rude British people on the other hand...
#21 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84
I was not aware that Singaporeans have a badrep. I have never heard of anyone complaining and I certainly was treatedwell... everywhere. I mentioned and interesting chat froma seasoned Aussietraveller that said that many years ago there was a problem in Singapore andthe government spent time educating the people about teh value of the tourismindustry. But the only thing negative I have heard lately for a cheapy like me is that it is expensive!
I also chatted for hours with some students in the park in Saigon, and it is astandard thing they do to learn English. They are on my Facebook now and Ireally enjoyed it. Walk out of the old centre in Hanoi to the museums, thereyou will be approached by "friendly" university students which they willsay they are...but they are conning, they just want money or to sell yousomething… a different kind of studentfrom the South.
I had no real problems in the South, not too friendly but not something to makeme mad. Just when I sort of crossed over the demilitarised Zone line:-). Ichatted to a young English teacher in Hanoi and he could not wait to leave, andalso had my bad experiences away from the tourist area and also where thelocals were. However, at one street eatery, I had a joking half hour with 2 oldladies about marrying them and a few local men seemed to thaw, so maybe they canbe won over.
Buit anyway, one thing is for sure....if they are rude they need to know it. Ifthe young people are concerned that is great, they can change things. If my countryhas a tourism fault we need to get kicked in the butt and not be defensiveabout it. The many many people complaining cannot be all wrong....just look inthe net, so they just have some work to do. They have a beautiful country sojust need to decide whether they need tourism.
#22 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
Personally, I find Germans to be among the rudest and most unpleasant of people, but I have not personally met every man, woman and child in the Fatherland - I admit this is a gross generalization. My heritage might interest you - I'm German American from Pennsylvania. I also find many Americans to be very unpleasant - they find my bluntness somewhat alarming, but then again there are millions of Americans and Germans who are downright nice people. I do find the VN aggressiveness somewhat unpleasant - I'm human too, but I come from the States where we have aggressive people with firearms!
#23 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,083
Well, I am from South Africa.... agressive people with firearms hooo boy! A am German / Afrikaner mix, but did not turn out as bad a combination as you can imagine.
Must say, I do find my fellow SA guys quite pleasant and it is good to see them when I travel.... but there were SA guys that gave a bad rep in the old days abraod....with Apartheid we were not the most popular bunch and I think the travellers became insular and defensive and some were real wankers...but now things are cool and living in Cape Town is a real pleasure. We get a lot of tourists and the guys I know seem to thrive on making them enjoy Cape Town, so I am happy with that. If we find someone being rude to a foreigner, on the street or in a restaurant etc... we would give a mouthfull, but I suppose in Johannesburg it may be different.....that is like another country I think...or Cape Town is like another country maybe:-). Yep...Germans are rude in our country too, and demanding, and they dress like ****. A swimming costume with short socks and smart shoes... I kid you not. Irish, Scottish and Welsh are always real cool. English....some good some bad, depends on the level of drunkness.
Americans, we do not get that many in SA but when they are here, you certainly can hear that. I have heard from the guys in SA that the Americans in America are great and better than the tourists...if that makes sense. I was told I MUST go there and get out into the smaller town areas.
#24 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
"I speculated that most of the people moaning probably spent most of their time sitting in quiet, overpriced tourist bars, yards away from the many Vietnamese sitting in the cheaper drinking haunts outside who would actually really interested in meeting them."
Enigmatic in this case I think it's a mistake to blame the problem on the tourists in question, because it's not anecdotal, it's statistical. Vietnam has a 7% return rate for tourist. Thailand has a 50% return rate. There has to be something going on with the Vietnamese for that to be true.
#25 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I think you can read too much into that statistical discrepancy; Thailand gets a "repeat visit" from just about every backpacker due to its major hub airport, visa-free entry, and strategic positioning in between Malaysia and Indochina, and the Thais' far greater aptitude for running the sex and package tourist industries that attract the most real return visitors has little to do with basic friendliness. I've seen a more respectable 15% return rate claimed for Vietnam too.
It's pretty clear that Vietnamese people polarise opinions more than most. I'm just pointing out any judgement about a nation's psyche based on drivers, vendors and travel agents is likely to be premature, which is why the expats seem to like the place a lot more than some of the first-time-in-Asia backpackers.
#26 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84
I wanted to stop writing on this post a while back, but Iactually do find it mildly irritating that some people defending the Vietnamesepeople with regard to their attitude to foreigners , act like there is actuallyno problem when there clearly is.
Also, I find it really strange that the rudeness is alwaysattributed to “drivers, vendors and travel agents” and the “tourist industry”.Well, right around the world, opinions on a country are based on visiting the country or meeting people from thatcountry. We cannot all be in a position to teach English in Vietnam or whateverthey expats do, and most visitors naturally follow the normal route taken bymillions. We are now being asked to assume that just the people that in all ofSouth East Asia, other countries like Malaysia, Thailand , Laos etc, have positionednicer people around their tourist industry.
Look at some expats comments on the internet and also findout that many are also scathing about their stay in Vietnam. I also found mostof my unpleasant experiences not in a tourist area…….being ripped off eatingwith the locals, being forced out of a queue and then laughed at( in a townwith little foreigners ) etc.
There are parts of the Vietnamese culture I HATE but I realizeit is their culture and I must accept it. A good example is the spitting. Whensitting eating at a street stall and a man clears his throat LOUDLY and spitson the pavement nearby, it is really unpleasant (To me) but is acceptable in their cultureand that is fine. Nastiness, unsympathetic, rude, and compassionless deserve nodefense…. That is not supposed to be part of any culture
I Malaysia, in a few days, I have had more conversations,been helped by people (some could not speak English), happily shown directionsand even shown around the market, than I had in Vietnam in one month. And yes,my attitude was right in Vietnam, but my smile gradually dried up. Vietnam wasto be the pinnacle of a 6 month tour, and I could not wait to get there, so Inever arrived with the bad attitude…exactly the opposite.
There is no way I am going to sway any opinion and this willgo round in circles, so maybe it is going nowhere . If the Vietnamese are happywith their tourism figures and their attitude to foreigners, so be it. It istheir country. All I know is that athome, we so enjoy it if visitors say they met good people, and too many peopleI have spoken to, cannot really say that about Vietnam.
#27 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
I was with you until this:
"Nastiness, unsympathetic, rude, and compassionless deserve nodefense…. That is not supposed to be part of any culture"
There is no such thing as "supposed to be" concerning culture. It is, what it is. That's like watching a lion or other predator take down an animal which leads to its tortuous death and then say "Torture and violence shouldn't be part of any natural environment."
#28 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Maybe "supposed to be" is the wrong expression but I see what marxx is saying. Basically it costs nothing to be nice or to smile at someone.
How this ties into animals in the wild mauling each other to death, something which is perfectly natural, I don't know.
#29 chinarocks has been a member since 17/6/2011. Posts: 740
"Iactually do find it mildly irritating that some people defending the Vietnamesepeople with regard to their attitude to foreigners , act like there is actuallyno problem when there clearly is.
Also, I find it really strange that the rudeness is alwaysattributed to “drivers, vendors and travel agents” and the “tourist industry”."
Plenty of people have had bad experiences in Vietnam and obviously you're one of them, but that doesn't mean everyone has. I spent 2 1/2 months there and definitely didn't come away feeling that there "clearly is a problem with regard to Vietnamese people's attitudes to foreigners." I did encounter some rudeness, but honestly it was almost always, like you say, "drivers, vendors and travel agents", and I've encountered very similar attitudes in Thailand tourist areas.
I met a whole bunch of generous and very warm-hearted locals in central Vietnam. In the south I was often greeted by smiles and friendly attitudes. In the north the people were a lot less friendly, but I felt more like they were either ignoring me or trying to sell me something, nothing more. Definitely no outward discrimination just for the hell of it.
As a whole, the society is a lot more pushy than Thai, Cambodian or Malaysian. It's similar to China from what I understand. Spitting in the street is also perfectly acceptable there, the idea being that health should not be sacrificed in favor of retaining a "clean and savory" image. It's understandable if you think about it. I mean, you've got something stuck in your throat, who gives a damn what anyone thinks, just get it out!
Cutting in line is the norm in China too. I have a lot of Vietnamese friends back home who warned me that's just how it is. First one to the front wins, doesn't matter where you're from. It sucks they were laughing at you, but perhaps they were giggling at how sensitive you got about it.
I'm not trying to get under your skin or say that what you've said isn't correct from your point of view. I fully believe that you got treated like crap in Vietnam. But you said yourself that you're irritated to see people defending the Vietnamese, which implies that you think everyone should have the same distaste for the people as you did. That's simply not true. Personally I had very few problems there, became long-term friends with some lovely Vietnamese people, had an amazing experience and wouldn't hesitate to go back.
Well, Madmac, I am definately outta here as this is getting along now, but what I am saying about culture is that we as human beings are born with certain instincts such as knowledge of good and evil and we are also born with compassion, which separates us from animals. These are known natural instincts and culture is a way of life developed in different races or societies
Nastiness and taking pleasure out of being hurtful are not normal human traits and not part of any culture that I know.
So, as per your comment, perhaps the Vietnamese are part of the animal species whereby these acts can be taken as the normal course of nature and accepted?........while the rest of us poor suckers have to go through the arduous task of being human and having to actually try and be decent.
#31 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
"How this ties into animals in the wild mauling each other to death, something which is perfectly natural, I don't know."
Because assailing culture and saying it is "supposed to be something" is like assailing nature. To make an observation is one thing. But when you apply "supposed to be" you imply that there is a template with rules concerning the structure of culture, and it doesn't work that way. Culture isn't designed, it just develops. Therefore, there is no "Supposed to be" to apply.
"Nastiness and taking pleasure out of being hurtful are not normal human traits and not part of any culture that I know."
You know one now. I was very surprised at how different emotions are perceived and acted upon when I moved to Thailand. Prior to that, I assumed that there were universal truths in that regard. There are not
#32 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Did you guys actually go to Vietnam? I found the locals so warm and welcoming, so much so That i am going back in December with two of my adult children.
#33 NYTim has been a member since 11/9/2009. Posts: 106
NTTim - You did read Marx' post right? He was writing from his experiences in Vietnam.
I am glad you had a good experience, and many people do. But enough people do not, that it has gone well beyond indivual experience. As I said before, the rate of return for tourists in Vietnam is the lowest in SEA. There must be a reason for it. That's a demonstrable, hard number. Not some speculation or anecdotal observation.
I have not been to Vietnam, but live in a city with a large Vietnamese population. All of my neighbors are ethnic Vietnamese and they all (without exception) have told me Vietnamese social norms are much more aggressive than Thai (where we live). Given what I have read about Vietnam, I am inclined to believe this is probably true.
That doesn't mean people should not go. They should just go with realistic expectations.
#34 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I think the return rate is due to the small size of the country. A fews weeks in "Nam" and you can see almost everything. Thailand is much bigger and is hub, much like Hong Kong, for SE Asia travel. Try Israel for aggressive, nasty, locals, Vietnam pales in comparison. India is pretty tough also. Vietnam is warm and cuddly compared to Israel and India.
#35 NYTim has been a member since 11/9/2009. Posts: 106
Cambodia and Laos also have higher rates of return - and Laos isn't a hub of anything.
And Vietnam well might be nicer compared to those locals (and I have no idea what their return rates are). Not really relevent to SEA though. Actually, why anyone would want to travel to the Middle East for vacation I have no idea. I hate the place.
So maybe compared to other peoples the Vietnamese are charming, but compared to their neighbors it would appear they are tough as nails.
#36 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
" I hate the place". Rather a sweeping statement condemning a large portion of the globe. Do you get to decide what is good or bad?
#37 NYTim has been a member since 11/9/2009. Posts: 106
I get to decide for me. Having spent a number of years in the region - I decided it sucks. If someone else likes it - great. Not me.
#38 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I don`t really understand that discussion here and I am really wondering what you guys have against Vietnamese....not sure where everyone comes from but do people in your home counrty greet you back when you greet them first, or do they smile at you when you smile at them.....just because ist`s SEA and YOU are on holiday you expect that, "ok i am on holiday and in a good mood, everybody else also suppose to be happy, that is my demand because I am in the friendly neighbourhood of South East Asia..."
Well I live in Nam since 3 years and I enjoy it, I used to Live in Thailand before and in comparison I like VN people more, because they are more real and more honest. Vietnam doesn`t depend on Tourism, not like Thailand, Vietnam is a Aggri culture country trying to make a step in the industrial zone, Tourism is not important for the VN gouvernment as the income and the taxes payed by all the cheap back packers is not high enough....
In regards the return rate, well it is small but u also need to know that we jave only 3.9 Mio. international arrivals (not only tourist) here, Thailand has 14.something Mio on arrivals.....The point being, if you cannot handle "nasty locals" then stay at home in YOUR friendly neighbourhood....
#39 oceansrepublic has been a member since 23/6/2012. Posts: 10
I'd be interested in knowing what the return rates for Cambodia and Laos are - is there any site listing them? Gut feeling tells me they're a lot closer to Vietnam's than Thailand's unusually high rate, and it's certainly not true that Laos are rude or Cambodians unfriendly.
Laos isn't a hub, but it is a very useful visa run destination for people living in Isaan...
The most obvious cultural difference between Vietnam and the Theravada Buddhist countries is the latter countries have forgotten/suppressed the existence of the facial expression known as the frown. This certainly gives the appearance of a softer, friendlier culture but I find it pretty superficial. Even if they do a better job of concealing it behind a condescending smile, it's still pretty obvious to me that many Thais regard us backpackers with contempt (which often is entirely understandable). As in Vietnam, I prefer to focus on the people that actually like me.
#40 enigmatic has been a member since 14/4/2011. Posts: 84
I don't know about Cambodia, but I read somewhere that Laos' return rate rivals Thailand. I'm not surprised, because the kind of people who go there in the first place are the kind of people who would like it. It is sufficiently undeveloped to give it a very different feel from their home countries, and the population is generally gregarious.
As for Ocean, I have nothing against the Vietnamese (or anyone else for that matter). But I am of the opinion based on my observations and readings of the people that they are a pretty tough bunch relative to the region and if you're looking for that warm and gentle environment then Thailand is probably going to be more to your liking (or Laos as well). I don't doubt, though, that Vietnam has plenty of decent, friendly people. Most places do.
#41 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
You are correct Jenny, but I think it would be a mistake in translating that to say that all are the same, and if you have a conflict with the norms of one that is because of you, vice the environment. The Russians are tough too - but that's not to say there aren't decent people in Russia. It's just to say before you decide where to go for vacation, do so with your eyes wide open, as not all places are the same.
#42 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"Vietnam doesn`t depend on Tourism, not like Thailand, Vietnam is a Aggri culture country trying to make a step in the industrial zone, Tourism is not important for the VN gouvernment as the income and the taxes payed by all the cheap back packers is not high enough...."
I agree that VN doesn't depend as much on tourism, but they do depend quite a bit on tourism, and increasingly, those tourists are not backpackers. I read the English VN press on a daily basis, and the trend here is that the educated in VN are more than frustrated with their corrupt government. If VN cities had an effective police force, the level of petty crime could be controlled, but as it stands today, the traveler suffers, and most leave with a very bad taste in their mouth. I am somewhat pessimistic about the future of tourism in Vietnam - the buck stops with the authorities!
#43 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,083
Daawgon, I have a friend who lives in Hanoi. She's Vietnamese. She says what you just did, that she and many other business owners are very frustrated with the government. But that's life in a one party state.
#44 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Whew! I'm so glad I'm Canadian. We don't have rude people here
All joking aside, it's been interesting reading this thread, as I will be heading to Asia in January (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam) and have been excited about all legs of the trip. I didn't realize until reading this that the general(ized) attitude of the vietnamese can be aggressive; a seemingly popular opinion.
The last time I visited a Chinese market in my hometown, I nearly left in tears as I was SO offended by the rudeness of the chinese staff...It's worth noting that I am in the hospitality industry and have been most of my life, so encountering people that don't give a rat's ass about my contribution to their revenue really rattles me.
I will now go to Vietnam a little more prepared for sharp encounters and phlegm balls on the sidewalk.
But I'm still going. Can't wait to eat the food!
And my two bits about Vietnam vs Thailand? Is it possible that because the Thais have had decades more practice at receiving tourists that they are simply far more accustomed to it? Mass tourism is still a relatively new thing in Vietnam, no?
#45 juliec has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 2
"But I'm still going. Can't wait to eat the food!"
Really? Well, some people do like it. It's not on my list of favorite cuisines.
Have a good trip though. As long as you go with your eyes wide open, you'll be fine.
#46 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
3 weeks for the whole Vietnam or what? Just 3 weeks for the trip from the North to the South it may be not enough or maybe a rush pace for the trip. I suggest just in the North since i've visited, otherwise in The South, just leave it for the others' suggestion . Reach Hanoi , spend fews time there then take Halong bay tours. Back to Hanoi for trekking in Sappa. After that just head to the South along the coun try from Ninh Binh, Hue. In the South i just hear about Mekong delta tours. Not sure for that. Phu Quoc island is worth to visit too. Anyway i think you have to plan for the whole trip and book in advance. Choose the trustful travel agency the have a nice trip. Good luck!
#47 Lila_Kue has been a member since 16/10/2012. Posts: 13
Well i am heading home today afer 6 months on the road....Cambodia, vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. All in all cost me $1000US per month.... and i went out almost every night. So Juliec if you wanna get some up to date knowledge just mail me email@example.com. I lived real basic and travelled cheap and it can be real good and safe. There are some nasties but common sense normally takes care of that.
#48 marxx has been a member since 28/8/2012. Posts: 8
The people of north Vietnam can be a rather boisterous lot and seem at times rude, ignorant and generally disagreeable. They are indeed quite rough but there are many nice people here as well.
It's hard to generalize the people of Vietnam as they are so diverse; the people of Central Vietnam are very calm and pleasant while in Hanoi, frowny faces can be seen everywhere and many foreigners are seen as a walking ATM and over charging is the norm.
I haven't spent a lot of time down south but they seem more open and friendly but the amount of scams appears to be higher; they'll rip you off and cheat you with a smile on their face, just like in Thailand.
As far as the rates of return go, this is up for debate. My take on it is Vietnam has a crappy service industry and the in-your-face attitude of the locals found in the tourist traps 90% of people go is too much and people don't want to experience it again. Also, most folks do the north-south run and tick Vietnam off the list. There are so many countries to explore, why go back to the same country? Furthermore, Vietnam doesn't have the quality resorts or sex tourism happening in Thailand for fat and ugly men and women to get their rocks off with an impoverished local. The local sex industry in Vietnam is booming but it's mostly for locals.
To sum up, the Vietnamese in general are a fairly unrefined bunch, and due to their culture, don't expect much sympathy as you're out of their closely-knit family circle. I've seen locals laugh openly at people having motorcycle accidents and heard of stories of people getting killed and the rubberneckers laughing out loud. This shouldn't put you off having a great time in this exotic and beautiful country. A bit of planning getting off the main tourist places will help your trip being memorable for the right reasons.
#49 Kurtz has been a member since 15/10/2012. Posts: 20
I'm afraid my tolerance level for being jerked around is not very high and my potential for violence is. So I guess I should just skip it. I might go to Hanoi because I have some Vietnamese friends there (dancers of course) and they are willing to pick me up at the airport and keep me straight. I'd like to walk the ground at Dien Bin Phu... but, I'll probably skip it.
#50 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
My partner and I travelled for 2 weeks in Vietnam in September 2011 and had such an amazing time that we are taking my entire family back for 3 weeks this coming January. We did not have a single bad experience and met some amazing people. Yes there were those who saw two 23 yr old Kiwi's and thought we may not notice a change in price but we always found that being friendly and polite was the best way around it. And as people have said, if its $1, who cares??
One man who stood out was one of the Easy Riders who approached us about taking a tour. We declined with a smile and before he drove off, he turned to me and said "Miss, make sure you keep a hold of your bag, sometimes people on bikes can try to snatch them.' This summed up the locals for me, they may try to sell you something but they were always friendly to tourists. I can't wait to get back. I hope you have a fantastic time as well!
#51 Cheree1014 has been a member since 30/10/2012. Posts: 1
I'm 50/50 on Vietnam. I had both the negative and positive interaction. I don't plan on going back anytime soon but not saying I wouldn't go see the north part in the future. Reading this thread it seems like everyone can have a problem with someone somewhere, doesn't it. I've also met tourists that should not have been given a passport to leave their own country.
#52 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
Well MAC, I'm sure you could beat up most Viets if it was a one on one, but just be prepared for him to return with 10 of his knife wielding mates. Vietnam is not place for Western thugs.
Cheree, $1 is not a lot to tourists who swan around SE Asia like they're Bill Gates, but if you let the locals get away with overcharging, they think they can alway get away with it and that sucks for those of us who live here. That "only $1" might resemble a 100% profit increase for them. This leads to greed in what has become a greedy country. Please stop being ignorant.
#53 Kurtz has been a member since 15/10/2012. Posts: 20
Just returned from second freestyle road trip through Vietnam, we live on a small Scottish Island and I used this blog site forum as part of my research....being from an Island we think that we know everyone, and in Saigon I could see as many people in one street as there is in our entire population....yet somehow we received waves, nods, hellos, and even gifts at every location we stayed in????? I really think positivity, kindness and the willingness to take the time to communicate went a very long way for us.
I would say avoid horrid tourists and backpack areas, drinking too much and thinking you are better than your local fellows...we honestly laughed and made fools of ourselves many times in an attempt to join in with a bbq banana provider or buying one clove of garlic and 6 eggs at the local market in order to cook omelette in the hotel 'kitchen - 2 gas hob burner' ...but imagine the joy as an elderly lady slaps your bum and takes over chopping the garlic or 20 people take your photo or just that one time a man gave us a plug as a gift......go for it ..Vietnam is awesome!!!!
I'm afraid my tolerance level for being jerked around is not very high and my potential for violence is.
#55 phihung has been a member since 18/3/2013. Posts: 1
I understand what you are wondering now , we have been the same before .
October 2012 we found some guy doing motorbike tours in North Vietnam through a friend ( who did a trip here before us ) and we decided to do the same trip . They took us to a lots of nice place where is no tourist at all , the sceneries were fantastic and we love it , but the most impressive memories for us was home-stay with local where we were very welcome and we have had lots of fun . It's a very different way to see the country , why wouldn't you try it ?
Ps : the price was not low , but it's was full package tour and we only have to pay for our alcohol drink ( and tips for the guide after trip bc he was so cool ) .
He has an website here : http://www.advridevietnam.com/
Have good time there mate !
#57 BruceHaydon has been a member since 18/5/2013. Posts: 6
Well, i have met people who wanted to do the same likes you, they just skip the main cities which already ticked on lonely planet and travel sites. and they drive motorbike along the country.
i would suggest you to go to
1. Bien Hoa city, belong to Dong Nai province - 100 percent non-tourist town, very nearby from saigon.
2. Ninh Thuan province where you can go and see Cham people life style
3. Binh Phuoc province with a lot of different minority people.
well, make your own research
have a goood trip
#58 Sangnguyen has been a member since 1/10/2014. Posts: 1
I read about half the posts, meaning the next person will probably not read this one....
But in my 3 months in Vietnam, I found the same cross-section that you might expect anywhere- kind people that were amazingly helpful, that saved my glasses for me when I left them at their roadside tiny tables restaurant, a girl in Nha Trang who took me to the train station on her moto because google maps gave directions that were completely off.
And yes, a woman who took a bottle from me, tore off the price and tried to charge me double. "No, thank you!" I said cheerily as I walked off. There are others, but you get the drift.
Overall, I would (and will) definitely go back, and encourage others to. I'd advise to not sweat the small stuff, and make your terms clear when making arrangements, especially for travel. Be prepared to say No, and mean it. Also, if you are stuck, like at the Saigon bus station at 1 am without choices, you pay.
Overall, I found vietnamese people to be delightful, and a hell of a lot kinder to Americans that many Americans are to them in the US. You just need to have a better understanding of the culture you are visiting, and roll with it.
I do feel a bit wary of a culture in which children's pet dogs are freely stolen. Then the perpetrators bludgeon them to death with a heavy metal pipe, which can take 10 to 12 blows.
Then the dogs, which may contain poison used to drug them, are eaten in the belief that they make men more virile. Stay classy, Vietnam.
#60 flowerchild has been a member since 17/12/2015. Posts: 1