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Why the travelling habits of Vietnamese and overseas tourists often clash

By: Vu Ha Kim Vy Posted: September-24-2010 in
Vu Ha Kim Vy

In the first of a series of columns designed to give a deeper insight into Vietnam, Vu Ha Kim Vy explains why the travelling habits of Vietnamese and overseas tourists often clash.

When the Vietnamese travel they are noisy, overly active, jump queues and have no respect for other tourists. It’s an observation I often hear from foreign friends and colleagues, usually with the word ‘Why?’ attached at the end.

I, too, am Vietnamese and most of the time I travel I go with people from my own country rather than with foreigners. But for me, while I accept that there are issues with the way Vietnamese tourists behave on holiday, it’s the way Westerners travel that is strange. They like to relax, go to places or areas of natural beauty far away from the city, actively explore the places they visit and all in all, go on holiday in a fashion completely different to the Vietnamese.

The result, of course, is a clash. How many times have you seen issues at airports in Vietnam when Vietnamese jump the queue and Westerners get angry? And how many times are there problems in the resorts up and down Vietnam where large parties of Vietnamese and smaller groups of foreigners get in each other’s way and just don’t get along?

Group Mentality

On our side, one reason for this is the way we travel. We like going in large groups. It’s safer and more fun, and as a group we get up to things that we wouldn’t do at home.

As one friend of mine, Tri, says, “Travelling alone and only lying there reading a book is something you can do at home. If that’s what you want, then why bother going on holiday?”

Then there are relationships. Travelling in large groups allows you to see who you get along with and who you don’t. And, of course, the nature of large groups is that they are noisy. It’s unavoidable. No wonder then that foreign tourists coming to Vietnam get frustrated when troops of noisy Vietnamese disturb their peace.

It’s also a cultural phenomenon. Part of being Vietnamese is doing things together with large groups of family and friends. Our relationships with each other are strong, difficult to break, and are also reflected in the way we address each other. Whether or not someone is part of our family, we refer to them as older brother, older sister, younger sibling, mother, aunt, child or uncle. For us, the idea of a simple, straightforward “you” and “me” just doesn’t exist. We are individuals only in relation to other individuals within our extended hierarchical groups of family and friends.

All About Manners
And yet I accept that in the arena of travel etiquette, we have a lot to learn. We need to be aware of the needs, feelings and concerns of other tourists, of the places and resorts where we stay, of our noise levels and most importantly understand that we are not the only tourists in the vicinity.

But it is not only ourselves, the Vietnamese, who must learn to behave. Western tourists can also be abominable, especially in huge nightlife tourist locations like southern Spain, Greece and Thailand.

Let’s take Thailand as an example. Groups of westerners gather en masse in Bangkok or the islands, drink like crazy, chase women (or men, as the case may be), and generally behave like ‘hooligans’. They are a disgrace. If anyone wants to know why the Thais have little respect for the millions of tourists crossing their borders each year, then watch how the tourists, especially the Europeans and North Americans, behave, and you’ll understand.

Time to Become Aware
There is no obvious or clear solution to the clash of foreign and Vietnamese tourists when they travel in Vietnam. Westerners desiring peace and quiet aren’t going to head somewhere else or have different needs, and the community travel nature of Vietnamese tourists is hardly going to change.

However, as our country develops and speeds ahead into the 21st century, I can only hope that as a people, a group and a collection of millions of communities, we start to learn some manners and become more aware of the people who are not part of our group. The question is when?

Republished with the Kind Permission of Word HCMC



"Travelling alone and only lying there reading a book is something you can do at home" - you can travel alone at home? Eh? Sums up this article really.


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