HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Conundrum

Expats in any country occasionally encounter moral conundrums that leave you with no idea of what to do. Language and cultural barriers provide endless potential pitfalls, and these minefields are even more prevalent in Asian countries like Vietnam, where as a westerner your skin color, physical size and face mean you will never, ever be mistaken for a native. Situations that back home would be run-of-the-mill or easily manageable can go downhill fast, much to the confusion of everyone involved.

For example: you are driving your motorbike down the narrow street you live on. A local on a motorbike pulls out of an alley ahead of you. He turns in the same direction you are traveling, but is angling left, towards your path. This happens all the time here, since no one looks before they pull out into a street, but usually the person will eventually see you and avoid a collision. The man continues angling across the street while you keep thinking "he's going to see me...he has to see me...he's going to see me", and suddenly before you can react he runs into your right foot and the rear of your bike. This is what happened to me today.

The collision wasn't a strong one, and I easily stayed upright, but the guy went down with his bike on top of him. I stopped and looked back, amazed that he was so oblivious that he actually ran into me. I walked over to see if he was alright. He was, but the left foot pedal had sheared off of his bike. The people on the street were already shooting accusatory glances my way, and the guy was holding the pedal in front of my face in what I guessed was a gesture to show that he thought it was my fault it broke.

I've heard stories about foreigners getting into accidents with locals when the local was totally at fault and end up getting harassed for money. Sadly local drivers assume that foreigners haven't the slightest clue when it comes to driving since we don't grow up with motorbikes, so anytime there is an accident the blame is immediately placed on us, even if they run into you like an idiot (and it's also assumed that we have loads of cash we're just waiting to part ways with).

I didn't want to get dragged into any financial bullshit, and before a bigger crowd could gather I told the guy, "I'm not paying anything, it wasn't my fault," got back on my bike, and drove the rest of the way home. Surprisingly no one told me to stop, so maybe I was right in what I did. I was a little shaken up though, and I felt bad for the guy, but at the same time...maybe you should learn how to drive, damnit. The obliviousness with which some people drive here is staggering. Hopefully the guy learned that he shouldn't just cut across a street without looking, but I doubt it. What would you have done?

6 comments:

  1. I did not know what "conundrum" means until I look it up. Thanks for teaching me a new word.

    About the accident, obviously you are feeling bad enough to post the incident on your blog. The local probably cussed at you after you had left the scene. He might said something like Du Mę Mÿ Trãńg (damn Caucasian) and moved on. I am pretty sure the local will continue to drive just as crazy now, nothing will change for him. For you, you did what your instinct told you to do by drove away. Otherwise, the local will harass you for money. I know because I was in the same situation as you were and my Viêt-Kiêū brother had to pocket some money to hush the local Viêt.

    You know as long as you and the local were not physically injured in the accident then driving away is the smart way to handle this situation. Why bothers standing around argued over it. I don't know how much does it cost to replace the new pedal.

    Would the local recognizes you if he sees you on the street? You tell him that you are Mark Zuckerberg (do I spell his name correctly?) Haha.

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  2. Haha, maybe I will tell people that's my name. That is one concern of mine - since this happened so close to my building I'm worried people will see me and think, "Well, there goes the asshole who runs people over and drives off." We'll see.

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  3. Hmmm - from your description, you were in the wrong. Street law here (as you should know by now) is that each rider takes care of only what is in front of them. He was in front of you, you saw him, so you should have avoided him. That's the way the locals work.

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    1. Maybe I didn't give the best description, but he wasn't really in front of me - he was to the right, and then basically turned into me right as I was passing. Trust me, I know how 'street law' works.

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  4. Then I suppose the other law you forgot about is that "the foreigner is always wrong". (Because if you weren't in this country the accident wouldn't have happened.) That's actually a mantra provided to us by my employer on official orientation paperwork.

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    1. Ha! I thought that was just an unofficial street law.

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