HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, October 26, 2012

Uncouth

One of the most obvious differences between Vietnamese culture (and many other Asian cultures), and Western culture is what people consider to be acceptable public behavior. Whereas in countries like the U.S. picking your nose, peeing in public and loudly belching are all considered quite rude and often disgusting, such behavior holds no negative connotation here in Vietnam. I don't know why certain cultures place emphasis on different types of behavior, but they do. Stuff I do in public as an American looks just as weird to locals here as someone pissing on a tree next to an intersection in broad daylight does to me.

These vast differences in social norms often result in situations that can be completely gross, but in the offending person's view, they aren't doing anything wrong. For example, I recently started going to the gym again after a six month hiatus. Today I was running on the treadmill. On the machine next to me was a well-groomed Vietnamese man, probably around the age of 30. It was clear that he takes care of himself, and it was also clear that he was fairly wealthy, as he prominently displayed both an iPad and an iPhone while exercising.

About 5 minutes into my run I noticed through the room-length mirror that runs in front of the treadmills that the guy was digging deep into his nose with two fingers. He wasn't trying to hide anything, as he boldly went knuckle-deep into each nostril. I fought the urge to gag, and things got even worse when he started wiping the boogers off on a gym-provided towel. I wonder how well those things are washed after they are used...

I tried to focus on the run and my music but I couldn't take my eyes away. Surely this would only go on for a few seconds? Nope, this went on for a solid 2 or 3 minutes, as the guy's fingers cleaned out his nose with gruesome efficiency. No one else around us was batting an eye, but I was trying not to throw up. Of course, as I already mentioned, picking your nose is just something you do when you need to here. As a result no situation like this ensued:



In the over two years that I've lived in Vietnam I've become pretty well-adjusted to things I would never see in the U.S., but this was horribly uncouth. I just hope I don't get that dude's towel the next time I work out.

8 comments:

  1. lol gross! Do these men do it in front of girls too? Don't the girls mind?

    ReplyDelete
  2. In front of girls? Girls are guilty of it more than anyone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lol I can't believe it! This I gotta witness when I get to Vietnam.

      Delete
  3. I can definitely relate even though I don't live in Vietnam. Nose picking is horrible. What''s worse is when someone coughs right into your face. It's like a blitzkrieg of germs that you can't avoid. Of course, it happens mostly with the older people. The younger people are obviously more well adjusted to life over here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know it's different to what us westerners are used to, but trying not to throw up? Bit dramatic no?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part of a writer's job is to be dramatic. I wasn't actually about to throw up, but it was still pretty disgusting.

      Delete
  5. Some actually eat their own bugie too. Believe it or not.

    ReplyDelete