HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Double Standard

If you are a foreigner, especially one from the west, living in Vietnam you may eventually notice that there is a double standard for the way Vietnamese are allowed to behave, and the way you are allowed to behave. This is best illustrated by what happens almost anytime a house party is held by a group of foreigners. Even if there isn't a lot of noise, the police will probably be called by a nosy neighbor who has nothing better to do.

Of course, sometimes people decide to take matters into their own hands - I was at a party last year on the rooftop terrace of a four-floor house. There was a fairly large crowd, but we weren't being that loud. Suddenly an old, shirtless man in the house next door began jabbing a bamboo pole onto the terrace, knocking over bottles, cans and plates and nearly spearing several people. The host was a Viet-Kieu and he started asking what the guy was doing. The old man replied that he would fuck his mother, and at the point we decided we should probably end the night.

This past weekend an Irish bar in District 2 held a party that ended up being extremely crowded. It wasn't particularly loud though, and there aren't even many houses in the area. Nonetheless, around 10pm a pack of cops showed up and began confiscating motorbikes, essentially shutting things down. I went home a few hours later, and there was a funeral blasting karaoke at the volume of a jet engine next to my building. Even on the 24th floor we could hear it clearly, and this went on until at least 3:30am. Why is that kosher, but foreigners can't gather in a crowd at 10 on a Saturday night?

I realize funerals are different from parties, but I still find it bizarre that neighbors have no problem with families blaring music until your ears bleed. It's not just special events that this happens during either - obnoxious music is regularly blasted from businesses, etc. with no consequence. There seems to be a belief (especially among older Vietnamese) that foreigners (especially those from the west) are morally corrupt heathens who spend most of their time drinking, doing drugs and screwing. We can't be allowed to corrupt the innocent youths of Vietnam! Amazingly, even younger Vietnamese think like this sometime. There was an article last year in Tuoi Tre that exposed the sordid lives of a group of rich, young Saigonese who occasionally hosted drug-fueled pool orgies where girls didn't have to pay for anything as long as they slept with whoever asked them. One young man was quoted as saying, "I learned to have parties like this when I studied in the west, where they happen all the time." I mean, obviously every weekend during my college years was spent snorting cocaine before having a threesome in a pool. Doesn't everyone do that?

I have no idea if people here will eventually realize that foreigners aren't some pernicious influence corrupting the minds of gentle local kids. I suspect it will be a while before that happens, so I guess us expats can expect to keep having our parties shut down, only to go home and try to sleep while the space shuttle blasts off next door.


  1. I wasnt there, so these will just be my assumptions and they could might as well be wrong...

    Perhaps the party you were at was loud without you noticing how loud it was?...Perhaps the vietnamese people didnt think they were loud either (I could be wrong).

    The situation at the Irish bar may not have been over the noise. You mentioned that it was overcrowded and that may have been more of an issue than the noise.

    IMO, If calling the cops is the thing that people do over there...then maybe you shouldve done the same thing back if the noise were to ever bother you next time.

    1. Well that's one of the things I don't understand - surely they realize the music at weddings etc. is too loud - it hurts to be near them. Do people here just have tougher eardrums?

      Anyway, the chances of police doing anything about a foreigner complaining about a local are pretty nonexistent. A good idea in theory, though.

  2. I've been loyally following your blog for some time now Mike, but I must say...

    Uh, just when did you say you plan to leave Vietnam?

    Pretty soon I believe you said, yes? I surely hope so, 'cuz...

    It seems to me that you're turning into an expat cliche that I dare say needs a new post label called: "grumpy expat who's forgotten that he CHOOSES to live here"

    Sorry, but it needed to be said.

    1. No reason to apologize, I kind of agree. As I explained in a post a few months back my feelings towards living here are very conflicted. There is a lot that annoys me, but there is a lot that I really like too - one of the big ones being the work I'm doing. If I hated my job it would be much easier to just pack up and leave. (That, and I can't just skip town when I'm organizing a huge charity bike ride.)

      Anyway to answer your question I plan to leave around July.

    2. No doubt living in such a drastically different culture than we grew up in can annoy the livin' hell out of any of us, Mike. It happens to the best of us. Shoot, I could probably rant for a solid WEEK on the insufferably impossible plastic packaging here in Vietnam, ALONE! ;)

      It's just that it really is ever our CHOICE to be here, so it just sounds so silly when we rant and whine. I just hope you'd do the same for me (call me on it) when I wax crabby about my adopted country, yes?

    3. Again, I totally understand where you're coming from - and I welcome criticism! If I ever think you are ranting like me I'll let you know, haha.

  3. Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyy mike; I believe u .

  4. I mean to be fair out parties do get shut down by the cops too. Usually around 12,1 thou