I recently returned from a trip to Vietnam. First let me say, it is a lovely country and the people are friendly. However, there were a few things that were negative about the trip and they mostly concerned…foreigners being inconsiderate.
Yes, I was a foreigner in that country but I believe I acted respectfully. I want everyone to have a nice time, I ensure that my words are kind even if I don’t think that those listening will understand me, and I want to – not be an ambassador – but give a good impression. I don’t think being considerate is that hard to be – you just consider those around you. You consider your actions and your words and whether they are coming across the way that you want them to. You consider other people.
The main event that I wanted to speak of right now was on our second night in the city. We had been walking around Hanoi all day and we wanted to have dinner before we headed back to the hotel. So we found a place. It wasn’t exactly posh, the sign above the door stating ‘Cheap and Cheerful Restaurant’ so we weren’t expecting a Michelin Star meal. We sat at a table for two and perused the menu. There seemed to be a couple of options so we were deciding when this booming voice invaded our ears.
A few tables behind us there seemed to be a group of backpackers having a few drinks. I also assume that they had already HAD a few drinks because I don’t think anyone normally speaks this loudly. You know, the type of loud where you may as well had pulled up a chair and joined their table because you could hear their conversation word-for-word. The young speaker, as loud as if she was using a megaphone, was telling a story about a recent time when someone had called her fat. She was laughing, so she obviously wasn’t offended but the story didn’t seem to end. She continued and I could feel my patience about to explode. However, I’ve been raised to be polite so couldn’t feel as though I could politely ask her to shut up or turn the volume down because it wasn’t a very interesting story and wouldn’t be even if I’d been reading news about bread for the past 24 years of my life and she was the only alternative. I’d still choose the bread.
So we asked the waitress if we could go upstairs. She warned us that it was much hotter upstairs but we felt we would brave it. Although the heat hit us at first, the silence we were met with was beautiful. We chose a table and settled, much happier in our private space without needing a pair of earbuds. I wish I could say that was the end of the tale, but alas we were met with more obstacles to our evening.
We can hear the voices coming up the stairs, a group of 3. At first they went into a different section of the room and we breathe a sigh of relief. Until the voices come back, like the Jaws soundtrack getting louder and louder until finally they choose a table RIGHT NEXT TO US. I mean, come on! It’s like the chair rule…you don’t sit immediately next to someone. You choose one seat over. With a choice of about 11 tables, you don’t sit next to the couple. You just don’t. But they did.
Again, they seemed merry and the girl immediately boomed out with ‘I don’t have much money left’. So I guess the ‘cheap and cheerful restaurant’ was an apt choice of venue. My husband and I look at each other, not quite believing our luck. We had escaped one deafening group to be found by another. There were two Australian women and it seemed they had coerced a member of staff from their accommodation to accompany them. He definitely wasn’t the loud time and he hardly spoke really. Not that he had much chance.
We tried to drown our their conversation with their own. I’m not even sure what we discussed, I think it may have been how quick can we eat our food to get out of there. The first snippet of the conversation that I remember is the women talking about how one of them had gotten ‘too high’ during New Year’s. This was not a conversation we wanted to hear and I was thankful that there were no families in the area. The conversation then took a deep dive into persuading the Vietnamese gentleman to visit them in Australia.
Woman 1: You should come to Australia!
Woman 2: You should definitely come! You’d love it!
W1: Save for a year and then visit us.
W2: How much is a flight to Australia from Vietnam?
VMan: I don’t know.
W1: Well what is expensive to you?
VMan doesn’t reply or at least isn’t loud enough to hear over the women.
W2: Well save for a year and then visit us. We’ll get you in.
W1: Yeah, we’ll definitely get you in. You can stay with us.
W2: Yeah! So accommodation, free.
W1: And we’ll cook.
W2: So accommodation, free. Food, free.
W1 to W2: It’ll be expensive though. They only make like $300.
W2: We’ll help you out!
W1: Yeah, that’s nothing to us.
W2: Yeah, nothing to us.
W1: So you’ll do it?
Let me repeat… they blatantly told him that what was expensive to him was nothing to them. Who does that? Also, can we rewind to the part where one of the women said ‘I don’t have much money left’? I mean I can’t afford a pizza but sure let’s fly a random guy half way around the world.
The reality of the situation is that if a year passes and he contacts them looking for all the visa, accommodation, food, and money aid that they were offering – would they really hold their promise? I really doubt it. But you can’t do that. You can’t go to another country and belittle the locals. You shouldn’t compare your money to their money. You shouldn’t make them feel like what they have isn’t enough, after all you are visiting their country because it has something your home country is missing. Maybe they didn’t realise how they sounded, but they can’t have even thought about it either.
An invite is nice and all but that should be it. I was imagining those TV shows you find on at midday where the police go into a house and find a room full of Asians. You know the one, where they scramble to find all their documentation to prove they are legal and I could just imagine there would be one guy telling a tale about 2 Australian women who invited him to Australia with the promise that they would get him in, no problem.
Needless to say we did not return to that restaurant – just in case.
Another time we went to see a show. We were excited. A water puppet show. It was magical, it was unique, it was a pain in the arse to see past the people recording on their phones. It was like being on a rollercoaster, you were up, you were down, you were right, you were left, you were doing anything you could to see past the arms and bright lights of camera phones. At one point a guy started video recording with his flash on, he didn’t notice for quite a few moments but the blinded audience in front of him definitely did. Did this put him off using his phone for the rest of the show? Of course not. It wasn’t as if he was the only one. There were people all around us being inconsiderate to those around them, causing others not to see so they can film and take photos that they will probably never watch again except maybe once when showing off to friends like ‘look at this awesome video I shot when causing the people behind me to get irrationally angry and think about throwing you in the pool of water that the puppets are in’.
Anyway, rant aside. Just have a thought for those around you. Do they need to hear your conversation about you being high? Do they need to have their view of a show ruined by your arm? Do they need to be seeing white spots because you were stupid enough to have your flash on? Just be considerate.