The Vietnamese work ethic. I had the privilege to see the Bitexco tower as the helipad was nearly finished, and at almost every turn Fraser, Ollie and I were faced with half a dozen workers springing up onto their feet to make a very half -arsed attempt at looking busy. Looking busy consisted of little more than being on their feet and smiling... this is part of a larger epidemic where a significant amount of locals somehow feel entitled after one month in the job to switch off almost completely, stop trying to produce quality work and instead concentrate on the infinitely more productive output of complaining about their income/company/managers and taking inordinate amount of sick days due to family reasons.
Personal space hypocrisy. The best examples I will provide of this was when playing a friendly/friendlies against a Vietnamese team/s up at Thu Duc Sports University. Whether the two incidents I am about to quote took place in the same game, I can’t quite remember. Anyway during the game one of my teammates tried to apologise for a tackle and when the guy refused a handshake or helping hand back up onto his feet because he was so badly hurt from the tackle, my teammate ruffled his hair. Anyone who isn’t familiar with Asian culture should be informed that touching the top of an Asian’s head thing is a no-no. OK fine. But at the end of another friendly (and also once at a Bia Hoi) I went for a hand shake and the Vietnamese guy instead tried to grab my dick. Anyone who isn’t familiar with my culture should know that if you do that to a Brit on the football pitch (I say Brit since there are probably some European nations which like that sort of thing) you stand a good chance of leaving with some teeth in your hand.
Complaints ie. "You're not ___ enough to be my teacher" - Ultimately, if their teacher was a closet 47 year old male paedophile who had secretly spent the last 5 years serenading around Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines as an English language instructor, spending his student’s money on sex for schoolkids they would be happier. That's an extreme example but unfortunately it holds true for their psyche (For the Vietnamese ignorance is too often bliss). An awful male teacher with expensive possessions or who just rocks up and teaches directly from the book is held in so much more esteem than a quality female teacher who prepares lessons and has a clue what she is doing…
Vietnamese standards of decency.
Some examples will suffice here.
1. People debagging, crouching and shitting in a very visibly alley in the city centre in the middle of the day.
2. Poor punctuality. Dismissed with an insulting laugh. And repeated offences.
3. Cheating. Dismissed with a laugh. And repeated offences.
4. Acceptable noise levels. It seems anything goes so long as the sun is up. That includes next door neighbours drilling holes every Sunday morning from 8am for weeks or months on end. Or next door neighbours building a rabbit hutch in a darkened enclave which is actually on YOUR property, and sticking a confused cockerel in there who crowed for 15 minute spells every hour from 5am up to 5pm. In their culture, you are expected to grin and bear it, fine - as long as they don’t throw childish fits when you are watching a CCR DVD at 9.30pm. Or starting your motorbike outside your house. Or when your cat walks around at night.
5. Animal treatment. In Vietnam the old style rat trap is used, where the creature is lured into a cage, which has a trapdoor held on a latch. When activated the door is released behind them and traps them in the cage. One Saturday morning when I was waiting at the side of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai for a taxi to work during my crutches phase, I saw a woman put the cage in the gutter, then bring out a kettle and slowly pour a litre of boiling water over the thrashing rodent until it had stopped bouncing off the sides of the cage. Well, job done.
After nearly 3 years I eventually succumbed to the Saigon Zoo which gave me two additional examples of the lack of respect for animals that some Vietnamese men, children and women hold.
Incident one, “The taunting of the lion”. When approaching the lion cage there was a group of around 6 people watching a man who was holding his briefcase just out of the Lioness’s paws reach, encouraging it to swipe at the bag. A moment of inspiration came to me as Hana and I looked at each other in disgust and as the man prepared to taunt the big cat once again, I readied myself and waited for the lioness to strike, simultaneously grabbing the guy from behind and roaring in his ear. It achieved the desired effect of scaring the piss out of the guy, but my Vietnamese was insufficient to explain to the guy if he continued I would try to feed him to the animal.
Incident two, “The Crocodile ashtray”. A guy with his young daughter in his arm and a cigarette in the other flicked his burning cigarette over the fence at the Crocodile which opened its jaws and snapped up the butt. I would have liked to have seen him try to stub out that fag in the Croc’s mouth, and see how he was going to smoke and carry his toddler at the same time ever again.
People are told to be sensitive to Vietnamese culture and adapt. I agree to a point, my former flatmate Ryan was very short tempered and overly hostile towards the locals. But the country and its people are supposed to be developing, and I didn’t see any signs of it in my time there. Now that I’m away from Vietnam I say without reservation that the majority of Vietnamese people need to grow the fuck up. Not that I particularly held my tongue when I was there. But they can’t do it by themselves, and as teachers we can only help them reverse some of these behaviours, assuming their family unit is not simultaneously encouraging the opposite.