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Expats, tourists, and Western superiority
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mark_in_saigon



Joined: 20 Sep 2009
Posts: 758

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is an interesting discussion. I go down to PNL to eat about once a week, and of course the scene down there is very different. 100's or even 1000's of various foreigners, so many that there is nothing unusual about seeing one.

If you live on the outskirts, you can go weeks without seeing another westerner. In those cases, it would seem remarkable enough to see one that you would both recognize each other. Not to say you drop your groceries and hug each other, but at least smile and nod when you notice the first westerner you have seen in weeks. Not so. The guys who live on the outskirts seem to wish they were the only ones. I understand that, but it is not the reality, there are a few of us scattered around.

For most of us outside of the tourist areas, our default reaction is to pretend we did not see each other. I think some of the Aussies may be less this way, they seem to generally be friendlier and more sociable.
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Tigerstyleone



Joined: 26 Mar 2010
Posts: 181

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Going Native
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Dream_Seller



Joined: 01 Feb 2014
Posts: 38
Location: United States

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with the article.
Are tourists / expats in Vietnam surprisingly haughty toward Viet people? – Absolutely, it’s blatantly obvious to a Westerner and it is sickening.
I’m no stranger to my vices. I say places like PNL should exist however for myself it reminded me of high school lol (my high school was half white / half Viet). Places like that should exist for Westerners to let loose and have their little cathartic memories. I say Vietnam needs to wise up and learn how to PUMP EVERY LAST CENT FROM THESE TOURISTS.—REVERSE IMPERIALISM.

(Perhaps some reverse imperialism is why some expats despise Viets?)

I went to Vietnam with my best friend who is VK. Unlike Australians, Americans seldom travel. I doubt many Americans travel to Vietnam unless they have that backpacker mentality or have a VK friend/ spouse.
While I have many Viet friends in America and I made a lot of Viet friends in Vietnam I do find we debate a lot on East vs West. I doubt I will make strong connections with Vietnamese people unless they are VK as the very traps I want to escape locals see as “opportunities”.

Unfortunately I have to sell the dream. America is the land of opportunity, now let me help you get into that Ivy League school. Then you will be free with mountains of debt Very Happy

On second thought hopefully I can educate them on how to avoid debt once in the West.
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8balldeluxe



Joined: 03 Jun 2009
Posts: 64
Location: vietnam

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Westerners are always haughty about their own ideas like that. It's just easier to hear them when abroad and out of their element because there are fewer and they stand out more. I noticed a long time ago that we westerners always start their part of a discussion with something like "well I think..." They aren't any more haughty when on tour abroad, its just that's how we all sound. And when more PC educated westerners call out other westerners for this they are just being the same way only to each other, its a different aspect of the same trait, just turned inward. It doesnt matter what it is about. Locals don't get involved in these discussions online much because they don't think its our place to comment on any of these matters at all, and it is probably the last thing they would want to spend time doing.
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kurtz



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 393
Location: off the radar

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And how many expat teachers have felt like they're the token foreign friend/ pet of the local people? How many Asians think they are superior to Westerners? Or their food is better or women are more attractive while wondering how they can emigrate to the west. Hypocrites! How many Asians just stick with their own kind?

Just because I live in Asia, it doesn't mean I have to totally immerse myself in the local culture and not eat pizzas and drink beers with my western mates in the backpacker areas should I want to, without being judged by some white moron with their head firmly up the place where the sun don't shine

Seems to be a bit of western guilt around these days. With the growing influence of Asia, let's see all that repressed anger and Asian superiority come to the surface.

From my experiences in Korea, I felt like a second class citizen; someone who was a temporary annoyance, but someone who would be out of the picture soon. In Vietnam it was a walking ATM.

Don't get me started on colonialism; a necessary evil considering the lack of initiative shown by so many Asians. It's a politically incorrect thing to say, but for many who have spent years in Asia, you know it's true.
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just noel



Joined: 17 Jul 2006
Posts: 164

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kurtz is spot-on.

The article is another government-fed propaganda piece.

The newspapers, which are completely controlled by the powers that be, like to get token foreign "contributors" to keep up the anti-foreigner sentiment.
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kurtz



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 393
Location: off the radar

PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Make sure you follow Joe on twitter, "Our Man in Saigon"; English teacher, writer, blogger EXTRAORDINAIRE!!! I'm an instant fan! 23-years-old? First time overseas? Want to feel superior to other Westerners in Vietnam? Follow Joe.

https://twitter.com/JoeJBBuckley

BTW. For a published piece of writing, it is pretty shoddy. The last paragraph hurts to read." There are a millions of..." Joe, choppy sentences my friend, see me in my office.

Lastly, mentioning colonialism and then implying 20-something backpackers have the same ideals is moronic. I have seen the same attitude in Europe; drunk kids are obnoxious wherever they roam.

I might submit a piece about 20-something wannabe writers with far left, naive, white guilt ridden ideals who should have their twittering and facebooking fingers cut off.
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 368

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Could someone copy and paste the article on here? The website isn't opening for me.
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1st Sgt Welsh



Joined: 13 Dec 2010
Posts: 533
Location: Saigon, Vietnam

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here it is ExpatLuke:

For centuries, many in the West have considered themselves superior to people in other parts of the world. This attitude was most blatantly manifested during the (very long and varied) colonial period, when the European powers occupied vast swathes of today’s Asia, Africa, Middle-East and Latin America.
They justified this, in their discourse, by talking about a moral obligation that white people had to civilize the savages in the rest of the world, and teach them modern and developed ways of living.
The French called this the mission civilisatrice (civilizing mission), while the British referred to it as the white man’s burden. Such an attitude happened to conveniently coincide with the building of political and economic structures across the colonized world which extracted resources from the colonized and delivered them to the colonizers.
Colonialism is, thankfully, over, at least in its most explicit and direct forms. However, the attitude of Westerners thinking that they are superior to others continues to this day, such as with the whitewashing of global history, which claims that everything good and modern came from Europe.
In Vietnam, the presence of a similar attitude is obvious – all one needs to do is visit one of Saigon’s expat or backpacker haunts.
Over the past few decades, Vietnam has seen a huge influx of foreigners. Some come for work – either to run businesses or to sell their labor – while others come to travel and to holiday.
The latter rarely seem to come in order to try to understand and investigate the politics, economics, society, and history of the country, but more often for an 18-30s, lads-on-tour drinking experience.
And because of this, such Westerners expect to be served and waited on. Any concept of Vietnam being an interesting living, breathing, heterogeneous society is put on the back burner, if at all. In this way, Vietnam (and Southeast Asia more generally) becomes reconstituted as a Western playground, set up so foreigners can get drunk and stoned cheaply.
Vietnamese agency does not play a part in these conceptions of the country, which is why such tourists think they can shout at service sector workers without feeling any guilt. Overhearing such phrases as, “I ordered Hawaiian pizza, you idiot!” or “NO. I WANT THREE BEERS. THREE! THREE! NOT ONE! CAN YOU UNDERSTAND THAT!?” or “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Stop trying to rip me off!” is, sadly, not uncommon on Pham Ngu Lao Street.
When backpackers aren’t busy abusing workers, who only exist, in the eyes of these tourists, to serve Westerners, they are often attempting to “respect” Vietnamese culture.
This, of course, is always a patronizing reformulation of the idea of “culture” so it becomes seen as static and simple, rather than being complex, multi-layered, and in flux, as all “cultures” always are. Such an attitude allows tourists to think that showing respect equates to refraining from touching people on the head, rather than, say, seeing the Vietnamese as equals.
Of course, not all foreigners in Vietnam are tourists - there are thousands of expats in the country. A sense of Western superiority is also, sadly, present amongst this group – many live entirely with other Westerners, and have social circles that consist almost totally of foreign faces. Vietnamese friends that expats do have are seen as quirky exceptions rather than the norm.
Despite this, many such expats feel that they are able to make great, ground-breaking insights into Vietnam and its people, such as “Vietnamese people don’t have a concept of the future – they just live for the moment,” or “they haven’t developed modern thought yet,” and “they don’t understand the idea of getting regular customers, they always try to rip me off even though I go there every day.”
These are just a few examples of the dozens I’ve heard. Such “insights” are made from what expats consider to be a higher, superior level. “I’ve done much more for this f***ing country than you have,” said one English teacher who couldn’t get a shirt for the price he wanted.
These attitudes, from both tourists and expats, are just small examples of a structural racism that exists across the globe. Such attitudes of Western superiority are, at best, naïve, ignorant, and orientalist, and, at worst, poisonous and racist.
When people talk about Vietnam as a “developing” country, the hidden presupposition is that this means Vietnamese people are developing, in their consciousness and attitudes, from an earlier stage to an advanced stage that Westerners have already reached.
Anything that is not exactly like it is in the West is seen as inferior, an aberration to the developed norm (which is always a white, Western European norm).
We must get over this attitude of superiority. Othering the Vietnamese as inferior will not allow us to fully engage in Vietnam’s society (and indeed, we often see ourselves as outside, judge mental observers), and will not allow us to approach Vietnam with an open mind.
There are a millions of different people in Vietnam, doing a huge variety of different activities. We should be humble and open to listening to these varied lived experiences, without judgement, simplification or superiority.
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ExpatLuke



Joined: 11 Feb 2012
Posts: 368

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for posting that. Reading all the comments I couldn't believe it could be all that bad, but it was. The writer seems to be one of the young idealists who hasn't lived here for very long.

While I do think some things he says are true, I think he's actually making the same mistake he's trying to bring attention to. He's painting people with a broad stroke that doesn't do a good job of showing the overall picture. His last sentence saying "There are a millions of different people in Vietnam, doing a huge variety of different activities. We should be humble and open to listening to these varied lived experiences, without judgement, simplification or superiority." is something that he should take to heart himself about the Westerners he's talking about.

I do see a lot of people "looking down" on many parts of Vietnamese culture, and I do think a lot of expats who come over here will fall into many of the stereotypes he's naming in their first year or so. But usually, the longer you live here, the more you'll come to gain better insights into the culture that you didn't see at first. This is especially true if you go to your home country for any extended vacation... you'll realize just how much your thinking on many things you once thought were "better" have changed. I definitely prefer many Vietnamese ways of doing things over what's practiced in the US.

The biggest problem with the article is that it could be said about any expat living in any country. It's no secret that people who grow up in a specific culture will get used to it's values and ways of doing things. If they are transplanted into another culture, they're still going to think the way their home culture did things is the "correct" way. Vietnamese who go to other countries do the same things. I've traveled with my girlfriend extensively, and she firmly believes that Vietnamese food, thought processes, and attitudes are the best ones. That's just life, and it takes living in other cultures and studying them extensively to not think that way.

His whole likening of people's current attitudes to colonialism is childish. He could just as easily link Vietnamese attitudes today to how they eradicated the Cham people so long ago or how they treat the tribal minorities living in the mountains. People are people no matter where they live or where they're from.
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Ralph Winfield



Joined: 26 Apr 2013
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mk87 wrote:
I think its basically written by a token lefty who has come to vietnam and has noticed elements of what colonialism actually did historically.

I just think its a very naive and theoretically poor piece of writing despite having quite a lot of sympathy with it. I mean I think there's huge issues with treating the "other" as something detached from us. It's a moralistic attempt at a political argument from someone who doesn't really grasp the implications of the politics they "believe" in. IMHO of course. People like that are often why us lefties get a bad name.


Word.
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Ralph Winfield



Joined: 26 Apr 2013
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mark_in_saigon wrote:
Go back to the original story online, it has generated a lot of response over there, which is pretty unusual. It is almost all negative, maybe one or two people have some small agreement with the writer, but even those feel that the writer is way off base on his main points.

You know, it really is interesting how so many of the foreigners who come over here really seem to dislike each other. You have the tourists and the short time guys who come over and may teach for brief stint, they are a whole different world. The folks who are here for a long time (outside of the tourist areas) are the ones who most often exhibit this feature. Like the writer, maybe he does not really recognize it, but he seems to be lashing out at his fellow westerners generally. I see it all the time when I am away from the center but do see the random westerner, you can see that the majority of the time they want to pretend they did not notice you. Everyone wants to be making the big discovery of the new world, and they are disappointed to think they are not the first, or to think that some crass carpetbagger is corrupting the previously innocent natives.


This is a very good post. Thank you.
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Ralph Winfield



Joined: 26 Apr 2013
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2014 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I posted a somewhat long, ponderous reply to Mr. Buckley. I did write at least one negative thing about The Party. Do you think that The News will post anything that's even a little bit negative about the C.P.?
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Ralph Winfield



Joined: 26 Apr 2013
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kurtz wrote:
Make sure you follow Joe on twitter, "Our Man in Saigon"; English teacher, writer, blogger EXTRAORDINAIRE!!! I'm an instant fan! 23-years-old? First time overseas? Want to feel superior to other Westerners in Vietnam? Follow Joe.

https://twitter.com/JoeJBBuckley

BTW. For a published piece of writing, it is pretty shoddy. The last paragraph hurts to read." There are a millions of..." Joe, choppy sentences my friend, see me in my office.

Lastly, mentioning colonialism and then implying 20-something backpackers have the same ideals is moronic. I have seen the same attitude in Europe; drunk kids are obnoxious wherever they roam.

I might submit a piece about 20-something wannabe writers with far left, naive, white guilt ridden ideals who should have their twittering and facebooking fingers cut off.


Thank you, Kurtz, for the very humourous post! Did you hang on Hooker Hill in I'taewon-dong in Seoul City? If so, then we probably had a drink together as I lived in the yogwon/motel at the top of Hooker Hill from November 1, 2001 to February 15, 2002. Miss Polly's Club Debut and Mister Lee's Space Bar -later remodeled by my American buddy, Ron, who was a top security guy at the U.S. Embassy, and renamed Lee's Old Time Country Tavern. Thanks again for the spot-on post and hope to have a beer with you in Bangkok, Seoul, or in Vietnam.
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montblanc20



Joined: 21 Jul 2013
Posts: 53

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ralph Winfield wrote:
I posted a somewhat long, ponderous reply to Mr. Buckley. I did write at least one negative thing about The Party. Do you think that The News will post anything that's even a little bit negative about the C.P.?

From what I have seen on the site and their facebook site, the government doesn't care about what foreigners are saying on it or they don't keep track of it.

I can't understand the comments section of the Vietnamese version, but I'm guessing critical comments by Vietnamese would be less tolerated. You should try leaving comments on the fb page (using a fake account so you can make critical comments. i think using the real fb account to make comments isn't smart).

"But, most Vietnamese can not stop thinking about how your money, a thing that lots and lots of cultural anthropologists and other social scientists say is the, perhaps,most sacred object in the lives of Asians, is something that overrides whatever it is that they do not, a priori, like about you, Joe Westerner."

I don't know. Some Europeans would say Americans are all about money.

Look at Asian tourists who come to America. Do Americans really like seeing busloads of Chinese tourists? I don't think so. But the Americans take the money. And maybe they make ching chong jokes behind their backs. Same thing going on.
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