Cultural faux pas. Contrasting world views. Preconceived ideas. Here are all those things that people in Vietnam don’t understand about Westerners. Words by Kieran Crowe
I recently wrote about 28 Things That Vietnamese People Love, which was a list of things Vietnamese people do which Westerners find amusing or odd. However, now the tables have turned, and I reached out to my Vietnamese friends and colleagues to ask them what things Westerners do which they find amusing or odd! Any Westerners reading this, prepare your ego for a bruising. Vietnamese people, get ready for answers to all those questions you had about Western people but were too shy to ask.
1) Why won’t you tell me your age?
Because when we do, you tell us “you look so old!” which drives us straight to the anti-aging moisturizer shelf in the nearest Maximark.
2) Why do you eat cheese and wine for dessert?
What better way to satisfy your sweet tooth than indulging in some… pungent blue cheese? Alright, maybe this one is a bit weird.
3) Why are Western guys into tanned girls?
Vietnamese girls have told me they are attracted to tanned guys, regardless of nationality, because they look healthier than pale guys (I guess that’s why Vietnamese girls aren’t exactly beating down my door). However, they don’t understand why Western guys are attracted to tanned girls. Myself, I like a good tan because it looks better than the pallid white skin of most Irish girls (I’m from Ireland, in case you didn’t know).
In Asia, tanned skin is associated with lower classes who have to work outside, and the same was true in the West until the 1920s. The middle and upper classes went to great lengths to maintain their pale skin as a mark of status. The French fashion designer Coco Chanel is credited with making tanned skin fashionable after she accidentally got a suntan whilst visiting the French Riviera in 1923. So I guess, as an answer to your question, Western men find tanned skin attractive because of Coco Chanel. Next question!
4) Why won’t you tell me how much you earn?
Salary is only something you discuss with close friends or family, not with strangers. Although if I had a penny for every time I was asked how much I earned, I would be a millionaire.
5) What’s the deal with bachelor parties?
Sure, Vietnamese guys meet up for a get-together before one of them gets married, but Westerners take this practice to a whole different level of hangover-esque debauchery. Vietnamese guys find Western bachelor parties hilarious, but also vaguely terrifying.
6) Why won’t you tell me how much you weigh?
Why? Because if I do, you’ll have the same shocked look on your face as when I told you my age!
7) If you’re going to have multiple partners, why don’t you have them all at the same time?
We may have multiple partners during our lifetime, but we don’t know how you guys do it all at once! We can only admire your… uh… energy!
8) All Westerners are richer than Vietnamese, right?
Look at me, now look at your Vietnamese neighbour, now back to me. I am driving a 2006 Yamaha Nouvo 3. Your neighbour is driving a Bentley. I am renting my Nouvo. Your neighbour has paid 200% tax on his Bentley.
9) Westerners have it easier than Vietnamese, don’t they?
Unfortunately, not really. Just look at Greece! To quote Jack Donaghy, the Greeks may have invented democracy, but lately they’ve been… coasting.
10) Do you really believe Western values are the best values there are?
This is an unshakeable belief of ours, which you may find infuriating. Sorry not sorry.
11) Can you guys eat fish sauce?
In short: yes. Although we still aren’t 100% used to the smell.
12) And can you use chopsticks?
Yes! We consider it a badge of honour and secretly can’t wait to show off our chopstick skills to our friends when we go back to our home country.
13) Why do you get angry when somebody cuts you off in traffic?
Sorry, it’s just a kneejerk reaction! However, we are slowly learning not to react angrily, since you guys don’t! When in Rome…
14) Why do Western women smoke?
This isn’t true of all Western women, but if you’re French or Italian, it’s more unusual if you don’t smoke.
15) You’re 25 and not married yet? Why?
Western people get married later. And so what if I don’t ever get married? If I’m happy, I’m happy! I can just buy myself some cats…
16) Can you teach me English for free?
No, I am not available to teach you English for free. I admire your audacity in asking me though, you cheeky scamp!
17) You must get ripped off all the time since you don’t speak Vietnamese, right?
Nope. I was burned a few times when I was a newbie here, but now I’ve been here long enough to tell you “Toi khong phai la tay ba lo!”
18) Why can’t I touch your skin/breasts/hairy legs?
If you want to admire my hairy legs, please do it from afar!
19) Why don’t you guys learn Vietnamese?
We actually want to learn your language, but you make it goddamn difficult for us. Every time we speak in Vietnamese, you don’t understand, you laugh at us or if you do understand, you reply in English. If you want to speak to a ‘foreigner’, you have to speak to them in English, right? Definitely not Vietnamese.
So of course most of us give up. Please take this into consideration before you laugh at our horrible pronunciation next time!
20) Why do you guys have such big egos?
We just do. Please don’t bruise them!
21) Why do you have such a superiority complex?
To go along with the massive ego, unimpressive financial status, and road rage. We’re a catch!
22) Why are you so impressed by our attitude?
We respect the hardships your country has suffered, and we are amazed how well you have pulled through. It blows us away every time. No other country on earth has managed to succeed against all odds like you guys have.
23) Why do you think we all hate Americans?
It is amazing to us that America isn’t public enemy number one here. For example, a lot of Irish people still harbour a grudge against the English, despite us gaining independence one hundred frickin’ years ago!
24) Have you come here to find a Vietnamese girlfriend?
Not really. At least that wasn’t my specific reason for coming here. In fact, here’s a handy rule of thumb: the men who come to Vietnam specifically to find a Vietnamese girlfriend, are the men you probably want to avoid.
25) All Westerners are English teachers, right?
Wrong! Some of us are here to find Vietnamese girlfriends! Just kidding.