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The Ugly Vietnamese


Sep 27, 2013
OP-ED: The Ugly Vietnamese | Opinion | Thanh Nien Daily


The number of Vietnamese travelers to foreign countries has grown rapidly over the past several years. Unfortunately, this increase has coincided with a growing stereotype of "The Ugly Vietnamese".
Last summer, I went to Thailand and was surprised to see a notice at a buffet written in Vietnamese.
"Please take what you can eat. Those who don’t finish their food will be fined from 200-500 Baht. Thank you!"
In Singapore, I encountered a similar sign, also in Vietnamese.
“Just take what you can eat,” it read.
Any customer of the restaurant understood the need for such a notice.
The restaurant's many customers had queued up for food, when suddenly, a Vietnamese couple cut in front, causing the rest of the line to snicker and sigh while the pair grabbed six oysters from a waiter clearly hoping to give out one per customer.
At another restaurant, a Vietnamese man was seen carrying several heaping plates of food to a table strewn with half-eaten plates, as though fearful the buffet would suddenly close.
‘Please flush the toilet’
In a toilet in Thailand, I encountered another sign written exclusively in my native tongue.
“Remember to flush the toilet,” it read.
Later, I heard a story about a Vietnamese person who got locked in a "smart toilet" in Europe because the automated door only opened after the toilet was flushed.
In Taiwan, I spent two hours watching a group of young Vietnamese people lay out newspapers, sit on the floor and play cards while shouting loudly.
After their game ended, they got up and left their newspapers for someone else to pick up.
Coincidentally, I was in town giving a speech about the relationship between culture and behavior.
‘Are you from Vietnam?’
I rarely talk about these things.
And it's difficult to admit that I'm always both happy and nervous about encountering my compatriots abroad. Between 1999 and 2000 I traveled to Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia and Denmark to attend a series of workshops.
In Singapore, I bumped into a young Vietnamese student who was on his way to receive some sort of tech award. I accepted his invitation to attend the award ceremony three kilometers away.
Soon after climbing into a taxi we were told to get out because the student refused to wear his seatbelt.
I asked the student if he didn’t get what the cabbie had asked him.
"I did hear," he said. "But we don’t have to wear a seatbelt in our country. It's just a short distance and it’s too bothersome. We can just take another taxi."
On another occasion, I wandered through Disneyland in Hong Kong from dawn till dusk to research how the park was managed.
At one point, I encountered a park employee trying to eject a customer for cutting several lines.
“Are you from Vietnam?” sheasked in unclear Vietnamese.
Bad apples
I'm still ashamed of the handful of Vietnamese who seem to have no respect for others or themselves.
Of course not all Vietnamese people have such habits, but I've seemed to run into them all over the world. Not surprisingly, the image of "The Ugly Vietnamese" had followed them wherever they go.
In a society with strong laws, good ethical norms and proper law enforcement, you tend not to see these bad habits among members of the general public.
To get rid of our problems abroad, we need to start at home. Parents should be good examples for their children; schools need to teach students good habits in addition to providing them with general knowledge.


May 29, 2014
Viet Nam
Viet Nam
Nice article. Sadly it's true to several cases. There are always some idiots going around destroying image of their own people, for their own selfishness. Don't let that make you think they can represent the whole VNese population.


Jun 18, 2012
Viet Nam
in germany there is a boom since couple of years: "all you can eat" restaurants, from vietnamese and chinese owners.
you pay a flatrate about $10 for a lunch, and $20 for dinner per person.

have you ever seen people fighting for food? it is like a war between Vietnam and China :sarcastic:
here is a image from vietnam.
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Oct 24, 2011
Viet Nam
Viet Nam
Chinese tourists carving out a bad reputation abroad

Child's graffiti on an Egyptian temple has sparked debate about bad behaviour and the need for mainlanders to spruce up their image

Many young mainlanders know the story of writer Lu Xun, who carved the character for "early" on his desk as a reminder to rise early to study after getting into strife for bring late for school.

He was never late again.

The story is meant to teach children to be punctual, not carve characters on public property, even though many mainland tourists write or carve on walls, trees, or rocks, seemingly oblivious to the fact they are doing something wrong.

The recent online exposure of a teenager from Nanjing who defaced a 3,500-year-old Egyptian temple has provoked nationwide introspection on such poor behaviour abroad, which many said had damaged the image of mainland tourists.

The boy's parents apologised and the Egyptian tourism authorities said they had managed to remove the graffiti, characters saying "Ding Jinhao was here", but the debate has rolled on.

Ding's parents said their son, now in middle school, had scrawled the characters when he was little. They were with a tourist group and had not noticed when he scrawled on the sculpture, his mother said.

But when Xinhua published a photograph showing that the graffiti had been erased, eagle-eyed internet users noticed it had been written above head height for an adult, suggesting Ding may have had some adult assistance. True or not, tourism industry workers say many Chinese adults behave as poorly as uneducated children.

"Even though we will tell tourists briefly about the dos and don'ts before starting our tours, they cannot be educated in minutes," said Shi Yu, a Beijing tourist guide who has led tour groups to America, Australia, South Korea and Dubai since 2009. "Now Chinese people are getting richer, and more people are going abroad, but they go with their bad habits."

Shi and several other frequent travellers said the top two problems with Chinese tourists were that they were very noisy and showed no respect for queues.

In many restaurants, staff advise customers to sit and wait when there are no tables, but "Chinese tourists flock inside, making a big noise, never giving waitresses a chance to guide them to be seated in order", Shi said.

Shen Xiaoning, a travel enthusiast from Beijing, said mainland tourists could quickly be identified by such behaviour, but that being noisy was partly a cultural issue. "You'd feel weird if a Chinese restaurant was very quiet, wouldn't you?" she said.

Shen said another problem was spitting. Someone had once spat on her leg while she was walking along the street in Beijing, and "it's an even greater shame to see our compatriots spit on other nations' land".

Huang Ruolin, a traveller and freelance writer based in Jiaxing, Zhejiang, said wasting food at hotels was also typical of Chinese tourists.

"Chinese tourists' plates are always full. They waste a lot of food in buffets," she said. "And it's like they only enjoy their stay when they use a lot of consumables in hotel rooms."

Liu Shuoting, a Beijinger who has travelled around the globe on his own, said he had seen mainland tourists take away enough food for a whole day from a breakfast buffet.

But tourists whose meals are covered by tour fees are not the only Chinese guilty of wasting food. It's also a common phenomenon at restaurants and hotels on the mainland.

Having realised the problem, the government launched a campaign last year to urge people to eat everything on their plate.

The city of Ningbo in Zhejiang is even planning to fine restaurants that fail to reduce the amount of leftovers discarded by their guests.

Shi said another bad habit of Chinese tourists was that they rushed for everything.

"They always open the luggage compartment to grab their stuff before the plane comes to a halt," she said.

Shi said rushing for meals and seats was standard practice, leading some hotels overseas to set aside areas where Chinese tourists could dine by themselves. And some airlines seated them separately on flights.

Other gripes were that mainland tourists often flouted local rules and rarely said thank you.

Huang gave the example of not eating on public transport.

"Many Chinese tourists don't abide by it, either because they don't know or don't care," she said. "Learning local rules and customs before heading for an exotic place should be a basic preparation for a tourist."

Shi said she seldom heard people in her tour groups say thank you, "either because they are too shy or not used to it".

"My colleagues and I often complain that many of our compatriots lack a sense of gratefulness," she said. "They think they deserve everything."

And then there's graffiti, which can also be found in many places of historic interest on the mainland, including a jar in the Palace Museum, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall and the Echo Wall in the Temple of Heaven.

In fact, the tradition of putting one's name on famous and beautiful things can be traced back to ancient China, when men of letters enjoyed writing their names on iconic sites they visited.

Instead of damage, such public calligraphy was considered an art that distinguished a gentleman from a boor, but their calligraphy was also much better than today's efforts by gormless holidaymakers.

Shi said she hoped the Tourism Law, to come into effect in October, would include provisions to curb such behaviour.

"It's a way to standardise both tourists and tourism agencies, so that the Chinese tourism sector does not follow a twisted road," she said.

Professor Wang Wanfei, a tourism administration specialist at Zhejiang University, said improving Chinese people's behaviour in public places should start with children. Textbooks should emphasise the cultivation of civic mindedness, and the media should run more stories on such issues to enlighten the public.

Many Chinese people were now well off but their manners had not improved, Wang said, adding "the time has come for us to learn how to behave ourselves when travelling".

Chinese tourists carving out a bad reputation abroad | South China Morning Post

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