Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Leave Your Country?

This is a question that I want to ask the hundreds of backpackers from Europe, North America, and Australia who go from hostel to hostel, drinking absurd amounts of beer, only mingling with one another, and eating Western food for every meal. I am staying in the Hanoi Backpacker's Hostel, which is cheap, comparitively, at 125,000 VND per dorm bed (about $7.25), and the way people travel at these hostels is sickening. They have no respect for local norms and etiquette, they are afraid to try local food, and they are generally ignorant of pretty much everything outside of the Lonely Planet guidebook and what their Australian hostel owners tell them.

Yes, I'm being harsh. But I'm sick of it. When I tell other westerners that I'm from the U.S. they get this look on their faces like I'm evil, when they're the ones dressing completely inappropriately, yelling drunkenly down the street, and slugging bottles and bottles of booze without any respect for how people actually live in the country that they're actually in. This is not Disney World! This is not an amusement park designed for Western consumption, though so many treat it this way. I'm repulsed. I'm repulsed by the Canadians who sew the Canadian flag patches on their North Face backpacks so that people don't mistake them for Americans, even though they're the ones behaving completely horribly abroad. I am repulsed by the British people who only visit British/Irish pubs in Vietnam. And I would be repulsed by the Americans, except for the fact that there are so few of us traveling these days, with the plummeting value of the dollar and the fear our government has instilled in us. But I would like to hold up a mirror to all these non-American Western others to show them the ugly ugly faces they display to Southeast Asia. It's disgusting. And it's across the board. I've witnessed rude Spanish people, offensive Brits, obnoxious Australians, scantily clad Canadians, oblivious French, and Dutch people who refuse to eat anything remotely associated with Asia.

Why leave your country? Just sit in your living room with a group of international students (meaning those from Europe and N. America) from your local university, turn the heat way up so your face gets glossy the way it does here, and drink yourselves into stupidity. You can play the same bad Western music, eat the same boring Western food, and pretend you're so so worldly. Just don't expose the rest of the world to your inconsiderate antics and nauseatingly oblivious behavior. It makes us all look bad.


Andrew O said...

Somebody needs to mellow out with some Bob Marley and smoke a fat one. Sorry, 'phat' one.

Tamale said...

Seriously. Why don't you just get a Foster's oil can and take it easy? In other words, I TOTALLY agree with you and had very similar experiences in Latin America. Folks from the U.S. sure ain't the only ugly ones.

Patrick said...

I think that Andrew fella makes a good point; however, I think I can empathize with your disgust, especially with the inappropriately dressed Canadians! (btw, what is appropriate attire for a Canadian, anyhoot?) Keep the fires of outrage burning.

Lee said...

Not to bring up my old Mexico stories, again--but I experienced the same thing. I only spoke Spanish and lived with a Mexican family. After a month or so, the local people did not know I was American until I got into a longer conversation where my vocablary limitations came out.

I would go on vacation with my Mexican family to the beach resorts and that's where it was obvious. The Americans and other tourists of all colors didn't bother to speak the language and were rude and condescending to the Mexicans. I was angry that I was a part of that culture, although I made it a clear point to separate myself from them to the Mexicans.

I did have a little fun, though, on the way back to the states. I sat on the plane with many of the other American exchange students who never attempted to acclimate to the culture. I became some sort of cross-language stand up comedian who threw insults at the American students who were oblivious to what I was saying. I had several Mexican students on the plane in tearsas I assalted the character of some rude American students. They just looked at me with this confused and stupid look as put them in their place with Mexican expressions, curse words and figures of speech--all spoken fluently.

The Americans were being roasted by one of their kind and only had themselves to blame for not understanding what I was saying. It was some sort of sweet justice. But I think it was cathartic for the Mexican students entering the U.S. to see that one American understood them and stood up for them. Plus it was really funny.

I feel you on the irony of the European tourist situation. I think the type of people that do the tourist thing are just that, a type of people. No matter what culture you are from, there are obnoxious, shallow people that do the shallow vacation thing. Ironically, if you were to take a sample of an "average" person in whatever country, they may be of slightly higher caliber than the jet setting, obnoxious and board tourists of the world. So luckily for us, they don't represent the average mindset. Maybe I'm wrong. I am not a defender of the human race very often.

Unfortunately, you are living around a concentrated amount of assholes. Can't say there is any easy way to handle it, other than separating yourself from their presence. Soon enough, you won't have to deal with them anymore. They have not learned some basic important lessons in life yet and may never. Hopefully that Karma thing will kick their asses.

And, lastly... Happy 29th Birthday!! Go get a cake and some ice cream and blow out some candles. Or a cupcake with one candle. That seems kind of sad. Oh, well. Love ya.