Expats in Vietnam hit out at begpackers

Published:  16 May at 6 PM
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Angry expats in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia are calling for action against the begpacking trend.

The subject of begpackers is one which brings genuine expats across Southeast Asia together in anger, as it’s considered morally wrong that Western travellers should expect locals to pay for what seem to be no more than sightseeing trips taking in popular expat destinations. Asian cultures in general have a tradition of giving to those in need, but the sight of Westerners taking advantage of local generosity is offending expatriates across the region.

The issue has been on the agenda for a good few years to date, but reared its head again due to media coverage of new Thai laws intended to stop the practice and clear Bangkok’s streets of scruffy Westerners. Online videos, photos and blogs have resulted in social media vitriol boiling over into public shaming and confrontations, bad news for locals and even worse for genuine tourists and expat residents. Unfortunately, as flights get ever cheaper, the most inaccessible destinations are just 24 hours away.

A majority of expats are offended by the thought of young, white able-bodied begpackers taking money from locals living on an average income of a pittance compared with the most basic USA and UK salaries. It has to be said that the streets in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi are relatively unsullied by this particular form of low life and its treating of locals as a personal piggy bank, but the lack of cultural sensitivity to locals from those who are there is offensive at best.

On the other side of this controversial coin, it has to be said that some begpackers are actually in need of assistance as they’ve been involved in an accident or robbed of their cash during their travels. Even so, embassies offer a better chance of practical help than do the streets of Southeast Asian capital cities. Nowadays, governments are taking the trend seriously, with street begging in Hong Kong now illegal, and Vietnam making it clear that tourists earning money are breaking the law. As regards Thailand, its attack on begpackers is, at the least, far more justifiable than its present day attack on legally resident expat retirees, a good few of whom might be begging on the streets before long as a result.
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