The Dark Side

It’s easy to glorify the country that you’ve expatriated to. You like to see the best in your surroundings and focus on all that is positive. At the end of the day, if you just focus on the negatives, then what was the point in leaving your home town?

However, it’s also important not to lose sight of reality. Looking back over my blog entries for the past few months, it’s abundantly clear that I’ve had a whale of a time in my new home. But all it takes is the blink of an eye before the reality of your situation kicks you in the teeth.

It’s a story as old as time and one that has been retold a hundred times over. Ironically, a cautionary tale that’s told by expats like myself, to unsuspecting tourists. But last night, it finally happened to us; my boyfriend was mugged.

Waiting for a xe ôm after a meal out with his work colleagues, a man approached him and tried to put his hand in his pocket. As my boyfriend wrestled with this man, a middle-aged woman approached from behind and made a clean sweep of his phone (unfortunately a relatively new smart phone) from his other pocket. She then swiftly jumped onto a motorbike and sped away, all the surrounding onlookers just sat idly as if watching their favourite sport on TV.

What upsets me most about this situation though, is just how much we give back to this society. We’re a tax paying citizens, who donate regularly to our local orphanage and, above all, provide an education which acts as the foundation to the future development of the country. We continually give back to this society that we call home and never ask for anything in return. Unlike some of the more affluent locals, we don’t flaunt our ‘wealth’, I only ever carry around $5 cash in my bag (a Tesco’s finest bag at that) and my phone is a beaten up old Nokia brick. Similarly, my boyfriend is always wary of using his smart phone overtly in public. Nothing about our general demeanour screams wealthy, except of course, the colour of our skin …

It is frustrating, that at times like these, you expect to be able to approach the police for help. You’d assume that’s our right as tax and law abiding residents (with residency cards to prove it!), but of course you can’t. It is so important that you never lose sight of the fact that Vietnam is still a developing country, ridden with poverty.

I love Saigon, and this incident hasn’t shaken my love for the Vietnamese population in general. The number of friendly locals we’ve met certainly out-weighs the hostile ones. I think it’s just an important message to send out to any expatriates or travellers passing through any developing country. It’s easy to say, “that will never happen to me” (we’ve been saying that for 2 years ourselves) but it can happen and when it does, you unfortunately just have to accept it and move on. It’s a cruel reality, but life’s just too short.


13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. meticulousmick
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 13:20:11

    Sound a little shaken, but fortunately no real physical damage. It can leave a rather bitter taste, but you’re right to try to move on. Unfortunately these things do happen, you can’t let it stop you from living. All the best from Cork. MM 🍀


  2. jenevievechapman
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 14:53:40

    You’re very philosophical considering the situation so congratulations on that! At times like these I also like to think about Karma. Those who wear a brave face and see beyond the awful situation in front of them will earn better things, and clearly you’re wracking up the good points! 🙂


  3. sf
    Oct 22, 2013 @ 15:03:25

    Very sorry for your boyfriend’s having to go through that experience. That’s awesome that you still have a positive outlook and love Saigon and treasure your stay/work/contribution to that city and society. Very sorry he had to have that happen and to look around and see the locals not even reacting in any way to help or give comfort or show surprise.

    I am also very relieved to read that he (and you) hadn’t been too terribly physically injured through the wrestling and ordeal. And also that he had his phone taken and not something much more valuable.

    I can imagine how he must have felt when he stood there after his phone had been taken. A couple of incidents which had happened to my Dad before comes to mind, as I read your post. It was years ago and my Dad was visiting Korea again (not a situation of being a foreigner) and had just arrived at the airport. He used the public phone to make a phone call. But when he reached down to pick up his briefcase, it was gone. The airport police told him that they couldn’t help him and that there was nothing they could do. He had felt so helpless and frustrated by their not even attempting to give him help in any way.

    Then on another visit to there again, he had come into his motel room just as a thief was jumping out the window. The thief had stolen some of his belongings, but most importantly, his passport. He had to remain in the country for another month, until he could get a new passport made again.

    So in these cases with my Dad, he wasn’t a foreigner in a foreign country, but still felt like he was, after having been robbed those times, ya know? And I think everyone goes through feeling of being violated, especially when their homes get broken into (I’ve had that happen about 3 times), and how much more it’s going to happen as the economy in the entire world is going southwards. Sigh.

    Again, I sincerely hope your boyfriend is able to get back to feeling himself again (less afraid of being robbed in broad public daylight again, although it’s always wise to be careful, as you already do). Hope my telling of my own Dad’s experiences makes him feel better, knowing he had lost a phone and not much more – and also is physically all right. I admire your wonderful, positive outlook on life and your continuing to be hopeful for many more years of grand times while in that country. :oD Sweet!


    • kerril29
      Oct 22, 2013 @ 15:48:53

      Thanks so much for sharing your story! It sounds like your Dad has had much worse ordeals, I’m sorry to hear it. We do consider ourselves to be very lucky, especially in that my boyfriend wasn’t physical injured. Thanks for your support 🙂


  4. Tripping Blonde
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 22:33:21

    I’m so sorry to hear about this. Sadly, it can happen anywhere. My friend and I were attacked in the good ole USA. With regard to Vietnam, I found it to be a bit dangerous. I had to have hotel security called to the nightclub at the Sheraton Hanoi to provide an escort back to my hotel room due to 2 vietnamese men who would not leave me alone and were insisting i leave the club. Once a hand was placed on my arm — i demanded the bartender call hotel security. BE CAREFUL wherever you are!


  5. SarahL
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 11:14:39

    Before I came to Vietnam, I read a ton of stories about folks getting mugged. Bags ripped off your shoulder from a passing motorbike or sneaky pickpockets. I usually carry my money/phone in my bra! Hahaha though it can be a little awkward trying to get them out to buy something. Sorry to hear about your boyfriend’s experience. My car got stolen in Seattle once, and you feel totally violated!


    • kerril29
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 12:32:21

      Haha, my money tends to alternate from being in my bra to being in my shoes depending on what I’m wearing! It’s definitely the safest way to go around! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  6. omnigenous
    Nov 03, 2013 @ 18:39:33

    I have a mental system in which I expect a certain criteria to be met per country. For example, I always allow myself to get utterly ripped off one time in each country. This has been true to form pretty much ($20 in Nepal for some snakes around me neck I didn’t even ask for etc).

    I expected to crash, and I told my visiting sister she was guaranteed to crash in her time here – true to form.

    Same with mugging. Although I did technically get mugged, I still have my phone. It swooped out of my hand, but neither of us had a good grip, and I managed to swoop back into my possession as he drove off, matrix style.

    If you come to these places expecting them, you are A) more prepared and B) more mentally prepared – It will not affect your views too much and you tend to stay in more control than panic.


    Good luck survivin’



    • kerril29
      Nov 03, 2013 @ 21:58:22

      Thanks for your comment. I certainly agree with the psychology of it all. Like my post mentions though, I think after 2 years of living anywhere, it is easy to relax your mind a little, especially when you’ve set up home, got to know your neighbours and are in a routine of work. It’s much easier to be more mindful when you intend to stay in a country just for a short holiday.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog, I always appreciate others’ views 🙂


  7. mylondonworld
    Nov 07, 2013 @ 01:05:47

    Vietnam is a really nice place but there are so many thieves and robberies especially in district 1. Within a month, we had already 4 similar cases happened among our interns. 2 of them got robbed when they are crossing the road and lost their money and passport. 1 of them had his laptop stolen when he went to shower in his host family place. Another had his backpack stolen in 23/9 park. Really need to be cautious in Vietnam, especially non-Asian!
    Be careful and enjoy Vietnam (:


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