Do Vietnamese like picking on foreigners?

Is it a case of xenophobia, or do Vietnamese simply have a taste for violence?

A foreigner (in a bright red T-shirt) is engaged in a fist fight with two Vietnamese men in Hanoi in this still photo taken from footage uploaded on Facebook on June 24, 2017. One man is about to punch him in the face while the other is not seen in this picture.

Recent footage of a foreigner being outnumbered by two locals in a Hanoi brawl has angered expats and Vietnamese alike, but is it a case of xenophobia, or do Vietnamese simply have a taste for violence?

A road accident in Hanoi on Friday turned violent after a foreigner was engaged in a fist fight with two locals, only to have his nose bloodied and his alleged girlfriend hit in the head by one of the Vietnamese men.

Though the parties involved have agreed to resolve the disagreement through reconciliation at the police station, the case has raised the unsettling question of whether Vietnamese have a tendency to pick fights with foreigners.

For some expats in Vietnam, the violence reflects an undesirable element of Vietnamese public behavior and etiquette.

“In my opinion [there is] very little road rage in Viet Nam,” wrote Facebook user Geoff Pike in a comment under the Tuoi Tre News article reporting on the affray. “This is unfortunate but hitting a woman trying to settle things down is a dog act. Two on one is very poor behaviour as well.”

“… disgraceful but not the first time I've seen it in Vietnam [when it’s only a] small fender-bender [or] small incident and they try to beat the s*** out of each other,” wrote Cindy Pawlitschek in another comment.

“That is the Asian attitude, common all over Asia,” commented Kerry Blaine.

Others offered a more neutral view on the unfortunate incident, noting that the foreigner himself would have behaved differently if the ordeal had happened in his home country.

“I bet [it’s rare] that a foreigner makes a mistake without [making an] excuse or [apologizing] for their action especially when they are not in their homeland,” said Alan Ho. “I wonder if the foreigner on the clips [sic] was wrong but [no apology] at all [is] too bad.”

“Otherwise, if the Vietnamese man makes a mistake but still provoke [sic] then I will say sorry [on behalf of] our people and please there are [other people in Vietnam who are] still polite and hospital [sic] to tourists,” he added.

Reader Din Vong, meanwhile, rejected the suggestion that the case was typical of xenophobia among Vietnamese people, suggesting that it was the violent nature of one or two individuals alone.

“I think [it] got nothing to do with ethnicity,” Din Vong wrote. “[It just happens that] he is [a] foreigner. [Intolerance, road rage and accidents] happen everywhere.”

Wherever the root of the problem lies, incidents like this one do hurt Vietnam’s reputation as a friendly and hospitable destination in the eyes of foreign visitors.

Footage of the fist fight on Tran Khat Chan Street in Hanoi on June 23, 2017. Clip: Facebook/Doan Tan

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