Westerners drive as recklessly as locals in Vietnam

By Song Xa   March 13, 2024 | 03:24 pm PT
Westerners drive as recklessly as locals in Vietnam
Traffic police officers explain to a foreigner about his traffic mistake in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, August 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Tan
Many foreigners, when participating in traffic in Vietnam, also become careless in a manner akin to "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."

I would like to share a story about a Westerner in traffic:

I was driving from Truong Chinh Street to Che Lan Vien Street in Hanoi, slowly, having turned on the indicator lights carefully in advance. When two-thirds of my car had already entered Che Lan Vien street, this Western guy on a motorcycle still cut me off to keep riding straight on Truong Chinh street.

Although our vehicles did not collide, the Western guy still fell to the ground. I stopped the car to help him stand up. At that moment, he apologized to me profusely. After talking for a while the Westerner said frankly that upon arriving in Vietnam, he was told by everyone that this is how one must drive to get around in the country.

Drivers from Vietnam, when driving abroad, adhere strictly to the law and have as much traffic etiquette as foreigners. But once they return to Vietnam, they become reckless. Similarly, Westerners, who are law-abiding abroad, do not act any differently from the locals when they are in Vietnam.

I think the majority of Vietnamese drivers still have low awareness of best traffic practices. Having experienced life in both urban and rural areas, I personally notice a reality about traffic: in cities, specifically Hanoi and HCMC, the behaviors of drivers cutting off each other, filling in gaps, driving on the sidewalks and running past red lights have deeply been ingrained in the subconsciousness of many people. However, in rural areas, though roads may be less busy, one must be very careful when passing through alleys as motorcycles and even cars can emerge suddenly and cross the road at any time.

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