Why are we so loud?

By Trinh Khanh Hoa   October 27, 2022 | 05:52 pm PT
Why are we so loud?
A loud speaker serving customers singing karaoke outdoors at a restaurant in HCMC, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Bich
Noise pollution can be said to be a fact of life and a headache in many urban areas, but in Vietnam, it gets taken to levels unheard of.

A study by the Institute of Occupational Health and the Environment of 12 main traffic routes and intersections in Hanoi found the average noise level during the day to be 77.8-78.1 dBA, about 7.8-8.1 dBA higher than the standard. The level is 10-20 dBA higher than normal night-time standards at 65.3-75.7 dBA.

I lived in the U.S. for over 40 years. There are no carts with giant loudspeakers. The sound of sirens blaring is rare, because they are used only when truly necessary. People do not sing karaoke so loud that they wake their neighbors up (and keep them up late into the night). All the bars and dance clubs are designed to prevent noise from leaking out, and residential areas are often separated from commercial ones, anyway.

But it is an entirely different story in Vietnam. I was practically terrorized by all the noises – the screams coming from apartments, the singing from my neighbors' place and even in the park, where people bring loudspeakers for music to dance to. Then there are the sirens in the streets and all sorts of advertisements.


In my apartment building in Vietnam now, there are people who offer homestay services. Every weekend and during holidays, people would come and blast music all night long. There were so many nights that I couldn't sleep. I called the building's security guards a few times, but a few slaps on the wrist and gentle reminders were all that transpired.

I once demanded that the building's management committee prints out a code of conduct and pastes it on the front doors of all those accommodations that offer homestay services so that the clients know that they cannot be noisy after 10 p.m. But the committee never heeded my request.

I am an elderly person. I am not a fan of loud singing and dancing that annoys people around. Shouldn't avoiding this be basic courtesy in a civilized society? And I want to make it clear that I am not trying to compare Vietnam with other countries, nor am I being condescending to my Vietnamese brethren.

I just want things to change for the better. And Vietnam can learn a thing or two from the "developed" countries.

Just imagine. No noise pollution, no littering, no unattended pets.

Won't the quality of life improve considerably then – virtually at no expense?

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