A woman collects littered recyclable items along a busy street in downtown Hanoi. PHOTO: AFP
Increasing numbers of Vietnamese people are travelling overseas these days, be it for business, studies or just tourism.
During such trips, people are able to see how citizens of other countries work and behave in public. And, very often, the Vietnamese who travel come back with complaints, not about the foreign countries, but about the country they belong to.
A friend of mine who visits Thailand and Cambodia every year remarks often that how people behave in public is by itself an attractive and desirable part of the countries.
“Why can’t we act like that?” he asks.
His question reminds me of many things we Vietnamese do that is irritating and taints the friendly, lovable image of the country and its people.
I cannot count the number of times I have had to suppress my annoyance and disgust when someone driving his bike in front of me suddenly turns his or her head and spits on the street, discharging their saliva on the clothes and even the faces of people riding behind.
Or the times when motorcyclists and bicyclists are moving slowly through flooded streets after or during downpours, and suddenly some taxis, cars, buses or even other motorbikes that encroach into the four-wheel vehicles’ lane speed past and splash dirty water all over the faces, clothes and bodies of the people they drive past. All the victims of such splashing incidents are shocked at such total disregard for fellow citizens.
Other annoying habits that are common here are pouring dirty water on the street, littering, talking on the phone while driving, and trying all kinds of ways to get to the first row of a crowd that has stopped at a red light.
Why is it that Thai people show much more civic sense than Vietnamese? In fact, authorities in Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City have issued regulations and carried out campaigns to improve citizens’ behavior, rules and campaigns. So far, they, especially Da Nang, have recorded some achievements, gaining admiration and respect from people across the country.
However, Vietnamese people in general still indulge in indecent behavior in the public, because many of them are not aware of the impacts of their actions on the well-being of society as a whole.
They forget that each of them is a part of the community, so how aware they are of their responsibilities and how they behave will decide whether we have a good or bad society.
If a majority of the people are ignorant about the problems, and some who are aware do nothing but complain, Vietnam will not make much progress towards becoming “a civilized society.”
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