It is true, Vietnam is a socialist society, but anyway, they really know about capitalism! And this so much that many travellers coming to this country are more than confused about the money. Money seems a deep grounded problem and also the source of many misunderstandings. I’ve read in many western travel guides, forums and even got to know in talks that western travellers usually fear to be scammed. Scams appear in Vietnam, for sure, but they are only in some cases really the reason for fights with Vietnamese. In most cases, Western visitors fear rip-offs of Vietnamese. I want to say clearly: Yes, there are scams and rip-offs, but these appear in every tourist centre of the world (I remember the scams of the Marcus Place in Venice!). However, Vietnamese and Foreigners have a different view on money.
Vietnamese are still a poor people. Compared to the income of Western people this is true, though there appear also more and more Vietnamese with quite a bit of wealth. In Vietnam exists also a kind of social welfare, which – due to the economic situation of this country – does not really stand against the reality of needs. Vietnamese are not racist, when they try to get more money from you, dear Foreigners, than from Vietnamese. Because this isn’t true. The truth is, that Vietnamese decide case by case. Unfortunately, foreigner look in most cases very rich, so they have to pay more than others. But also fashionable Vietnamese, styled as Westerner, who look like Viet Kieu (Vietnamese living in foreign countries) have to pay more. In the West we usually pay more for our products to increase the taxes for our society. With these social welfare is paid. In Vietnam, everybody has to look for himself. By paying a little more, you help them to survive. Vietnamese never think about this system as a kind of rip-off. Sadly, some do know, and these do scams. There is one small advise for everyone coming and staying in this country: You should ask for the price beforehand. Never use or eat something and then ask for the bill (only do so in places, where prices are fixed). If you know the price before, and you are not willing to pay this, you can decide to try your luck somewhere else.
The western view on money developed in our understanding of equality of man: I, as a student, pay the same as my professor, though his salary is at least ten times higher than mine. I am not feeling badly about this – do you? A milk in the supermarket costs the same for both of us, and no one has a problem. The Vietnamese view is quite different: If someone has a higher income, he also can afford a higher standard of living. By the way, foreigners usually pay a small higher price: If you had to pay 11000, maybe the seller will round the price up to 15000, in very small cases to 20000VND.
If you think you are “scammed“, you should stay calm. Ask for the price and ask why it differs or maybe is too high in your opinion. It is not always easy due to the mostly non existing English skills. But you should try to tell your opinion. Stay calm, don’t use a loud voice. And get inside yourself! Don’t fight with someone over 1000VND. I’ve seen already tourists starting a real fight over 4000VND. Be aware of how much it is in your country! It is not worth getting into trouble. On the other hand! Never present yourself like the rich foreigner, who can afford everything. This snobbish style is not only colonial style but also will destroy the traditional markets. Vietnam already has one problem with tourists who spend a lot of money in the wrong ways. It will raise the prices for all – foreigners and Vietnamese – in the future. If a price seems to high, you should bargain about it. I’ve already met people spending 40 000 VND for a bottle of water, which usually cost at that time around 4000VND! The seller will try to sell for a high price constantly. It effects the whole Vietnamese economy. And this does not even help the Vietnamese, because only some, few individuals will get wealthy. Pay a little more and be aware of it, so you can also help the Vietnamese economy. In the big cities like HCM and Ha Noi fixed prices already are standard in many places, so you do not even think about this anymore.