Beggars are particularly common in big cities and touristy areas in Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. And much as you pity them, please know there are reasons why giving them money isn’t the best way to solve the problem.
You can spot beggars in Vietnam, most commonly at the street lights, local markets, or even in regular restaurants (usually small ones or open-air street vendors). They can be kids or women in damaged clothes and with rashes on their skin, old tramps with a wrinkled, painful look, disabled men in a wheelchair accompanied by a family member, or a monk ambling barefoot with a pot in his hands. But notably and bizarrely, most of them actually look perfectly fit for a manual job with an acceptable wage but still beg for money.
Reasons Why You Should Not Give Money to Beggars in Vietnam
We all agree that helping those in need is a benevolent act that should be encouraged, and it is hard to stay indifferent in the sight of the disadvantaged. However, there are two reasons why you should not give money to beggars in Vietnam.
The local authorities have been tackling the issue of homelessness
Local authorities are exerting great efforts to increase social welfare for these underprivileged individuals. Social homes were built to accommodate the homeless, new jobs were created, and simple job training courses were opened for the uneducated to alleviate the issue. That’s certainly what the beggars in Vietnam should do instead of relying on others’ sympathy.
A clear example of governmental endeavors in resolving the beggar situation is at the Ho Chi Minh City Council. Since 2014, the Ho Chi Minh City Council has committed to making the city a place of no beggars, bringing the mendicants to social homes and training them in employable skills.
You’ll likely get scammed
The second reason why you should not give money to beggars in Vietnam is that, in many cases, the beggar can turn out to be a scammer or a pawn of a scammer. Your money does not improve their life, but in this case, it worsens the situation. Taking advantage of people’s goodwill, many competent men set up a play to swindle money filthily. These evil spirits force homeless kids and the elderly to become beggars, using drugs or some tricks to make them appear miserable or physically impaired before scattering them across different locations in the city. At the end of the day, they are the ones to take all the money.
Then there’s the dishonest vagrant who, after collecting a reasonable sum of money in their hat, hides all the money away to “start from scratch” before taking the motorbike taxi back to their lodging (yes, they turn out to be not homeless!).
See also How to Avoid Scams in Vietnam
How to Decline Beggars in Vietnam
Do as the Vietnamese do
On declining beggars, Vietnamese usually shake their heads with the verbal response “Khong”, meaning “Nothing (to give you)”. Speaking some simple Vietnamese phrases might get you out of the awkward situation.
Shake your head and keep a straight face in front of the beggars. This simple body language alone should suffice for your expression of decline. Remember to keep a straight face and, if needed, stilt your head away from them to declare your refusal more resolutely.
Waving hands slightly (while keeping them at your chest level) is another possible response to beggars in Vietnam since this gesture is interpreted in Vietnam as “no”, or “forget about that”.
What to Do Instead to Help the Poor in Vietnam
After knowing why you should not give money to beggars in Vietnam, you may wonder how you can help the underprivileged while traveling. It is better to help the disadvantaged in Vietnam through credible organizations, especially governmental ones. For example, if you want to help victims of agent orange in Vietnam, contact the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (click the box on the top right of the website to change the language to English). Other organizations in Vietnam dedicated to helping the poor include the Vietnam Women’s Union and the Vietnam Red Cross Society.
Another way to contribute when you travel to Vietnam is by donating through the tour companies that you book a tour with. i Tour Vietnam, for example, has a meaningful GIVE BACK program for any of its tours and customers.
Showing your consciousness about the beggar problem in Vietnam by reading about this matter proves how aware and responsible a traveler you are. Find out more about how you can realize responsible travel in Vietnam by going off the beaten track, for example!
Conclusion of Why You Should Not Give Money to Beggars in Vietnam
Government bodies in various cities of Vietnam are particularly active in curbing the growth of beggars by establishing social homes and providing jobs. Therefore, be assertive in refusing beggars in Vietnam with a simple head shake and a straight face.
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