From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Mar 28 15:17:24 2001
Trawling through accumulated email after returning from a trip to Vietnam, I came across the early January VSG exchange about the meaning of `Viet Kieu', etc.
In early January, we discovered that Hanoi had declared that VK must be given the same price as homelanders for a number of weeks before and after Tet. Not only that, but foreign spouses and foreign-born children were to be treated the same way.
Naturally I set out to test this second dispensation at Vietnam Airlines in particular. The first time I was told that wedding certificates were required for foreign spouses and birth certificates for children. The second time, however, a very understanding clerk spent 45 minutes working her way up the chain of command to get us the homelander price (a saving of about 50%), based on shared surnames in passports. At the royal tombs in Hue I also succeeded in being treated like a homelander (90%saving!).
Sadly, the Tet dispensation is now gone. On previous trips I noticed some VK successfully passing themselves off as homelanders at the tombs, whereas others either could not or did not wish to. Of course, the ticket clerk could always ask to see their chung minh thu, but some VK had kept their old ones and produced them on occasion.
I wonder how many other countries in the world possess different official
prices for outsiders and insiders?
From email@example.com Wed Mar 28 15:17:59 2001
"I wonder how many other countries in the world possess different
official prices for outsiders and insiders?
In Singapore, foreigners on contracts (and thus visas) of less than
two years' duration do not enjoy a 20% discount on hospital charges
given to those on longer contracts (and so visas). In the UK, in principle,
These examples are of course utterly different and could not be justified by reference to tax payments.
Dr. Adam Fforde, Senior Fellow
Tel: (65) 874 6865
Son got me local price for airfare for the Quang Ngai trip. Also for
airport bus, though she had to shout at
David Marr wrote:
It has been fairly routine in China for a while to have a three-tier set of prices at tourist sites and elsewhere: lowest price for locals, an intermediate price for overseas Chinese, and the highest for non-Chinese. I have a dim memory from the mid-90s of one case where the intermediate price was restricted to those "overseas Chinese" who were residents of Hong Kong and Macau (so Chinese from Taiwan, US and elsewhere had to pay the highest prices) but I can't recall where I saw this...
This is an interesting observation, and perhaps correct in principle but not necessarily so clear cut in practice. As a visiting scholar at a Chinese university in 1995, I was given documentation in order to obtain "local" prices. As the actual use of these letters required negotiation at every instance, the outcomes were a bit arbitrary. Quite often, I was able to obtain the local price while my "hua qiao" wife was not, ostensibly because her family name was not included in the letters. The strange irony on a number of occasions was that our "mixed" children (with my last name) would get the preferential local price along with me, while my wife, the only "true" Chinese among us, would be required to pay the full foreign price. But I don't think this represents policy so much confusion over its application.
Helpful comments, reactions?
Our American public universities and colleges have separate tuition
fees for residents and non-residents. American students from out-of-state
can pay the preferrential resident fees after one year of residing in
The American airline industry is completely privatized, but it is not so for Vietnam Airline, or even Pacific Airline, if it still exists! So, the fact that the Vietnamese government subsidizes airfares for its citizens does not seem to be such an odd practice after all.
Also, I often complain bitterly about the different official pricing
systems in Vietnam myself, being charged the much higher price, but,
to put things in perspectives, back when I only had an Associate Degree
Would things ever be black and white and clear cut?
I agree with Hien on this issue. Viet Kieu working on projects in Vietnam
are paid at a higher rate than locals, so it should not be surprising
that they are charged more than locals as well. For many, though, it
is a matter of identity rather than money. Many Viet Kieu are distressed
to be treated as not-quite-Vietnamese through this tiered pricing system.
For many, the first trip home is the first time they confront their
Hue-Tam Ho Tai
To VSG list members:
For those following the viet khieu discussion : a wonderful, satirical story on the whole subject is NHA NAM by overseas Vietnamese author Tran Vu, which I translated for the short story collection, THE DRAGON HUNT (Hyperion, 1999). The narrator, a young overseas Nha Namese who closely resembles the author, returns home to Nha Nam, a country that closely resembles Vietnam. He is given a characteristically brutal explanation of tiered pricing by a certain famous writer "Th."
I think the phrase you're refering to is "kha'c ma'u tanh lo`ng." As I understand it, it does not refer to foreign blood as much as actual kinship/bloodlines. I have not heard it used in the context of nation building vis-a-vis a construction of the Other.
Approximately one year ago there was a news item about a decree to
abolish dual pricing in Vietnam. I have not seen that decree but when
testing it for things like paying electricity or garbage collection
I know that some of my VN friends don't like to have to pay "foreign prices" when visiting countries like China.
Apologies for the belated response. Just came back from an exciting AAS (great papers & panels!!!) to 250 unread messages.
I don't think dual pricing is good practice. Dual pricing will continue to justify the practice of different salaries. It will make VN less attractive for investment and for tourism purposes. Dual pricing serves to reinforce an image of foreigners as -- always, inevitably, undeservedly? -- rich.
Ironically, I know international volunteers (both Viet Kieu and non-Viet)
who come to work in Vietnam for basically local salaries, and it is
quite strange that they are forced to pay five times more than - for
I think this discussion will led to no where. I agree with Hien that
things are not always black and white and clear cut...Off course dual
pricing is not a good practice, but people practice it anywhere, not
only in Vietnam. I found out that I was not eligible for a 50% discount
on tickets to museums between Paris and Rome. I have been charged 50%
more than local people in Cairo when I tried to ride a bus to the
It is not a good practice, but what we have done to prevent it? How
about writing letters to newspapers, PACCOM, MOF...to raise the issue?
How about starting to pay our local employees at the same rate that
On the other note, while it was true that it was ironic when international volunteers had to pay five times more than ordinary Vietnamese, I did not know any international volunteer who works in Vietnam for basically local salary (let say 50US$ or 700,000VND). It least their living allowance is much higher than US$50.
Is it fair that I am paid four times less than an American who serves
in the same position as I do? We can go as far as questioning ourselves
if it is fair when our dinner can feed a whole family in two week in
Nguyen Thanh Son
Absolutely right. As a western teacher in VN, my salary is so much
higher than any Viet teacher we employ that it makes a mockery of the
discussion. Then we have highly experienced Viet accountants and registrars
who get $300, which is a huge wage by Viet standards but a fraction
of what any westerner would get in these jobs, and meanwhile the receptionist
only gets about $100, still pretty high, but not like the western tewacher
all on over $1000 per month, and then considering so many westerners
are here on salries many times that amount, especially if they work
for the World Bank, the UN etc (often even with rent paid and tax taken
care of) - I mean really, how is it possible that I can talk to expats
that "bargain" with se om drivers
Both Oscar and Son (see below), and everyone else for that matter,
are correct on this subject. But a point that seems to have been missed,
and which distinguishes VN (and other post-colonial countries, as Son
suggests) from other cases cited, is that "dual pricing" can
be informal and cultural determined as well as official and set by law.
Anyone who lived/worked/travelled in southern Vietnam before 1975 will
know that "dual pricing" can occur independently of policy
because it is entrenched in the culture. In Saigon in the 60s, Vietnamese
shopkeepers, street corner hawkers, market stallkeepers, and landlords
all took for granted that
I have no idea when or how "culturally constructed dual pricing"
took root in Vietnam. If colonial rule and subsequent American behavior
were not the cause, I assume they helped to entrench it. But because
Although I blanch at the discrepancy between what a Viet Kieu and a local Vietnamese may be earning for essentially the same qualifications and job, I was taken to task by local friends when I failed to drive down the price of pedicabs or mopeds. They argued that it was people like myself who drove prices up for everybody, and who incited sellers of goods and services to cater to foreigners rather than locals, amking them feel unwanted in their own country; I, of course, had been, like Michael, feeling guilty about haggling over the 50c that was being asked for a moped ride.
As for dual pricing in the South, I had a taste of ad hoc pricing in Chicago last week when trying to find a hotel room in the middle of the AAS plus a trade fair. Prices seemed to change by the minute!
Hue-Tam Ho Tai
>I was taken to task by local friends when I failed to drive down