Tips to buy gifts when traveling in Vietnam
Gifts: often not the best way to help
Tip are a reward for the quality of service and is never an obligation or payment due. Consult your guides for information on the standard of living or local customs in this regard.
Gifts should not be made in a condescending manner like, for example, throwing sweets to children to avoid them crowding or making fun of a fight. Sweets also cause dental problems unknown before the arrival of tourists.
Do not hand out medicines in a manner dangerous to or risky for the health of recipients. Hospitals or dispensaries in the regions we visit are often better equipped to manage these gifts.
We should make use of services offered by locals, for example, to wash our clothes, act as guides, cooks, mule driver, porters etc. this puts money into the local economy and cuts down on begging.
Do not give money to children. Perverse and facile practices like this, indulged in by certain tourists (as if to erase the reality) often create situations where the ‘salary’ of a 10 year old can exceed that of his own father, a farmer who wears himself out laboring on his farm. The resulting distortion within the family unit can lead to its breakdown, with the child leaving school, the father his farm and the family abandoning its traditions.
The very notion of a gift should be understood as a ‘donation’. It is not payment for a photo or a helping hand but the souvenir we want to leave after our visit no matter how short. Pens, balls and other traditional gifts should be handed to teachers or village chiefs rather than to the children themselves. Our guides can help you.
Souvenirs or best buys?
When we haggle over purchasing souvenirs, let’s not forget that the amount in question may often be laughably small for us but not necessarily so for the recipient.