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The Simple Made Impossible

VIETNAM | Thursday, 12 January 2006 | Views [689]

In Hoi An there are a ton of book exchange stores with English books, so I went in to get a new one today and all - and I mean ALL - the books were photocopies!  They had color covers, but the pages were all cheap photocopy paper.  Now, in Viet Nam, apparently they don't have copyright laws, nor do they understand even WHY they need to worry about copyright.

I've been told that it is not uncommon to see students in a classroom during a test leaning over to have a peek at their neighbor's paper, or whispering to each other across the aisles to get the answers.  (Then when an American teacher fails them for "cheating," they simply do not understand why they can't use someone else's work because "But Teacher! It's good writing! It's good ideas!")  In Vietnamese culture, everyone is equal and helps each other (this is also a communist doctrine, but this trait has been a part of their lifestyle since before communism came about), so if someone writes something well, everyone is entitled to use it (though, we tend to call this "plagiarism").

So back to the bookstore.  The worst part is, the book I really wanted to buy was marked $6 US!  Now for once I actually had some good ammunition for bargaining.  Firstly, the book is a copy, so it isn't worth anything anyway.  Secondly, it's also used.  And thirdly, I could get the same book - in original form! - in the states online for $1.50.  Of course, she didn't understand my reasoning, and because there was a physical price tag on the book she refused to go down (nothing has price tags here, so when there is one, they stick to it like it's law!). 

I now see why Westerners aren't good at bargaining: we reason way too much, and we're too honest.  You have to be a good liar to find all the little (usually nonexistent) flaws that will give a Vietnamese reason to give you, a foreigner, a better deal.

Needless to say, I didn't buy a book today.

Tags: i should have known better!, vietnam


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