When I first arrived in Vietnam I remember some fellow westerners warning me of the 'Vietnamese Dick Grab.' They told me not to be alarmed - that it was weird but it was just something that people did here sometimes. Is that weird? By western standards, yes. It is very weird. You'd be lucky not to get punched in the face if you tried any of the following in the West. But that's not where I am. I am clearly not an expert on the 'ins' and 'outs' of Vietnamese culture, so to preface these stories I thought I'd let you hear from a couple of my Vietnamese friends on the matter. I don't want to misrepresent the culture. These interviews are pretty funny, too.
So here we go. I've been here almost 6 months now. Here are my top 3 dick-grabs of Vietnam (so far). There have been more but I think these are the most entertaining.
#3—The Bronze Medal
The 7-Year Old Child Dick-Grab
This is a short, probably unrelated, cringe-worthy story. I used to teach a lot of young children (although I have since graduated to teaching primarily older students). I had one particularly rowdy class of 7 year olds. Of these 7 year olds, one of them looked to be closer to 5 than 7.
Anyway, one day in class this little guy was sitting in the front row. Suddenly and without explanation he just got up in the middle of class, walked up to me and grabbed me... down there. I cringed as his little hand cupped my bulge. I looked down at him with a pained expression on my face. He looked up at me and giggled.
What do you even do in that situation? What is the protocol? I couldn’t get too angry. He’s just a kid. He was still young enough that maybe he doesn’t understand why that’s not okay. But on the other hand, I need to set a precedent of being intolerant of 7 year old boys feeling me up in class.
I stopped class to scold him. I don’t think he was clear on what he did wrong exactly but I didn’t let up until all eyes were on him and he looked adequately disappointed in himself. Negative reinforcement.
I shook it off as I left class that day. These days I teach mostly older kids and adults.
#2—The Silver Medal
The Drunken Old Man Dick-Grab
For my first few months in Hanoi I had a local restaurant where I was a regular. They didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Vietnamese but I ordered the same thing every time I went so after a few trips they would see me, smile and yell ‘Chi-kin!’ with a laugh. I was very sad when it closed.
One day I was sitting there, eating my lunch of, you guessed it, chicken. It was around mid-day and there was an older man sitting a few tables away from me who was absolutely shit-faced. He was talking in a loud voice to his friend who seemed to perpetually be doing the face-palm. Eventually he paid and stumbled out. Whatever.
When it came time for me to leave I paid as per usual and the workers were grabbing my motorbike as I walked. I was thanking the boy who had brought me my bike when the old man stumbled back into our lives.
He came over to me and began speaking to me heartily with one hand on my shoulder. I smiled politely like ‘okay, whatever, keep moving old man.’ I was betting that just being relaxed and shrugging him off would end this exchange fastest. But he just kept talking. I had absolutely no idea what he was saying but he seemed happy, bordering on proud and was gesturing to my large size throughout his whole monologue. I could see the young men that worked at the restaurant gathering nervously looking the exchange.
There was a pause. He looked at me like a grandfather looks at his grandchild. I looked at him like a confused American who just wanted to eat some chicken. The workers at this restaurant looked at us like one of their regular customers was about to be scared off for good.
Then he began speaking again and his hand made a dive to firmly cup my junk. ‘Woahh now’ I said, backing away. The workers at this restaurant promptly jumped over, coming in between us and told the man to get lost. They pointed him in the other direction like they were guiding a confused elderly person back to their room in the retirement home. I just made a face at one of the workers and hopped on my bike to GTFO.
#1—the Gold Medal
The Cross-Motorbike Dick-Grab
In order to protect Hanoi’s reputation as a city of education and politics (and keep it from becoming the party destination that Ho Chi Minh City has become) there is a curfew of 11pm. This means that every night at 11pm sharp the streetlights on all non-major streets go out. So this story takes place on a very small, dark street around 11:45pm.
I was coming home from a friend’s house, motoring my way through the darkened maze of alleyways. I was turning a corner when I heard a woman yell. Normally I have the blinders on but in this particular situation I felt compelled to make some sort of effort to actually evaluate the situation.
A little ways down the road I saw a woman with a facemask sitting on her motorbike, her neck craned to look back in my direction. I thought to myself ‘ok, this woman probably just wants directions. I mean, it is a sketchy, dark alley in the middle of the night, but Vietnamese people get lost sometimes too… my Vietnamese isn’t great but I live right here so I know the area well, I can pretty easily tell her the major street names and physically point in the corresponding directions.”
So I pulled over. The woman motored over to me so her bike was next to mine. Her bike was bigger than mine so I was looking up at her. She looked to be middle aged but with her face mask on I wasn’t sure.
Oh, did I mention that I had spent the previous month and a half growing a beard and had just recently shaved most of it off to create a thick, greasy, nasty mustache? Ok, well now you know.
Still sitting on her bike, which was next to mine, she began to speak in a thick Vietnamese accent. “Hi, I, ah, just open a new shop for um… ah, da dis one” As she said that she quickly reached over from her bike to mine and firmly palmed my man parts through my jeans. My hands still on the handlebars I looked down at her motherly, old hand as she continued. She told me the address and gave me some brief directions on how to get there.
She finished up her elevator pitch by telling me to come visit. I looked back up at her, not really sure how play this one. Here’s what came out: “Okay, yeah, thanks. I won’t.” And with that I awkwardly just pressed the gas and sped off home, feeling pretty violated.
It turned out to be the word on the street that a new brothel had opened recently. This woman was apparently the madam of that shop. #friendsinlowplaces
Anyway, I blamed the whole incident on my dirty mustache so I shaved it off the next day. There have been no dick-grabs since. At least no unsolicited ones. (winky face)