The New Normal – Coronavirus Xenophobia

When I made the decision to move to Ho Chi Minh City in the beginning of January, it was just at the beginning of the onslaught of Covid-19 in China. In late February, when it was time for me to relocate to South East Asia, fear had risen about the virus, and several friends and acquaintances were texting and DMing for me to reconsider my move until it was contained. I chose not to, and made it here without issue, other than the lingering case of bronchitis I was still managing.

My IG post the night I flew to Vietnam

Vietnam has been one of the most proactive countries in the world regarding the prevention and spread of Covid-19. As the country boarders China, since the first week of February, the Vietnamese government shut down its border, banning all in and outbound flights from mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong. It closed all public and private schools, and put responsible government mandated measures in place to protect the health and well being of its citizens. The US government should really take note on what competent protocol actually looks like, but being that Vietnam is a “Communist Country“, they never would. To date, there have been only 44 total cases of Coronavirus in Vietnam, with ZERO deaths… A far cry from the apocalyptic shit storm barreling down on America.

Needless to say, I have felt completely safe here. Yes, everyone wears surgical or fabric masks when out and about, but residents have been conditioned to do so as the air quality in Vietnam is historically not great. That being said, after checking today’s Air Quality Index, HCMC is pretty good shape!!

Now that the virus has become a global pandemic, and has spread to 114 countries across the globe (there are 195 in total), I have definitely noticed a change in how Vietnamese people are reacting to foreigners, including me.

A few nights ago, I needed to get out of the house for a bit so I walked down the street to a local bar for a beer. I’ve been there a few of times before, and it’s not like I’m hard to miss with my short fuchsia pink hair. The minute that I sat down, a bartender who has served me before, came up to me with a spray bottle and spritzed my hands with some sort of antibacterial disinfectant. I didn’t notice him doing the same to other Vietnamese patrons, but I took it in stride and even doubled down by applying some hand sanitizer from one of the several bottles readily available on the bar. Last night, I hit the super market to stock up on some supplies and a security officer at the door took my temperature with the forehead gun; he was doing the same to all who entered, so I did not feel specifically targeted there. I’m a member of several Expat Facebook groups, and I keep reading that restaurants and bars all over town are, very apologetically mind you, refusing service to foreigners. Vietnam is beginning to refuse Visa renewal applications for Europeans and the citizens of other infected countries, despite the fact that they may live in Vietnam or not. With all the Asian, especially Chinese, xenophobia I keep reading about in the USA, the exact same thing is more frequently occurring here in Vietnam to anyone who is not Vietnamese. In my entire life, I have never experienced anything of this sort until now. It is completely f-ing surreal.

As this pandemic continues to grow, I fear that the Vietnamese government’s next step will be to shut down its borders to all infected countries – ALL 144 OF THEM. And, considering that my sister and brother-in-law are currently in the States due to a family emergency, leaving my two nephews ages 9 and 11 in my care, I pray and ask all of you to pray with me, that THAT DOES NOT HAPPEN anytime soon… or at least before they can get back to their newly adopted home of Vietnam.

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