I’m Rosie and I’m editorial assistant here at Things & Ink magazine and this year I was lucky enough to travel to Vietnam. This post details how people reacted to my tattoos – and it wasn’t in the way that I though it would be…
In April 2015 I travelled to Vietnam to visit my friend, Sarah, who’s living in Saigon teaching English. Two more of my friends, Cath and Ben, joined me a few days later, we all lived together at university, so our holiday was a family reunion.
Compared to my friends, I am heavily tattooed, although a couple of my friends have small matching tattoos. I didn’t really know what kind of reaction I would receive towards my tattoos from people in Vietnam, but I based my expectations on what people have said here in the UK. Comments have not always been positive, with lots of dismissive stares.
Having lived in the city of Saigon for a year, Sarah had learned a little about the Vietnamese people and their culture. Many of them bleach their skin to lighten it and cover up as much as possible, we went to the beach and people were in the sea in jeans and hoodies. People driving mopeds would stop further back at traffic lights so that they were in the shade.
People mainly stared at us for our pale skin, I had people touching my white arms, and Cath would get kisses blown to her by women. In their culture, staring isn’t rude, but it was hard to shake off the notion that it is. I’m not sure whether I was stared at more for being tattooed or for being pale.
While at a pool, a group of children walked past staring at my tattoos and shouting nice tattoos. Most of the responses were positive and people who also had tattoos were eager to talk about them. Plus, my friends – who I hadn’t seen for AGES – were eager to see my tattoos, as my collection has grown a lot since I last saw them.
Ladies in the Bến Thành Market, would compliment and comment on my tattoos so that we would stop and buy something from their stall. I talked to a couple of stall owners who were interested in how much my tattoos cost. I estimated how much they cost in US dollars for them. And the women were shocked, each tattoo on my arms cost a lot more than they would make in a month, perhaps a year. Which made me think about the different ways we live our lives and spend our money. I felt pretty guilty, and it made me see my tattoos as obscene… but that hasn’t stop me getting more since I’ve been home.