Usually, when I step outside my house here, I hope that I look pretty close to poor. I don't expend a lot of energy perfecting this look, but I do it with purpose nonetheless. Also, when I write "poor", I mean poor-for-a-foreigner-in-Vietnam, of course.
I thought about this today after reading another discussion on Nguyen's List about how another foreigner living here in HCMC had their iPhone or camera or something stolen from out of their hands earlier this week. There was the usual out-pouring of sympathy and words of advice from my fellow ex-pats in response, but then I saw the reply that made me smile. Some guy wrote back that the best way to keep from being a target for personal theft here is to look as unremarkable and as poor as possible. Don't wear diamonds and blingy gold chains out in public, drive a beater instead of a gleaming new Vespa, leave the designer hand-bags at home, and carry a cheap-ass mobile phone.
This has been my plan for about a year now. I don't bother dressing up beyond a pair of shorts and a t-shirt (occasionally, with a small hole or two in it), I leave the jewelry that I care about in our personal safe, load my pockets as inconspicuously as possible with the items that I'd put in a bag, if I was brave enough to carry one. I never look like I just left the salon. I leave my iPod in my van, hidden from view. Basically, I want to look like the least wealthy foreign lady walking across the parking lot to Metro. And I pretty much succeed every time.
I no longer care what the locals think of me, walking from my daughter's school to my car with no make-up on and wet hair, as long as it's not, "Hey - easy victim!"