If you thought drunk Aussies making a fool of themselves was all you needed to worry about when you go on vacation, think again. ‘Begpackers’ are the new embarrassing stereotype in town and South-East Asian officials are damn sick of it.
Begpacking “is often done in countries where the average income is far lower than what they could earn working a minimum wage job at home,” and a new report from the ABC states that the disdain towards it is growing.
“We hate them,” Malaysian counterterrorism analyst Munira Mustaffa told the ABC. “South-East Asia is not a personal playground for Westerners to come seek ‘spirituality’ and treat us as props for your self-discovery.”
Sometimes, begpackers use signs asking passersby to “help me fund my dream trip,” while others sell sketches and postcards, or busk for money.
“We have seen many cases of problematic tourists, lately they are either Australian, British or Russian,” Indonesian immigration official Setyo Budiwardoyo told Detiknews in June. “We tend to report these cases to the relevant embassies so that they can oversee their citizens who are on holiday.”
According to the ABC, Thailand is attempting to combat the issue by more strictly enforcing its rule that foreigners are required to have at least THB10,000 ($480) at immigration checkpoints.
However, there are mixed opinions on begpackers. Joshua D Bernstein, a tourism researcher from Thammasat University in Bangkok told the ABC the criticism was just “callout culture.”
In a 2017 feature for The Independent, Helen Coffey said she refuses to judge Westerners busking in South East Asian countries. “There’s an uncomfortable assumption that every white person in Asia has independent means and a rich family back home to call upon should they run out of money,” she wrote.
Others have pointed out the double standards, considering it costs Indonesian citizens $140 just to apply for a visa to holiday in Australia, while begpackers are getting a ‘free ride.’
“Do they realise how much we have to spend just to get visas in their countries? And here they are parading themselves as needy in a context where poverty really means living in sub-human conditions,” Filipina community worker Nash Tysmans told the ABC.
So, is throwing the term ‘begpackers’ around judging travellers without context, or is it offensive to expect free handouts when travelling in these countries without sufficient savings? Either way, it’s ruffling feathers all over social media and stirring up plenty of debate.