From Us to You, Global Observations, Travel

Space Between Regulations

As a Canadian, I’m used to rules and guidelines. Almost every aspect of our lives is regulated in some way, making it easy to know what to expect in day to day life. There is a predictable experience and quality of a product. There are also regulations about where businesses are physically established. We can look for health code certificates in restaurants, purchase medication from registered pharmacists and drive cars with the paperwork to prove a safety inspection.

In Vietnam, I’ve noticed regulations, in general, are as they say, ‘lax’. Traffic lights are a suggestion. If you can make a mean bowl of soup, you can sell it curbside. With motivation and some means to provide a service, there will be customers. That is not to say there are no rules, or that some are not taken seriously, but there are in-between spaces that are being filled by businesses of necessity – legal or otherwise.

These spaces allow for business-minded individuals to make a buck. Tucked along alleyways or on the public transportation system, individuals are selling their goods. This underground economy – ironically visible thanks to a warm climate – may derive from many not having the means to work in other domains. They might not have been able to get an education, and have learned their family’s trade which brought them success. Perhaps it’s the trickle down from the not-so-long-ago colonial legacies and Vietnam war, but only recently have there been developments in establishing universal healthcare, social assistance, and accessible education. I can’t imagine officials are unaware of the situation, but so far, it looks like there are still bigger fish to fry.

By Megan Katz

On a one-way ticket, Megan is taking time to follow her curiosity literally. Fortunate enough to be on unfamiliar soil, she is keeping her senses clear and her wit sharp. As a maker, dancer and enthusiastic conversationalist, she is seeking meaningful ways to move through new spaces. Endlessly fascinated by human behaviour, local food and cultural norms, stay tuned as Megan shares her thoughts navigating newfound perceptions and impressions.