Life In A (Slightly) Communist State
July 9, 2014, Hanoi, Vietnam: Living in a communist state has its differences. But modern Vietnam is more capitalist in practice.
Dear Live and Invest Overseas Reader,
We've been living in Vietnam for several years now. During that time, we have made many close Vietnamese friends and have learned more about the history and rich culture of these people than we ever imagined. We've also been around a lot of foreign tourists, who are generally amazed that a Westerner would choose to live in a communist country.
The truth is that for all practical purposes, living in Vietnam is like living in any country, communist or not. After spending about one minute in Hanoi, anybody can see that this city is first and foremost the epitome of capitalism on steroids. The majority of Vietnamese are self-employed entrepreneurs. They own and operate hotels and restaurants, they sell vegetables and fish at the markets, they fix motorbikes and appliances, they promote their tour companies, shine shoes, and create a never-ending assortment of soups and noodles and rice dishes to sell in their tiny shops or at their pop-up sidewalk restaurants.
Most Vietnamese work from dawn until late in the evening, often seven days a week. Many earn just enough to get by, though a growing percentage of people have enough disposable income to buy some extras and even luxuries. Throughout the years, we've watched as the locals have traded their bicycles for motorbikes and their motorbikes for cars. More people wear eyeglasses now, and more children and young adults are fitted with braces. People keep pets—something that was very unusual just a few years ago. When they take their vacations, they love to travel. Domestic tourism is a rapidly growing industry here.
The difficult days of rationing and shortages are over. Today's Vietnamese shop in traditional markets and glitzy new malls. They take their children to parks, zoos, museums, beaches, giant waterparks, amusement parks, and the aquarium on their school breaks. They buy their own fashionable clothes, choose their own vocations, and love to gossip. In many respects, Vietnam is just like anywhere else. But there are differences, too...
Because it is a socialized country, some businesses are owned, or partly-owned, by the government. You'll see many products that have the word "Vina" in the name: Vinacafe, Vinashipping, Vinatex, Vinataba... These are all enterprises that the government owns either in part or entirely.