Foreign tourists at the Hon Tam Island in Khanh Hoa Province's Nha Trang Town
It is true that I have seen problems continue over the years, both as an expat and as just someone trying to live day to day and I ponder what it would take to resolve them.
There isn't a day goes by that someone isn't dealing with their Visa. The government's policy seems to have changed so often and the desirable ease that one would like to have for remaining in an adopted country to which you contribute economically and take nothing away is just not there. For those of us who are married and eligible for the 5-year exemption, there are fewer problems but having to re-register in our ward and with Immigration every 90 days is a nuisance. I do realize that expats are a mixed bag but I've not known of many who have actually been a problem for the community and permitting extended time periods seems like a reasonable request. Perhaps there could be a policy to grant longer renewals to those who have been in the country for some period and who have not broken any laws or come to the unfavorable notice of the community?
There is also the issue of being able to buy an apartment or house in your own name. There have been a lot of men who have bought a house in the name of a wife or girlfriend and then been evicted by them. I've heard I could now have my name on our house as "an interested party" so my wife could not sell it without my signature but I'm not sure how (or if) it works. Fortunately, it is not something I need to worry about. But why not simplify things for expats making a commitment to living in Vietnam?
|Many expatriates have written to Vietweek concurring that despite the problems they face in Vietnam, it is simply not acceptable that people direct their anger and slurs at all Vietnamese. This forum, "Your two cents", opens the floor for you, the expats, to hold forth on the changes you see in Vietnam: what disappoints, what pleases and what you would like to see happen. Email your thoughts to email@example.com.
I do, on occasion, find myself commenting to someone who wanders into our group for a morning or two, full of complaints about the Vietnamese people, that they are speaking from a very limited exposure. I can't speak for all of my friends but my own experience here with the Vietnamese people has been mostly positive. I have found the people to be warm, hospitable and honest. My complaints are more about how hard life is for so many of the poor among them.
There are probably a lot of things that tourists and single expats who spend their evenings in the tourist districts experience from Vietnamese who prey on strangers that I've never come into contact with but I would venture that similar things happen to tourists and expats who choose an active night life in any strange city. It just goes with the territory.
I am not resentful of any socio-economic changes but the high inflation in the face of stagnant wages and low inflation in other countries puzzles me. Who is benefiting from these price increases? The annual rate of inflation in New Zealand has averaged less than 3 percent since 2000. Why has the cream I buy that comes from there gone up 50 percent in the last 18 months? Makes no sense to me! Somebody is making a lot of money in this country. I see Bentleys and Maybachs and Mercedes Benz S series automobiles on the streets of Nha Trang. What must it be like in Saigon and Hanoi?!
Another aspect of the economic situation that concerns me is the completely unbridled real estate activity. Since my arrival in 2004, several thousand new hotel rooms in Nha Trang have come on the market. When I travel about the city in the evening I see mostly unlit windows in these hotels except for a handful that seem to do a better job of marketing. Of course, during Tet and a few other occasions, they are full. But I would estimate there are another thousand rooms under construction in Nha Trang, not to mention all of the resorts under construction from Cam Ranh Airport to the far north side of Nha Trang. Where is the business coming from to fill them if the government tourism authority and the industry do not improve their game?
We have had the abandoned resort, Rusalka, that the Russian's and Turk's were building when I came in 2004 standing on the far north beach area since work stopped in 2005. A fortune was invested in what has been completed and it will take another one to demolish it to clear the land for something else. Fortunately, this is outside the area most tourists see but I recall there was (and perhaps still is) a large and unusual looking building in the middle of a park in HCMC near the New World Saigon Hotel and Ben Thanh Market that had been an eyesore for years. You will not see this sort of thing if you travel in Singapore or China. I would hate to see a lot of deteriorating big hotels on Tran Phu Street in 10 years!
By Richard Mckenzie
The writer is an America expat who has been living in Nha Trang since 2004