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What’s next for Vietnam in the Year of the Rat

Thursday, January 30, 2020, 10:50 GMT+7
What’s next for Vietnam in the Year of the Rat
A group of people practice laughter yoga in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Nguyen Khanh / Tuoi Tre

My crystal ball is at 100 percent, online and ready to prophesize!

I predict that the Vietnamese will drive on the correct side of the road. Folks will not challenge you as you turn the corner for the right to drive straight at you and honking of the horn will become a thing of the past.

Well, stranger things have happened here!

Certainly, there’s the potential for Vietnam to become world champions in just about everything. I just hope Vietnamese customs officers don't tax the incoming swag of gold medals and championship cups. Just don’t bet the house, motorbike or business on the outcome.

Start-up ventures such as ‘drive you home’ services for bars will be profitable although how you can be sure that the ‘safe driver’ is actually sober might be a problematic situation. I think driverless cars might help here although designing the software to cope with Vietnamese traffic would be worthy of a Nobel award.

While we’re on cars, electric cars breaking into the domestic traffic market would be exciting. However, I imagine petrol service station attendants re-charging vehicles would look odder than a Vietnamese woman smoking in public.

If the Vietnamese (competent) authorities can keep up the zero-alcohol pressure throughout the year, there would be a fall in the traffic death toll, less domestic violence after football betting losses, and far less late-night noise pollution for drag-racing in the suburbs.

This could also be the year English teachers get proper work permits and full-time employment rather than moonlighting at several language centers before dawn. But my crystal ball also predicts these applicants may have to undergo mandatory drug testing and a psychiatric assessment before being approved. I also predict more Nigerians and other non-American looking candidates will experience a drop in workplace discrimination and all will be right with the world.

Gazing into the foggy future, I can foresee the enlightenment of the Vietnamese tourism authorities and the unconditional entry into the country on a 30-day basis without a visa. The explosion in hotel, condotel and homestay occupancy rates will bring so much dough that it will make up for the loss in visa stamping income across the board.

Mind you, dealing with the massive influx of tourists might require staff training all year round. Two-hour training sessions between shifts just don’t cut it, folks.

I have a hunch that smartphone etiquette will advance a notch in coffee shops across the country, as locals begin to whisper into their phones or better yet ignore the phone to concentrate on conversations with their loved ones, thus dramatically improving good manners and promoting social harmony which is so much a part of Vietnamese culture.

While I doubt taxi drivers will become more polite, considerate and able to use English, there is the possibility of shopkeepers posting fixed prices and maintaining fresh stock rather than the usual ‘next week’ ghastliness that we’ve resigned ourselves to; never too late to change, is it?

I’m prognosticating a crackdown on begpackers and "lost my wallet and my whole life but selling photographs of my cool travels" hippies creating hazards on sidewalks and if unable to provide for themselves, then being forced to do "social work" such as sweeping the streets and rubbish collection as a goal to re-enforce their confidence and encourage them to go get a bar job or teach in the mountains.

My minor prophesies include a decline in the number of local males lifting their shirts when it’s hot to expose their tummies to the horror of tourists. Such behavior will become less prevalent as social trolling of this habit takes its toll on local masculine attitudes. However, it may not impact on young men throwing plastic chairs in pedestrian tourist streets.

Sugarcane juice prices will remain stable during this year and there might be a surge in the value of Honda cubs. Economically I’m sure Vietnam will wiggle its way between the trade war between America and China yet I can’t prevision a reduction in brown-outs, blackouts, and water supply consistency. Flooding will remain normal.

We can look forward to the prospect of more foreigners perceiving the wisdom of marrying locals, the social and health benefits of which would be become obvious to anyone. Year-of-the-Rat babies can enjoy a long life and live prosperously.

Well, the crystal ball is running low on power and I’ll have to recharge it in a minute. While so much of this great nation is changing at an impressive rate, it’s comforting to know that some things will never change: local friendliness, cheerfulness and, above all, the ability to have a laugh about things.

So plan carefully, based on my predictions, and you’ll have a trouble-free year. But remember to wear a helmet, apply for a visa before you come here and always have spare change for topping up the gas tank.

I foresee a great year in store for you!

Stivi Cooke / Tuoi Tre News Contributor

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