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The Transnationalization of Vietnam

By Sarah Grimaldi

        This city is definitely unique to the other cities we have visited on this voyage. Ho Chi Minh had a vernacular feel to it with hut-like homes, shops, and restaurants. I did not observe many tall buildings, except for a few hotels catering to the tourists. There wasn’t any technological advancement or massive infrastructure remotely similar to Hong Kong and Beijing. Ho Chi Minh appeared much less westernized without any McDonalds, Starbucks, little tourism, no traffic laws, and vernacular infrastructure. Just because Ho Chi Minh did not have impressive glass buildings for professional services such as insurance, accounting, or real estate, it is an important city to the Vietnamese nevertheless. This enabled me to appreciate this city in a different way. I reminded myself that Ho Chi Minh appears to be a less developed city in my eyes, but to the Vietnamese it is an advanced center offering more to the people than in the rural areas.

             Traditional shopping in Vietnam greatly involves the buying and selling of mimic goods. As I visited a marketplace I observed that almost every other stand was selling a variety of mimicked goods from accessories to clothing. As the reading from Elizabeth Vann mentions, the growth of mimicked goods sold are a sign of the country’s new international trade relations. Whether this is a sign of Vietnam becoming a capitalist country, it does demonstrate the phenomenon of transnational ideas and objects in a vernacular setting. Ho Chi Minh has potential to modernize and turn into a large tourist attraction. It will be interesting to see if transnational neighborhoods form and create pressure on the vernacular buildings that dominate the city.

            I personally enjoyed witnessing the everyday life of a Vietnamese living their lives in vernacular neighborhoods. Massive infrastructure can sometimes swallow the qualities of a city, so the simple life of the Vietnamese allowed me to appreciate a city that was completely foreign to me. The proliferation of mimic goods sold demonstrated the Vietnamese adapting to Western ideas which may ultimately lead to a more transnational city. Of course modernization can only take place with acceptance of cultural changes and the Vietnamese appear to be very traditional people with incredible pride in their culture.

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