Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Big Brother - maybe. Nanny state - definately NOT

I really like it that here in Vietnam, people are generally left to make their own decisions about whether or not something's dangerous. This is definately not a nanny state.

But being left to their own devices, people can do some really, REALLY risky things......


In the cities it's almost funny to watch glamorous fashionistas on the back of motorbikes holding their helmets in the air above their hairstyles, ready to put them down should they pass by a policeman. Or to see girls wearing helmets with big holes cut out to accomodate the sparkly hairclips.

Children here are apparently magically protected from injury... it's normal to see parents (in helmets) sitting solidly on the bike, whilst one, two, three children stand in the middle, no helmets....

On the highway it's not unusual to see motorbikes speeding along with passengers holding huge panes of glass sticking out sideways far far into the road... and thats just getting started on what can be attached to the back of motorbikes. So far I've seen a double wardrobe, a double mattress, an American style fridge, a bicycle, fully grown pigs, and now..... a coffin (I really really hope it was empty). Not all on one bike, obviously, but all quite incredible in their own rights. Both in terms of 'give it a go' optimism, danger level and astounding lack of concern for life.

I'm sure that the utility companies do have policies on health and safety, but I still hold my breath when I see dudes leaning ladders against the cables, climbing up and rooting around amongst the tangle, with motorbikes zipping around underneath.

Walking past a part-built house the other day I noticed that the builders using a technique for throwing bricks up onto the first floor using what looks like a long thin lacrosse stick. The bricks land exactly where the person on the first floor is busy doing the same thing up to the second floor. There must be an entire ward at the local hospital full of people with brick-shaped dents in their heads.

If a plug breaks, leaving only one pin, it's quite normal to see them jammed in sideways, sparking every time someone nudges the cable.

During a recent downpour, the caretaker for the centre was standing on a table, water pouring through the leaking roof, fixing the electric light. I couldn't look. 

I'm sure these situations aren't limited to Vietnam, but it does seem that a lot of people here are very relaxed about the whole life/death thing. Maybe it's the Buddhist influence....   :o)

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