I think it’s safe to say that we respect entrepreneurialism in America—perhaps to a fault. It’s become a buzzword, often more talked about than acted upon.
Vietnam is indeed a socialist republic. But in Da Nang, just about everyone is an entrepreneur.
I’ve already waxed poetic—or perhaps prosaic—on the excessive amount of construction here. Resorts are popping up, or being expanded on, no matter where you turn. The skyline along the beach is full of cranes. Hell, a cafe/bar is being built on the small roof of my apartment building, to be shared with the laundry facilities…the drilling right now makes it hard for me to hear my own thoughts…though most of my expat friends give it a life expectancy of six months or less.
There is no business too large or too small for Da Nang-ers.
Find some old drawings of French villages from a friendly French dignitary of years past? Build your own French village atop a mountain, complete with a funicular, church, three-floor arcade, gardens, wine cellar, bakery….
Have a successful resort across the road from the beach? Build a gargantuan second building full of more rooms and an underground tunnel so that your guests don’t have to cross the street. Be sure to take over the beach you’re across from, with a couple of bars and dozens of chairs for rent.
Live on a main road? Open a shop, cafe or restaurant in the first floor of your home. Stick a sign outside so people know it’s not just your house, you sell things.
Notice an unoccupied street corner? Buy a cart and sell banh mi sandwiches or nuoc mia (sugar cane juice).
Have a motorbike? Get yourself a container to carry around some boiled corn and a speaker to let everyone know what you’re offering without losing your voice. If that’s too much commitment, you can always offer rides to foreigners-on-foot.
If you make friends with business owners, they’ll probably let you walk around their restaurant selling any wares you can carry on your shoulder. If you have the good fortune of being a half decent singer, buy yourself a speaker and a microphone and sing some karaoke to diners before you walk around offering them gum for sale. You may have even better luck if you’re able to learn some magic tricks.
I’m not saying that it’s easy—particularly for foreigners, who have lots of hoops to jump through when starting a business in Vietnam. What I am saying is, in Da Nang, people aren’t talking about opening businesses. They’re doing it. For better or worse.
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I quit a job I enjoyed at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and left my family, friends, and beloved dog to join my boyfriend in moving across the world, in search of adventure and new experiences. I arrived in August 2015.