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Life Lessons Learnt in Asia: UK to Vietnam – How Chaos Breeds Freedom

Life Lessons Learnt in Asia: UK to Vietnam – How Chaos Breeds Freedom

Vietnam Traffic Hanoi - Lesson

Comparing Traffic in two countries may not seem like the most interesting premise but reflecting on my time in Asia I’ve learned the lesson that a lack of rules isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

From Vietnam to UK

Traffic in Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, can appear haphazard. Stepping out into the streets and realising that the vehicles have no intention of stopping for you can make a first-timer’s heart skip a beat.

Despite this, there is harmony in what may seem like madness.

Having lived in Hanoi (Vietnam) twice, I have found that the winding, intersecting, meandering traffic, though inundating, has an organic flow. I am sure there are rules but they are not heavily enforced; and somehow it works.

By comparison, in the UK (where I am now living) traffic rules are vast and many! Roundabouts have specific protocols; there are double lines, single lines, pelican crossings, zebra crossings, rules for a junction, rules for overtaking; basically, there are rules for just about every action one might take on the road.

Check out our guide to traversing busy Hanoi like a local here.

At first glance, this sounds great. I was taught that rules are there for structure and safety. However, after living and seeing how traffic operates in Vietnam, I have started to think that maybe stringent rules are not really all that helpful.

We are taught to obey the rules and to expect that everyone else will also follow them.

Unfortunately, people are not infallible and when someone breaks the rigid rules that others are expecting them to adhere to, it can be disastrous!

I believe the vast amount of traffic rules make us complacent and hinder our awareness. Whereas in Hanoi, as more ways are accepted and expected, people are more engaged and ready.

A Lesson and our Daily Lives

I would go even further to suggest that the principles which govern traffic also cross over from the streets into our daily lives and how we live them.

Having lived almost ten years in Asia, this year I have moved to the UK (find out why here) and what I am finding is that although I always thought Southeast Asia was bureaucratic, the West, or UK at least, beats it by a yard!

I am a creative person and I like to put ideas into action, to build and to do. When I lived in Bangkok, if I had an idea and had the passion to make it happen. I could do it. Of course there were rules, but they weren’t that rigid and things could be done if you had the energy.

This flexibility led me – leads many people – to getting involved and engaging with life.

This flexibility promotes action and finding ways to make things happen. In the UK on the other hand, I am trying to find work, and I am making progress, but it is slow and the road blocks are many.

UK Traffic London

Rules Stifling our Passions

Rules are everywhere, guiding every process, from how to apply for a job to the fact that you must have done this specific job previously or you will not be looked at.

There seems to be a lack of thinking outside of the box. I speak with friends who work office jobs and they talk about how, for every action they take, they must first have it approved by their superior.

They have little room to make autonomous decisions and as a result; their flow of energy and enthusiasm are stifled.

One may argue that the rules are in place because of issues that arose in the past; people took advantage or made mistakes. I understand, but maybe more rules are not the answer.

A lesson that becomes apparent with time spent in Asia is not to disregard all the rules, but to realise that although a lack of rules and regulations on the surface may seem scary, in practice it allows for more possibilities, growth, and the potential to flow.

How do you feel about rules in your country? Let us know in the comments below.

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vietnam to uk

View Comments (3)
  • Oh, I so agree with this! I have travelled through much of South East Asia and I came to the same conclusion when comparing the so-called chaos to the stringent rules we have at home in Australia (which are very similar to the UK). I hope this post gets others thinking about this too.

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