Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Something I won't miss about Vietnam (volume three) is, yet again, a flipside to the positive article I posted yesterday. I've heard there are service classes in Vietnam, where people are actually taught how to wait on westerners. This is pretty important. There's a gulf of cultural nuance separating Vietnamese clerks from expatriate customers. Without guidance, things can fall quickly apart. I wouldn't hazard an example here. Being squarely expatriated, I have no idea how far the locals bend to interact with me. I imagine we meet rather closer than the middle. Xin cảm ơn, Việt Nam. As odd as life can be here, I cannot imagine how much more difficult it would be without so much effort being paid to making me comfortable. But as well as alleged public service classes have indeed softened bumpy intercultural relations in many respects, there's still a thing or two missing from the syllabus. One: western shoppers don't like the hard sell. I know things are difficult, and many vendors find themselves in direct competition for my money. When I'm glancing down the row of jackfruit vendors, for example, I can understand the impetus to be louder, reach farther, and attract my attention quicker than neighboring salesmen. But this has the opposite from the intended effect. I'm attracted to vendors who don't force my interaction. Two: western customers are uncomfortable making servers wait. It takes a long time to read a fifteen-page menu, even if there are large color pictures. I know it's important for you to be ready the moment I make my selection, but it makes me nervous when you hover behind me. Also, I know it might seem unlikely, but dogging me around your clothing store, muttering routine pitches for every noted item, is only driving me away. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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