Bulletin

An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

"Invaluable" business internship in dynamic Vietnam

Business intern Daryn Govender describes the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where he lived for three months working at professional services company KPMG.

Daryn Govender sitting at his desk in an office

Saigon never sleeps and is bustling with people, morning and night.

Cars and motorbikes jostle for space and conventional road rules are all but ignored. However, drivers seem to understand the dynamics of one another and this leads to a chaotic but functioning road equilibrium.

I was primarily based with the Audit Financial Services Team, assisting with audit engagements for a range of clients. This involved spending time at client's offices, making for a nice change of environment and allowing me to see different parts of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

All KPMG staff can speak English, so language isn’t a major barrier. However, in reality they prefer speaking Vietnamese and many client documents are also in Vietnamese!

The Vietnamese language is hard to grasp as it has many accents and tones, combined with regional differences. 

Luckily I was allocated work with English speaking clients and my colleagues were always happy to help with translations.

Although my Vietnamese was basic, there was a sense of accomplishment in being able to say key words to someone and have them actually understand me.

Lunch is often a shared time and I was regularly invited to join other staff for meals. This ranged from traditional back alley stalls and homely restaurants to lunch at a colleague’s house.

As an overseas intern, I was not expected to work outside normal business hours, but it is not uncommon for audit staff to work late and on weekends to meet client deadlines! The firm supports its staff during the busy season with a range of initiatives such as ‘Feel Good Fridays’ where staff can dress casually and work flexibly, along with meal vouchers, massages, and wellness classes.

KPMG runs a variety of business events for their clients and I attended KPMG Tax Institute and KPMG-RMIT University Centre for Governance workshops. Through an Asia New Zealand Foundation introduction, we visited the New Zealand Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, Karlene Davis, and also met the Canadian Consul General Richard Bale on the same day.

Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is a major celebration throughout the country and is on par with Christmas in New Zealand. During Tet, the main street outside the KPMG offices transformed into a flower exhibition and most Vietnamese travel back to their home towns for the nearly week-long holiday.

Nearly all businesses close, including KPMG, so the Tet holiday was an ideal time to do some traveling within Vietnam. I managed to explore the diverse cities of Hanoi, Hoi An, and Hue.

One of my favourite attractions was exploring the vast Imperial City in Hue, one of Vietnam’s former capitals, along with visiting the iconic Cu Chi Tunnels north of Ho Chi Minh City. The tunnels were built by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, or the Resistance War Against America, as it is known in Vietnam, and served as the base of operations for the Tet Offensive.

Daryn standing outside the entrance to a Vietnam war era tunnel at Vinh Moc Tunnels, Vietnam

I also had the opportunity to write an article about Vietnam’s economy for the financial news website Interest.co.nz. The piece took a while to research and write but helped me improve my understanding of Vietnam’s economy, and received excellent feedback from KPMG management and other readers.  

Some people were surprised when I said I was undertaking an internship in Vietnam; however, I think it makes perfect sense. Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and an important trade partner for New Zealand, with two-way trade between New Zealand and Vietnam exceeding NZ$1 billion.

The opportunity to do an internship in a dynamic, fast-growing country was invaluable and I am sure it will help shape my future career path. If you're thinking about an internship in Asia, take the leap and apply, you never know what might happen!

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May 5 2017