A visit to the Consulate-General of New Zealand provided insights into Vietnam's business environment
The first things that hit me as I stepped out into Vietnam from arrivals was the heat and chaos of the city. As the taxi driver moved through the perpetual traffic jam, I wondered how I would ever be able to adapt to a city, which is really the opposite of New Zealand in every way.
I’d never been to Asia before and admittedly had little knowledge of life in Vietnam so tried to keep an open mind, determined to thrive no matter what conditions awaited me.
I needn’t have worried. A few days later I was taken on a motorbike ride through the city at night. It is safe to say that at this moment I was hooked!
Ho Chi Minh city is a truly amazing city, encompassing everything from run down houses and communities found in side streets and alleys, to towering skyscrapers and malls filled with all the designer brands in the world. It is a city of contradictions in a sense, and the gap between the rich and the poor is very apparent here.
At night, the city doesn’t sleep. The streets are filled with people eating street food and drinking. Local markets spring up everywhere and you can always try your hand at bargaining if you’re so inclined. Shops spill out into the streets and you can never quite tell where a standard brick and mortar shop ends and a local's section begins. The energy from all the activity you see while moving through the city can be quite spectacular.
I found the best way to enjoy Hi Chi Min city is to get to know the locals. At lunch time, colleagues would take us to small cafes hidden away from the world with cheap, tasty Vietnamese food.
Getting on with my co-workers was not difficult at all; everyone wants to get to know you and find out more about where you are from. My tax team had many expats, and everyone spoke a decent level of English.
Attending events such as a Canadian Chamber of Commerce business luncheon and meeting with the Consulate-General of New Zealand gave us further opportunities to learn a bit more about the business environment in the country.
In my team, some of my work involved researching industries and proof-reading; however, the highlight of my time at KPMG was working in the HR department, helping to organize an empowerment trip where we gave scholarships to poor students affected by recent flooding in Da Nang.
The students we met impressed me - they have so little in the way of resources but make up for it in sheer dedication in bettering themselves and their families.
Exploring temples in the ancient capital of Hue was one of Jay's highlights of his time in Vietnam
A group of us travelled to Da Nang to hand out the scholarships personally, and got in a bit of sightseeing as well. The Ancient Town in Hoi An, which we visited, still remains my favorite place in Vietnam.
Outside of work, my time was spent with friends exploring the city. I also made it my mission to do well with the language and started taking formal lessons (in addition to pestering my co-workers!). While Vietnamese is a tonal language with many tricky sounds (and in a country filled with varying accents), I managed to make some headway into communicating properly, and by the time I left the locals could generally understand me.
Overall, my time in Vietnam contained a plethora of experiences. From kneeling in a temple in a rural village during the start of the lunar new year holiday, to singing Karaoke (in Vietnamese, of course!) with colleagues, to attending business luncheons and tax institutes, to meeting and speaking with those we gave scholarships to, Vietnam was a truly eye-opening experience, and I am already planning a return trip.