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Ex-diplomats start businesses in Vietnam

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Following their tenure as foreign ambassadors to Vietnam, two diplomats have chosen to launch businesses in Vietnam, taking advantage of the Southeast Asian country’s dynamic startup scene.

Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noël Poirier and former New Zealand Ambassador Haike Manning both served in Vietnam from 2012 to 2016 – a tenure which left such an impression on each of them that they both chose to stay in the country following their ambassadorships.

Ex-ambassador’s laundromat service 

Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noël Poirier left diplomatic service following his term in Vietnam, but he didn’t choose to leave the country.  

Instead, he opened three laundromats in Hanoi, one of which managed to stay open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic while the other two only recently reopened following financial hardship brought about by the coronavirus.

But laundromats are just a side hustle for Porier.

When he’s not busy making sure Hanoians have clean clothes, he manages a foreign investment consulting business in the Southeast Asian country.

While the pandemic essentially put a hold on foreign investment in Vietnam, the country’s rapid economic recovery has signaled to foreign businesses that Vietnam still has significant long-term development potential, particularly now that COVID-19 has led to dozens of countries shifting their manufacturing bases away from China and into Vietnam.

According to Poirier, Vietnam’s investment potential is heighted by two key factors: the government of Vietnam is particularly interested in foreign companies, and the business climate is very welcoming and encouraging.

Poirier also noted that safety and peace of mind for long-term business in Vietnam are the top priorities for international investors, and the Vietnamese government has done a good job of setting investors at ease by enforcing a tough anti-epidemic policy and taking numerous measures to support the growth of the local business environment.

Such growth and potential are Porier’s main inspiration for staying in Vietnam following his tenure as a diplomat.

“I wanted to participate in [Vietnam’s] progress,”  he explained.

Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noel Poirier – Photo: Supplied
Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noel Poirier. Photo: Supplied

Porier juxtaposed the business environments in Europe and Asia, explaining that, for the past 20 years, the business environment in Europe has been in decline, with economic downturn, unemployment, the closure of businesses and factories, and the relocation of businesses to Asia being serious concerns.

In comparison, Vietnam’s business environment is upbeat and maintains a culture that is relatively welcoming to outsiders, provided they adhere to the adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Porier explained that the transition from diplomat to entrepreneur was difficult for him, but support from his Vietnamese acquaintances eased the burden.

Improving access to education

October 2022 was the 10th anniversary of Haike Manning and his family moving to Vietnam.

The last six of those years were spent in Ho Chi Minh City, while the first four, from 2012 to 2016, were spent in Hanoi where Manning served as the New Zealand ambassador to Vietnam.

“I always intended to stay here in Vietnam. We were quite well settled and had a really good network in Hanoi, but Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s commercial hub and the idea of moving to Ho Chi Minh City to start a new Vietnam life was interesting.

“We are happy here, I think it’s because me, my wife, and my son, have found our place in doing different things,” Haike shared.

Haike Manning, former New Zealand Ambassador to Vietnam from 2012 to 2016. Photo: Tran Tien Dung / Tuoi Tre
Haike Manning, former New Zealand Ambassador to Vietnam from 2012 to 2016. Photo: Tran Tien Dung / Tuoi Tre

Hanoi has undergone immense change since Haike and his family first moved to the city in 2012.

The capital’s new roads and bridges are both particularly distinct signs of its growth over the past decade. 

Haike now operates a company that focuses on education. Specifically, he manages the company’s operations across Southeast Asia.

As part of this job, he often travels to Malaysia – an experience he says has opened his eyes to how impressed the international community is with Vietnam’s growth and how fearful countries like Malaysia are of losing the development advantages they have over Vietnam.

“Vietnam is becoming more connected with the world, especially in education, where the number of students going abroad each year continues to grow.

“Around 200,000 Vietnamese students are studying abroad, and there are more and more international programs being delivered in Vietnam,” Haike said.

Haike sees the country’s development through the lens of education and, in his view, has done a fantastic job of providing education to every Vietnamese citizen and opening the doors to higher education for a large proportion of the population.

However, there are areas where the government does fall short, and that’s where international partnerships and collaboration in education come in.

In Haike’s view, Vietnam can continue to advance its education system by developing greater international connections and continuing to create more accessible education.

With more and more international education programs coming to Vietnam, there is less pressure for Vietnamese students to study abroad and more opportunities for lower-income families.  

“Improving access through digital and online education, and improving quality of education through international connections, are two important things that factor into increases in the quality of education over time.

Haike Manning (left) and the New Zealand Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Joseph Nelson attended an event at Manning’s office. Photo: Supplied
Haike Manning (left) and the New Zealand Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Joseph Nelson attended an event at Manning’s office. Photo: Supplied

“My personal view is that bringing international education to Vietnam is going to create much bigger opportunities for everyone. Not only have we increased access to education for families, but we have also supported improving the capacity of local institutions,” Haike said. 

Data from a survey carried out by Haike’s company showed that Vietnamese parents spent significantly more on their childrens’ education compared to parents in other Southeast Asian countries.

International education institutions also tend to favor Vietnamese students.

Vietnamese students are often academically strong, but they’re also often quite open to embracing the culture overseas.

However, for young people to reach their full potential, Haike believes Vietnamese students need to focus on life skills. 

“It’s one thing to know a lot about engineering, computer science, economics, or finance, but to really thrive in the world that we live in now, you need to have soft skills as well. You need to invest in building your communication and interpersonal skills so that you can form good relationships across cultures.

“Figuring out how to work on a team, how to lead people, and how to analyze and apply critical thinking is absolutely essential,” Haike explained.

In Vietnam, talented young people are the country’s assets. It is important for Vietnam to keep the economy growing and provide conditions that are attractive enough so even when Vietnamese students can go overseas, to Australia or Canada, and eventually return home.

“They come back because they can see more opportunities here and we have started to see that trend in our recent market surveys. We’re starting to see that, increasingly, families are saying there are really good chances here in Vietnam now. Ten years ago, there weren’t the same set of opportunities,” Haike said.

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Following their tenure as foreign ambassadors to Vietnam, two diplomats have chosen to launch businesses in Vietnam, taking advantage of the Southeast Asian country’s dynamic startup scene.

Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noël Poirier and former New Zealand Ambassador Haike Manning both served in Vietnam from 2012 to 2016 – a tenure which left such an impression on each of them that they both chose to stay in the country following their ambassadorships.

Ex-ambassador’s laundromat service 

Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noël Poirier left diplomatic service following his term in Vietnam, but he didn’t choose to leave the country.  

Instead, he opened three laundromats in Hanoi, one of which managed to stay open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic while the other two only recently reopened following financial hardship brought about by the coronavirus.

But laundromats are just a side hustle for Porier.

When he’s not busy making sure Hanoians have clean clothes, he manages a foreign investment consulting business in the Southeast Asian country.

While the pandemic essentially put a hold on foreign investment in Vietnam, the country’s rapid economic recovery has signaled to foreign businesses that Vietnam still has significant long-term development potential, particularly now that COVID-19 has led to dozens of countries shifting their manufacturing bases away from China and into Vietnam.

According to Poirier, Vietnam’s investment potential is heighted by two key factors: the government of Vietnam is particularly interested in foreign companies, and the business climate is very welcoming and encouraging.

Poirier also noted that safety and peace of mind for long-term business in Vietnam are the top priorities for international investors, and the Vietnamese government has done a good job of setting investors at ease by enforcing a tough anti-epidemic policy and taking numerous measures to support the growth of the local business environment.

Such growth and potential are Porier’s main inspiration for staying in Vietnam following his tenure as a diplomat.

“I wanted to participate in [Vietnam’s] progress,”  he explained.

Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noel Poirier – Photo: Supplied
Former French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noel Poirier. Photo: Supplied

Porier juxtaposed the business environments in Europe and Asia, explaining that, for the past 20 years, the business environment in Europe has been in decline, with economic downturn, unemployment, the closure of businesses and factories, and the relocation of businesses to Asia being serious concerns.

In comparison, Vietnam’s business environment is upbeat and maintains a culture that is relatively welcoming to outsiders, provided they adhere to the adage “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Porier explained that the transition from diplomat to entrepreneur was difficult for him, but support from his Vietnamese acquaintances eased the burden.

Improving access to education

October 2022 was the 10th anniversary of Haike Manning and his family moving to Vietnam.

The last six of those years were spent in Ho Chi Minh City, while the first four, from 2012 to 2016, were spent in Hanoi where Manning served as the New Zealand ambassador to Vietnam.

“I always intended to stay here in Vietnam. We were quite well settled and had a really good network in Hanoi, but Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s commercial hub and the idea of moving to Ho Chi Minh City to start a new Vietnam life was interesting.

“We are happy here, I think it’s because me, my wife, and my son, have found our place in doing different things,” Haike shared.

Haike Manning, former New Zealand Ambassador to Vietnam from 2012 to 2016. Photo: Tran Tien Dung / Tuoi Tre
Haike Manning, former New Zealand Ambassador to Vietnam from 2012 to 2016. Photo: Tran Tien Dung / Tuoi Tre

Hanoi has undergone immense change since Haike and his family first moved to the city in 2012.

The capital’s new roads and bridges are both particularly distinct signs of its growth over the past decade. 

Haike now operates a company that focuses on education. Specifically, he manages the company’s operations across Southeast Asia.

As part of this job, he often travels to Malaysia – an experience he says has opened his eyes to how impressed the international community is with Vietnam’s growth and how fearful countries like Malaysia are of losing the development advantages they have over Vietnam.

“Vietnam is becoming more connected with the world, especially in education, where the number of students going abroad each year continues to grow.

“Around 200,000 Vietnamese students are studying abroad, and there are more and more international programs being delivered in Vietnam,” Haike said.

Haike sees the country’s development through the lens of education and, in his view, has done a fantastic job of providing education to every Vietnamese citizen and opening the doors to higher education for a large proportion of the population.

However, there are areas where the government does fall short, and that’s where international partnerships and collaboration in education come in.

In Haike’s view, Vietnam can continue to advance its education system by developing greater international connections and continuing to create more accessible education.

With more and more international education programs coming to Vietnam, there is less pressure for Vietnamese students to study abroad and more opportunities for lower-income families.  

“Improving access through digital and online education, and improving quality of education through international connections, are two important things that factor into increases in the quality of education over time.

Haike Manning (left) and the New Zealand Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Joseph Nelson attended an event at Manning’s office. Photo: Supplied
Haike Manning (left) and the New Zealand Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Joseph Nelson attended an event at Manning’s office. Photo: Supplied

“My personal view is that bringing international education to Vietnam is going to create much bigger opportunities for everyone. Not only have we increased access to education for families, but we have also supported improving the capacity of local institutions,” Haike said. 

Data from a survey carried out by Haike’s company showed that Vietnamese parents spent significantly more on their childrens’ education compared to parents in other Southeast Asian countries.

International education institutions also tend to favor Vietnamese students.

Vietnamese students are often academically strong, but they’re also often quite open to embracing the culture overseas.

However, for young people to reach their full potential, Haike believes Vietnamese students need to focus on life skills. 

“It’s one thing to know a lot about engineering, computer science, economics, or finance, but to really thrive in the world that we live in now, you need to have soft skills as well. You need to invest in building your communication and interpersonal skills so that you can form good relationships across cultures.

“Figuring out how to work on a team, how to lead people, and how to analyze and apply critical thinking is absolutely essential,” Haike explained.

In Vietnam, talented young people are the country’s assets. It is important for Vietnam to keep the economy growing and provide conditions that are attractive enough so even when Vietnamese students can go overseas, to Australia or Canada, and eventually return home.

“They come back because they can see more opportunities here and we have started to see that trend in our recent market surveys. We’re starting to see that, increasingly, families are saying there are really good chances here in Vietnam now. Ten years ago, there weren’t the same set of opportunities,” Haike said.

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Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/features/20230123/exdiplomats-start-businesses-in-vietnam/71075.html

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Cashless payments on the rise: convenience and security for expats in Việt Nam

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A customer scans QR codes while shopping at Cồn market in Đà Nẵng. VNS/VNA Photo Quốc Dũng

Seán Nolan

HÀ NỘI — Gone are the days of ‘cash is king’, and cashless payments are changing how we all transact and manage our finances. But, while the convenience is clear, is this change entirely a good thing?

As digital payment methods surge in popularity, expats in Việt Nam are not alone in embracing the change to cashless transactions. 

The advantages are clear; secure encryption and biometric authentication lowers the risk of theft, and many expats see these payment options as a safer alternative to carrying cash. 

Even if you are unlucky enough to fall victim to a pickpocket, you can rest assured that your money is not accessible. For the hapless tourist, unwary expat or tired local, cashless payments reduce the risk of being short-changed, scammed or robbed. 

Competition among payment providers has also increased, with companies vying to provide the most convenient and secure digital payment options to attract customers, including expats living in Viet Nam.

Many banks now offer internet banking to foreigners and have fully-fledged English-language versions of their mobile applications to simplify the process.

However, navigating the local banking system and ensuring all paperwork is in order can still pose challenges for some expats (hands up if you’ve ever been locked out of your account because you forgot to send the bank your new work permit?).

Despite these hurdles, the shift towards a cashless society in Việt Nam is inevitable, as seen by trends worldwide. 

In the UK, restaurant chains such as Prezzo and Pizza Hut simply do not accept cash anymore and, according to a 2019 survey, in South Korea just 17 per cent of total transactions involved cash. 

To become a truly cashless society, international cooperation will be needed to ensure seamless transactions for expats with bank accounts outside the country though, as the competition among payment providers heats up, expats can expect even more convenient and secure options in the near future.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, it’s important for expats to adapt and embrace new technologies to stay ahead of the curve. 

Whether it’s mobile banking, e-wallets or other digital payment methods, these tools make transactions easier and more secure for everyone.

In conclusion, around the world the days of ‘cash is king’ are over. Cashless payments are coming to take the crown, and will forever change the way we transact and manage our finances. 

For expats living in Việt Nam, this shift towards digital payments offers a wealth of opportunities and should be embraced to stay ahead in an increasingly digital, and cashless, world. VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/cashless-payments-on-the-rise-convenience-and-security-for-expats-in-viet-nam_341281.html

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Couple in seventies rewrite travel rulebook

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Mong Phước Minh and his wife in Hà Giang. — Photo courtesy of Minh

By Thanh Nga

Mong Phước Minh, 74 and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc, 70, from Long Xuyên City, An Giang Province, have completed hundreds of trips at home and abroad, and say these trips are like a spiritual medicine to help them stay healthy and happy.

Back in 2005, Minh’s wife was diagnosed with thyroid and ovarian cancer. And though Minh was depressed and couldn’t hold back his tears, Cúc proved to be a hugely courageous woman. Along with timely treatment at a prestigious hospital, she spent time taking exercise and often asked her husband to travel to relieve stress and find joy in life.

In 2011, when Cúc’s two cancers were finally under control, the couple started to travel more regularly. For Minh, as long as his wife sits behind him, he will drive anywhere to bring joy to his wife.

Recently, they made a journey of more than 30 days across Việt Nam in their ageing Suzuki Vitara. The married couple have just returned home to welcome the Vietnamese New Year.

Mong Phước Minh and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc have just made a journey of more than 30 days across Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“After many days of constant moving, sightseeing and challenges, we have returned home safely to celebrate Tết with our children and grandchildren,” Minh said.

Earlier this month, they had seven days to explore the primaeval forests of Nam Trường Sơn where they had no electricity and no phone signal, but still set out to explore the waterfalls and forests.

“We have been travelling together for about 11 years now. We travel a lot, so it has turned into our passion. Whenever we have free time, we are ready for a trip,” Minh told Việt Nam News.

“As usual, we don’t have an exact date, time, and destination, only a general idea. It’s not exactly a principle, just a habit of not wanting to be tied down. We approach things happening on the journey randomly, because they are often unexpected and interesting things.”

Since they were students, they have loved travelling. When getting married, they often took their children around various destinations near their home.

Mong Phước Minh and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“At that time, we were busy taking care of our children, working and doing business, so we didn’t have much time to travel. Later, when our children grew up, and the economy was more stable, we had more short trips on tours with our children and friends,” Minh said.

In 2011, at first, the couple planned to go with their friends but as the schedule approached Minh discussed a plan with his wife that they would travel by themselves.

Over the past 11 years, they have made hundreds of trips together, including a motorbike trip from Long Xuyên City to Bờ Y border gate in Kon Tum Province to Laos and a trip across Việt Nam from south to north.

On the first trip, they travelled with a motorbike made in 1990. According to Minh, except for the need to change tyres and spark plugs, the motorbike was completely good.

They made sure to prepare enough medicine, raincoats, umbrellas, flashlights, and a mini rice cooker for the long journey.

The couple have promised their children that they will travel safely so that everyone feels secure. Every day, they call home to let them know where they are.

After a few favourable trips, in early 2012, they asked several friends to ride motorbikes with them across Việt Nam, Laos and Cambodia. The trip was very successful, which left them even more motivated.

During this trip, they passed 120km of old forest belonging to the Don Amphan Reserve in Laos. There were no houses on the way, only the married couple in the middle of many majestic mountains.

Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc takes photos in Thừa Thiên – Huế  during their journey across Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“This road was deserted, but very beautiful. My wife was in awe of it all,” Minh said.

The trip lasted a total of 25 days.

“The joy of travelling by motorbike is that it is a cheap and comfortable way to explore a favourite destination. Many people think that we are rich, as we often travel, but we have to consider it properly. That’s why we often choose to ride a motorbike,” Minh said.

In 2013, Minh and Cúc completed a 30-day trip through Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Initially, Minh planned to travel by motorbike. However, Cúc wanted to ride a bicycle. To please his wife, Minh bought two folding bicycles, then sewed bags to fit the bike to carry through the border gate.

They travelled by coach through cities and countries, when they stopped to visit, they used the bicycles to move around.

Wherever they go, they obey their principle of never heading to the next destination after 4pm, to help ensure safety.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves and our families, promising our children that we must go safely to give them peace of mind,” Minh said.

During their journeys, the thing that Minh and his wife feel most fortunate about is that they have never had a serious incident other than their motorbike or car breaking down a few times.

The couple have also had the chances to visit many places in the US and Australia by train and bus when they went to visit relatives.

“We don’t care how many cities and countries we’ve been to. We try to feel and remember the experiences we’ve had together on our journey,” Minh said.

“Since we were students, we have always been together. Now, whether going near or far, I want to take my wife with me. As long as I have her, I know it’s going to be a great trip.” VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/life-in-vietnam/couple-in-seventies-rewrite-travel-rulebook_341184.html

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Spring festival season sees surging visitors with improved safety measures

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FROM ALL OVER: Tourists enjoying spiritual ceremonies at Đông Cuông Temple Festival in the northern province of Yên Bái’s Văn Yên District. VNA/VNS Photo 

 HÀ NỘI — Authorities and experts are reporting a surge in the number of visitors at festivals held across the country, as the country gears up for the festival season after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST) reported on its website that after three years of impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the halting and reducing scales of many cultural festivals nationwide, this year’s festivity season has returned with a spike in the number of visitors, though safety hasn’t been compromised.

Since the beginning of the season, the ministry has issued many documents requesting localities strengthen management and organising works for all cultural activities. Local authorities have undertaken sufficient measures to ensure participants in the 2023 Spring Festival season are “safe, joyful and healthy”.

Meanwhile, experts say the Spring Festival Season 2023 of the Year of the Cat is considered as an occasion for the community to reach a ‘boom’ in travelling to enjoy the traditional and cultural celebrations in famous spots, which were halted for long time due to the pandemic.

So far, most of the famous spring festivals have opened, including the Hương (Perfume) Pagoda Festival, Sóc Temple Festival or Cổ Loa Citadel Festival in the North. They have attracted tens of thousands of visitors everyday, with no reports of violations in security and social order.

BACK WITH A BANG: After three years of COVID-19 delays, the festival season has returned this year with a spike in the number of visitors. Photo toquoc.vn

Nguyễn Bá Hiển, head of the Management Board of Hương Sơn tourist site in Hương Sơn Commune, Hà Nội’s suburban Mỹ Đức District, said the Hương Pagoda Festival 2023 was taking place with the theme “An toàn, Văn minh, Thân thiện” (Safe, Civilised, Friendly).

This year, the festival has seen a reform in organisation with ticket sales changed from traditional to the electronic application model.

On the opening day of the festival, which fell on January 6 of the lunar calendar (Friday last week), the festival welcomed more than 40,000 visitors without any congestion, according to the official.

“We print e-invoice tickets and complete a new ticket control system via QR Code at 10 ticket control entrances,” Hiển said.

“A bus service has been piloted to deliver and pick up tourists on three routes. The first route starts from Hội Xá bus station to Yến Vỹ wharf, the second is from Đục Khê bus stop to Đồng Cừ in front of Trình Temple and the third is from Bus station 1 to Tuyết Sơn Pagoda wharf. Congestion has been controlled,” he added.

TIMES ARE CHANGING: The pig sacrifice ritual of the Ném Thượng Festival in Ném Thượng Village, in the northern province of Bắc Ninh, is now performed behind closed doors instead in public on the communal house’s yard. Photo toquoc.vn

Ném Thượng Festival, in Bắc Ninh City’s Ném Thượng Village in the northern province of Bắc Ninh, in the past few years has organised its pig sacrifice ritual behind closed doors instead on the communal house’s yard. The once-controversial practice has changed its way of organising following a direction of the culture ministry and the People’s Committee of Bắc Ninh Province.

Ninh Thị Thu Hương, director of Grassroots Culture Department under the culture ministry, said the department had sent inspection teams to localities since October 2022 to help them boost the organisation and management works in spiritual ceremonies and festivals at heritage sites.

AND THEY’RE OFF: The Gò Thì Thùng traditional horse racing festival in the central province of Phú Yên’s Tuy An District. VNA/VNS Photo Tường Quân

This was instructed in the ministry’s Directive 274 on strengthening State management of local cultural and artistic activities and festivals to protect and promote heritage values as well as restore and develop tourism.

“As has been forecast that the 2023 festival season will see a sudden increase of visitors and contents of activities, the department has worked with some localities which still organised controversial activities in the previous season, such as buffalo fighting in the northern province of Vĩnh Phúc and some others that need to undertake better organising measures, plans, and scenarios so that to have the best results,” said Hương.

In addition, the ministry also asked authorities to enforce inspection before, during and after the festivals, while requiring an improvement in awareness and management among local authorities. VNS

Source: http://ovietnam.vn/events/spring-festival-season-sees-surging-visitors-with-improved-safety-measures_341275.html

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