The Vietnam Report

So, yesterday I was talking with one of my students who recently returned from Vietnam who had some really interesting things to tell me. I knew already that Vietnam is very hot, and that outside the city it’s still a pretty backward place (and a little dirty, I’m told), but that the food is good and the people are very friendly. (These traits are pretty common in Southeast Asian countries.)

But, what I didn’t know is that apparently after the war Vietnam had a serious population imbalance because many of the men were dead or injured. The result being that women had to take on most of the important jobs, from raising families to running businesses. Now, going forward thirty years, apparently Vietnam is a virtual matriarchy! (A society run by women.) He told me that for example at his company’s branch office 80% of the sales staff are women, mostly because they couldn’t find men qualified to do the job! Women in Vietnam, he told me, are confident and well educated, while men tend to lack motivation and aim for lower and middle level jobs. I found this interesting because I can see this happening in Taipei too, and I suspect similar things are happening across Asia. Asian societies are becoming increasingly dominated by aggressive and capable women, while the men muddle about unsure of what to do.

Then again, maybe the same thing is happening in North America, I have seen a definite shift in our own society by women taking increasingly higher paid and higher educated positions while men are slowly dropping out of the race. In North America, I blamed a lot of it on the whole cultural push that was about empowering girls, but left boys in the dust (because they didn’t need empowering, right?) to fend for themselves. But, seeing this happening here in other countries which don’t have a “girl power” culture, I have to wonder what else might be going on. Why are men falling behind and women moving ahead in some societies? What’s keeping them from racing neck and neck like it should be?

The other interesting thing he told me was that Vietnam doesn’t allow foreign trading companies to operate in their country. They are more than happy to support factories (they get tax free status for 5+ years) but aren’t interested in businesses which might take money out of the country. (As it should be, I think.) Oh, and he also told me that he was pleasantly surprised by how un-corrupt the Vietnamese he dealt with were. He’s dealt with people in many Asian countries, but he said he was surprised they didn’t want any bribe money to do things there, which is normal in most of Southeast asia.

An interesting conversation!