In recent years, local and expat residents at apartment buildings in large cities in Vietnam have established an array of community activities meant to turn strangers into friends.
Around 7:00 pm one day last month, around 20 female residents of the Rubyland Apartment Building, located in Tan Phu District, gathered at the community hall to dance.
The club is run on a weekly basis, with the class members paying tuition and inviting their own instructors.
Ta Mai Huong, 58, the founder of the club, said she used to live with her daughters in separate houses before moving into her current apartment seven years ago, after her daughters settled abroad.
After the move, Huong felt lonely and confined to the four walls of her unit.
A boisterous woman, she set about bringing her neighbors together by working with the building administration board to throw parties for children in the building.
Her zeal and efforts, however, were initially met with indifference and hesitancy from her fellow occupants, who she says tended to stay in their ‘boxes.’
With persistence and six years of hard work, Huong’s efforts are finally paying off. She says here activities are now enthusiastically embraced by most residents.
The latest additions to the growing entertainment options include hip hop, ballet, painting and chess, with more than 20 adults and children in each club.
“At times when the residents are busy, there are only two or three participants in each session. Our classes teem with life again when members have free time,” Huong added.
Do Lien Kim Hoan, 56, also finds her new retirement life more fulfilling, thanks to the bonds she has developed with her fellow residents.
To give her own, special contributions to the community, Hoan is active in helping others handle funerals, weddings, and even hospitalization for serious illnesses.
Over the past few years, residents of her building have gotten into the habit of spending late-night hours or entire nights during the Lunar New Year cooking tankfuls of ‘banh chung’ (square-shaped glutinous rice cake) and ‘banh tet” (cylindrical glutinous rice cake), the indispensable staples of the holiday.
They indulge in the cozy atmosphere of cooking the treats together, just like in the countryside.
Administrators and active occupants at a number of apartment complexes have also made a point of forming groups on social networks to engage residents in sharing miscellaneous information relating to child care, cooking, shopping, and even administrative affairs.
Occupants at Mulberry Lane Apartment Building, located in Tu Liem District, Hanoi, have formed two Facebook pages with a membership of more than 1,000.
One of the pages, ‘Cho Ngo Dau’ (Ngo Dau Market), acts as a marketplace for residents to sell a wide assortment of consumer products.
The apartment building currently boasts 40 resident-initiated clubs, which provide residents with the opportunity to participate in football (soccer), volleyball, tourism, and chess, as well as other activities, while drawing participants from different age brackets.
Mul Kidz, one of Mulberry Lane’s clubs, has even earned the trust of parents in the building to look after their kids, particularly during summer.
Founded in 2015, the club teaches life skills, swimming, and English to children while engaging them in wholesome extracurricular activities, including farming tours and charity runs.
Club manager Tuan said he established the venue to benefit his own two teenage children and their peers around the building.
On weekends, the yards at Phu Hoang Anh Apartment Building, situated in the outlying district of Nha Be in Ho Chi Minh City, are typically packed with occupants tidying up its corridors and playground.
A number of U.S., Indian, and South Korean inhabitants are also on intimate terms with their native neighbors.
Sang Hang Keun, from South Korea, moved into the complex with his wife four years ago and has become an active member of a group gathering around 40 Vietnamese and Korean households.
The group donates money for charity trips and exchanges different foods with each other on Vietnamese and Korean holidays.
Nguyen Thi Xuan Mai, on the administration board of Phu Hoang Anh, said the board has come up with various activities, including connecting over 100 residents in a Viber group, to build rapport.
The Housing Law stipulates that each building has an administration board, elected by residents, to take care of collective affairs. Though members of the board receive a small stipend, it is usually of token value.
“Administrators are supposed to get along well with one another first before encouraging inhabitants to do the same,” Mai noted.
According to Nguyen Hong Minh, general director of Property & Management Company, it takes concerted efforts from an apartment building’s developer and management board, generally a group of professionals employed by the administration board, administration board, and inhabitants to build a rewarding community space.
Apart from meeting basic requirements, such as sanitary conditions and fire safety procedures, the developer should study profiles of their customers and consider their expectations in a bid to build an ideal community space and design appropriate community programs.
Pham Thi Thuy, a sociologist, urged that parents open their ‘doors’ wide and involve their children in outdoor and community activities, which will have a huge impact on their physical and mental growth.