Ladies! Since women love a bargain, how’s this one; Valentine’s Day this year is just before TET…so…you should get two sets of goodies or at least getting spoilt by your loved ones!
Yes, boys, it falls on Wednesday, the 14th of February this year. Glue it to your brain!
Fellas! In the madness that precedes TET, what with cleaning, shopping and winding up the office business for the year, it would be far too easy to forget to give your special someone something on this oh, so, romantic day. Since we all know how cranky Vietnamese women can get if you offend them – this tragic failure of the memory would be like challenging a cement truck to get out of your way.
For the expats, a lot of you have kids already or recently have become new parents. 2017 was a remarkable year for foreign babies born on Vietnamese soil! So you know the wife (and yourself) have been frantically over-worked (ok, that may be an exaggeration) so it’s time to spoil your better half rotten. Or eat cold leftovers for a week.
As a suggestion, one nice improvement in the last few years around Hoi An and other tourist areas has been the development of large good quality bar-be-que and seafood restaurants catering to young families. I’ve witnessed more than a few local husbands, boyfriends and families celebrating mum’s birthday or a romantic date in these slightly more upmarket diners.
For the young at heart in Da Nang, it’s a movie and dinner. In Hoi An, weather permitting, a cozy dinner date at the beach cafes at sunset.
It’s not too hard to remember important days like Valentine’s Day if you live near a college or university due to the dozen of little flower stalls selling bouquets and roses. Being expensively white, I rarely get a good price on the flowers but what the heck…who thinks about the money when it’s your cutie-pie!
I do remember one year buying the flowers at the streetside stall, riding off with the young female seller running after me shouting that the flowers were a hundred thousand dong more than she charged me. As I speeded up to make my getaway, she tore the flowers out of my hand leaving the roses in tatters on the road. I took that as an omen and took my girlfriend to a fancy restaurant instead of the el-cheapo flower bargain…worked like a charm!
In a million and one ways, Vietnamese and expat women have helped far more than men, to survive, prosper and cope in a culture that I wasn’t born into. From shopping, translations, negotiating on my behalf, sorting out misunderstandings, listening to my problems and just being plain thoughtful, I have no idea where I’d be today without them.
One thing I deeply admire is the sheer toughness of Vietnamese women. Women make up more than half of the workforce in Vietnam, in fact one of the highest ratios in the world. They still struggle with income inequality, discrimination in workplace promotions and the ‘glass ceiling’, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Yet for all these staggering obstacles, most are polite, friendly, charming, eager to learn, highly curious and increasingly seeking higher education. It’s mostly invisible unless you’re familiar with Vietnamese workplaces, that women run this country with their own female networks of colleagues.
While it’s not really the day to consider social injustice, that’s usually focused on more particularly on Vietnamese Women’s Day (October 20) and International Women’s Day (Thursday, March 8), we do owe more to the women in our lives than simply flowers, dinner and romance. Supporting their struggle in the workplace is perhaps the best way we can show our public appreciation and allegiance to equality for everyone, regardless of their circumstances.
So, to whom I consider to be the toughest, cleverest, most beautiful, the happiest and most fascinating women in Southeast Asia – Happy Valentine’s Day!