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Have you ever noticed flower street sellers on Valentine's Day in Vietnam?

Have you ever noticed flower street sellers on Valentine's Day in Vietnam?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 11:26 GMT+7
Have you ever noticed flower street sellers on Valentine's Day in Vietnam?
A vendor sells bouquets of artificial flowers ahead of Valentine's Day on a sidewalk in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City. Picture taken on February 13, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Days like Valentine's Day and Women’s Day are special times in Ho Chi Minh City. On that former day, the street floods with sellers of flowers all scrambling to sell beautiful gifts to motorcycle riders heading to work or home.

The street sellers of flowers seem to appear from nowhere on special days and bring culture to the streets. They have many stories to tell of their motivation to sell flowers on the streets. They bring an air of celebration to the streets while giving commuters a reason to stop and purchase a special gift for someone they care about.

But, while I’m riding along a main road in Go Vap District, the question becomes: where do these people come from and why do they sell flowers? 

Bouquets of artificial flowers are sold ahead of Valentine's Day on a sidewalk in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City. Picture taken on February 13, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Bouquets of artificial flowers are sold ahead of Valentine's Day on a sidewalk in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City. Picture taken on February 13, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

While everyone has their own story, many of the sellers are students that use the special occasions to make a little extra money to help them through school or university. They may take a day or two off from studies to stand on the streets for up to 18 hours to sell all the flowers that they purchased the day before, or even early that morning. It can be a challenging day or two for these young entrepreneurs, but it is also an opportunity to get ahead in a small way to survive the struggles of education and poverty. 

In Vietnam, the Central Highlands provinces of Lam Dong and Dak Lak are well known for some of the best produce sold and consumed in Vietnam. Across these provinces, and especially in the city of Da Lat, beautiful flowers are grown all year round and sent via truck and bus to the major cities across the country. 

Ho Chi Minh City is a large consumer of flowers grown in these provinces and a visit to a number of the larger wholesale markets will see buses and trucks arriving from 2:00 am to sunrise packed with the produce, including flowers, that will be sold to consumers that day. 

But Vietnam also relies on imports to maintain wider consumer needs. On big celebration days like Women’s Day and Valentine’s Day, the markets also accept additional stock from overseas, via import companies, to service the local market. While in the minority due to the vast capacity of the high-country provinces, imported flowers do widen the choice for consumers wanting to buy something special for a loved one on a special day. 

The opportunity of a young entrepreneur starts early with local students visiting one of the big flower markets across Ho Chi Minh City like Ho Thi Ky Market. Sometimes they will just arrive and buy from the cheapest seller and other times they pre-arrange a delivery, but it is not common for young sellers. After spending money buying the flowers, they take them home or to the street side and prepare them for sale. There are a number of different ways they can be sold from a simple bunch to a bouquet.

Roses are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Roses are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

A bouquet of flowers is sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

A bouquet of flowers is sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Ho Thi Ky Market is in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. It is the center activity for flower sellers. A visit to this market is an experience for any expat or tourist. Sellers prepare bouquets of all varieties, from simple bunches of flowers to strange bouquets of packets of dry squid and money, and they also sell the flowers by color in bulk.

A bouquet made of money sheets is sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

A bouquet made of banknotes is sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

These are mostly sold to street sellers and flower businesses across the city, with wedding houses being a big customer of the wholesalers. Mornings are especially active in the market with the arrival of fresh flowers only hours earlier, before sunrise. The market is a must-visit for breakfast and remember to take a camera because the sights are amazing. 

In this 2017 file photo, flowers are seen on sale at the Ho Thi Ky flower market after midnight on October 19, one day before the Vietnamese Women's Day. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

In this 2017 file photo, flowers are seen on sale at the Ho Thi Ky flower market after midnight on October 19, one day before the Vietnamese Women's Day. Photo: Nam Tran / Tuoi Tre

After taking a risk of spending all their money at the flower market, these tenacious young sellers spend the entire day standing by the side of the road to sell as much as they possibly can with the dream to sell out early and go home with a pocket full of cash. They use signs, present their flowers and take any opportunity to be seen by passing motorbike riders. One seller shared their story with me and told me she spent two whole days on the side of the road selling their flowers with hardly any sleep on Women’s Day last year. 

You might think that this is a booming business opportunity with massive profits, but most sellers are lucky to make VND900,000 (US$38) to VND2 million ($85) for a day’s work, plus they have the risk of accepting the losses of anything they cannot sell. Another young seller told me that if she could not sell all her flowers, she would give them as gifts to her neighbors, all for free of course, and this reduces the total profit she makes for each special occasion. 

Sunflowers are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Sunflowers are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Every country and every culture have their opportunities for young people to earn an extra dollar. As a young man in Australia, I would mow lawns, sell recycled cans, and wash cars. For young Vietnamese adults and students, the hustle of selling flowers on special days is an equivalent opportunity in this culture to help them through their education years. Valentine’s Day, Vietnamese Women’s Day, and International Women’s Day are just three of the days in the year that the opportunity is given to so many young and struggling Vietnamese. 

And with this opportunity comes a culture and spirit that is uniquely Vietnam. Saigon takes on a beauty of its own as you ride down a main road that is usually void of color to see vibrant red, yellow, pink, and white flowers lining the street. It brings freshness and happiness to the suburbs that is always pleasant to be part of and to experience.

So, with both Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day being celebrated early in the year, make sure you become part of this special spirit of Ho Chi Minh City. From deep in my heart I wish every woman a wonderful Women’s Day and I hope love is in the air for everyone this Valentine’s Day.

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Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News Contributor

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