A tea room in Ho Chi Minh City has introduced a new approach that encourages customers to talk and share their feelings with each other, while staying free of prejudice and contempt, by deliberately blocking out the light.
Le My and Linh Chi, both graduates from the city-based University of Social Sciences and Humanities, opened Tat…Den, literally known as ‘Turning off the Light,’ on Chau Thoi Street in District 10 from an idea that flashed in their minds two years ago.
According to the two founders, the notion of shutting out the light should be inferred literally and figuratively.
“The ellipsis [...] is intentionally put in the name as it indicates a transition, from darkness to light, and from unspoken problems to relieved resolutions,” they said.
At Tat…Den, where all lights are turned off on purpose, guests are invited to talk to one another, with the sweet melody of the background music and the aromatic fragrance of tea and cakes expected to help spur their communication, thus unlocking their inner selves to others.
Linh Chi believes that when the light is on, people may find it hard to express themselves freely, due to prejudice of social status and various preconceptions.
“The best way to prevent such physical aspects from negatively affecting the conversations is not letting them in in the first place, which means shutting out the light,” Le My said.
Upon arrival at Tat...Den, customers will be blindfolded and then led to a small table for two or more.
There, they will share it with another customer that meet the requirements they provided ahead via online booking or by telephone.
After some pleasantries are traded, they will be involved in some icebreaker activities, while remaining blindfolded, such as drawing games or rolling the dice.
|Two customers participate in an icebreaker game at the Tat…Den tea room in Ho Chi Minh City in this supplied photo.|
When the atmosphere is right, the light shall go out, the blindfold is removed, and the talk can truly begin.
On its opening night, Tat…Den invited guests who were also alumni of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities and put the topic “Before I graduate” up for discussion in darkness.
“The topic served as a token of appreciation for fond memories and good times [at the university],” the founders said.
Many found the experience truly exhilarating, yet thrilling at the same time.
One customer, Ai Linh, said whenever they are pushed into a corner, people have a tendency to vent it out to relatives or trusted friends.
Linh thus found the idea of sharing with strangers in darkness a “whole new world to [her]."
“Never has I known that sharing with total strangers could yield a similar alleviating effect,” she said.
The huge plus, she added, is that the activity is ‘civilized’ at heart, and all customers' private information is secure and well-protected.
“The core value of Tat…Den lies in the fact that we can share and express what we really mean about anything, instead of merely dishing out judges to others based on their outward appearance and status,” she remarked.
Another customer, Pham Nhu, said the most interesting part of the ‘lights-out’ tea room is the fact that the conversation is not constrained by social principles.
People talking to each other in this environment, she exclaimed, could strangely feel at ease and can go on and on endlessly, without any care.
After taking part in the activity, she is even more enlightened.
“When the light is out, no longer do we rely on our sight to judge. Instead, we focus more on the ambient atmosphere and the conversation itself. It is then that we find a connection on the level of souls, and everything is put on the table, without any unnecessary contempt,” Nhu said.