Sunday , April 5 2020
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Always love the ladies, my Vietnamese friends!

A woman sells flowers at a market in Ho Chi Minh City.
A woman sells flowers at a market in Ho Chi Minh City.

Yep, just  is up and running again – it’s almost time for Vietnamese Women’s Day, on the 20th of October. Time for the flowers, the romantic dinner, mum’s breakfast in bed, the rest of the family does the housework and a big hug for grandma!

I freely admit one of the reasons for choosing to live in Vietnam was the extraordinary number of cute women around the place. It’s a very positive way to start your day in the morning at the coffee shop being surrounded by lots of attractive local women!

Vietnamese women hold their poise and lovely smiles even under some of the toughest of circumstances. Living under the constraints of crowded homes, family rules and traditions and the struggle to get a decent education and job; it’s a wonder that they manage to keep their cool.

Like women around the world, Vietnamese ladies occupy some of the most mundane jobs in any economy. The shopkeeper, the cook, the builder’s assistant, the office clerk buried under a mountain of paperwork – and especially, all those female bank clerks facing pushy, demanding customers all day long. If it was me, I’d have a whip and gun to keep them in line!

And that’s just a small sample of the urban female workforce.

If you’ve travelled to any extent across Vietnam, you’ll encounter the back-breaking work of rice-planting by women all over the place. They are fisherwomen, farmers and street stall owners. This country would grind to a halt in a heartbeat if women stopped working.

Times are changing however with the calls for more female representatives in the national government and that’s a good thing even if there has been no large-scale promotion of women as yet. In science as well, women are filling up more positions and contributing to Vietnam’s agriculture, medical and chemistry knowledge.

And all this is done while women are still being treated as predominantly second-class citizens under traditional pressure to marry, cook and have babies. And still they smile and work hard even when the family around them seems to take them for granted. Unless these women have some means of financial independence and a sufficient level of education, it’s too difficult to escape.

And still they smile – supporting their families, looking after the kids, studying hard for the benefit of everyone in the family, dealing with men’s attitudes, trying to make some money and keeping some sense of ‘balance’ within the family.

I do enjoy seeing women getting together in the coffee shops or out and about exploring Vietnam and posting a million selfies on social media. At least that’s cheerful and demonstrates the zest for life that so many Vietnamese have in common. You can see this in the country’s cafés as well. While the huge imbalance in equality and prosperity between the cities and the countryside for women shows little tangible evidence being significantly reduced, you’ll still find that smiling woman anywhere.

It’s easy to underestimate the abilities of Vietnamese women. I know of at least a dozen women working in different jobs who speak at least two and often three languages. Because of these language skills, they have become the interface between foreigners and the Vietnamese bureaucracy, the banks and almost every aspect of tourism. We can probably thank Vietnamese women for most of the positive impressions of Vietnam in the eyes of foreigners!

Ultimately, as communicators and educators, Vietnamese women are the guiding light for children and students and have the greatest impact on the future of the country’s young. Just as education nationwide is getting a shakeup – what mothers and teachers pass on to the young is evolving too. Greater awareness of their environment, health, social cooperation and respect for women in general are slowly transforming the next generation.

Vietnamese women are tough…but also the greatest unrecognized gift to the nation. And pretty too!

So this year, try to think of something special your Vietnamese lady has done for you…I think you’ll be surprised!

And don’t forget the flowers!