March 2010
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"Vietnamese Time"

Vietnamese Clock

A few weeks ago, a NPO (Non Profit Organization) I volunteer at set up a meeting so that the Supervisor and teachers could discuss the current curriculum for the English Class we were teaching.  The meeting was at 6:00pm….I showed up at 5:50pm and the Supervisor arrived a little after 6:00pm.  I asked the Supervisor where all the other teachers were…..she laughed and said that they were probably on “Vietnamese Time”.  One teacher showed up at 6:15pm and the 4 other teachers never came and didn’t even bother to let anyone know they weren’t coming.

One of the most frustrating things about living in Vietnam is dealing with “Vietnamese Time.”  People here do not have the same concept of time that most of us in The States do.  “I will meet you at 5:00 pm” actually means “I might be there at 5:30 pm if I bother to show up at all.”  “Yes, I will come” translates into “Maybe I will show up, but don’t expect a call telling you that I’m not coming if you don’t hear from me.”

I’ve had the above happen to me on numerous occasions and it’s extremely irritating to say the least.  Just last Monday,  a friend called me up and invited me out to dinner.  I said “sure” since we hadn’t seen each other in awhile.  He said he was going to call me at 5:30pm to let me know where to meet up.  I waited until 6:30pm without hearing a word from him before I decided to make myself a bowl of Mi Goi (Ramen Noodles).  Pissed me off quite a bit….cause I hate Mi Goi!! 🙂

These circumstances have not only taken place with friends, my cousins have done the same thing to me on a few occasions and many business also behave the same way.   For instance, my Aunt has called for Taxis that never show up…ditto for  Xe Om, and forget repairmen….they just tell you they’ll show up sometime during a certain day….so that you’re forced to stay home all day to wait for them.  If you ran your business this way in The States you would lose all your customers pretty fast.

Vietnamese employers also seem pretty lax in disciplining employees that show up late.  I’ve had friends tell me that their work day starts at 8:00am, but if they show up at 8:30am it’s fine….or if they take a longer than usual lunch they also won’t be punished; in the U.S. you would be fired.  Your hours are especially flexible if you work for the government like my uncle.  He says he can just show up whenever he feels like working….and even then most of the time is spent to Nhau (boozing with friends).

I think that it is not only extremely disrespectful to others when you don’t show up when you say you’re going to….but it’s conceited for people to think that their time is more important than someone else’s time.  My first day teaching at DRD, I was told that class is taught from 9:00AM-11:00AM, but a fellow teacher said that I could just show up at 9:30AM.  How nice.  I told the teacher, “I don’t do Vietnamese Time”.

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8 comments to "Vietnamese Time"

  • Frank

    I love (not) going to Vietnamese wedding receptions in the States. It always promptly starts at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours after the time stated on the invitation. The Vietnamese guests know why there is such a long delay but the inexperienced American guests always have the puzzled look on their face like “When is this thing going to start?” look.

    • odgnut

      I recently passed on attending a Vietnamese Wedding I was invited to for this very reason. Hell…I didn’t even enjoy attending my own wedding and in hindsight should’ve skipped it all together. 🙂

  • Benny

    I don’t tolerate Vietnamese time, but it is abudantly clear that my punctuality is an endangered habit. Frank mentioned the most egregious case, namely start time for a Vietnamese wedding reception. It’s particularly embarassing when either groom or bride is not Vietnamese. It’s so bad that English invitation cards will state a later time than the Vietnamese card.

    Unfortunately, it’s a dismal habit that must be challenged. I frequently tell people that 15-minute late and I will not be in attendance. Success is, at best, spotty.

  • When I have an appointment at 5 PM, I may leave my house at 4:50 PM or 5 PM so I do not have to wait long 🙂

    • odgnut

      I see that “THEY” have assimilated you. 🙂 “Resistance is futile!!”

      • Benny

        “Resistance is futile.” Gee, throw in the towel so quickly!!

        You’re teaching now. Emphasize to your students the merits of punctuality, and take attendance. Five minutes late and student gets downgraded. Then you will labeled “vong b?n” or whatever pejorative terms come to their fertile minds.

        Has anyone tried to be “fashionably” late for the airport or appointment with the police? I can only wonder why.

        • odgnut

          The students almost always show up on time…it’s the teachers that are continually late. These classes are a service to handicapped people…and most of them are driven there by the friends/family….so I don’t know how much control they actually have on there punctuality.

  • Hey, when I installed Linux on the Borg, they started focusing on FREEDOM 🙂

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