In contrast to the gentle and loving demeanor of the women, men seem rough, gruff, and suspicious. This is not the case really….. it just looks that way. They have a hard life., and it shows on sun beaten leathery faces.
During the day a person sees mostly women in the streets. It seems the men are nowhere to be seen. You will see Cyclo drivers, motorcycles taxi’s and taxi drivers that are men. Also there are many security guards. A person will see the odd store clerk or employee in a business, but mostly women. The men it seems are mostly committed to trades. Many men lack in education because they were required to help support the family at a young age. I see many boys here that do not go to school but perch crouched beside a mechanic, or a metal worker, learning their craft. These tradesmen are extremely hard working and I admire them. Most of them are up before first light and are ready to start their day with the rising of the sun. They are mostly equipped with very old or manual use tools and for some projects, it takes an army of laborers to accomplish a task. For example, instead of a dozer taking down a building, you will see a dozen hard muscled men breaking apart a building with 5 lb hammers, or old pavement being broken in the street by a small army of men with chisels. Houses are always being built or rebuilt here so there are also many are in the construction trade. It is quite common to se a fellow build a shop out of wood, tarps, and tin in the area so he can live where he is working.
Vietnamese men are tough guys. They live life fast and they live life hard. They also play hard…. Most men here smoke. There is no need to carry cigarettes with them as they are offered everywhere. If you want a smoke, just tell a waitress, a local shop keeper, or even a passerby. One will magically appear for just a small cost. (by the way… cigarettes are .70 per package). Many also drink hard. After a hard day of work, what could be better than a cold beer? After all, it is the cheapest beverage here. By 8:00 the echoing calls of Mot Hi Ba Yo!! can be heard coming from local watering holes everywhere. Then it is off to bed to get enough sleep to do it all again tomorrow. Many of these people work 7 days a week and only have time off for New Year or other special events. And how much do these hard workers get paid? 1.5m or around 80 dollars a month.
Then there are the civil servants. Many of them men that have family connected in some way to Hanoi. There are women working within the incredibly large civil service, but most of the key personnel are men that have some kind of connection. These “old boys” are part of what kept progress slow here. They just love their rubber stamps and everything must involve a mountain of paperwork. There are computers everywhere here now in internet café’s, but it seems that none of the government offices I have been in have any at all, just old rusty file cabinets, squeaky wall fans, and serious looking fellows ready to stare you down.. Many of the civil service and other clerical jobs such as bank tellers in the past have been secured by a family bribe to the employer. I think that era is ending now.
Lastly there is the military. A lot of people who cannot find employment end up in the military, and it is large. Both men and women serve, but as is usually the case, the majority is male.
I would not hesitate for a minute to hire a Vietnamese person to do a job for me. Most are extremely hard workers and will bend over backwards to complete a task. The only thing is you have to watch all the time, because the task will get completed in a timely matter even if a mistake was made. Rather than stopping and getting a solution, they will just carry on. A person I know here encountered just that. He built a house to western specifications. His building plans included 2 pipes to all of the bathrooms and kitchens, one for hot and one for cold. The builders saw this as a mistake because all houses here only have one pipe for cold and the house got half built before the owner caught the mistake. I inspect the work at the hotel daily and have admired the job they do.