Saigon Diary – Security Issues

Anonymous for ZUPAdream.

Had another ‘First Class’ today, that being the first time I’ve taught a particular set of students. These are always my favorite, with the introductions and whathaveyous, because I am self-involved enough to love talking about myself and answering questions about myself. Myself. But if the group or an individual seems interesting enough to hold my attention, occasionally I allow them to talk. Such was the case tonight, if only briefly. One student shared that he is in school for hotel/restaurant management and another for tourism. This was a great news for my ego, as it justified my diatribe about my experience as a restauranteur. The fun didn’t last, and eventually we went through the provided material (something about strangeness).

With about a minute to go in class, the H/R student broke from the assigned topic and asked me ‘What were the biggest challenges of opening a restaurant?’ Spurring a topic I enjoy talking about immensely, I dismissed whoever wanted to leave and the three of us (Me, him & tourism) got into an hour-long conversation. It was fascinating. H/R wants to open a restaurant in New Zealand, and the other guy mostly listened.

So I began answering the question about challenges by talking about our situation in Vancouver, I explained what quality means to me – that we had to give people food they couldn’t get at home. I touched on the differences between restaurant service in Vietnam and Canada and how we were whole-heartedly committed to cleanliness, but before I could get to value he interrupted me:

(This conversation is just by memory, so if you’re the H/R student, my apologies for inaccuracies)
  H/R – “How many staff did you have?”
“50 or so.”
    – “How many were security?”
“Security? None. We had insurance, (explained insurance), but not, like, security men.”
      – “What happens when there’s a fight?”
“Uh, we’ve never had that problem.”
      –  (Him: Disbelief)
“Why do people fight in restaurants in Vietnam?”
       – “If someone at table 1 asks someone at table 2 to drink with them, and the guy at table 2 says no, they will fight.
“Oh, um, no, Canadians don’t fight for no reason like that. If two people have reason to fight, usually they are polite enough to step outside.”
       –   “If they go outside, they will call their father, brothers, cousins, and they will bring a gun and kill each other.
“We wouldn’t do that. Canadians are more relaxed, I guess.”
       –   “What happens if your staff fight?”
“That’s never been a problem either. What do staff fight about here?”
       – “If they bring the bill to the customer, and the customer doesn’t agree, they will fight.
“Oh, fight with a customer? No, we rarely do that. You mean, like, argue?”
        – “No, the man will punch the waiter, and then they will be fighting.
(Me: Disbelief)  “Our waiters are all nice and polite and they make sure the customer is happy. If we don’t fight with the customer, the customer will probably come back.”
         – “Vietnamese are very aggressive.
“I guess.”
         –  “If you are riding a motorbike, and someone is riding next to you for a long time, you look at him, he says ‘What are you doing?’, and you say anything, you both stop and fight. If you don’t say anything, you just drive away.
“Canadians don’t usually watch and allow stupid things to happen, they often get involved. I don’t want to write off the country, but I’ve never seen a Vietnamese person risk anything to make a situation better.”
        –  “Yeah, we don’t do that. They might have a knife.”

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