Tuesday, December 29, 2009

my dog cant read the sign

So the Phu My Hung management decided to ban walking on the gras. First, my dogs can't read, so sorry. I will not walk barefoot as mentioned on the sign :-) Actually, I don't really understand why they do it (and why they don't explain). The kids really love to play on the gras, and I think it's actually important for them to feel a bit of gras instead only concrete and tiles.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vietnam, standards, rules and quality

When I came back form Thailand, I was thinking, what is it that makes Thailand so far ahead of Vietnam? One thing I discovered is a better understanding of standards. Although the majority of Thais are working the asian way, you will see way more standards then in Vietnam.

Why standards are important?
If you have standards and everyone follows them, you make life just easier. You can connect people, services, businesses. But it requires a kind of mutual agreement on the standards. Let's say traffic lights: Stop on a red light is a standard. If everyone follows the standard, you can regulate traffic, avoid traffic jam and make it safe to cross the street (if you have green light). In Vietnam it's different: Still many people just ignore that.
Look at English: It's a standard for international business communication. It's makes business just easier if there is no language barrier. But in Vietnam English skills are still an issue.

What is the relation to rules?
There are two ways to implement standards, and you have to go both ways, not just one. The first way is that people need to understand the meaning of standards, the benefits. Like power plugs: If your electronic device would need 550 Volt, nobody would buy it because you can't really recharge it - the standard is 220 Volt. So everyone works with 200 Volt. Easy to understand and to follow.
The second way are rules: You need to establish the standard by laws, regulations, business practice. And you have to enforce it. So the government just decide to have 220 Volt, and everyone has to follow that. A letter size is a standard (although there are many different one).

So what about standards in Vietnam?
although there are a lot of rules and standards in Vietnam, I see a lack of enforcing them from all sides. Government is struggeling to implement the laws and rules in lower levels, mainly because of a lack of money and staff, and businesses don't really care. Following standards means do the same like your competitor - and this is something some people want to avoid.
Everyones does what he wants do do his way. People decide from traffic light to traffic light if the follow the traffic law. In their job, they even decide of the follow the working flow process or not. That leads us to quality.

Standards are the base for quality
You can only assure quality if you follow standards. Mostly your own standards. Every product you produce has to be the same and the same quality. You don't make good shoes on Monday and bad shoes on Tuesday. And this is exactly the biggest problem in Vietnam: The lack of understanding why quality is so important. Nobody like to pay for surprises, you like to know what you get in advance. A five star hotel is usually a international standard, with certain prices, facilities, service, quality of accommodation. Not so in Vietnam: Prices follow the rule. the rest not (if it's local owned and managed). Even my hairdresser around the corner, who speaks well English, spend a lot of time with foreigners (and was even abroad), don't get it. Sometimes you get a arm massage while having shampoo, sometimes not. The restaurants serve tra da sometimes, but not always. The citimart has muesli sometimes, sometimes not. The mens wear shop has Size 32 sometimes, sometimes not. There are hundreds or more examples.

Conclusion: What to do?
I think it's important to educate about the meaning of rules, standards and quality. And to implement enforcement. (There is a reason why shoemaking companies hire Philippines for the quality control management). If Vietnam doesn't start to work on that now, it will loose money and time. The government is asking for more exports. That will only works if the products are following international standards.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My christmas video

Mangez Buvez Gavez / It's not Food! from DavidMyriam on Vimeo.

Chinas true face in Kopenhagen

This is a fascinating report about the way China was acting in Kopenhagen. It shows that China is ignorning the world community and gives a shit about climate change. A reporter of the Guardian was part of a delegation and attended the close-door-meeting of the state leaders.

What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country's foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world's most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his "superiors".

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cheated by a shirt printing company

I am really pissed about the barcamp shirts. They were not only quite expensive but also the worst quality I have ever seen. They have actually a self-destroy mode, so better don't wash them. The company, aothun.vn, provided us not only ridiculous small sizesm but also a very bad printing. They also made it to change a sponsors name although we provided them all the logos. See below, how a shirts from Barcamp 2007 in Germany looks like after at least 20 washings, a Bangkok Shirt after at least 10 washings and the recent Barcamp Saigon Shirt after one washing.

three barcamp shirts. guess whats the one fom vietnam

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Invasion of English language?

I just read a editors comment on VietnamNet Bridge about the threat of English overcoming Vietnamese language. I tried to send a comment via the website, but got an error back. So i post it here:

Dear Editor, what I don't understand in this country is the lack of ability to even think about if others may have the same problem and how they solved it.
First: English is not a threat, because nearly nobody really speaks English. Second: Vietnam is part of the planet earth, people traveling around this planet. It's a continuos cultural exchange. Like coffee came to Vietnam, Or cars. electricity. so do some English words. You will find english words in German, French words in English, Chinese words in Vietnamese. Instead of complaining about foreign influence Vietnam should take advantage of. India is developing so well because of the English skills there. Even people in Cambodia speak better English. The lack of English in Vietnam is an obstacle for some investors. But: I agree that schools must teach Vietnamese. It must also remain as the official and main language. But if you communicate with the world outside, some words may come back.

For any reason I see a lot of complains coming up about any foreign influence. Stricter Visa regulations, investments process changes, import restrictions. I concerned about it.
Once the german wall felt 1989, people in eastern Germany complained about the foreigners (a lot of them Vietnamese) allegedly taking their jobs. That was nonsense, Frankfurt City alone had more foreigners living there than whole eastern Germany. But, for some people it was easier to complain about the foreigners instead of solving the problem and just creating jobs. Yes, we can learn from history to make it better, not the same.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When numbers and figures no longer are keys to everything created

This country is so focussed on numbers and figures that nobody cares really about what's behind (actually the whole world likes numbers, but in Vietnam is the lack of quality more obvious)

Thats why I post this old Novalis poem, written 1801, and he was so absolutely right.

"When numbers and figures no longer"

When numbers and figures no longer
Are keys to everything created,
When those who sing or kiss
Know more than the learned scholars,
When the world returns to a free life
And the whole world rewinds,
Then once more light and shadow will couple
To produce genuine clarity,
And people will recognize that the true histories of the world
Lie in fairy tales and poems,
Then at a single secret word
This whole wrongheaded existence will fly away.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

where are the reindeers gone? santa claus in saigon

Where are the reindeers gone? Santa Claus as seen in this picture is now being brought to the next spot by a Xe Om, what a motobike taxi is called in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, also know as Saigon.
The economic hotspot of the booming south-east country is in christmas fever. Although mainly a buddist country, there are many christians living in the southern part of Vietnam, and one of the main landmarks in Town is the Cathedral.
But in general Christmas is used as a sales and promotion time, that why big shopping malls have beautiful decorated outside areas where every evening hundred of people stop by and taking pictures with their family members.

Ecotourism in Vietnam

I just read an article about Ecotourism in general and in in Vietnam in particular on Vietnambridge

I mentioned:
The director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research, a member of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Dr Ha Van Sieu, said there was a growing trend among world tourists to head for undiscovered rural destinations, where local populations led simpler and often poorer lives.

1. Growing trend doesn't mean that you can close the beach resorts. It' still on a small level in total numbers and I am sure it will remain.
2. There are at least two types of eco tourists: The one who are interested in local culture, but don't want to be local. The expect to be driven two the spot by an airconditioned bus, without wasting two much time for travelling, and of course the accommodation must be 4 star plus. The love to see a solar panel in the roof top and a brochure mentioning the reuse of waste water. Thats the majority of eco tourists.
Only a few are really the one who walk three hours to get a great panoramic view, sleeping under a moskito net or even try a home stay.

Nguyen Phuong Anh, deputy head of VNAT’s Hotel Department, said that tourism businesses had left certain scars on the environment via the consumption of resources, energy, food and other materials, as well as the discharge of waste and noise pollution.

The "asian" tourism might have left these scars. The cheap and poorly managed hotels. The one where the local people stay as well as the Koreans and Chinese. I know at least one case where a hotel company tried to set up a new hotel in a rural area and gave up, because the local authorities didn't cooperate. They demanded more money and more money. Just stop giving licenses to the one who pay the most. And: A golf course is NOT eco. That leads to the other problem: Vietna is perfect in labeling things without having any idea what the meaning is.

According to a survey presented by SNV Nepal – where Viet Nam learned about promoting responsible tourism – 70 per cent of American, British and Australian travellers said that they would pay up to $150 more for a two-week stay in a hotel with a "responsible environmental attitude".

I bet this is just not true. They may say it, but clearly don't do it. Otherwise we would have a boom in eco tourism. But it's still a niche market.

People travel mainly to relax and enjoy their holidays. They may be interested in another culture, but not for two weeks. Like german tourists, where tour operator know that in the second week they must serve westrn food in the hotels, because the tourists are done with local food.

The problem in Vietnam with the low number of tourists and the even lower number of repeaters ist still infrastructure. It takes too long to go to certain palces, and when you are there, nothing is around. No restaurants, bars, entertainment.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What you need to know about Herbalife

This is for my Vietnamese friends who may know not much about Multilevelmarketing. Herbalife finally arrived in Vietnam. :-(

It's actually a pyramid scheme, that means you start a business selling a product, and then instead of finding just customers, you find also (or instead) new sellers. They again find news sellers, and so it goes all the way down to the ones at the bottom, who are not able to find sellers anymore. But as long as there are people joining the program, it's actually legal. So Herbalife is a legal business (although I am not sure if you may need a business license and work permit in Vietnam as a seller), I would call it unethical.

Usually MLM means people try to sell to their friends and family and their friends and family.

The basic system is not bad, Tupperware is doing a great job for example, but they take care of both, the products and their sellers. Other, like Herbalife, put a lot of pressure on sellers, usually more psychological. You will find yourself easily in a trap once you joined this world.
They may promise you a lot of money (and easy to make, but it's not easy, believe me. So don't quit your job, eat fruits and all the other healthy vietnamese food and you don't need that Herbalife powder.)

That's what other says about Herbalife and MLM:

Scheme Alert:Herbalife Warning Signs of Financial Harm and Deception Abound at Herbalife
Herbalife, one of the oldest and largest America-based multi-level marketing schemes exemplifies most of the classic warnings signs of a financial trap, a pyramid scheme and marketing program that is steeped in deception.

... 2004 settlement resolved a class action suit on behalf of 8700 former and current distributors that accused the company and distributors of "essentially running a pyramid scheme." A total of $6 million was to be paid out, with defendants not admitting guilt.
In a California class action suit, Minton v. Herbalife International, et al., the plaintiff is "challenging the marketing practices of certain Herbalife International independent distributors and Herbalife International under various state laws prohibiting "endless chain schemes", insufficient disclosure in assisted marketing plans, unfair and deceptive business practices, and fraud and deceit". [25]

Consumerfraudreporting.com: In a legitimate MLM company, commissions are earned only on sales of the company's products or services. No money may be earned from recruiting alone ("sign-up fees"). One must analyze the compensation plan to determine whether participants are paid from actual sales to customers and not from money received from new recruits. If participants are paid primarily from money received from new recruits, then the company is an illegal pyramid or Ponzi scheme

The FTC about MLM

Hubpages, a personal view:

HerbaLife makes the big bucks not by selling nutritional supplements, but by recruiting folks to become distributors.These distributors buy up a certain lot amount of the company's products, sample them, and try to sell them. More importantly, though, the newly-minted distributors are "encouraged" to recruit their friends and family (and anyone else they know) to become distributors too. And when I say "encouraged", I mean that the company will pretty much twist your arm in order to have you find new recruits. Weekly meetings, HerbaLife newsletters, company-wide e-mails, etc., will all repeat the company core motto until it comes out of your ears: recruit, recruit, recruit!.
Of course, there is an incentive to finding new distributors: a portion of their earnings on products gets kicked up to you. And likewise, part of your earnings get kicked up to whoever recruited you. And so it goes, until the very few people at the top of this pyramid scheme rake in the big bucks while you drive around in your car with big boxes of muscle-building protein powder. It's multi-level marketing (MLM), plain and simple.

So better apply for a regular job. Or even go to a casino (where at least you make yourself unhappy, but not others)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our work is like a cappuccino (or Coffee latte)

I don't remember where I picked that up years ago, but I liked this description: Our work is like a cappuccino. The coffee, that's our day job, what we do fro 9 to 5 and where me make a living from. Then we have some other work, we do that in our free time or on weekends, where we create websites for others, repair cars, sell art, whatever. We like that work, and we make some money from. We call it the milk foam or cream on top. And then there is the work we do as a volunteer, helping elderly people in the neighborhood, organizing summer camps, joining school committees. We like it, but there is no money coming from. That's the chocolate on top.

Now, my work was pretty much like a cappuccino for years. I worked for a newspaper, got well payed, did some public relations on the side where I got some money to buy a new computer or stuff like that, and then I was organizing rock music events and stand up comedy nights, what I liked a lot, but what actually cost me money.

The change
I actually first changed my coffee taste. I switched from Cappuccino to Coffee latte. A Coffee latte is made out of one or two shots espresso and then a huge amount of milk. And I thought by myself, why not changing my work like that: Having some work like and espresso, where still a lot of money is coming from but in less time, and using the remaining time for the kind of work what you like, but is less paid? The hot milk? (Ok, you still can put chocolate on top)

The situation in Vietnam

Cappuccino and Coffee latte isn't well known in Vietnam, people here are drinking Ca Phe sua da, that means Coffee with sweet milk and ice. But that actually describes their work as well. The very strong coffee is the daily hard work people are doing here. There is only a small amount of that sweet milk, where they can make money on the side. But there is a lot of ice in the glass, and thats the family duties: Caring for the parents and relatives, borrowing money to family members, helping them out with other stuff. No chocolate work, because you don't really like it.

In Germany we used to have filter coffee, usually black. Even that fits if you see German people are very focussed on their work, drinking strong coffee without any milk and sugar, only doing their job. Hmm, what about the so called american coffee? That's left for the comments section...

(Pictures by Thomas Wanhoff, http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnystiletto, http://www.flickr.com/photos/giovannijl-s_photohut under Creative Commons Licence

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another funny (and wrong) story about the dreams of Vietnam tourism

This article was available at VietnamBridge.net, and this is such a perfect example of bad journalism. There are just so many facts wrong. See my comments in brackets.

VietNamNet Bridge – Representatives of the German national airline say the air carrier plans to open the direct air route Hanoi-Berlin during the visit of Andreas Timmerman, Director of the Foreign Trade and Trade Promotion Department under the Economy Ministry of Brandenburg state.

(There is no National Airline in Germany anymore, but they may mean Lufthansa. Why they don't name it? andreas Timmermann by the way is a more low ranking director in one of the poorest states in Germany).

Currently, Vietnam’s national air flag carrier Vietnam Airlines only provides flights from Hanoi and HCM City to Frankfurt.

At a recent meeting with leaders of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), an airline spokesperson said that Berlin is now the third biggest airport in Europe and has been upgraded and expanded.
(That can't be true, because actually Berlin is Number 28 in Europes airports and number 4 in Germany, needs to be upgraded and expanded, but isn't so. There are plans to build a new one in the future by 2012. Oh, and by the way there are actually 2 airports in Berlin, Tegel and Schönefeld)

In 2008, the airport served 21.4 million passengers, including 17 million transit passengers and 200,000 passengers who flew on Hanoi-Berlin route.
(Wikipedia says its 14,5 Million passengers in total. As far as I know ther is NO direct flight form Berlin to Hanoi for now. Actually there are just a few intercontinental flights from Berlin)

Confirming the intention to open the Hanoi-Berlin direct air route, the airline hopes the direct flights will help meet demands of businessmen and tourists traveling from Germany to Hanoi, especially the demand of tens of thousands of Vietnamese people living, working and studying in Germany.
(Yes, including those who are forced to leave Germany because they are illegal immigrants. Lufthansa has a strong focus on profitable business routes, and not so much about tourists).

Currently, Vietnam’s national air flag carrier Vietnam Airlines only provides flights from Hanoi and HCM City to Frankfurt.
(Yes, for a reason. The market isn't big enough for flights from Berlin. Frankfurt and Munic are still the big hubs for tourists.)

In addition, on November 30 the prospect of further cooperation and tourism development between the two sides as well as cultural exchange activities and trade promotion were discussed. These are slated to be held on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the relation establishment in 2010.

(It's not clear who was talking to each other. What would Lufthansa has to do with cultural exchange?? And why should a low ranking state official who is just involved in foreign trade of that particular state be allowed to speak in the name of whole Germany and Lufthansa??))

In addition, VNAT will organize a roadshow in Germany to display Vietnam’s tourist image
s. (Thanks. If it's like the other VN roadshows and trade fair apperances, you better use ATR's for the flights - you won't sell more than 20 seats)

Deputy Head of VNAT Hoang Thi Diep said that VNAT will propose the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to set up a tourism office in Germany soon.
(Really? Isn't that done by a local tour operator for now? And how this is going to be? Blue plastic chairs, metal tables, overexposured posters on the wall and 20 years old brochures combined with staff that barely speaks english and no German at all?)

Go back to journalism class, writer and start from beginning!