Saturday, February 27, 2010

The vietnam shoe dilemma

There is so much to say about shoes in Vietnam. Usually people have sandals or flip flops. That's ok, as long as you wear them WITHOUT socks. Only German tourists do.
Then you have men with proper shoes, but for any reason the step on the heel part. That actually destroys the shoe. Women do that way more often. No idea why.
And then it comes to socks. It's a crime against any fashion rule to wear white socks with any kind of business shoes. White socks are for sport.
Unfortunately here in Vietnam either everything is sport or the message hasn't yet arrived. (When I was in Indonesia these days I got a complete different experience: blue socks for blue shoos, brown to brown, black to black).

There is a say that you can see style best in the shoes. You can wear a white T-shirt and blue jeans, the style comes with a high quality shoe.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why expats are so important for countries like Vietnam

Vietnams economy grows and grows. Investment banks aren't stopping to mention Vietnam as a good place for investment. so far so good. But is money the only issue? Does Vietnam just lack of cash? No. The biggest problem is still experience and education.

When it comes to global business, companies and business people in Vietnam still have less experience and knowledge. This is a bad news. but it's also an opportunity. Because help is there already.

The reason why expats work in developing countries is simple: They want to develop the country and - at the same time - markets and their own businesses. In many sectors foreign guidance is still neccessary.
Kenichi Ohno, research director at the Hanoi-based Japanese think tank, said recently:

Vietnam is still at stage one, which means simple manufacturing under foreign guidance... he country’s development has been “passive,” dependent on the “liberalization effect” after doi moi and large inflows of investment, capital and aid, and unable to create “internal value” to ensure sustainable growth.

The threat right now is that people are okay with the current situation. I know a lot of companies replacing expats with local staff. That might work in some cases. But overall, I think it is way to early to change the management positions. I know a lot of cases where companies failed. Most VN managers still have no mid- or longterm view, no idea of sustainability, of competition, of business rules in international markets.

See experts as support. Hiring an expat might be even cheaper than a consulting company. Expats are not just rich foreigners, they usually choose a lower living standard here and act more like a teacher.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mantis in Phu My Hung

Just saw this little creature this morning. A mantis looks always scary, even the small ones.

Mantodea or mantises is an order of insects that contains approximately 2,200 species in 9 families[1] worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae. Historically, the term "mantid" was used to refer to any member of the order because for most of the past century, only one family was recognized within the order; technically, however, the term only refers to this one family, meaning the species in the other eight recently-established families are not mantids, by definition (i.e., they are empusids, or hymenopodids, etc.), and the term "mantises" should be used when referring to the entire order. A colloquial name for the order is "praying mantises", because of the typical "prayer-like" stance, although the term is often misspelled as "preying mantis" since mantises are predatory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wedding of Ray and Natasha

Our friends Ray and Natasha had their official wedding in Jakarta this weekend. It was a muslim ceremony. Quite amazing to see the beautiful costumes, witnessing a wedding full of traditional procedures. Nice lunch, nice dinner, lot if fun, and yes, we went shopping too. Jakarta is somewhere between Bangkok and Singapore when it comes to how modern it is. And of course far ahead of Saigon :-)

Friday, February 19, 2010


Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
This is a bear rescued from Wildlife at risk and brought to the rescue Center in Cu Chi. These gusy are doing a great job and need support!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Al Fresco's: The very last attempt - and they failed

Al Fresco's is a popular expat restaurant chain in Saigon. They have two branches in district 1 and a branch in district 7. We went a few times to the latter when we arrived in Vietnam. The food is Pizza, Burger, Mexican. The prices are high, the service was always bad. One year ago we went there and they screwed up again: They brought us something what we did not order, what we did order was suddenly not available anymore and even the bill was wrong. We complained, we got many excuses and left.

One year later: we found a 250.000 VND voucher today in our coupon bowl and decided to redeem it before its outdated. I ordered a Chicken Burger with avocado and bacon, my wife ordered a quesadilla. And again, something was wrong: No avocado on my burger, no avocado sauce with the quesadillas.
They did not tell us in advance, they did not tell us when the delivered the food. Only after I complained they said "we were running out of avocados, sorry". "But I will be charged the full price? Forget it, I answered." We told the manager, that this was the very last time and left. She offered us the dinner for free, but we gave her the 250.000 VND voucher and left.

Al Fresco's and Jaspas are popular for no reason. The food is average, the service is under average. They may speak english, but the staff has no skills in service.

This is the reason why I prefer local vietnamese restaurants. You get great food for less money. And the service is a least as good as what you pay for.

The most expat places are totally overpriced. I guess they survive because many expats don't dare to go to local places or just want to be with other expats. As this is not my lifestyle, I am safe. I avoid this places as much as I can. You should do as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We don't need no middle management

I just read one of the most interesting and truthful articles ever. It proofes what I was thinking since a long time, that big companies suffer because of their middle management.
Joe Wilcox was wrinting abot Microsoft and why there is no innovation;

Based on communications with current and former employees, Microsoft's midriff problem is one of middling middle management. The number of middle mangers swelled over the last decade, and they also are the employees making key management decisions, which includes who gets laid off or fired and where the remaining people work.

There are two ways to structure a company: One is the old traditional way with a vertical hierarchy. That worked for thousand of years from Egypt to the Roman Empire and British one as well. The problem with vertical structures is the lack of horizontal levels. But that's where actually the work is done.

Lets have a look on a small company, like a coffee shop. You have some baristas, they are good in Coffee making and foam decoration. You have ONE shop manager, who is doing the administration work. Others are cleaners, waitresses, delivery boys. They all report to one manager. Scale it up to 3 coffee shops. Now the three supervisors will report to a new super-supervisor, who isnt in a coffeeshop anymore. . Scale it to 200 coffee shops and there will be more and more super-super-super-supervisors.
The question is: Why they have to report at all: Why they can't just send the numbers of profit and the orders of supply, and another department is just analyzing?
Reports are a dangerous virus, that has affected nearly every company, and they are usually useless. Nobody is reading that shit unless he or she is a middle-manager, whos only duty is to read reports and create new reports.

When Joe asked former Microsoft employees about the last layoffs, he got thsi answer:

Out of a starting staff of nearly 20, four remained, all managers. I'm not sure what they manage.

That's the point: Middle-Managers spend most of the time to keep their overpaid job. They lick asses to the superiors and kick asses of their employees. Sorry for the rude words, but that's how it works.

If you have a look on Sharepoint or Groove, than you will see that actually this so called collaboration software reflects the Microsoft dilemma. Instead of easy sharing it's actually more about structure and permissions. And because companies are used to Microsoft, they follow their way.

The question is: If Sharepoint and Groove are great tools to increase collaboraton with the goal of doing better, be more efficienct and innovative, why is Microsoft laying off people and the opposite of innovative? Because their products suck.

Look at Google on the other side: 20 percent time for own projects, leaner, sometime flat structure, less bureaucracy. Thats how you get ideas and new markets.

If you are a business in South-East-Asia and you want to improve the way your company works, let me know. My company and me can help you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Farmer flat

farmer flat
Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
Seen at Phu My Hung flower festival

Fountain in phu my hung

There is a flower festival in Phu My Hung at the new crescent buildings (opposite Saigon Paragon shopping center), and it's worth to go there. a lot of flowers of course, live bands, fruits and - most important - they sell Beer Lao in cans and bottles, the yellow and the dark one. Yummy. Go there alone, with your family, take your kids (and those from An Phu also your Nanny, driver, gardener, cook, ironing lady, back up ironing lady, maid, cleaner, shopper) and go there. Best parking behind Highlands Coffee or at Saigon Paragon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dognapping in Vietnam

vietnamese dogs in saigon


Listen to this audioboo about dognapping in Vietnam. I forgot to mention that sometimes it is too easy for the thieves, because most dogowners don't really care about where their dogs are and what they do. So they roam around or sit in front of the house, easy to catch.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

10 houses collapse because of construction work

Well done, french construction company :-)

In a chilling domino effect, the collapse of a house in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City Sunday caused nine others in a row to collapse as well, but no casualties have been reported so far.
The incident happed at around 10.15 p.m. when some workers at the construction site of Saigon M&C building on Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1, were working on its third underground floor, witnesses said.
The workers then found artesian waters coming out from a small hole and very soon the water made it into a very big hole despite their efforts to fix it.


I can't believe that no one was hurt. I just hope that the company who did this is really paying compensation, nit just a few bucks

Monday, February 1, 2010

Illy Espressamente service in Phu My Hung improves

Illy Coffee

I did a lot of criticism on Illy Espressamente in Saigon, especially the one in Phu My Hung. But since they do a customers survey, things changed a lot. First, I did a second attempt to ask for low fat milk (the first try was months ago and they said no), and suddenly one of the shift supervisors said "Yes, of course." Then I tried to do another step upwards on the service ladder and asked, if I can get a red invoice at the end of the month for all the purchases I did. Surprisingly the supervisor said "Yes, No problem, do you like us to collect the bills for you?" Boom. Never expected that. And yes, today I came in and they issued me the red invoice - I didn't even asked for.

But, there is one more thing. Having my coffee the waitress came to me and gave me money: "Sorry sir, last time you forgot to take your change money." That was 40.000 Dong, about 2 USD. I am impressed. I haven't expected this in Vietnam at all, but never ever at Illy (not that they would cheat, but it was one week ago since I was there and usually they just forget it).

I still think the male staff needs way more training and the female staff should more deal with the customers but I know that a long way.